Browned Butter Pecan Layer Cake

This Browned Butter Pecan Layer Cake has three layers of buttery vanilla cake filled with toasted pecans that are covered with a delicious browned butter frosting! It’s the perfect cake for the holidays!

Browned Butter Pecan Layer Cake

Browned Butter Pecan Layer Cake recipe

Browned Butter Pecan Layer Cake

Can you believe that it’s November already? The holidays are approaching fast. I mean, not to freak you out or anything, but Thanksgiving is two weeks from Thursday. I’m not sure I can even wrap my head around that. We will actually spend the holiday with my family in Charlotte this year though, so I guess that means the pressure isn’t entirely on me. 🙂

We are getting into one of my favorite times of year – the holidays. Not only do I love the food and all the vacation days off, but I also love the time spent with family, slowing down a bit and being thankful for all that surrounds me and all that has happened during the year.

And this year we have so much to be thankful for. The hubs’ job has been going well, I released a cookbook, Simply Beautiful Homemade Cakes, and (breaking news!) I’m leaving my other job to blog full-time starting in December. Not to mention so many other wonderful things that we take for granted every day. Ultimately it’s the seemingly little things that we should be most thankful for.

Best Browned Butter Pecan Layer CakeBest Browned Butter Pecan Cake

One thing I totally take for granted is cake, since I’ve pretty much always got some in our house. But you know I love it and this cake is no exception.

The cake layers are a moist, buttery vanilla cake spotted with toasted pecans. The flavor of the cake alone is delicious. The pecans add a whole other level of awesome. Before adding them to the cake batter though, they are tossed with butter and brown sugar and toasted. Don’t skip this step! The flavor of the cake is so much better with the pecans toasted versus un-toasted. If you’ve never toasted pecans, all you need to do is put them in the oven on a cookie sheet for about 5 to 7 minutes until they’ve browned a bit and you can smell them. A wonderful way to make your house smell delicious and like the holidays have arrived!

The cake layers are frosted with my new favorite frosting. It begins with browned butter, which is heavenly and lends a caramel-y flavor to the frosting that pairs so well with the toasted pecans. Of course I used Challenge Butter, which is such a wonderful, good quality butter. And browned butter is just as it sounds – butter that is browned right on your stove top. The frosting recipe uses a good bit of browned butter so it takes a bit of time to brown, but you really just melt the butter and allow it to brown. It’ll get a little foamy as it cooks, but eventually the foam will subside and you’ll be done.

The butter is chilled until it’s firm again and then you can use it in your frosting! I love it! The full finished pecan layer cake is super moist and delicious!

Easy Browned Butter Pecan Layer CakeFavorite Browned Butter Pecan Cake

And in the spirit of the season and being thankful, Challenge Dairy is giving back. They are joining forces with UNICEF to fight and raise awareness of the childhood malnutrition crisis – which results in the unnecessary loss of nearly three million young lives a year. To do that, every recipe pinned from Challenge Butter’s “2016 Pin a Recipe, Feed a Child” pinterest board will result in a meal being donated to UNICEF for a child in need. Challenge Dairy hopes to provide up to 75,000 means to UNICEF, so let’s help them make this a reality! Here’s the pin for this recipe, if you’d like to pin that.

I hope you’re able to hop over and pin a recipe (or two!) and give this delicious Browned Butter Pecan Layer Cake a try! You won’t regret either!

Browned Butter Pecan Layer Cake decoratedBrowned Butter Pecan Layer Cake slice

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slice of Browned Butter Pecan Layer Cake
Recipe

Browned Butter Pecan Layer Cake

  • Author: Lindsay
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 12-14 Slices 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This Browned Butter Pecan Layer Cake has three layers of buttery vanilla cake filled with toasted pecans that are covered with a delicious browned butter frosting! It’s the perfect cake for the holidays!


Scale

Ingredients

TOASTED PECANS

  • 1/4 cup (56gsalted Challenge butter, melted
  • 2 1/4 cups (370g) finely chopped pecans
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar, loosely packed

CAKE LAYERS

  • 3/4 cup (168gunsalted Challenge butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (310g) sugar
  • 1 cup (231g) sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 cups (390g) all purpose flour, preferably sifted
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (240ml) milk, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) water, room temperature

BROWNED BUTTER FROSTING

  • 2 1/4 cups (504gsalted Challenge butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (237g) shortening
  • 10 cups (1150g) powdered sugar
  • 6 tbsp (90ml) water or milk

Instructions

TOAST THE PECANS:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
2. Combine the melted butter, pecans and brown sugar in a medium sized bowl and toss to coat.
3. Spread the pecans evenly onto the cookie sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes, or until toasted.
4. Set pecans aside to cool.

