August 1, 2023

Everyday Brown Butter Cake

Unbelievably tender brown butter cake made with brown sugar for extra caramel & nutty notes. This everyday tea style cake is made easy with a just whisk and in one bowl.

5 from 35 votes
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The ease of my everyday butter cake (affectionately: ebc), the way readers have taken to it with so much enthusiasm, and mostly the fabulous result you get for so little effort, has had me making this cake on repeat since earlier this year. I’ve made chocolate versions, a strawberry shortcake stack with it, and then while in the midst of making these bb egg yolk cookies the idea popped into my head and I said, that is so obvious, would be so good… it has to be done. So here we are. 

What’s different about this EBC 

From the get go – there is an obvious difference in appearance, in taste and even in texture from the original EBC. In this, the crumb is darker (thanks to the brown sugar) and there are brown bits scattered about (toasted milk solids). Both of those things affect taste; you can really taste the brown butter in this cake, it’s nutty and has notes of caramel. 

 

The other thing is the texture; the crumb on this cake is more ‘moist’. I had at least one person tell me the EBC was dry, while that could have been an error in their flour measuring, the cake itself is ‘tea’ cake like and so it was never meant to be thought of as moist. This brown butter version? Definitely moist, but still very fluffy. 

 

Is one better than the other? Nope, I don’t think so. It’s like comparing apples to oranges in my mind. The original EBC tastes like a very classic vanilla cake and you probably had something like it when you were a kid so it’s nostalgic in that sense. The brown butter version tastes new and interesting and more notes of ‘brown’ from the sugar & butter. You might like one more than the other but again, that’d be a preference of liking oranges more than apples. 

 

What needed to change for the brown butter version

You might be wondering – couldn’t you just have browned the butter in the original ebc? If you had some brown butter experience and know that some of the liquid evaporates in the browning process, you might even say – couldn’t you have browned more butter than you need, measuring it after and using it in place of the melted butter? 

Yes – but that’s just the first step. We have two other variables in this cake that we now need to adjust for: A. While we have enough butter in volume (because we’re measuring after browning), the composition of the butter is actually different now; not as creamy. We need to compensate for that  and we’ll do this by adding more sour cream. And, B. To lean into the caramel & nutty notes we’re using brown sugar which is slightly more acidic, so we have to adjust the leavening (baking soda/powder) as well. 

 

Ingredients for Everyday Brown Butter Cake 

Butter: You’ll start with much more than you need, as you lose volume when it browns – so about 2 and a half sticks of butter (but measure by weight!). And extremely important: measure after browning as well. 

Sugar: We need two types of sugar for this, brown (light or dark) and granulated for the topping. For the topping I like an organic granulated or turbinado, it gives it more crunch than fine granulated. 

Vanilla: We want to bring out the vanilla flavor along with the brown butter so use a freshly scraped vanilla bean if you have one (you’ll add it to the butter as it’s melting and browning) and add some more paste or extract after. If you don’t have a bean, you’ll use more extract. 

Eggs: Eggs may not necessarily be at room temperature but they should be large. 

Leavening: Because there is a little bit more acid from the molasses in the brown sugar we’re using a combination of baking soda and powder. 

Flour: Cake flour gives us a very tender, fine crumb. If you don’t have it, use all purpose but swap out two tablespoons of the flour for cornstarch. 

Sour cream: Full fat. You can also use a vanilla greek yogurt in place of the sour cream. 

 

Tips to make the perfect brown butter cake batter 

 

Brown the butter carefully: If you see some but not a lot of brown milk solids, don’t stop browning. I find a lot of people stop as soon as they see bits of brown butter but if you are stopping too early, you’re retaining a lot of milk solids that haven’t been toasted. This will lead to less flavor, and more ‘oil’ in the batter/cake. Similarly, stop when the butter goes quiet and isn’t foaming much, you don’t want it to burn (if you smell burnt bits and see the brown has turned dark brown or black, it has burned). 

