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Brown Butter Layer Cake. This. Cake. Is. Insanely. Delicious.

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I mean, just look at the layers of moist, tender cake coated in rich, nutty brown butter frosting. It’s like a party in your mouth!

Seriously, if you’re looking for an over-the-top delicious cake recipe, this is it.

brown butter layer cake recipe

Deep, earthy, and profoundly satisfying, the flavor of brown butter works like magic in a simple cake recipe.

That’s right — this layer of brown butter wonder pulls off the most unexpected food alchemy of turning your fluffy vanilla cake into something that tastes like it was born from an ancient recipe embedded in an old love letter.

The brown butter adds something special, and you’ll be proud to share your secret ingredient when you’re finished baking this delicious treat.

Keep reading to learn the recipe for this insanely delicious brown butter layer cake and make something special for yourself!

easy Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Brown Butter Layer Cake Ingredients

For the Brown Butter Cake

  • 6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter – The unsalted butter has a lower water content than the salted butter, which results in a more concentrated flavor and better browning.
  • 2 Large Eggs – Eggs help bind the ingredients together and give them structure.
  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar – Adding 1 cup of granulated sugar to the brown butter layer cake makes it soft and moist, leaving no crumbs at the bottom of your mouth after every bite.
  • 2 Tablespoons Malted Milk Powder – Malted milk powder makes brown butter layer cake more flavorful by adding a rich malty flavor.
  • ½ Cup Half & Half – The half & half add a nice, creamy texture to the brown butter cake.
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Bean Paste – The flavor of brown butter can be enhanced by adding vanilla bean paste to the mixture.
  • ¼ Teaspoon Salt – Salt will add a depth of flavor to the brown butter and make it more delicious.
  • 1 ¼ Cups Flour – The 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour is just enough to give the cake structure and allow it to rise properly.
  • 1 ¼ Teaspoons Baking Powder – 1 tsp baking powder will help you make the fluffiest cake.
ingredients for brown butter layer cake

For the Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 2 Eggs Whites – The 2 egg whites help create a stable meringue that can be whipped to stiff peaks.
  • ½ Light Brown Sugar, Packed Well – Brown sugar helps create a smooth, creamy texture while also providing a slight sweetness.
  • 1 Cup (8 ounces) Unsalted Butter (Cubes At Room Temperature) – The unsalted butter helps to keep the frosting smooth and silky while adding a very slight flavor.
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Bean Paste – The vanilla bean paste is just another way to get vanilla flavor into the brown sugar Swiss meringue buttercream.

What Does Buttercream Taste Like?

Buttercream tastes very sweet because it has a lot of sugar added, but there are other flavors mixed in as well. It’s very rich and creamy, making it perfect for spreading cakes or cookies. 

Buttercream frostings are also very stable at room temperature, so they won’t melt if you leave them out overnight on a hot day as regular frostings do.

Buttercream doesn’t have too strong of a flavor by itself. Still, when combined with other ingredients such as chocolate syrup or fruit purees, it can be transformed into something completely different from just plain buttercream frosting.

What Does Buttercream Taste Like

What Does Malted Milk Taste Like?

Malted milk has a unique flavor that is often described as a cross between chocolate and coffee.

The malt flavor is most pronounced, with a slight sweetness and a hint of bitterness. The milkiness helps to round out the flavor and make it more palatable. 

Malted milk is a popular flavor for ice cream, milkshakes, and other desserts. This ingredient can also be used in baking to give a unique taste to cakes, cookies, and other treats.

Tools Needed For This Brown Butter Layer Cake

best swiss meringue buttercream recipe
brown butter layer cake

Ingredient Additions & Substitutions For Brown Butter Layer Cake

1. Granulated sugar

If you don’t have granulated sugar on hand, you can substitute an equal amount of powdered sugar, i.e. 1 1/2 cups sugar.

This will give your finished product a slightly different flavor profile than if you were to use granulated sugar alone, but it still tastes pretty good and will make the perfect cake.

