Maple Caramel Pumpkin Cake w/Bacon

The combination of flavours and textures in this recipe sound crazy, but think about it for a second or even a minute if you feel up to pondering. Maple and Caramel are pretty much cousins, maple being the superior of the two. Caramel on the other hand is made by boiling good old sugar/corn syrup and water together until soft ball or crack stage (technical candy making lingo for: soft with a creamy texture or not quite hard enough to break your teeth) with a bit of vanilla flavour thrown in for good measure. When I make caramel I prefer to use organic brown cane sugar just tastes better to me. However, in this recipe it is not true caramel but merely the addition of the brown sugar that mimics the flavour.

Maple syrup is the sap that flows from the Sugar Maple here in our Northern climes beginning in March and when boiled down in huge vats it becomes sugary bliss. Nothing more tasty then a good glob of hot maple syrup poured into the snow then eaten while still gooey. Early maple syrup was made by boiling 40 gallons of sap over an open fire until you had one gallon of syrup.

Anyway…back to the explanation of WHY all these tastes work together. Think of it like this; pumpkin has a sweet earthy flavour and when paired with spice they compliment each other, add the maple caramel frosting which is made with cream cheese, it now becomes a sweet, spicy, tangy creamy combination. Lets bring in the bacon. It is crispy, meaty and salty. So all these flavours and textures actually compliment and work off each other. Sort of like Kettle Corn or Cracker Jacks with meat. I remember the first time I introduced my friends to the idea that BACON could be good on a cake. I created a red velvet cake and used a slight variation for the frosting. It was a butter cream with added cream cheese for tang and topped with crispy crumbled bacon. Yes…they thought it was bizarre and several even refused to try it at first, but when others tasted it and thought it was sublime the nay sayers soon followed. So…without further ado lets begin our foray into the decadence that is this cake.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 to 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 to 45 minutes

Ingredients

Candied Maple Bacon

There is a substitute for those of you who may be vegetarians you may replace some of bacon with 1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts on one half of the cake and leave bacon on the other half for us meat lovers or if you must have NO bacon then use 1/2 cup of walnuts.. but that actually ruins the idea behind this recipe doesn’t it now?

8 strips of maple bacon
4 tablespoons maple syrup

Save aside 1 tsp bacon dripping for use in cake. This may be omitted for those of you who believe it is really going to make a difference at this point.

Pumpkin Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon table salt
14 oz. can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Maple Caramel Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pure maple syrup
4 oz. cream cheese, cut into 4 cubes

Optional

Fleur de sel

Directions

Maple Bacon: Preheat oven to 400°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place a metal rack on foil.
Lay bacon slices on rack. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons maple syrup evenly over bacon.
Bake until sugar is melted, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle remaining 1 syrup over same side of bacon. Bake until bacon is deep brown and glazed, 12 to 14 minutes longer. Remove from oven. Let cool. Once cool place bacon under the broiler until syrup bubbles, watching closely so that it won’t burn. Should only take 1-2 minutes. Let cool on rack and then dice.

Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9 x 13 baking pan with nonstick spray or I prefer to use a bit of vegetable oil rubbed about with a paper towel then lightly dust pan with flour to coat evenly. Set aside.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and table salt for the bars in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk together pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, egg, melted butter, bacon drippings and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in flour mixture and pecans.
Spread pumpkin batter evenly into prepared pan; bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

Frosting: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add sugar and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until sugar is completely dissolved. Adjust heat to medium and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Add maple syrup and boil, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thick, smooth, and coats a spoon, 2 to 4 minutes longer.
Pour hot caramel into a clean stand mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat at medium-high speed, scraping down sides occasionally, until sides of bowl are no longer hot to the touch and closer to room temperature and caramel is thick. If you do not have a paddle attachment use a large spatula and beat by hand.(Takes a lot longer, but you get a workout so you can eat more cake)
Add cream cheese, one cube at a time, until frosting is smooth.
Assembly: Pour frosting over cooled cake and even out with an offset spatula. Sprinkle frosting with fleur de sel (optional, although the salt in the bacon may not be enough to offset the strong sweetness of the maple). Top evenly with chopped candied bacon. Refrigerated any leftovers as it is topped with meat. Although if this cake is as delicious as my previous red velvet cake there will be NO leftovers.

FOOTNOTE: There is just no pretending that there is ANYTHING healthy about this cake. It is filled with fat and salt and sugar but…worth every calorie consumed.

This recipe was reworked from a recipe borrowed from Amandaliene (along with photo)who heavily adapted it from Noble Pig. Hey, I’m happy to give credit to whomever credit is due.