MAKE THE CAKE LAYERS:

5. Prepare three 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom and grease the sides. Leave the oven at 350°F (176°C).
6. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light in color and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Do not skimp on the creaming time.
7. Add the sour cream and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
8. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until combined after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
9. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then combine the milk and water in a measuring cup.
10. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until well combined. Add the milk mixture and mix until well combined. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
11. Gently stir 1 cup of the toasted pecans into the batter.
12. Divide the batter evenly between the cakes pans and bake for about 24-26 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
13. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool for about 2-3 minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely.

MAKE THE FROSTING:

14. Melt 2 cups of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. It’s best to use a light colored pan so that you can see the butter browning. Whisk the butter occasionally so that it cooks evenly.
15. Cook the butter until turns a nice toasty brown. It will foam up at first, particularly since this is a good bit of butter, but it will eventually subside and you’ll have browned butter. Some of the brown bits may separate, but that’s ok. Once the butter has browned, pour it into a heat-proof bowl and set it in the fridge to cool completely.
16. Bring the butter back to room temperature, then add it to a large mixer bowl with the additional 1/4 cup of butter and the shortening. Beat until smooth.
17. Slowly add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until smooth.
18. Add 4-5 tablespoons of water and mix until smooth.
19. Slowly add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until smooth.
20. Add the remaining water, if needed, and mix until smooth.

TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE:

21. Use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the cakes so that they’re flat. Place the first cake on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round.
22. Spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly on top of the cake, then top the frosting with 3-4 tablespoons of the remaining toasted pecans.
23. Add the second layer of cake, another cup of frosting and 3-4 tablespoons of pecans.
24. Top the cake with the remaining layer and frost the cake. Refer to my tutorial for frosting a smooth cake, if needed.
25. Pipe swirls of frosting around the top edge of the cake and press the remaining pecans into the sides of the cake and sprinkle some over the top. Store the cake in an airtight container. Cake is best for 2-3 days.


Keywords: pecan dessert, vanilla cake, vanilla cake recipe, best vanilla cake recipe, browned butter frosting, layer cake, layer cake recipe, homemade vanilla cake

Enjoy!

Browned Butter Pecan Layer Cake! Buttery pecan cake with browned butter frosting! So good!



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Recipe rating

102 Comments
  1. Amber

    I have made this recipe several times and have to say it’s a family favorite. I save it for special occasions, though, because I really do not like baking. Most of my attempts turn out poorly – seriously I somehow mess up boxed cake mix and can frosting! But every time I make this cake it turns out perfectly! The taste is amazing, and I receive compliments and people asking for the recipe. It’s better than any bakery cake you could buy. Thank you so much for making me a super star baker!

  2. Pam

    Well mine wasn’t as pretty as yours but I am calling this one a Pinterest win. The cake was delicious and easier than I thought it would be. Everyone loved it!!!!
    Thank you for the lovely recipe.

  3. Jessica

    I’ve made this several times, everyone loves it. My sister makes it now too! The only thing I don’t do is the browned butter, I just do a cream cheese frosting. This cake is AMAZING! 

  4. Summer LaMoureaux

    First off, I’m NOT a baker, I’m a cook. Love to cook but loath baking. I don’t have the patience and measuring seems like a hassle to me. That’s why I love cooking, I just have a natural knack for it. I decided to embark on this cake for my mom and husbands birthday. That’s a gift in itself fir them. They know how much I hate baking. This cake is freaking amazing. It’s beautiful (not my version because I don’t have the frosting skills)! The frosting is amazing and the candied pecans are to die for. I added just a hint of cinnamon to mine. I read a lot of comments, from experienced bakers saying the measurements were off… I didn’t have that issue at all. Mind you this is coming from someone who hates to take the time to measure. Though there are a lot of steps involved I found it very easy to follow. I made this over two days to break up the monotony. I made the brown butter and cakes day 1. Day 2 made the frosting and decorated. This helped my ADHD. We are eating tonight so we haven’t tried it but I did lick and taste my way throughout the process and it’s all amazing.  Find this easy for non-bakers, like me, just break it up over a few days and you’ll survive. I followed everything to the T, even the teams of butter. The only change I made was a dash of cinnamon to the pecans. Cheers to you for creating an amazing cake. A cake I can be proud of and that was worth my time!!!  

  5. Cynthia

    It looked so delicious! I do something wrong! My pecans keep sinking to the bottom when baked. Would you be able do a step-by-step video of this recipe? Thank you.

  6. Brenda Milcetic

    Hi Lindsay,
    Do I store this cake in the fridge or on the counter? It looks amazing and I am wanting to make this for my mom’s 81st birthday. Thank you and God bless,
    Brenda

  7. Lisa

    Hi, this cake looks amazing and I am going to try your recipe. However, my question is off the wall. I want to know where you got the cake stand from. I love it!

