1cupbuttermilkor sour milk: milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar
1-1/2cupscoarsely chopped walnutsor pecans
2cupsunsalted butterroom temperature
1/4 to 1/2cuphalf-and-half cream or milk
3+ tablespoons maple syrupdivided
To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°. Use nonstick spray or butter on three 9-inch round cake pans. Cut out rounds of parchment paper for the bottoms of the pans, then grease the paper.
In a large bowl, cream softened butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs and beat well after each addition. Add the maple flavor.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, until everything is just blended.
Pour batter into each prepared pan as evenly as you can. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then gently tip them onto a wire racks. Remove parchment. Cool cake layers completely. [Note: at this point you can even freeze the layers between wax paper, then wrap well in plastic wrap, to assemble the cake days or weeks later.]
To make candied walnuts:
Grab a small cookie sheet or platter and cover it with aluminum foil. Set aside.
In a large skillet, melt the tablespoon of butter. Add nuts and stir over medium heat until toasted, about 5 minutes. Watch the heat, as they can burn fast. Stir in the tablespoon maple syrup and salt; stir for 1 minute longer. Spread the nuts on the foil to cool completely.
In a large bowl, beat the softened butter until creamy. Slowly add in confectioners' sugar, maple flavor, salt and enough cream/milk to reach desired consistency. [If it ends up too wet, add more powdered sugar.]
Set out your serving platter. Add a few dabs of frosting; this will be like glue to help your bottom layer stay in place.
Place the cake layer on top. Spread with one cup of frosting. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of candied nuts over the frosting and then drizzle about a tablespoon of maple syrup.
Repeat this with the next layer.
Place the top layer. Frost the very top and sides of cake, then add the remaining nuts and another healthy (ahem) drizzle of maple syrup.