Filed under: Brown butter / Cakes / Layer cakes
May 4, 2018

Brown Butter Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Soft brown butter cake with a chocolate swiss meringue buttercream

cake buttercream




This cake’s story begins with three leftover egg whites.

There are so many things you can make with egg whites: meringues, waffles, angel food cake, and one of my favorites is to make homemade sprinkles. But today I wanted to try something new so I made Swiss meringue buttercream for the first time with some help from Stella Parks. Although I spent a long time fussing over the temperature of the egg/sugar mix, it was very easy whipping it all up into what I can only describe as total chocolate FLUFF (it actually looks like a marshmallow mix before it sets!).

This is a huge game changer in my buttercream journey. Until now I had only made American-style buttercream, and while it is great on so many cakes, I am bored of it, and there are times when its sweetness is overwhelming.

Next step was finding a cake that could honor this heavenly chocolate fluff I made. My go-to these days is KAF’s yellow cake so I made that but with browned butter. Have you tried this before? Browned butter is like crack. Seriously, make it and you’ll want to inhale it. I have been using it to make cccs and the depth of flavor it adds to everything is just heavenly.



Smoothing the frosting onto this cake was so easy, and more importantly you can make it look good without trying too hard. A few gentle swoops with an offset spatula and you are done. American buttercream has never behaved so well for me. Can you tell I’m so over it?

Then those chocolate curls. The first time I tried making them was for another cake and, the method I followed was kind of crap. I found another way today and it worked well: refrigerate your pan so that you spread the melted chocolate over a very cold surface which allows it to harden quicker. Once it is firm (no more melty bits) but not too cold, use a bench scraper to push straight away from you. Rolls up like a charm.


Brown Butter Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 195 grams cake flour
  • 1/2 TB baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 TB vanilla extract


  1. In a saucepan melt the butter and let continue to cook until you see the butter separating – brown bits falling to the bottom. Watch it carefully because it can burn quickly. Once you see the brown bits, turn it off the heat. Once cool enough to handle, put in a bowl in the fridge and allow to set until it becomes the texture of soft butter; it will be beige in color and the nutty bits will set at the bottom (these are the yummy bits!). While the butter sets in the fridge, pre-heat your oven to 350.

  2. Using a stand-mixer or a large bowl and a hand-mixer, gently combine all the dry ingredients. To them you’ll add the butter (scrape down to get all the brown bits) and combine until the mixture is like sand. You want the butter to completely cover the dry bits – this helps prevent gluten development to result in a softer cake.

  3. Add the eggs one by one, mixing them in well without over-beating the batter.

  4. Combine the milk and vanilla and add to the mixture, combine until you have a smooth batter (it will be runny) but don’t over-beat.

  5. Pour batter equally into two 5 inch cake pans (light metal and deep pans work best) and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top springs back when you touch it or use the tooth-pick method. Let cool for 5 minutes before you remove from the pan.

  6. Before you begin frosting, ensure that the cake is completely cool or the frosting will melt. If you need to speed things along, wrap cake layers in plastic wrap and freeze. You’ll also want to trim the domes so you can frost flat cakes (snack time!)

  7. If you’ve made your buttercream ahead of time and kept it in the fridge, you’ll need to bring it to room temperature and then whip it with the whisk attachment so it can become fluffy again.

  8. Place a little bit of buttercream on the plate you plan to frost on, place your first cake layer bottom down. Generously dollop buttercream on the top and smooth over with a spoon or offset spatula. Place second layer on top face down. Frost the top and sides as you like!


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  1. Hi Sam, do you have any suggestions on baking adjustments if making the recipe into cupcakes?

    • victoria – I have a new, amazing brown butter cupcake recipe coming out so SOON (I just finished testing today). I’d wait for that one. I haven’t made this one in like four years =/