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Brown Butter Pecan Cake Recipe
How do you make butter pecan cake from scratch?
Tips and F.A.Q.
I think it's the combination of toasted pecan and caramelized buttery notes that really make it an iconic flavor, both for ice cream and for this old fashioned butter pecan cake!
I love the way vanilla and cream cheese complements the buttery pecan flavors in this easy butter pecan cake! Other flavors that would complement this cake are chocolate and caramel!
I made this old fashioned butter pecan cake in three 6-inch cake pans. I love the look of a 6-inch layer cake! It's a small batch cake, but still has that elegant layered look! But if you prefer, you can make this brown butter pecan cake in one 8-inch cake pan as well! It should take a bit longer to cook -- closer to 30-35 minutes -- just begin to check it after 25 minutes.
In this cake we're using brown butter for a deeper butter flavor, as well as toasted pecans to bring out the rich nuttiness of the buttered pecans. That way, there's no need for any extracts or additional flavorings. Add to that the rich cream cheese butter pecan cake frosting and the butter pecan flavor is undeniable!
In this butter pecan cake, the secret to a moist crumb is in the sour cream! We're using sour cream instead of milk to give us a moist texture that is so decadent, but still light and fluffy. We're also using brown sugar, which adds a bit of moisture as well.
Absolutely! You'll notice that in this cake we're using brown butter in both the cake layers AND the cream cheese frosting. That's no accident -- brown butter adds an amazing nutty flavor that is undeniable! It truly makes this butter pecan cake irresistible!
Once your butter is melted and the milk solids have sunk to the bottom of the pan, they'll start to turn a deep golden brown. You may also smell a nutty or toasty aroma. That's when your brown butter is ready and when you should remove it from the heat right away! For more details on browning butter, check out my Brown Butter Appreciation Post.
You can do this step in advance, but I like to toast my pecans in the pan where I just browned my butter. That way my pecans can soak up some of that remaining buttery goodness! Simply toss your pecan halves in a pan (buttered or dry) and heat them over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring often. They should begin to smell amazing and get nicely browned. Just be careful to watch them so that they don't burn. Once they're toasted, let them cool and then chop them for your batter, and if you save some you can place pecans on top of the cake!
For the dry ingredients, I highly recommend using a kitchen scale to measure them by weight to ensure accurate measurements. Many bakers use the spoon-and-level method, the scoop-and-level, or the sift-scoop-and-level methods, but to me they're all confusing, messy, and ultimately less accurate than measuring by weight. Plus, measuring with a food scale is easier and uses fewer measuring cups and spoons, so it's a win-win! For more tips on measuring ingredients, check out my measurement guide!
You can make a cake flour substitute using all-purpose flour and cornstarch! Just sift together 14 tablespoons (109g) of all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons (16g) of cornstarch. Then add it in with your dry ingredients as usual!
My favorite cake flavors to have with buttercream frosting is lemon, chocolate, or of course, vanilla!
More Pecan Recipes You'll Love
- Pumpkin Pecan Dump Cake
- Pineapple Bars with Cream Cheese and Coconut Drizzle
- Fluffy Banana Pancakes with Pecans and Maple Brown Butter Glaze
- Oatmeal Cranberry Pecan Cookies
Equipment you may need
- baking spray
- 1 cup (114 g) cake flour
- ¼ teaspoon (1 g) baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon (3 g) baking powder
- 1 cup (99 g) pecan halves - toasted and chopped (plus more for topping, if desired)
- 14 tablespoon (196 g) salted butter - divided
- ⅓ cup (73 g) brown sugar - packed
- ⅓ cup (67 g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs - room temperature
- 2 teaspoon (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup (115 g) sour cream - room temperature
Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 oz (227 g) cream cheese - (full fat), room temperature
- ½ cup (114 g) brown butter - reserved from above
- 1 ½ teaspoon (7 ml) pure vanilla extract
- 4 cups (480 g) powdered sugar
- Heat both portions of butter (14 tbsp) in a large light-colored sauté pan over medium high heat, stirring often.14 tablespoon salted butter
- Watch carefully as it begins to foam and the milk solids separate, and once the milk solids begin to turn a deep golden brown and the butter has a nutty aroma, remove from heat to a heat-safe container, scraping all the brown bits with it.
- Stir brown butter well and remove ½ cup of it for frosting. You should have one container with 6 tablespoons and one with ½ cup.
- Place both containers in the refrigerator to chill for one hour, then allow to come to room temperature.
Brown Butter Pecan Cake Layers
- Preheat oven to 350°F and position oven rack in middle of oven. Spray three 6-inch cake pans with baking spray and line with parchment paper.baking spray
- In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and baking soda until well combined.1 cup cake flour, ¾ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- Fold in toasted chopped pecans and mix well. Set aside.1 cup pecan halves
- Cream 6-tbsp. portion of brown butter with brown sugar and granulated sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.14 tablespoon salted butter, ⅓ cup brown sugar, ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- Beat in eggs and vanilla and continue to mix for 2-3 minutes. Mix in sour cream.2 large eggs, 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, ½ cup sour cream
- Fold in flour/pecan mixture gradually until just combined.
- Divide cake batter evenly into prepared cake pans (I use a food scale for this step) and bake 20 minutes, or until a toothpick entered into the center of each layer comes out clean.
- Let layers cool in pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.
Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
- Whip remaining ½ cup of brown butter with an electric mixer until lightened in color. Add cream cheese and beat until smooth. Mix in vanilla.8 oz cream cheese, 1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract, ½ cup brown butter
- Gradually sift in powdered sugar, mixing well.4 cups powdered sugar
- Beat another 2 minutes until frosting is light and fluffy. Spread onto cooled cake layers.
PIN this pecan cake recipe for later!
Last Updated on October 12, 2022 by Chenée Lewis
Would I be able to make it without the chopped pecans in the cake batter itself and just put the chopped pecans between the cake layers instead when assembling it?
I haven't tried it that way, but I don't see why it wouldn't work well. Let me know how you like it!
The recipe doesn't say how many 6" cake pans are needed...but the photo shows 3 layers. Since I don't have 6" pans, is it possible to use 8" pans?
Yes you could, but I would say just use two 8-inch pans instead of three, and your cake layers would cook a bit more quickly so maybe start checking them after 15 minutes. Hope this helps!
I plan to include this cake as a dessert option for Thanksgiving this year. I am curious if you have ever made the cake in a double batch and used larger pans? Just wondering if I double the recipe and use two 9" round or even 9" square pans, if it would cook with the same results of the smaller cake? Please let me know your experience with this and/or suggestions you recommend. Thank you for your time and for sharing such wonderful recipes. I see several I intend to incorporate into all of the upcoming holidays!
Hi Jan! I think that a double batch in two 9-inch round pans would work! It may take a little bit longer in the oven but I would start checking it at 20 minutes to see if it's baked through. Hope it works out well for you and thank you so much!
This cake is perfect for holidays <3 I'm definitely going to try it, thank you for giving such great instructions.
It's definitely a hit around here in the holiday season!
I am going to save this and keep trying it out. I have never been able to bake with pecans without burning them. I simply love this image and will bake to the best of my abilities with it.
Thank you! I hope it works out for you!
This cake was so decadent and satisfying!! We brought it to a family picnic this weekend and everyone absolutely loved it - there were no leftovers!
Wonderful! Glad it was a hit!
What a lucky brother you have that you would create this cake just for him, and such a gorgeous cake it is too! You did a super job with the naked frosting too - it's beautiful!
Thank you so much! I made it for myself as much as for him lol!