Brown Butter Cake
This Brown Butter Cake is made with browned butter and brown sugar for a deep, nutty, and caramel-like cake flavor. Covered in a delicious Brown Butter Buttercream, the simple cake is elevated to an entirely new level thanks to delicious brown butter!
Browned butter is the secret to making every dessert taste 10 times better! My Butterscotch Cake, Cookie Dough Cake, and Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies are all made with browned butter, and let me tell you — they are some of my very favorites!
Why This Recipe Works
- Tender and light. This moist brown butter cake is soft, light, tender and fluffy. This is thanks to the cake flour (for tender and delicate crumb), the buttermilk (for soft texture) and the vegetable oil (for moistness).
- Brown butter flavor heaven. Not only does this cake have brown butter in it, but the buttercream is also made with brown butter! The brown butter flavor is definitely there and provides a depth of flavor that is deliciously nutty, caramel-y, and toasty.
- Easy to make. This brown butter cake recipe (also known as beurre noisette cake) is easy to make and produces the most amazing brown butter cake flavor and texture!
- Cake Flour: Cake flour has a lower protein content than other flours. It is also finely milled this will give the cake a lighter and more delicate texture.
- Dark Brown Sugar: The dark brown sugar will bring out a deeper, almost caramel-like flavor, which will pair beautifully with the browned butter!
- Buttermilk: Use room temperature buttermilk. The buttermilk will provide a super moist crumb texture for the brown butter cake.
- Brown Butter: You will need about 20 tablespoons of unsalted butter before to browning to give you the 8 oz needed for the recipe. My post on How to Brown Butter has additional tips and FAQs about browning butter.
- Vegetable Oil: This brown butter cake recipe has the fat content (for moistness) and the flavor from the brown butter. However, the additional vegetable oil will provide the moist cake texture you get with oil cakes, while still having the nutty brown butter flavor!
- Unsalted Butter: This is separate from the butter you will brown. This regular butter is used to make the brown butter frosting!
Make the Brown Butter Cake
- Brown the butter: Place 20 tablespoons (1 1/4 cups) of butter into a saucepan or skillet. Melt over medium-low heat, always stirring. Cook until the butter foams and sizzles. Milk solids will form on the bottom of the pan. When the milk solids are golden brown and there is a nutty aroma, about 8 minutes into cooking, the butter is done. Remove from heat and transfer to a heatproof bowl. Store in the fridge for 10-15 minutes or until room temperature and solid. Do not burn. See my How to Brown Butter post for a more in-depth look at browning butter.
- Make separate buttermilk mixtures. Add the vegetable oil to 4 oz of room temperature buttermilk. Whisk and set aside. In another container, add 6 oz of buttermilk, the eggs, and the vanilla extract. Whisk and set aside.
- Combine dry ingredients. Add the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder and the salt to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until combined.
- Add brown butter. Add the previously browned butter to the flour mixture and stir until a sand texture develops. Add the buttermilk and oil mixture and mix on medium speed until thickened and light in color. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix for another minute.
- Stream in buttermilk. Reduce mixing speed to low and stream in the buttermilk, vanilla, and egg mixture. Mix until just combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Bake the brown butter cake. Pour the cake batter evenly into three 8-inch round cake pans that have been sprayed with nonstick spray, lined with a circle piece of parchment paper on the bottom, and sprayed again. Bake at 335°F for 25-30 minutes or until the cakes are set and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out with a few moist crumbs. Remove and let cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
Make the Brown Butter Buttercream and Frost
- Brown the butter. See step 1 under Make the Brown Butter Cake or go to my Brown Butter Recipe for instructions on browning butter. You’ll be browning 19 T of butter (1 cup + 3 T).
- Beat the butter. Add the remaining 13 T butter and the cooled 19 T brown butter to a stand mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth and light in texture and color.
- Add remaining ingredients. Add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, stirring after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the vanilla extract, salt, and the heavy cream 1 T at a time until the brown buttercream frosting reaches the right consistency.
- Layer the cake. Place a layer of cake on a cake board or cake stand. Add a layer of brown butter buttercream and frost in an even layer. Repeat with the second cake layer. Top with the third cake layer.
- Frost the cake. Using an offset spatula, frost the entire cake in the brown butter frosting. I did a rustic pattern. Slice and enjoy!
For thicker cake layers, you can bake this brown butter cake recipe in three 6-inch pans or two 9-inch pans.
I weigh the batter in each pan to ensure equal layers.
While browning butter, stirring constantly keeps things moving and prevents the butter from burning. The process of browning butter takes about 8 minutes from the time the butter has melted.
You start out with more butter than you need in brown butter because brown butter weighs less than regular butter. This is due to the liquid that evaporates while cooking it.
Use room temperature wet ingredients so they incorporate into the brown butter cake batter more smoothly. This will give you a much more even bake.
You can do a crumb coat on the cake before frosting it entirely. A crumb coat is a thin layer of buttercream around the entire cake. Then let it chill in the fridge or freezer until firm. Remove and finish frosting. The crumb coat will set the crumbs in the cake so you don’t get crumbs sneaking into the brown butter buttercream as you frost.
