Nailed It or Failed It: Pecan cake a dud

Published 9:17 am Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Last week, I mentioned our church was having a potluck and I took two dishes to share. One of the two dishes I made was a pecan cake.

Pecan Cake


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— 2 cups butter or margarine, softened

— 1 (16 ounces) package light brown sugar

— 6 large eggs

— 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules

— 3 tablespoons hot water

— 1/2 cup milk

— 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

— 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

— 1 teaspoon baking powder

— 1/4 teaspoon salt

— 4 cups chopped pecans


Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add brown sugar, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition.

Dissolve coffee granules in 3 tablespoons hot water; stir in milk and vanilla.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Fold in pecans. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan.

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan, and cool completely on wire rack.

I’ve had this recipe for a long time and have looked at it numerous times as I’ve gone through the dessert recipes I’ve collected over the years.

This get-together seemed like the perfect time to try this recipe, which I found in an old issue of “Southern Living” magazine. The magazine gave credit to Ila Faye Sanders Sawyer from Iredell, Texas. The accompanying article said this was a family recipe.

By the looks of the picture and reading the ingredient list, I just knew this cake would be delicious. I mean how could it not be with a pound of butter and four cups of pecans in it?

The recipe sounded like a new twist on pound cake.

I was ready to bake this cake late Saturday afternoon. 

I softened the butter and chopped the pecans. I used my stand mixer to cream the butter then added that whole pound of light brown sugar along with the instant coffee.

After the eggs were incorporated, I mixed the instant coffee, hot water, milk and vanilla. I gave it a gentle stir and then whisked the dry ingredients together in a small bowl.

Alternately, I added the flour and liquid mixtures to the rich butter and let my stand mixer do its thing until everything was combined.

I removed the bowl of cake batter from the mixer stand and poured in the chopped pecans. I began to stir them and thought to myself, “This is the thickest cake batter ever.”

It took some muscles, but I finally had the nuts mixed in.

Since the batter was so thick, I could not pour it into the tube pan. I had to scoop the batter into the pan.

It seems like I always have to bake stuff longer than the recipe calls for (and yes, I’ve tested my oven to make sure the temperature is right) so I put the cake in the oven and set the timer for an hour and 30 minutes.

When the timer sounded, I tested the cake with a little metal skewer. The skewer didn’t come out clean, so I let the cake bake 10 more minutes.

I removed the cake from the oven and let it sit in the pan for about 10 minutes then removed it from the pan and let it finish cooling on a cooling rack.

Sunday morning came, and I sliced the cake at home and thought I’d sneak a piece and give it a taste.

I’d been looking forward to making this cake for a long time and could hardly wait to take a bite. I bit into it and was disappointed. I thought it was dry, and I didn’t care for the coffee flavor. Brad took a bite and said he didn’t think it was great, but it wasn’t bad

Even though I didn’t care for this cake, I didn’t feel like it was a total flop so I wrapped it up and we headed to church.

At the potluck, several people asked what I’d brought. After I mentioned the cake, some headed to the dessert table to try it.

The opinions were all over the place. Alice, who likes coffee, said she didn’t care for it. My mom, also a coffee drinker, loved it. Kathy said she didn’t care for it. Others said they thought it was good and, no, they didn’t think it was dry. But so far the negative opinions were outweighing the positive ones.

We ended up taking some of the cake home, and Brad bagged it up and handed it out to some of his co-workers, and I took a piece to Michala, one of my co-workers, who liked it. Some of Brad’s co-workers liked it, and some thought it was just OK.

I typically only add recipes to my self-made cookbook if I like them, and since this is not a cake I would ever make again, I’m not going to add it.

Sarah Condley is an amateur baker and chef who is compiling a cookbook of her favorite recipes.