Maple Walnut Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting is the ultimate fall dessert. We love it for Thanksgiving (move over pumpkin pie!)
What could celebrate fall better than a triple layer maple walnut cake?
My summer love affair with layer cakes (like this one and this one) has naturally shifted gears and I’ve got my sights set on all things apple, maple, and pumpkin. I hope you’re subscribed to the blog (if not, sign up here!) because there are some incredible recipes coming out this season, it’s always been the most inspiring time of year for me. This maple walnut cake is a delicious way to celebrate the change of seasons. It’s perfect for fall birthdays, and holiday dessert tables, too.
maple walnut is one of my favorite flavor combos
I think it beats pumpkin spice any day. The sweetness of the maple pairs perfectly with the slight bitterness of the walnuts. And there are so many ways to feature the duo, from maple walnut ice cream and scones, to slice and bake maple walnut shortbread cookies or a warm maple oat smoothie.
the extra layer gives me space for extra maple cream cheese frosting
Isn’t that what it’s all about? The key is to make enough frosting to fill and cover every inch of this maple walnut cake. That extra layer is a simple thing that takes any layer cake up a notch and makes it feel extra special.
To finish the cake I patted crushed walnuts around the sides, and topped with candied walnuts. You can toast the nuts for extra flavor, but I didn’t bother. Fall is a good time to stock up on nuts for baking. I always keep a bag or two of premium walnut halves on hand, as well as cheaper bags of pieces. If you’re more of a pecan type, they would work fine.
a simple hack for candied walnuts
To ‘candy’ the walnut halves I simply dipped them in a thick caramel sauce. It can be store bought or homemade (I have an amazing salted maple caramel sauce on the blog that would be perfect. But you can also simply toss them with brown sugar and a bit of butter in a skillet until the sugar caramelized and coats the nuts.
This maple walnut cake has got that perfect combination of fancy and homey
It would make such a pretty presentation on a dessert table, but mine looked just as tempting sitting under my cake dome on the kitchen counter.
It’s also the kind of cake you just can’t wait to dig right into, it’s hard to look at it all pristine and whole 😉 And even though this is a smaller 8-inch cake, it will feed a crowd because the slices are nice and tall. I think you could serve 16 and nobody would go away hungry.
Only have 2 cake pans?
- No worries! Just bake the first two layers, and then bake the third afterward, it will work just fine.
- If you want to make a 2 layer cake, best to bake this recipe in 9-inch pans. The baking time will be slightly longer.
why I like to use maple extract
Maple is a notoriously difficult flavor to infuse into cakes and other baked goods, so a quality maple extract helps a lot. Several different brands make a maple extract, just look for the words extract, pure and all natural on the label and avoid anything that says artificial. It may come down to a matter of taste, each brand is a little different. And remember, a little goes a long way with this type of extract, so don’t over do it.
Maple Walnut Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2-3 8 inch cake pans
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp maple extract, or vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 cups cake flour, (you can use regular flour)
- 3/4 cup half and half, substitute whole milk or buttermilk
- 1 cup crushed or finely chopped walnuts
- 18 walnut halves
- 1 cup finely crushed walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350F Lightly grease 3 8-inch cake pans and add a round of parchment at the bottom of each. Note: if you only have 2 pans, bake the third layer after the first 2 have cooked.
- Cream the brown sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Don’t skip this step, it helps make a light cake.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then beat in the maple syrup and extract.
- Turn the mixer to low speed and blend in the baking powder and salt. Then add the flour and half and half, alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix just to combine, don’t over-mix. Fold in the crushed walnuts.
- Fill your cake pans evenly with batter and smooth out the tops, if necessary. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until the center is risen and springs back when lightly touched, and the cakes have just started to pull away ever so slightly from the sides of the pan. Let the cakes cool for 10-15 minutes before turning out and cooling completely on a rack.
- To make the frosting, cream the cream cheese and butter until smooth, making sure there are no lumps. Beat in the maple syrup, extract, and salt.
- Add sugar, in batches, until you get your desired consistency.
- Generously frost the cooled cake and pat crushed walnuts along the outer edge. Arrange walnut halves on the top.