Burnt Sugar Cake – A Laurel Highlands Maple Tradition

PA’s always been sweet on maple syrup. For native tribes, the syrup was a culinary staple and for early settlers, a welcome treat. They poured golden brown syrup on fresh snow to make spotza, and soon learned to reduce maple syrup to sugar.

Before too long, maple sugar was all the colonial buzz, sweetening breads, caramels, and cakes. Including the beloved Burnt Sugar Cake, which holds such a place in PA hearts that our brides often choose it for their wedding cake.

Today, our state’s taste for all things maple continues, thanks to the 90 maple farms that call Laurel Highlands home—and the 27,000 gallons of maple syrup they produce each year. Home grown and tapped, this product brings its unique flavor and sweetness to candy, marinades, craft beers and, of course, the Burnt Sugar Cake. Below is the recipe for this crave-worthy cake.

If you’re more of a foodie than a baker, follow these simple steps: Stop by Dough Girls Pizza in Rockwood or Landis Bakery in Berlin. Pick up a delectable Burnt Sugar Cake. Get ready to fall in love, PA-style.



Burnt Sugar Syrup


  • 2 cups maple sugar
  • 1 cup hot water


  • Heat 2 cups maple sugar over low heat until melted. Resist stirring too much.
  • Remove from heat and slowly add 1 cup hot water. Stir together well. Return pan to heat and continue cooking another 5 minutes over low heat. The syrup will be thin when hot and thickens as it cools.
  • Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  • Store extra in the refrigerator in a covered container.


Burnt Sugar Cake


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs (yolks/whites divided)
  • 1 cup Burnt Sugar Syrup
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • Pecan halves, for topping


  • Preheat oven to 350°F and grease two 9-inch round cake pans.
  • Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  • In another bowl, combine room temperature butter and sugar. Cream together, then add two egg yolks and beat again.
  • In a small bowl, beat egg whites till fluffy.
  • Add the creamed butter/sugar/egg yolks, Burnt Sugar Syrup, and milk to the bowl with flour. Beat well.
  • Gently fold in the egg whites. Do not beat again.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  • Let it cool in the pans for 20 minutes. Remove from the pans and let it sit on a cooling rack until no longer warm. Wrap the cake layers and put them in the fridge for at least two hours before adding the icing.
  • Frost cake with the Burnt Sugar Icing and decorate with pecan halves. Serve with vanilla ice cream.


Burnt Sugar Icing


  • 16 ounces powdered sugar
  • Burnt Sugar Syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Milk or water as needed


  • Combine all ingredients and beat until smooth and spreadable. If your icing is too stiff, add a bit of milk or water.
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