Gesine Bullock-Prado’s Sticky Bun Layer Cake

By Yankee Magazine

Apr 05 2019


Gesine Bullock-Prado’s Sticky Bun Layer Cake

Photo Credit : Raymond Prado

Made with maple sticky bun cakes, a scrumptious German chocolate cake filling, and drizzled with even more caramel, this Sticky Bun Layer Cake from baker extraordinaire Gesine Bullock-Prado is truly a breakfast of champions. See our visit with Gesine at her Hartford, Vermont, baking school in this third season episode of Weekends with Yankee.

Gesine’s Pan Prep Tips: DIY Cake Strips

You might have noticed in baking supply shops that things called “cake strips” are being hawked as the fix to cake doming (doming is when the cake rises higher in the middle than on the sides). They do actually work, by creating something of a steam environment that regulates the temperature of the cake batter – keeping the sides from setting too quickly, and then having the batter settle all in the middle dome. Unfortunately, I find the commercial strips tend to work too well and can steam some cakes to the point where they have a gummy texture. But there’s a happy medium and that’s making homemade cake strips with things you already have at home.

I cut a few lengths of old, but clean, terry cloth towel. I make the strips about 2 ½ inches tall and I make sure the length is at least as long as the circumference of my biggest baking pan. I usually need two strips for this and it’s okay if they overlap a bit when wrapped around the pan. I wet the pieces, and then, using safety pins, I secure the strips snugly around the outer sides of my cake pan. To create an insulated environment, I wrap aluminum foil around the pan to cover the strips, keeping them from drying out too quickly.

Another tool I use is waterproofing repair tape that has a reflective, metal outer surface and a very sticky contact surface, just like a regular piece of tape. I use a small piece to keep aluminum strips together. It’s heat-safe because the outside is faced in metal, but make sure to only use just enough tape to secure the aluminum, as the sticky side can melt a bit onto the pan or the oven rack. It’s easy enough to scrape off once cooled. Using cake strips not only stops doming, which gives you an even layer of cake that is easily torted, but also keeps the edges of the cake from overbrowning.

For the Maple Sticky Bun Cake


Unsalted butter or baker’s nonstick spray for pans
Cinnamon-sugar ribbon (see Instructions)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup maple sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup roasted pecans
1/4 cup melted caramel, from store bought caramels


Preheat the oven to 350° for conventional or 325° for convection. Butter or spray the bottom of two 8-inch round cake pans and line with parchment. Attached soaked DIY cake strips to the outer sides of the pan (see Note above). Set aside.

Prepare the cinnamon-sugar ribbon: Place 1/4 cup light brown sugar, 1/4 cup pecans (lightly toasted), and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a food processor and pulse until combined and very fine. Set aside.

Prepare the cake: In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk for 30 seconds. Set aside.

Place the butter, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, and maple sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla bean paste and then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.

With the mixer on low speed, add a third of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk, and then continue to alternate between the flour and buttermilk until just combined. Take the bowl from the mixer stand and then, using a large rubber spatula, fold the batter a few times to ensure everything is well incorporated.

Add a quarter of the batter to each of the prepared pans and then divide the cinnamon-sugar ribbon mixture between the two pans, sprinkling evenly over the top of the batter. Divide the remainder of the batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake springs back when gently poked.

To assemble the Sticky Bun Layer Cake: Place a cake layer on a cardboard round and spread the German chocolate cake filling (recipe below) evenly over the layer and top with the second layer. Press gently to adhere the layers to the filling and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Using a large offset spatula and an icing scraper, coat the top and outside of the cake with a crumb coat of Caramel Buttercream (recipe below). Refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes to set.

Using a large offset spatula, spread the remaining buttercream over the top and outside of the cake and then create a swirl pattern on the top and sides of the cake with the spatula. Drizzle the cake with the caramel and pecans.

For the German Chocolate Cake Filling


3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 1/2 cups coconut flakes, very lightly toasted
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped and lightly toasted


Place the yolks in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Combine the brown sugar, evaporated milk, butter, vanilla, and sea salt in a large saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring, until the brown sugar and butter have melted. Carefully pour 1/2 cup of the sugar mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly, to temper. Transfer the tempered yolk mixture back to the remaining sugar mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to stir over low heat until the mixture thickens and the temperature reads 170°F/77°C on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut and pecans. Allow to cool to room temperature before using in assembling the cake.

For the Caramel Buttercream


5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly cooler than room temperature, with 1/2 cup more on reserve
1/2 cup cooled gourmet caramel sauce, such as Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce


Combine the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

Combine 1/2 cup of water and the lemon juice in a saucepan and add the sugar. Stir gently over low heat until the sugar is melted. Using a damp pastry brush, knock any sugar crystals on the side of the pan back into the melting sugar. Heat the sugar syrup until it reads 245°F/118°C on a candy thermometer. When the syrup first reaches 235°F/113°C, start your mixer and begin whisking the egg white mixture Once the syrup reaches final temperature, take it from the heat and carefully pour it into the egg white mixture while the mixer is still running, being careful not to hit the whisk while it’s moving. Continue to whisk until the meringue holds stiff, shiny peaks and the bowl is completely cool to the touch, about 5 minutes.

Add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time. Count to 10 between each addition. After the last tablespoon of the third stick is added, the mixture should thicken and become a shiny, smooth spreadable frosting. If, after 1 minute of whisking after the last bit of the third stick is added, the buttercream is still loose, start adding a tablespoon at a time of the reserve stick of butter.

To the finished Italian buttercream, add the cooled gourmet caramel sauce and whisk to combine.