Burnt Sugar Cake with Maple Frosting

Cakes, Dessert, To Try


For the syrup

½ cup sugar

½ cup boiling water

For the cake

3 cups all-purpose flour

teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

9 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

½ cup light brown sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream

½ cup burnt sugar syrup

For the maple icing

¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

¼ teaspoon salt

2 cups confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons heavy cream


A quick note: Remember Max’s rules for working with sugar syrup—never walk away from it, and never touch it. Caramelizing sugar is an extremely hot process. Please use caution.

Place the sugar evenly in a pan and turn the burner on high (a cast-iron skillet is great for this). Let the sugar melt. You don’t want to stir the sugar—it will form sugar crystals and clump up—but you can gently move the pan to swirl it. The sugar will dissolve, then start to turn light brown. While the sugar is cooking, boil the water. When the sugar has turned to a golden amber color and is smoking a bit, take it off the heat. Very carefully drizzle in the boiling water. It will sputter when you do this—make sure you are wearing long sleeves. Return the pan to the heat once all of the water has been added, and stir until combined. Set aside to cool.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer), cream together the butter, sugar, and light brown sugar until it is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla extract. In a separate small bowl, mix together the sour cream and a ½ cup of burnt sugar syrup. You will have extra syrup. Save it—it’s delicious in coffee! Add ⅓ of the flour mixture to the butter, sugar, and eggs, mixing just until the flour is incorporated, then add ⅓ of the sour cream/burnt sugar syrup mixture. Repeat until you have a uniform cake batter, taking care not to overmix. Scoop the batter into a well-greased 10–12 cup Bundt pan. Bake at 350°F until the top springs back when you press it and a cake tester comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool completely before unmolding and icing.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, salt, and confectioners sugar. Add the vanilla extract and maple syrup. Add the heavy cream one tablespoon at a time, until the icing is a nice, spreadable consistency. Place the cake on a platter. Using an offset spatula, spread the icing over the top of the cake.


Note: To ensure foolproof frosting, stay away from artisan cream cheese and stick with the more common name brands.


Makes one layer cake, 8 to 12 servings