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Ellen’s Kitchen & Garden

Recreating Mrs. Beavers’ Caramel Cake with Pecans

Posted Wednesday,
October 21, 2020
0 ·
Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Ellen’s version of Red Truck Bakery owner Brian Noyes’ version of Mrs. Beavers’ cake — famous in and around The Plains.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

I recently started teaching my 80-year-old friend Jane how to use an iPad. I thought it would be fun for her to FaceTime with her son, who lives in California. Because of COVID-19, social distancing and the health concerns of flying, she hasn’t seen Peter in months.

We had lots of conversations during the informal lessons. One meandered to Hagerstown and our friends and family in that area. She told me of her friend Charlotte, retired with a lot of extra time on her hands.

Charlotte had told Jane that the August/September issue of Garden & Gun magazine had arrived. Fauquier’s own Red Truck Bakery’s Caramel Cake with Pecans appears on the cover. Charlotte knew of the bakery and thought it would make a great day trip.

Charlotte indeed drove down, bought the cake and found the 216-mile round trip to and from Marshall well worth the effort. But, she didn’t hop over to Warrenton for a visit with Jane, presumably because of pandemic and all the safety precautions required.

After relating this story to me, Jane opened her friend’s letter and shared a picture of the cover, along with the recipe. Knowing that I enjoy cooking Jane thought I might like to try the recipe.

We had the magazine, but I had yet to read it. The issue feature forgotten recipes. Red Truck owner Brian Noyes took on the challenge of the late Mrs. Beaver’s caramel layer cake, famous in and around The Plains. Brian wrote an interesting article about how he recreated the recipe, based on friends’ memories.

And, if Garden & Gun puts your cake on the cover, it has to be outstanding.

But, for me, it presents another challenge: I have to convert it to gluten-free — sometimes easy and sometimes not. I’ve found when baking with gluten-free flour generally requires more liquid. With a little tweaking and a little cheating, I found the cake indeed worth the drive. Jane liked it, too.

Luckily for those of you who live close by and don’t like to bake, Red Truck has locations in Warrenton and Marshall. And, for those far away it can be ordered online.

I mentioned tweaking and cheating, here’s what I did. Not liking to make caramel, I used store-bought, “Mrs. Richardson’s Caramel.” The other changes to the original recipe are substituting my blend of gluten-free flour (listed below), using extra-large eggs, omitting the apple juice and adding xanthan gum. The cake also needed some extra baking time.

The two things surprised me about this cake: How easy it was to make and the use of caramel in the cake batter and icing along with from being on the top. I hope you enjoy it — homemade or store-bought.

Caramel Cake with Pecans

16.6 ounces Mrs. Richardson’s Caramel (portioned out in cake, frosting and topping)

For the cake
Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup cream cheese, softened
½ cup caramel
4 extra-large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-½ cups gluten-free flour*
1-¼ teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup whole milk
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

For the frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup caramel
4-½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

* Ellen’s gluten-free flour
1-¼ cups of sorghum flour
1-¼ cups of white rice flour
1 cup of potato starch (not flour)
1 cup of sweet rice flour

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Lightly coat two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray and dust with gluten-free flour.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar, butter and cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of caramel and beat until combined. Add eggs one at a time and beat well; add vanilla and beat until just combined.

Into a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to the sugar-egg mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk and beginning and ending with flour. Mix until well combined after each addition. Stir in pecans.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smoothing it out with the back of a spoon. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, turning the pans after 15 minutes, until the cakes start pulling away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Place a raised wire rack atop a section of newspaper or paper towels. Let the cakes cool slightly, then invert them onto the wire rack.

While the cake cools, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and ¼ cup of caramel until fully combined. Add confectioner’s sugar and beat until smooth. Add vanilla and whip until fully combined.

With a serrated knife, trim off the rounded top of both cake layers. Invert each layer trimmed-side down onto the rack. Warm up 1 cup of caramel (microwave for 30 seconds or so), and brush the top and sides of each cake layer; let the layers cool for 10 minutes.

Set 1 layer on a cake plate. Frost just the top of the layer, then add the second cake layer, again trimmed-side down, and generously frost just the top. Thinly cover the sides with frosting, smoothing it as much as possible with an offset spatula. Refrigerate cake for 20 minutes.

Slightly warm up 1 cup of the remaining caramel, and gently pour it over the top of the cake to cover, letting some stream down the sides (adding more if needed). Save any remaining caramel for another use.
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