This Butterscotch Cake is made with a super moist brown butter cake topped with a homemade butterscotch frosting complete with delicious Homemade Butterscotch Sauce

When I discovered how insanely easy it is to make homemade Butterscotch Sauce and how crazy good it is too, I kinda spiraled into this butterscotch dessert kick! My homemade butterscotch sauce is amazing in my Butterscotch Shake and is the inspiration behind my homemade Butterscotch Ice Cream

Overhead photo of Butterscotch frosting swirled on a brown butter butterscotch cake.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Moist butterscotch cake. This cake is super moist! The key to that is the oil and the buttermilk. The acid in the buttermilk helps to break down the gluten, which makes for a very tender cake. The oil makes the cake very soft and moist because oil is a liquid at room temperature. 
  • Wonderful butterscotch flavor. To bring out the butterscotch flavor, the cake is made with browned butter that brings in a deliciously nutty and caramel-like flavor, vanilla extract, and dark brown sugar. I wanted to incorporate as many of the flavor profiles as butterscotch sauce to bring out that flavor. Then the cake is topped with a buttercream frosting made complete with homemade butterscotch sauce! The result is a decadent butterscotch cake! 
  • Made with homemade butterscotch sauce. The butterscotch frosting recipe is made with homemade butterscotch sauce not melted butterscotch chips. This means the butterscotch flavor is extra delicious! 

Ingredient Notes

Butterscotch Cake ingredients portioned into glass bowls on a light gray background.
A bowl of powdered sugar, butter, and butterscotch sauce on a light brown background.
  • Cake Flour: Cake flour is more finely milled and has a lower protein content compared to any other flour. Cake flour is typically bleached too, meaning it is lighter in color. Cakes made with cake flour are light, fluffy, and tender.
  • Dark Brown Sugar: Since butterscotch sauce is made with dark brown sugar, I opted for that in order to bring out more of a butterscotch flavor to the cake. 
  • Buttermilk: divided, at room temperature or on the warmer side
  • Browned Butter: room temperature (it will take about 19 tablespoons of unsalted butter prior to browning to give you the 8 oz needed). See my post about How to Brown Butter
  • Vegetable Oil: I love cakes with oil because they turn out much more moist! Since this is a browned butter based cake, I wanted to split the fat with part browned butter part oil to get that deliciously nutty brown butter flavor while still getting a super moist cake with the oil. 
  • Unsalted Butter: This is separate from the butter needed for the browned butter. This regular butter is used to make the butterscotch frosting! 
  • Butterscotch Sauce: Follow along in my Salted Butterscotch Sauce recipe! 
  • Powdered Sugar: Sift the powdered sugar for a smoother butterscotch frosting texture. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Make 2 buttermilk mixtures. Measure 4 oz of room temperature buttermilk. Add the vegetable oil to it and set aside. In a separate container, add the remaining 6 oz of room temperature buttermilk, the eggs, and the vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth. Set aside. 
  2. Combine the dry ingredients. In a stand mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. 
Four photos showing the making of a Butterscotch Cake, a glass bowl with dry ingredients, and liquid glass bowl with buttermilk in it.
  1. Add the brown butter. Add the browned butter to the flour mixture and combine until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add the buttermilk and oil mixture. Mix on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute, until the mixture is thickened and light in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again for another minute. 
  2. Stream in the buttermilk, vanilla extract and egg mixture. While on low speed, stream in the buttermilk, vanilla and egg mixture. Mix until combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.
Four photos showing a glass mixing bowl with dry ingredients, mixed together, cake batter, and the final Butterscotch Cake batter.
  1. Bake. Pour the butterscotch cake batter into a 9×13-inch pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 335°F for 32-40 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs. Remove and let cool in the pan. 
  2. Make the butterscotch cake frosting. Beat the butter and butterscotch sauce in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Once smooth, add 1 cup of the powdered sugar at a time, mixing after each addition. Add a tablespoon of milk or heavy cream as needed to keep the mixture spreadable. 
Four photos with the top two photos with Butterscotch Cake batter in a baking dish, the right photo with baked Butterscotch Cake, bottom left photo is Butterscotch frosting, and bottom right has Butterscotch frosting over Butterscotch Cake.
  1. Frost the butterscotch cake. Once the cake is cooled, spread the creamy butterscotch frosting over the top of the cake. I did a pattern with an offset spatula and a bit of the butterscotch sauce drizzled on top and swirled in. Serve! 
Overhead photo of Butterscotch Cake frosted with Butterscotch swirled frosting.

Recipe Tips

This cake has to be baked in a 9×13-inch (or larger) pan. It will not fit in anything smaller. 

