This Maple Walnut Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting is my way of welcoming in the best season of the year…it’s 3 layers of fluffy maple cake with an irresistible maple buttercream.  If you don’t snack on the leftovers for breakfast, you aren’t human ;)

a slice of maple walnut cake with maple cream cheese frosting

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.

slicing a maple walnut layer cake

Are you with me on maple walnut? It’s one of my favorite flavor combos, and 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

making a maple walnut cake

I like the extra layer because it gives me space for extra maple cream cheese frosting, which is what it’s all about.

Three layer cakes look intimidating, but there’s nothing complicated about them. The key is to make enough frosting to fill and cover the whole thing.

a maple walnut cake topped with candied walnuts

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 maple walnut layer cake topped with walnut halves

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.

salted Maple Caramel Sauce in a jar with a spoon

This maple cake has got that perfect combination of fancy and homey that I think distinguishes the best desserts..

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. 

removing a slice from a maple walnut layer cake

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.

maple walnut cake on parchment paper

tvfgi recommends: pure maple extract

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 extractpure 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.

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a maple pumpkin cake topped with walnuts
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4.89 from 18 votes

Maple Walnut Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

This Maple Walnut Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting is my way of welcoming in the best season of the year...it's 3 layers of fluffy maple cake with an irresistible maple buttercream.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Yield 16 servings

Equipment

  • two or three 8-inch cake pans

Ingredients

cake

  • 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 or 409 grams, 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

frosting

  • 16 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp maple extract or vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt omit if using salted butter
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 4-5 cups confectioner's sugar sifted

garnish

  • 18 walnut halves
  • 1 cup finely crushed walnuts

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

If you only have 9-inch cake pans, I think it would be best to make this a 2 layer cake.  The baking time will be slightly longer, so keep that in mind.

maple walnut cake pin