Remember when I said that almost all the recipes in the Southern Heritage Cakes Cookbook (SHCC) contained pecans and/or coconut? Well, this one not only has half a pound of pecans, it also has a full cup of bourbon! It's called Bringhurst Pecan Cake (my best guess is that it's named after a plantation.)
Depending on where you were raised, you may pronounce pecan 'PEE-can', 'puh-KAHN', or even 'PEE-con'. The pronounciation varies even in the South, from Alabama to Georgia to Texas all having variations - but most Southerners agree it's puh-kahn. I didn't see a pronounciation guide in the SHCC, but they did have a chart illustrating different varieties of pecans. I had no idea there were that many varieties, since they are all sold here just as pecans. I'd like to do a tasting to see the differences. (Learn more fronm the Texas Pecan Board, or the University of Georgia.)
Pecan prices soared in 2011, due mainly to a severe drought in Texas and increasing demand from China. This means I will likely swap less expensive English walnuts for pecans in some recipes. My hunch is that the early Southerners used whatever nut was plentiful, and these nuts are easily interchangeable if you don't mind a slightly different flavor profile.
Now, on to the cake. How can you go wrong with pecans, butter, and bourbon? The answer is, you can't. It's pretty boozy on day one, but by day two it mellows into a sublime confection. With all the booze, nuts and fruit, you might be saying to yourself, 'this sounds a lot like fruitcake.' I am certain that with a few modifications, this could make an excellent fruitcake. It probably needs a bit less sugar; I'd add some orange peel and zest, and baste liberally with bourbon for a couple of months. But with a hot cuppa Joe, it makes a great afternoon treat just the way it is. It's also easy to make, since there is no decoration or fussing.
Although the recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups raisins, I substituted dried apricots since I can't stand raisins. I recently read an adage that rang true: "Raisins in what appear to be chocolate chip cookies are the reason I have trust issues." So feel free to substitute whatever kind of dried fruit you'd like - dried cranberries would be great.
This cake performed beautifully, releasing cleanly from the heavily greased tube pan. I don't think it would work well in a pan with intricate designs due to the large pieces of fruit and nuts, but you could use a couple of loaf pans with good results.
Bringhurst Pecan Cake
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
4 cups (18 ounces) all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons grated nutmeg
1 cup bourbon whiskey (recommend Maker's Mark)
2 1/2 cups (12 ounces) raisins or other dried fruit in raisin-sized pieces
2 cups (8 ounces) chopped pecans
Heavily grease a 10-cup tube pan (or 2 five-cup loaf pans). Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Cream butter in a large mixing bowl; gradually add salt and sugar, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating mixture well after each addition.
Combine 3 3/4 cups flour, baking powder, and nutmeg; add to creamed mixture alternately with bourbon, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix well after each addition.
Dredge dried fruit and pecans in remaining 1/4 cup flour; stir into batter.
Spoon batter into greased pan(s). Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 15 minutes for tube pan (approximately 55 minutes for loaf pans), or until toothpick inserted in cake comes out with only a few loose crumbs. Cool cake in pan(s) 15 minutes; remove cake from pan(s), and let cool completely.