 

Whisk *very* well & add eggs slowly: First you’ll whisk the sugar and butter together, while the butter is still hot it might begin to melt some of the sugar – you want to see a bit of a change happening as you whisk; the mix should begin to become cohesive (not as much separation between the butter and sugar). As you add the eggs – it is important to add them one at a time, and to whisk thoroughly – you’ll see the batter become thicker, shinier and very cohesive. 

 

Stop whisking as soon as flour is mixed in: So as not to over mix the flour and develop the gluten which toughens the cake, whisk until you can’t see any more bits and then stop immediately. 



Everyday Brown Butter Cake

Unbelievably tender brown butter cake made with brown sugar for extra caramel & nutty notes. This everyday tea style cake is made easy with a just whisk and in one bowl.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
5 from 35 votes

Ingredients

  • 290 g unsalted butter browned into 226g, if using salted butter reduce sea salt to ½ tsp
  • 220g or 1 cup packed tightly brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract reduce to 1 teaspoon if adding vanilla bean to brown butter
  • ¾ tsp fine sea salt
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 250g or 2 cups cake flour shake the flour into the cup and level the cup, don't pack it in
  • 240g or 1 cup sour cream at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar for topping

Method

  • Set the butter in a large non-stick frying pan. Cook on medium low, as the butter melts, then begins sputtering, then foams as it browns on the bottom - the process will take about 7 minutes or so. If you are using a vanilla bean, slice it open and add it and the scrapings to the melted butter. Stir it as it browns, scraping up the edges with a rubber spatula for even browning. Once the butter goes quiet and is close to stopping foaming, transfer 226g of it to a large bowl, scraping up the bits off the pan. Discard vanilla pod, if using.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line an 8 or 9” square pan with parchment paper or grease and flour it.
  • Sprinkle the sea salt into the butter and pour in the vanilla and whisk. Add the brown sugar and whisk for a full minute, the sugar should melt somewhat.
  • Add one egg, then whisk for a full 60 seconds. Add another egg and whisk again - at this point you’ll see the mixture turn thick and shiny, a sign the emulsion is happening. Add the last egg and whisk for another 60 seconds.
  • Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and whisk until it’s half mixed, then add the sour cream and whisk fully. Stop when there are no flour bits visible.
  • Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle generously with granulated sugar. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 35-45 minutes.

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Recipe Reviews




  1. 5 stars
    I was out of both sour cream and Greek Yogurt but had full fat buttermilk on hand and it was a lovely cake!! Delicious! I also added about a half teaspoon of cardamom because I can’t leave good enough alone.

  2. 5 stars
    So tender and so delicious! The brown butter flavor comes through perfectly, the crackly sugar top is divine, and the texture of this cake is so light. I brought it to a potluck and it got rave reviews from everyone. Hard to believe I loved a cake without frosting, but this is perfect as is. I will definitely be making this again soon!

  3. 5 stars
    This cake is amazing! So easy and smelled awesome when baking. Everyone raved about it! I topped it with cinnamon a d sugar. Thank you for the recipe!!

  4. This cake has a wonderful flavour! It smelled like caramel as I was making it. Mine came out too dense, I’m not totally sure what I did but most likely didn’t whisk it for long enough. I will definitely be trying again as it’s still delicious despite my mess up. I added a white chocolate mascarpone whipped cream, with poached pears. Highly recommend!

  5. 5 stars
    Thank you for this recipe! The cake has the loveliest nutty taste and the texture is sublime. An absolute treat!

  6. 5 stars
    Thank you for this recipe!!! This cake is insane(ly good). First of all, I had never browned butter before, but your tips are spot-on, and I pushed past where I would have originally stopped and the aroma and taste were even better. The texture and lightness are so freaking good. I’ve made it 3 times recently (gotta practice for the big holidays lol) and each time was great.

    1st time – I completely forgot the sugar on top; although one of my taste-testers says they prefer it without the sugar topping. It was awesome on its own; so light and brown-buttery!

    2nd time – made it according to the recipe but stuck it in the fridge overnight. It became more dense, maybe like a pound cake. Same amazing flavor, maybe even more condensed.