2. Vanilla bean paste

The recipe calls for vanilla bean paste, but if you don’t have it on hand, you can use 1 tsp vanilla extract instead.

Just add an extra teaspoon to compensate for the different flavors of vanilla bean paste.

3. Malt milk powder

You can substitute the malt milk powder with vanilla powder. It’s not quite the same thing as malted milk powder, but it will work. Use 1/4 cup instead of a tablespoon.

How to Make This Brown Butter Layer Cake

Ingredients

For The Brown Butter Cake

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons malted milk powder
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
brown butter later cake ingredients

For The Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed well
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed (cube it while cold, then let it get soft)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (use same amount of vanilla extract if you don’t have paste)

Decor & Impregnation For Brown Butter Layer Cake

  • 1 cup of jam (cherry)
  • almonds – for decoration

Instructions

For The Brown Butter

STEP 1: Place butter in a small saucepan and place over medium heat.

STEP 2: Allow the butter to melt, and then begin stirring the pan slowly but constantly.

How do I make brown cake - step 1 and 2

STEP 3: The butter will begin to foam up and bubble, and you will notice it change color slightly from yellow to very light brown. this may take about 3 minutes.

STEP 4: Immediately when you see small brown specks in the butter, pull it off the heat and transfer to a small bowl to cool slightly. Make sure to scrape all of the brown bits into the bowl! set aside.

how to make brown butter for cake - step 3 and 4

For The Brown Butter Cake

STEP 1: In a medium bowl, beat eggs and sugar until pale yellow and frothy, about 2 minutes.

brown butter cake - step 1

STEP 2: Add the malted milk powder, half & half and vanilla bean paste, and stir to combine.

Brown butter cake - step 2

STEP 3: Slowly pour in browned butter, whisking continuously until combined.

Brown butter cake - step 3

STEP 4: Sift in the flour and baking powder and beat until well-mixed, about 1 minute.

Brown butter cake - step 4
Brown butter cake - step 4b

STEP 5: Pour batter into prepared pans, and tap lightly against the countertop to release any air bubbles. You can bake each cake separately, or bake it in one tall form, and then cut the finished cooled cake into several pieces horizontally.

Brown butter cake - step 5

STEP 6: Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops of the cakes spring back when touched, or a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

brown butter cake - step 6

STEP 7: Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before removing and cooling completely on a wire baking rack.

STEP 8: Once completely cooled, the cakes can be frosted, or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and placed in freezer bags. The cakes can then be stored in the fridge for up to five days and will keep in the freezer for up to three months.

brown butter cake - step 7 and 8

For The Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream

STEP 1: Place a small saucepan with about 2 inches of water on the stove over medium-high heat.

STEP 2: In a metal or glass bowl, whisk together the egg whites and brown sugar.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream - step 1 and 2

STEP 3: Place the bowl over the saucepan to create a double boiler, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

STEP 4: Whisk the egg whites and brown sugar constantly until the mixture reaches 145 degrees F and does not feel grainy any longer.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream - step 3 and 4

STEP 5: Transfer to the bowl of the stand mixer with the whisk attachment on.

STEP 6: Whip the egg white mixture on medium for about 5-10 minutes, or until the meringue is light and fluffy, and the bottom of the stand mixer bowl doesn’t feel warm.

STEP 7: Switch to the paddle attachment, and turn the mixer on low.

STEP 8: Add the butter, one or two cubes at a time, about 10-15 seconds apart, stopping every so often to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

STEP 9: After all the butter is added, the mixture may look slightly curdled or watery, but let the mixer keep working. the buttercream will magically become soft, smooth, and fluffy!

STEP 10: Add the vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract, if using), and turn the mixer off. Give the buttercream a mix with a rubber spatula. It’s ready to use!

Swiss Meringue Buttercream - step 10

Assembling The Layer Cake

STEP 1: Using a serrated knife, trim the rounded tops off each cake layer.

STEP 2: To cut each layer in half horizontally, I recommend using a ruler to measure the height of the layer, then with your knife make shallow cuts around the cake at different increments. Once your cake is marked off, put one hand on top of the cake layer and with a gently seesaw motion, slice through the cake smoothly.

