Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine first 3 ingredients in a small saucepan; cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat 3 to 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves.
Pour brown sugar mixture into an ungreased 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Arrange 6 bread slices in brown sugar mixture, cutting slices as necessary to fit in dish. Sprinkle raisins and 3/4 cup pecans evenly over bread. Top with remaining bread slices.
Whisk together eggs, next 4 ingredients, and 1 cup cream. Pour egg mixture over bread slices in baking dish.
Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
Beat remaining 1/2 cup whipping cream until foamy; gradually add powdered sugar, beating until soft peaks form.
Divide French toast evenly among individual serving plates. Top each serving with whipped cream; drizzle with maple syrup, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup pecans. Serve with bacon, if desired.
"The recipes for this program, which were provided by contributors and guests who may not be professional chefs, have not been tested in the Food Network's kitchens. They have been tested in the Southern Living Test Kitchens. All brand names have been removed from these recipes, which originally appeared on southernlivingcookoff.com."
Recipe courtesy of Kathy Specht, Cambria, California