Super Bowl is not a meal, it’s more like agony and ecstasy with side orders of barbecue and nachos. That’s why people never think of a Super Bowl dessert as something to accompany the big game menu, unless it’s ready-made, like ice cream or maybe cheesecake.
But I’ve got a home-baked cake that no sports fan is going to turn down, I guarantee it. This is a cake with maple frosting, sprinkled with bacon. Yeah, that’s right, a cake with a pound of bacon in it.
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This is an obvious sort of flavor combination to Americans. Once upon a time, I suppose, bacon and pancakes were meant to occupy neutral corners of our breakfast plates, but in accordance with the laws of physics and children’s love of playing with their food, the bacon inevitably came into contact with maple syrup, and it proved to be true love. You can even find maple-cured bacon these days.
You don’t have to search a long way to get the same flavor combination in a cake. All you need is any old maple syrup, though the flavor will obviously be better if you use 100% maple, rather than the maple-flavored kind. If you can find it, Grade B syrup, which is less light and elegant than Grade A, is even better for cooking than Grade A, in my opinion. It’s also cheaper.
Splurge for Super Bowl dessert
The butter cake in this recipe is the best choice because it underlines the assistant flavors of the pancake-bacon-maple breakfast team with butter and eggs. This recipe uses a whole lot of sugar and fat, but don’t worry. Super Bowl Sunday is not the day to worry about sugar and fat. This can be a special occasion treat, but probably isn’t a good regular dessert. The cake recipe below is for a basic butter cake. Experienced cake bakers will know that the cake layers are much easier to remove from the cake pans if you line the pan bottoms with parchment paper after buttering them and then butter and flour the parchment paper.
You can omit the cream of tartar in the frosting, but it won’t beat as high. Imitation maple flavoring is made from a spice called fenugreek, so if you do use it, be careful not to add more than 3 drops or the fenugreek flavor may become distracting, even unpleasant.
Serves 8 to 12
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter plus about ¼ cup, softened
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sugar
1. Generously rub the insides of 2 (9-inch) cake pans with softened butter, then dust with 2 tablespoons of flour and shake out the excess.
2. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the vanilla to the milk. Beat the butter until light, then gradually beat in the sugar until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating 20 seconds after every addition.
3. Add 1 cup of the dry mixture and beat at medium speed just until the flour is incorporated, coaxing the flour into the mixture with a flexible scraper. Add ½ of the milk and do the same. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk. Stir up from the bottom with a scraper to make sure the mixture is uniform.
4. Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. The total weight of the batter is 50 ounces, so each layer should weigh 1 pound 9 ounces (if you include the weight of the cake pans, that will be 2 pounds 5 ounces).
5. Bake at 350 F until the cake tops are golden brown all over and spring back if lightly touched, and the layers are starting to pull away from the sides.
6. Remove the pans from the oven (do not turn the oven off; see next step) and set them on racks or folded towels to cool for 10 minutes. Overturn the pans and remove the cake layers, then set the layers right side up again and leave until cool, about ½ hour.
1 pound sliced bacon
1. After you take the cake pans out of the oven, separate the bacon into strips and arrange these on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 F until the strips are brown and stiff and the fatty parts are crumbly, about 45 minutes. For even cooking, turn the slices over with tongs or a spatula 2 or 3 times while baking.
2. Remove the slices to sheets of paper towel to drain.
3. When the bacon strips are cold, break them up (in sheets of paper towel to absorb excess fat). Mince any hard pieces quite small.
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ cup water
¼ cup maple syrup
2 egg whites
¼ teaspoon vanilla
Optional: 2-3 drops maple flavoring
1. Put the sugar, salt, cream of tartar, water, maple syrup and egg whites in the top of a double boiler. Beat until foamy.
2. Put 3 or 4 cups of water in the bottom of the double boiler and bring it to the boil over high heat. When it is at a full boil, set the top of the double boiler over it and beat continuously with a hand-held mixer at top speed until the beaters form deep sculptural folds in the frosting, it has begun to lose its sheen and when you remove the beaters, the frosting forms firm peaks, about 7 minutes.
3. Remove the top of the double boiler and beat the frosting at high speed off heat for 1 minute. Beat in the vanilla and optional maple flavoring.
Set one layer upside down on a serving plate. Using no more than ¼ of the frosting, frost the top of the layer and sprinkle with ½ of the bacon bits. Set the layer over this, right side up (flat side down), and cover the cake with the rest of the frosting. Sprinkle the rest of the bacon as evenly as you can over the top.
Top photo: Super Bowl dessert: Butter cake with maple frosting and bacon topping. Credit: Charles Perry