STEP 3: Once your layers are trimmed and separated, it’s time to build a cake!

brown butter layer cake - step 1 to 4

STEP 4: Place a dot of icing on a cake board so the cake has something to adhere to. Place your bottom layer on the board, and spread about 2 tablespoons of jam on the top, spreading the jam to about 1/4″ from the edge of the cake.

STEP 5: If you like, you can pipe a small amount of frosting around the edge of the layer after spreading the jam to ensure it doesn’t leak over the sides!

brown butter layer cake - step 5

STEP 6: Repeat with each remaining layer, except for the very top. Don’t put jam on the top layer!

STEP 7: Put your cake in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up.

STEP 8: Once the cake is firm, it’s time for the crumb coat.

STEP 9: Start off with about 1/4 cup of frosting on top of the cake, and using a small offset spatula, spread the icing along the top and over the sides, covering the entire cake in a very thin layer of frosting. It’s okay if you can see the cake through the frosting layer!

STEP 10: Once the cake is thinly coated in frosting, put it back in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to let the crumb coat firm up.

STEP 11: Now it’s time to frost the cake! This time, you’ll use about 1/2-1/3 cup of frosting, and start with it on the top center of the cake.

STEP 12: Using your spatula, smooth the icing over the top of the cake and down the sides, using a gentle back and forth motion.

STEP 13: Once the cake is completely coated in frosting, clean off your spatula and smooth the top of the cake. Clean off the spatula again, and run the spatula along the sides of the cake, holding it vertically to ensure the sides are smooth.

STEP 14: Spread about 2-3 tablespoons of the jam you used to fill the cake over the top of the cake, stopping about 1/2″ from the edge.

STEP 15: Put some frosting in a piping bag with any tip you like attached, and pipe a decorative border on the top edge of the cake, making a barrier for the jam so it doesn’t run over the sides.

brown butter layer cake - step 15

STEP 16: If you like, you can cover the sides of the cake with slivered almonds as pictured, or leave it alone. If you don’t add almonds on the sides, I would pipe a border on the bottom edge of the cake.

STEP 17: Place the cake in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up.

STEP 18: You can serve the cake straight from the fridge, or let it stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before slicing and serving.

brown butter layer cake - step 18

What to Serve With This Brown Butter Layer Cake Recipe

  • Try serving your favorite cake alongside vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for something simple and classic.
  • Some sort of fruit compote or preserves (like cherry jam) would be great too.
  • You can also serve it with sweet wine or a cup of coffee or tea.

Tips About Making Brown Butter Layer Cake Recipe

  • Use high-quality ingredients. This is true for all baking but especially important for this recipe because of its lightness and richness. You want to use the best ingredients possible for this recipe to get the best results every time.
  • Use pieces of parchment paper between each layer of cake instead of greasing and flouring each pan individually before adding batter; this will save you time and effort.
  • Let the cake cool completely before adding frosting and topping it with fruit or nuts (if using). This will give you time to ensure everything looks excellent before serving up slices.

How To Store Swiss Meringue Buttercream Cake

The best way to store the leftover cake is in the fridge, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. It will keep good for one week, but it may not last long since the cake is so good.

If you don’t have time to make this now, you can freeze the layers. Just place them in separate freezer bags and seal them tightly. You don’t need to thaw the cake layers before assembling and frosting the brown butter layer cake.

But it’s best to remove the layer cake from the fridge an hour before baking, so they’re not too cold when you put them together.

swiss meringue buttercream cake

What Is the Best Filling to Add to a Cake?

The best filling for a cake is whipped cream. You can make whipped cream by beating heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks, then adding sugar and vanilla. 

The higher percentage of fat in heavy cream means you don’t need as much sugar to get the right consistency. 

You can use any flavorings you like: lemon extract or zest, chocolate syrup, rum or Kahlua (or any liquor), fresh berries, or fruit preserves—whatever strikes your fancy. Or leave it plain– everyone loves whipped cream.

what is the best filling to add to a cake

Does Brown Sugar Make Cake Moist?