If you find your cake batter looks lumpy or curdled when you are adding the egg/buttermilk/vanilla mixture, it could be that the wet ingredients were too cold. This will affect the cake and it will have a hard time rising. Be sure to use room temperature wet ingredients! 

Scraping down the sides of your bowl while mixing the butterscotch cake batter will help so you don’t have any dry or wet ingredients that aren’t incorporated into the mixture. 

Room temperature wet ingredients will not only incorporate into the cake batter better but will help provide a better rise in your cake! 

To make this into a layer cake, you’ll need three 8-inch round cake pans. The baking time will vary due to the size of the pan changing. I would bake at 325ºF for 28-34 minutes. Checking at 28 minutes to see how the cakes look. 

For an in-depth look at how to brown butter, along with tips and FAQS, check out my Browning Butter post! 

Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing

You can make the homemade butterscotch cake ahead of time and store the cake at room temperature for 1 day prior to serving. Or store the cake in the fridge if you need it to keep for longer. 

The frosting will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 5-6 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Remove and let come to room temperature and then beat in a stand mixer until fluffy again. 

Store the frosted butterscotch cake covered in the fridge for 3-4 days or double wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge for up to 2 months. Remove and let thaw in the fridge overnight. Remove from the fridge and let come to room temperature before enjoying. 

Since this cake has butter in it, you’ll want the cake to come to room temperature to return it to a more moist and softer texture. 

For more information on storing and freezing cakes, including how to freeze cake layers, buttercream and decorated cakes, check out my How to Store and Freeze Cakes guide!

A spatula holding up a slice of square Butterscotch Cake against a brown background.

Recipe FAQs

What is butterscotch cake made of?

This butterscotch cake is made of a brown sugar brown butter cake topped with a delicious butterscotch buttercream frosting made with homemade butterscotch sauce! 

Does butterscotch cake have alcohol?

This butterscotch cake does not have alcohol. Some butterscotch recipes will include alcohol, but typically the butterscotch candy is named “scotch” because of the way it was cut. The hard candies were scotched (cut) into pieces. Some recipes include alcohol now thinking the “scotch” in “butterscotch” refers to alcohol.  

Why do I need more butter when browning butter?

When you brown butter, a lot of the water content in the butter will evaporate as it is being cooked. That is why you need to start out with more butter so the measurement is accurate once the butter is browned.

A square slice of Butterscotch Cake on a gray plate with a fork near the cake.

More Butterscotch Recipes

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A butterscotch swirled frosting overtop a Butterscotch Cake.
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Butterscotch Cake

A delicious brown butter cake topped with a butterscotch frosting. This cake has so much flavor and is so delicious!!
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins
Servings: 12 servings

Ingredients
 

Brown Butter Butterscotch Cake

  • 3 cups cake flour - (14 oz)
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar - (6oz)
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar - packed (6 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 10 oz buttermilk - divided, at room temperature or on the warmer side
  • 3 large eggs - room temperature
  • 8 oz browned butter - room temperature (it will take about 19 tablespoons of unsalted butter prior to browning to give you the 8 oz needed)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil - (4 oz)

Butterscotch Frosting

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter - softened
  • 3/4 cup butterscotch sauce - plus 1 tablespoon if you want to swirl it in the frosting at the end
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • milk or heavy cream - as needed, to make the frosting more spreadable

Instructions
 

Brown Butter Butterscotch Cake

  • Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray. Has to be 9×13, it will not fit in anything smaller. 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 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 pan. Smooth into an even layer. Bake for 32-40 mins. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with a few moist crumbs. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before frosting.

Butterscotch Frosting

  • Add the butter and butterscotch sauce to a large bowl. (I used my stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment). Mix on medium speed for 1 minute until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time and mix until smooth. Add a splash of milk or heavy cream if needed to make it more spreadable.

Assembly

  • Once the cake has cooled, spread the butterscotch frosting over the entire cake.
  • If you want the look I have in my photos, I frosted the cake, then drizzled a little butterscotch sauce overtop of the frosting, and then spread it into the frosting with an offset spatula, swirling it as I went.   

Notes

For an in-depth look at how to brown butter, along with tips and FAQS, check out my Browning Butter post! 
For more information on storing and freezing cakes, including how to freeze cake layers, buttercream and decorated cakes, check out my How to Store and Freeze Cakes guide!

Nutrition

Calories: 811kcal (41%)Carbohydrates: 102g (34%)Protein: 7g (14%)Fat: 43g (66%)Saturated Fat: 23g (115%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 7gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 115mg (38%)Sodium: 475mg (20%)Potassium: 156mg (4%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 78g (87%)Vitamin A: 871IU (17%)Vitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 80mg (8%)Iron: 1mg (6%)
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
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