Butter can quickly go from perfectly browned to burnt in a matter of seconds, so be sure to remove it from the heat as soon as the milk solids turn golden brown and transfer to a separate bowl to stop the cooking process. You don’t want to chill it or cool it in the pan or it will continue to cook, risking the butter to get burned.
After browning the butter, be sure to use a rubber spatula to get all the butter out of the pan. The browned butter sits at the bottom so you want to get all those delicious brown bits!
For more details on how to brown butter, along with FAQs and tips, check out my How to Brown Butter post!
Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing
Store the cake covered or in an airtight container in the fridge for 5-6 days. If the browned butter cake is frosted, it needs to be stored in the fridge.
Make the cake layers ahead of time and let cool completely, double wrap in plastic wrap, and store in the fridge for up to 3 days prior to frosting and serving. If you want to make it more in advance than that, finish off the wrapped cake layers with a layer of aluminum foil and then freeze for up to 2 months.
Frozen cake layers should be thawed overnight in the fridge then removed to let come to room temperature.
Store any leftover buttercream in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Remove and let thaw in the fridge overnight, then let come to room temperature. Beat to return to a fluffy and light texture.
My How to Store and Freeze Cakes guide goes over storing and freezing cakes, including how to freeze cake layers, buttercream and decorated cakes.
Brown butter cake is a cake made with butter that has been browned — meaning cooked until the milk solids separate and turn golden brown. The butter itself goes through a color change due to the milk solids turning golden brown.
Brown butter tastes like a brown sugary, caramel-like cake. It doesn’t have a vanilla cake flavor at all. The brown sugar and browned butter give it a deep, nutty, brown sugary, sweet, like and fluffy cake! Basically it’s amazing!
Browning butter is a great way to elevate dessert recipes (or even savory recipes!) in a simple yet amazing way! Using browned butter in mashed potatoes (like in my Brown Butter Rosemary Mashed Potatoes) is a delicious way to amplify the buttery flavor in the potatoes without having to use any additional ingredients. I also have my Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats which is a great way to make regular Rice Krispie Treats taste crazy delicious!
More Layer Cake Recipes
Brown Butter Cake
Brown Butter Cake
- 3 cups cake flour - (14 oz)
- 3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar - packed (about 6 oz)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 10 oz buttermilk - divided, room temperature or on the warmer side
- 3 large eggs - room temperature
- 8 oz browned butter - room temperature, will need about 20 tablespoons of unsalted butter prior to browning)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil - (4 oz)
Brown Butter Cake
- Spray 3 – 8 inch round cake pans with nonstick spray that contains flour. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper, and then spray again. (if you want thicker layers you can bake it in 3 – 6 inch pans or 2- 9 inch pans).
- Preheat oven to 335°F. Measure 4 oz of buttermilk into a container. Add the vegetable oil and set aside.
- To the remaining 6 oz of buttermilk add the eggs and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.
- In a stand mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment add the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix to combine. Add the browned butter and mix to for 15 seconds or until the mixture looks like coarse sand.
- Add the buttermilk and oil to the flour mixture. Mix on medium speed for 1 minute. The mixture will thicken and lighten in color. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix on medium speed for 1 more minute.
- Turn the mixer to low and stream in the buttermilk, vanilla, egg mixture. Mix until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Place in prepared pans. (I like to weigh the amount of batter that goes into each pan to ensure each layer will be equal). Smooth into an even layer.
- Bake for 25-30 mins. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with a few moist crumbs. Remove from the oven and let cool in the cake pans for 5 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
Brown Butter Buttercream Frosting
- Place 19 tablespoons of butter in a light colored saucepan or skillet. Place the pan over medium to medium-low heat.
- Stir the butter around the pan until melted. While browning butter you want to stir just about the entire time to keep things moving and to prevent the butter from burning. Browning butter is a process that takes about 8 minutes from the time the butter has melted.
- Once the butter melts, it will begin to foam and sizzle. Continue stirring, eventually the foam will subside and the milk solids at the bottom of the pan will turn a very light golden color. Continue stirring until the milk solids are golden brown and almost amber colored. The smell will be nutty and very buttery. Butter can burn in a matter of seconds so don’t overcook the butter.
- Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the butter into a heat proof bowl or container. This will stop the cooking process. The butter needs to be at room temperature, so essentially it needs to become a solid again. You can speed up this process by placing the butter in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
- In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment add the remaining 13 tablespoons of softened butter and the room temperature browned butter. Beat to combine. Add the vanilla, salt, and the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Beat for about 30 seconds, add heavy cream to reach your desired consistency. Mix to combine.
- Place one cake layer on a cake stand or cake plate. Add a generous portion of frosting to the top of the cake layer and spread into an even layer. Add the second cake layer and repeat. Finally top with the last cake layer and use the frosting to frost all sides of the cake. Enjoy!