Well, that depends on the type of brown sugar you use. There are two main types of brown sugar: light and dark. 

Light brown sugar has a higher proportion of molasses than dark brown sugar, making your cake more moist than dark brown (but not as moist as using molasses). 

If you want to use dark brown because it tastes better but still want a moist cake, try using half dark and half light browns instead of dark browns.

How Thick Should Cake Layers Be?

Cake layers should be between 1 and 2 inches thick. The thicker, the better! If your cake is too thin, it will be hard to cut and serve. It’ll fall apart if it’s too thick when you try to slice it.

You can always trim down flat layers after you’ve baked it. But if you’re making a tiered cake, don’t make them too thin because they will fall apart when you stack them on top of each other.

How Thick Should Cake Layers Be

What Does Vanilla Extract Do in Baking?

Vanilla extract is an essential ingredient in baking. It adds a lot of flavor to your baked goods, and it also contributes to the browning of the crust. It can be used in both sweet and savory recipes.

Other FAQs About Cake

What do you put in between cake layers?

You should always add a light layer of filling between layers. Buttercream, chocolate, strawberry, and cream cheese fillings are other amazing options. This recipe used buttercream filling and butter frosting.

What makes a cake moist and fluffy?

The most important part of making a cake is getting the sugar and butter into perfect harmony. The creaming process allows air to be trapped inside, which causes it to expand during baking for that signature fluffiness!

How do I make a brown cake?

The best way to make a brown cake is by first melting the sugar on medium heat, until it becomes light caramel color and then turning down or removing it from heat when needed.

Why do we add milk to cake?

We add milk to the cake to add a bit of moisture and richness to the texture.

What does browning do to cake?

Browning is the process of caramelizing sugar, which turns it brown. Always make sure to do browning on medium heat. Browning is a technique used in baking that creates a rich, deep flavor in your cakes and other baked goods.

brown butter layer cake recipe

Insanely Delicious Brown Butter Layer Cake

Yield: two 5” cake layers, 12 cupcakes or one 8” cake layer
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

This. Cake. Is. Insanely. Delicious. I mean, just look at the layers of moist, tender cake coated in rich, nutty brown butter frosting. It's like a party in your mouth! Seriously, if you're looking for an over-the-top delicious cake recipe, this is it.

Ingredients

For The Brown Butter Cake

For The Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed well
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed (cube it while cold, then let it get soft)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (use same amount of vanilla extract if you don't have paste)

Decor & Impregnation

Instructions

For The Brown Butter

  1. Place butter in a small saucepan and place over medium heat.
  2. Allow the butter to melt, and then begin stirring the pan slowly but constantly.
  3. The butter will begin to foam up and bubble, and you will notice it change color slightly from yellow to very light brown. this may take about 3 minutes.
  4. Immediately when you see small brown specks in the butter, pull it off the heat and transfer to a small bowl to cool slightly. Make sure to scrape all of the brown bits into the bowl! set aside.

For The Brown Butter Cake

  1. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and sugar until pale yellow and frothy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the malted milk powder, half & half and vanilla bean paste, and stir to combine.
  3. Slowly pour in browned butter, whisking continuously until combined.
  4. Sift in the flour and baking powder and beat until well-mixed, about 1 minute.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pans, and tap lightly against the countertop to release any air bubbles. You can bake each cake separately, or bake it in one tall form, and then cut the finished cooled cake into several pieces horizontally.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops of the cakes spring back when touched, or a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before removing and cooling completely on a wire baking rack.
  8. Once completely cooled, the cakes can be frosted, or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and placed in freezer bags. The cakes can then be stored in the fridge for up to five days and will keep in the freezer for up to three months.

