harvest fest and maple cake

We’ve spoken extensively about annual traditions in the past — ice fishing and pontoon weekends and girls trips, as you might recall, all fall under the cozy umbrella of tradition.

Now add to that list: Harvest Fest.

When we began this humble blog last November, Harvest Fest was one of our first entries. So it seems we have come full circle and the annual traditions have begun to repeat themselves.

The great thing about Harvest Fest, however, is that it never actually repeats itself. It is always different from the year before: the host changes, the craft attempts are new, and the food offerings are constantly evolving.

For example, at our inaugural Harvest Fest, I am pretty positive everyone brought something pumpkin flavored. [No complaints here, by the way. I am a firm believer that pumpkin baked goods should be their own food group.] Whereas this year’s Harvest Fest — our third — saw maybe only one pumpkin good, with the rest dedicated to all things apple, maple, brie, and [lest we forget] Lauren’s rice krispy treats. Boy, how we’ve grown up…

harvest festRachel’s Apple Cider Moscow Mule

The crafts, too, were different. The succulents and gourd candles of last year were replaced with wine cork pumpkins, pumpkin, wine bottle, and mason jar glitterifying, and [failed] leaf Mod Podge projects. We may not all be crafty, but I swear, if you give any one of us a bottle of glitter and some glue, anything is possible.

harvest fest harvest festharvest festThis year’s crafting results

This Harvest Fest was especially memorable because it encompassed two separate celebrations: a wedding and a birthday.

Rachel, our dear host, somehow managed to pull off all of the decor, food, and craft supplies, despite the fact that she was getting married in two weeks. [How she did it, we’ll never know…] And Kate’s birthday just so happened to fall on the day prior, so needless to say there were plenty of reasons to tap the pumpkin keg.

Or, to bake a cake.

maple cake

Those who know me well know that baking a cake is my way of showing love and appreciation. It’s sometimes the only way I know how to tell someone I love them [which is a sucky predicament when you realize that I’m married to a non-cake lover].

So Harvest Fest became my chance to offer some small slice of love to these women who have become our Denver family. Whose homes have remained open to us no matter the circumstance. Whose dogs have become Watson’s besties. Whose life events have become shared causes of celebration. Whose monthly happy hours and Easter gatherings and concert attendance and “I’m game” attitudes have brought us some of the most meaningful and unforgettable experiences of our lives. These ladies are who I look forward to receiving emails from. Whose emojis and onesies are second to none. Who are still trying to teach me how to Snapchat. And who give me the chance to be myself without judgment.

So yeah, these ladies deserved a friggin’ cake.

harvest fest maple cake maple cakeThe Harvest Fest ladies and Kate’s birthday cake blowout

Luckily, this Maple Cake with Maple Bourbon Frosting was one of the my favorite inventions thus far. Fresh off our travels in Canada, I was rearing to put some of our authentic Canadian maple syrup to use and could find no better excuse than a maple cake. Given the amount of maple syrup in the recipe, there was definitely a risk of this cake tasting like one big pancake [or “pan-cake” if you will], but its density, moistness, and “adult” maple bourbon frosting prevented the association entirely. [Though I won’t deny that it is damn good for breakfast as well.]

Inspired by Martha Stewart’s Maple Bundt Cake, this cake takes the foundations of that recipe and adds more moisture, more sweetness, more volume, and better toppings to make it altogether more awesome [in my humble opinion]. There is no doubt that we will be making this one again.


maple cake

Maple Cake with Maple Bourbon Frosting

The best thing about this cake is it can be baked the day before, covered loosely with foil, and kept at room temperature. The frosting should be made the day of.

Ingredients

  • 3 c. flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 package [3.4 ounces] instant vanilla pudding
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2-1/4 sticks [18 Tbs] unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1-1/2 c. maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 c. sour cream or 2% Greek Yogurt

Frosting

  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. bourbon
  • 2 tsp. maple syrup
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs. maple sugar [optional]
  • 1/2 c. walnuts or pecans [optional]

Instructions

  1. The day before serving, prepare the cake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or grease a 10-inch Bundt pan and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pudding mix and set aside.

  3. In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar together until fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs 1 at time, beating after each addition. Then beat in the maple syrup and the vanilla. Alternating with the sour cream, add flour mixture in 3 additions, beating until just combined after each addition.

  4. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely. Cover with aluminum foil overnight.

  5. Day of, prepare the frosting. Beat butter on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy. Add bourbon, maple extract, and half of the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until combined. Repeat with the second half of the powdered sugar. If the frosting is too thick, add more bourbon.

  6. Frost cake and sprinkle with nuts and/or maple sugar.

maple cake

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