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Autumnal Spice Cake

I love the changing of the seasons. I think Autumn is especially beautiful when the leaves have that wonderful golden and red hue to them.

The fabulous anticipation of Christmas is fresh in our minds without the stress and pressures that build up as the holidays get closer.

The climate is so pleasurable, perfect for long walks and it's still possible to enjoy an alfresco coffee in the late sunshine.

But, the best bit for me is the shift towards winter foods. There is something very comforting about food at this time of the year, is it because we have no longer have the pressure of being beach ready? (in fairness I've not been beach ready in 30 years!!!). Puddings, roast dinners, spiced bakes need I go on.....
200g S/R Flour
70g finely chopped pecans
200g dark brown sugar
200g stork or softened butter
4 eggs
2 tsp of mixed spice

550g icing sugar
250g butter or stork
1-2 tbsp maple syrup

150g unsalted butter, softened
40g caster sugar
25g brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

Caramel Drizzle
100g soft brown sugar
50g butter
60ml of double cream 
pinch of salt

20 pecans
100g caster sugar

You will also need a squirrel cutter or an equally Autumn-ish creature cutter. 2  6x3 inch loose bottomed greased and lined cake tins.  

Start by making the caramel, by gently heating the sugar, cream, butter and salt in a pan until the sugar and butter have dissolved. Reduce for 3 minutes until you have a gorgeous bubbling caramel. Cool slightly in the pan before pouring into a jug and leave to come to room temp.

Next onto the Biscuits:- Cream the butter and sugar together until pale, light and fluffy.  Sieve the flour and cinnamon into the bowl and mix to bring the dough together. Turn out of the bowl, flatten into a disc, cover with clingfilm and leave the dough to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 170˚c

Dust a large piece of parchment with plain flour place the cookie dough on top. Cover with another piece of parchment and roll the dough out to a thickness of 3mm. Peel the top sheet of baking parchment off the dough and using the cutter stamp out the biscuits and place on prepared trays. Gather any dough scraps together, re-roll and stamp out more biscuits.  

Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 15 minutes until golden and well baked. 

Cool on wire racks. 

Turn the oven down to 160˚c

Next make the sponge in the bowl of a free-standing mixer cream the Stork and sugar together until pale, light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten eggs. Add the flour, spice and nuts, mix until light and fluffy.

Divide equally between two 6inch prepared  tins, spread level and bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 40-50 minutes or until golden and a skewer comes away clean when inserted into the middle of the cakes.

Turn the cakes out of the tins onto a wire cooling rack and leave until cold. Cut each sponge through the centre with a serrated knife so you have 4 layers. 

To make the buttercream tip all of the ingredients into the bowl of free-standing mixer and beat for about 6 minutes until light and fluffy.

For the Brittle Gently melt the sugar and a splash of water in a pan over a low heat until it dissolves. Bring to the boil until the sugar turns a deep caramel colour and then remove from the heat. Using tongs, carefully dip each pecan into the caramel until completely covered, then leave to set on the silicone mat or lined tray. Leave to cool.

To assemble the cake, place 12 of the caramelized pecans into a food processor and blitz,  spoon a third of the buttercream into a bowl. Using the two thirds of buttercream sandwich the cake layers together sprinkling with the blitzed pecan brittle and a drizzle of the caramel between each layer. 

Cover the assembled cake with a sparse layer of buttercream and spoon the remaining buttercream into a piping bag fitted with an open star nozzle. 

Pour the remaining caramel into a squeeze bottle or into a disposable piping bag and create a ring around the top of the cake, coaxing the caramel to drip down the sides of the cake. 

Now pipe detail onto the cake, pipe swirls around the edge, then you'll need to pipe some supports to stand the biscuits against. Finally just before serving decorate with the caramelized pecans and woodland biscuits.