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Out of the Frying Pan

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Maida Heatter's
Big Daddy's Cake

Note: You'll need a bundt pan for this cake.

This wonderful cake is a bit involved, but not at all hard to make. The very dense, rich white cake boasts a crust of finely-chopped pecans and conceals a moist fudge core. It was the first recipe I tried from baking icon Maida Haetter's Maida Haetter's Cakes, a source of more than 175 superlative cakes. I made only a few adjustments to the recipe, but have condensed Ms. Haetter's excellent detailed instructions. This cake is sure to win you many compliments.


9 ounces (2 cups) toasted pecans
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
6 - 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (e.g., chocolate chips)
3 Tbsp. strong coffee
3 Tbsp. whipping cream
12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. Amaretto
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk


6 - 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 tsp. solid vegetable shortening

Adjust a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat to 350°. Very generously butter a 10-inch bundt pan (even if it has a non-stick finish).

Coarsely break up about 2/3 of the pecans and set them aside. Chop the remaining pecans finely (or use the pre-chopped pecans sold in the baking aisle). Pieces should be about the size of rice. Reserve a few tablespoons of chopped nuts for garnish.

Place the finely chopped nuts in the buttered pan, then turn the pan and shake it to coat it completely with nuts. Allow the excess nuts to stay in the bottom of the pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.

Melt the chocolate with the coffee in the top of a double boiler. (See sidebar for detailed instructions if you've never used a double boiler.) Remove from heat and whisk briskly with a small wire whisk until smooth, then whisk in cream until it is fully incorporated and the mixture is once again smooth. Set aside.

Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until soft and smooth, then beat in vanilla and Amaretto (or almond extract) and sugar and beat for an additional 2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in milk, then gradually add dry ingredients, beating on low speed.

Note: after adding the milk, and even after adding dry ingredients, batter will have a curdled appearance. That's fine.

Turn batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Drag a large spoon around the center of the batter to form a trench about 1/2" deep and 1 1/2" wide.

Spoon the chocolate mixture into the trench, making sure it doesn't touch the sides or the tube. Sprinkle all but a handful (you'll use this for garnish) of the reserved coarsely broken pecans all over the top of the batter (they can touch the sides). The fudge trench will sink while baking and disappear from the surface of the batter.

Bake for 50 minutes, then cover loosely with foil and bake another 10 - 15 minutes, or until a long wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. During baking, a big crack will form in the center where the trench was.

Cool 20 minutes. Then cover it with a large, flat plate and invert and remove bundt pan. If it doesn't come off on its own, you can re-invert it and very carefully loosen the cake from the pan with a flexible blade. Be very careful or the pecan crust will break away from the cake.

While the cake is cooling, use the chocolate bowl over the double boiler to melt the glaze ingredients until smooth. Pour over the top of the cake, allowing the glaze to run down the sides unevenly. If it doesn't drip readily, simply smooth it around toward the edges and it will run over nicely. Serve at room temperature.


Use plenty of butter on the pan so that the chopped nuts will adhere to the sides.

The trench should run in the middle of the bundt pan. You don't want the filling to touch either the outside or the tube.

I found it easier to pour the filling into the trench, but if you don't feel confident about keeping it neat, use a spoon instead.

Cover the surface with the coarsely broken nuts.

After baking, the chocolate trench and most of the nuts seen in step 8, above, disappear to the center of the cake, leaving behind only a furrow.
source: Nikol Lohr

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