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CONDLEY: Sheet pan cake impresses at church potluck

A good friend of mine, Linda P., is so thoughtful, and knows how much I love sweets and how much I enjoy reading cookbooks.

For Christmas last year, she gave me a little cookbook called “Slab Pies and other Big Pan Desserts.”

The cookbook is full of sweet treats baked in a 10- by 15- by one-inch pan, and has lots of tips for baking.

The book mentions using these types of recipes is the easiest way to make dessert for gatherings.

When it was time for our church to host a potluck dinner a couple of months ago, this was the perfect time to try one of the recipes from this little gem of a cookbook.

While looking through the cookbook I started marking the ones I wanted to try, but because almost all of them looked and sounded wonderful to me, I was marking most of the pages.

It was a hard decision, but I settled on today’s recipe for Caramel Praline Sheet Cake because I have lots of pecans on hand.

 

Caramel Praline Sheet Cake

Pralines:

— 1-1/2 cup chopped pecans

— 3/4 cup brown sugar

Cake:

— 1/2 cup butter

— 1/2 cup shortening

— 1 cup water

— 2 cups brown sugar

— 1/2 cup buttermilk

— 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

— 2 eggs

— 1 teaspoon vanilla

— 2 cups flour

Frosting:

— 6 Tablespoons butter

— 1/2 cup heavy cream

— 1 cup brown sugar

— 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

— 2 teaspoons vanilla

To make pralines, place pecans in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook one to two minutes, stirring constantly. Add brown sugar and stir constantly until sugar melts and coats the pecans. Dump onto parchment paper and separate the nuts while they cool.

Preheat the oven and grease a 10- by 15- by one-inch pan.

For the cake, combine butter, shortening and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the brown sugar until dissolved. Stir in the buttermilk, then add the baking soda, eggs and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Mix in the flour until smooth.

Pour batter into the prepped pan and bake as indicated or until cake tests done with a toothpick. Let cool.

Make the frosting by heating the butter, cream and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil stirring often. Remove from heat and whisk in the powdered sugar and vanilla.

Pour frosting evenly over the cake and sprinkle with the prepped pralines.

 

Since the potluck was going to be held Sunday evening, I opted to bake this cake Saturday afternoon.

I started by making the pralines. I dumped the pecans in a non-stick skillet and turned the heat to medium-high. I stirred them for a couple of minutes while they toasted and the added the brown sugar.

I continued to stir while letting the sugar melt. It took forever for the sugar to begin to melt and even longer for it to completely melt.

I stirred the whole time, and once the pecans were coated, I poured them out onto a piece of parchment paper.

The praline mixture was a dark brown and smelled a little bit off burnt.

I separated the nuts as they cooled thinking they were probably fine. Once they were cooled, I just had to try a few. Guess what? They were burnt, but just barely.

I called Brad into the kitchen and had him try a couple little pieces. He turned to me and said, “Yep, they’re burnt.”

I hung my head, dumped them in the trash and started over.

This time, after the pecans were toasted, I turned the heat down to a little less than medium. It took longer for the brown sugar to melt, but the praline pecans turned out great.

Next, I preheated the oven, and greased and floured the pan. The recipe doesn’t say to flour the pan, but I did it anyway, in hopes the cake would not stick.

I heated the butter, shortening and water in a saucepan, and after bringing it to a boil, turned off the heat and stirred in the brown sugar until it dissolved.

I added the next four ingredients. I was using a large saucepan, so I was able to mix this cake all in one pan instead of dirtying a big bowl.

Once the mixture was combined, I added the flour and stirred. There were flour lumps in the batter, so I kept stirring and stirring. Finally, I decided a few little lumps weren’t going to hurt anything.

I poured the batter into the pan and set it in the oven to bake.

This recipe didn’t give me a bake time, but I knew it wouldn’t take a long time to bake because the pan was so shallow.

I set the timer for 25 minutes, and when time was up, I tested it for doneness. It had to go a few minutes longer then it seemed perfect.

I removed the cake from the oven and put the frosting together.

I’d washed my large saucepan while the cake baked and it was ready for the frosting ingredients.

It was easy putting this frosting together because you just had to use the one pan.

Once the butter, cream and brown sugar came to a boil, I added the powdered sugar and vanilla.

I poured the frosting over the cake after it cooled.

The icing wasn’t thin enough to spread as easily as I’d wanted, which meant it wasn’t as pretty as I’d liked. Next time I’ll either add a bit more milk, or ice the cake while it’s still warm, which will help the thick frosting glide over the cake as I spread it.

I immediately sprinkled the cooled broken pralines over the top and then stepped back and took a look.

The cake looked much better with the pecan pralines on top, and I could hardly wait to taste it.

Sunday evening came, and church members were helping themselves to dessert.

Immediately after filling my plate with the meal, I headed to the dessert table because I didn’t want to miss out on a piece of my cake.

One bite was all it took.

The cake was moist and delicious. I loved the added crunch and sweetness of the pralines on top.

There was cake left over, and we shared with others; a couple of friends and the gals where Brad was having physical therapy.

I only heard good things about this cake, so I’ll add it to my self-made cookbook.

Thank you, Linda. I’m looking forward to making another dessert from this little gem of a cookbook.

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