For The Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  1. Place a small saucepan with about 2 inches of water on the stove over medium-high heat.
  2. In a metal or glass bowl, whisk together the egg whites and brown sugar.
  3. Place the bowl over the saucepan to create a double boiler, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water.
  4. Whisk the egg whites and brown sugar constantly until the mixture reaches 145 degrees F and does not feel grainy any longer.
  5. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment on.
  6. Whip the egg white mixture on medium for about 5-10 minutes, or until the meringue is light and fluffy, and the bottom of the stand mixer bowl doesn't feel warm.
  7. Switch to the paddle attachment, and turn the mixer on low.
  8. Add the butter, one or two cubes at a time, about 10-15 seconds apart, stopping every so often to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  9. After all the butter is added, the mixture may look slightly curdled or watery, but let the mixer keep working. the buttercream will magically become soft, smooth, and fluffy!
  10. Add the vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract), and turn the mixer off. Give the buttercream a mix with a rubber spatula. It's ready to use!

Assembling The Layer Cake

  1. Using a serrated knife, trim the rounded tops off each cake layer.
  2. To cut each layer in half horizontally, I recommend using a ruler to measure the height of the layer, then with your knife make shallow cuts around the cake at different increments. Once your cake is marked off, put one hand on top of the cake layer and with a gently seesaw motion, slice through the cake smoothly.
  3. Once your layers are trimmed and separated, it's time to build a cake!
  4. Place a dot of icing on a cake board so the cake has something to adhere to. Place your bottom layer on the board, and spread about 2 tablespoons of jam on the top, spreading the jam to about 1/4" from the edge of the cake.
  5. If you'd like, you can pipe a small amount of frosting around the edge of the layer after spreading the jam to ensure it doesn't leak over the sides!
  6. Repeat with each remaining layer, except for the very top. Don't put jam on the top layer!
  7. Put your cake in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up.
  8. Once the cake is firm, it's time for the crumb coat.
  9. Start off with about 1/4 cup of frosting on top of the cake, and using a small offset spatula, spread the icing along the top and over the sides, covering the entire cake in a very thin layer of frosting. It’s okay if you can see the cake through the frosting layer!
  10. Once the cake is thinly coated in frosting, put it back in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to let the crumb coat firm up.
  11. Now it’s time to frost the cake! This time, you’ll use about 1/2-1/3 cup of frosting, and start with it on the top center of the cake.
  12. Using your spatula, smooth the icing over the top of the cake and down the sides, using a gentle back and forth motion.
  13. Once the cake is completely coated in frosting, clean off your spatula and smooth the top of the cake. Clean off the spatula again, and run the spatula along the sides of the cake, holding it vertically to ensure the sides are smooth.
  14. Spread about 2-3 tablespoons of the jam you used to fill the cake over the top of the cake, stopping about 1/2″ from the edge.
  15. Put some frosting in a piping bag with any tip you like attached, and pipe a decorative border on the top edge of the cake, making a barrier for the jam so it doesn’t run over the sides.
  16. If you like, you can cover the sides of the cake with slivered almonds as pictured, or leave it alone. If you don’t add almonds on the sides, I would pipe a border on the bottom edge of the cake.
  17. Place the cake in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up.
  18. You can serve the cake straight from the fridge, or let it stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Notes

* This recipe was originally published on 07/2011 by Jaclyn. Notes and photos updated 06/2022.

* Brown butter cake adapted from The Little Red House.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 319Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 52mgSodium: 149mgCarbohydrates: 56gFiber: 1gSugar: 40gProtein: 4g

* Please note that all nutrition information are just estimates. Values will vary among brands, so we encourage you to calculate these on your own for the most accurate results.

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Conclusion

The frosting on this delicious cake is the perfect combination of rich and creamy.

The brown butter gives it just a slight flavor boost and makes the frosting extra decadent. Perfect for an afternoon coffee or after-dinner dessert.

If you’re in the mood for a delicious and decadent dessert, look no further than this brown butter layer cake.

brown butter layer cake recipe

This recipe is easy to follow with step by step directions, and it yields a rich and moist cake that will satisfy any sweet tooth.

The best part? You can make the brown butter and Swiss meringue buttercream yourself or use store-bought frosting if you’re short on time.

So what are you waiting for? Try this delicious brown butter layer cake today!


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