  8. Jennifer

    This is a beautiful cake! I made this today and it came out gorgeous. I used 3 9 inch cake pans, the layers are a little thinner but today finding things not so easy so I made due. I used Irish Butter and thought it great. I did not use the frosting recipe because I just can’t do that shortening thing but I do understand why you would but I don’t want my friends to eat that so I found another browned butter butter cream recipe and I really liked it. All in all a real winner.

  9. Stacey

    I made this cake last night. It’s a very good cake!! However, the ingredients call for entirely too much powdered sugar in the frosting. It made the frosting so sweet that it overpowered the taste of the actual cake. Next time I’m going to cut that and use maybe 4 1/2 cups of powdered sugar instead.

  10. Karen

    My wedding in 2005 had a butter pecan layer and a strawberry layer. Every year I usually do a strawberry cake but 15 year I searched and luckily landed on your recipe! When I saw brown butter I was all in! Paula Dean has a brown butter icing spiced oatmeal cookie that I take to all cookie exchanges so I had made that before. But I never did refrigerate it and bring to room temp. When I saw all that black stuff (burn flavor crystals) I freaked out and I almost threw that settlement away!!! I am so glad I didn’t! Also the toasted pecans were heavenly on their own. In fact I still think about that part. I made this cake in June to the T. I did use swans cake flour though. Today I want to make a pumpkin crunch cake I plan to use your method of toasting the pecans I cut the recipe and added cinnamon to the pecans and it definitely messed something up. Back to the drawing board. But this recipe I bet I gained 5 lbs! LOL It is Rich but great for a special occasion. I posted on my FB page and used my new icing tools and people went nuts,

  11. Susan

    I baked this cake this week for my sister in law’s birthday. 
    I really should have read through the reviews first because there are a couple of things I would have changed and will change up – mainly with the frosting. 
    The cake itself will be my go-to cake for vanilla cake.  The cake, although dense, is moist. When building a cake, this is exactly the kind of cake you want – it will hold its shape very well. And the flavour is bar-none one of the best vanilla cakes I’ve ever had!  Well done!
    However, with regards to the frosting, there is way too much icing sugar. I will next time be cutting that in half and starting from there…adding more as needed. I’ll also be cutting the shortening out all together – replacing it with butter. It makes for a very hard to pipe frosting as the shortening makes it very hard to handle when using smaller tips. Shortening doesn’t break down as easily as butter.  As well, the flavour of an all-butter frosting will beat out a shortening blend any day for me.  I also should have added more cream than I did.  But then I used whipping cream (my go to in frostings) instead of milk. I find it usually gives a creamier texture which is so nice. But in hindsight, cream is thicker than milk and I should have added more. 
    I loved the flavour of the browned butter and the specks it created in the frosting.  So beautiful!
    For the pecans I used the dark brown Demerara sugar to candy them – oh my goodness such an amazing flavour to add to the pecans!

    Thank you for sharing this great recipe.  

    All in all a great go-to for a Butter Pecan Cake! 

  12. Erika

    Soo excited to try this recipe out! Just wondering, can I make this cake with 9″ pans? If not, I’m having my weekly shopping trip tomorrow so I can purchase some. Thanks!

  13. Victoria Camron

    My husband asked for a cake inspired by chocolate chip cookies. So I used your recipe and added semi-sweet chocolate chips. He loves it! I had to “make my own” powdered sugar for part of the frosting, which turned out a bit gritty. But I will definitely keep this in my repotoire.

  14. June

    May I ask what flour brand you use or recommend using? Thank you! I’m so excited to try this recipe based on all the positive reviews! 

    1. Lindsay

      I have used a storebrand flour, gold metal, white lily and Pillsbury before and typically don’t notice a huge difference between them in the end product. White lily has a lovely texture to it though.

  15. Sheila

    I was asked to make a cake for a benefit auction, and decided to make this one. I made it exactly like the recipe, and it turned out perfectly. Luckily, I knew the guy who bought it, and he saved me a piece. This is my new favorite cake, and I really don’t even like pecans. That’s how good it is! And, it raised $600 at the auction!!! 

  16. Milia Staggs

    Made this cake a few times and it is so good! Like one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. So thank you for that! Secondly, I have a friend who is obsessed with pecan… Do you think it would be overkill to make this cake but fill it with your pecan pie filing from your your pecan pie cake recipe? Or do you think the flavors still work?

    1. Lindsay

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! If she really loves pecans, it shouldn’t be overkill. I think this cake is a little more dense than the other one, but I would think they should go together fine.

  17. Kaley

    I made this for my husband’s early Thanksgiving potluck at work. Everyone loved it (including myself, I made 1.5x the recipe so I could have some all for me haha)! I did a lattice border on the top layer and sprinkled the remaining chopped pecans in the center to imitate a pecan pie 😉 

Lindsay
About Lindsay

I'm a wife and mom to twin boys, a baby girl and a sweet black lab with a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the sugar!

Scripture I’m Loving

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12