    3rd time – followed the recipe but left it out on the counter and covered for a party the next day. This one was the best-received. Although not all of the sugar on top melted. I didn’t want to keep it in the oven longer in case it dried out the cake. Any tips on getting all the sugar to bake into the top instead of just sitting on top un-melted/un-incorporated?

    Thank you for all your recipes and tips/tricks. LOVE your creativity and flavors.

  7. 5 stars
    This cake is absolutely delicious! It is slightly more heavy than the original ebc, but has a delightful brown butter flavor, with those slight nutty and caramel-y notes coming through. As always, that crunchy topping practically makes the cake. Also, it’s not a super sweet cake, rather a good mid-day snack that won’t leave you avoiding sugar for the rest of the day. It would also be amazing with some fruit and whipped cream during spring and summer!

    • I first envisioned topped with a brown sugar whipped cream and some sweet summer peaches (kinda like how I did the strawberry shortcake version with the original!). Must do it next summer =)

  8. I am going to make this with a peach cream cheese frosting. I have to omit the sour cream as well as the scattered sugar. We all don’t like crumbs or granulated sugar on top of our dessert for dental reasons. My mom uses insulin and is bothered by certain cheese and sour cream. So I am thinking to replace sour cream with cream cheese since I have it on hand. I thought omitting it would change the cake texture so I am using a substitute.

  9. 5 stars
    I only had small eggs, I used 4. And used low-fat Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream, still turned out AMAZING! The smells my oven was putting off almost put me in comatose

  10. 5 stars
    In love with this cake! So easy and so good. Question: If I wanted to double the recipe, should I bake it in a 9×13″ pan? Adjustments to baking temp and/or time?

    • Hi Peggy! You can – I’d just caution that it might take awhile to bake in the center and the top might start to over-brown. You can tent it with foil if you notice this. Keep the baking temperature and add about another 10 minutes, but I’d check doneness with a toothpick or cake tester to be sure.

  11. 5 stars
    Use dark brown sugar for more depth of flavor and yogurt (vanilla flavor) instead of sour cream to make the cake a little lighter. This is the perfect everyday day cake. Light, moist, fluffy and delicious!

  12. 5 stars
    Oops forgot to add a rating!
    This was so good – you could really smell and taste the brown butter which added so much flavour. And the texture was unlike most cakes – so soft and just melted in my mouth. Loved the crackly sugar top too. Everyone I shared it with commented on how good it was too and came back for seconds ???? (I baked in an 8×8 pan for 40 mins and it was super tall!)

  13. This was so good – you could really smell and taste the brown butter which added so much flavour. And the texture was unlike most cakes – so soft and just melted in my mouth. Loved the crackly sugar top too. Everyone I shared it with commented on how good it was too and came back for seconds 🙂 (I baked in an 8×8 pan for 40 mins and it was super tall!)

  14. 5 stars
    I loved EBC (esp with roasted strawberries scattered on top before baking) and am so exited to try this with roasted peaches!

  15. 5 stars
    Loved this cake – great texture and not too sweet, easy to make. I served some warm with stewed apples and caramel sauce and it was a great flavour match.

  16. 5 stars
    Absolutely brilliant cake. I have been making a brown butter version of another blogger’s fantastic pound cake, which has the same ingredients as this. I am so delighted Sam has put a brown butter version is out there into the world. Another winner Sam!

  17. 5 stars
    This cake is absolute heaven! The brown butter becomes even more pronounced the next day at room temperature. The texture and techniques she uses are perfect- it resulted in the perfect texture moist and deliciously -not to sweet cake!! I may add a few tablespoons of white sugar into the batter next time for a boost of sweetness to see how it is- but this is definitely and adult cake ! I loved it!!!

  18. 5 stars
    No really stop it, this is the thing you’re making for dessert. It takes a small amount of real effort to make it seem like a cake that took you all day to make. It’s perfect with the sugar topping, don’t bother trying to upstage the cake with a frosting. Perfect.

  19. 5 stars
    Yum yum yum! We put brown butter frosting on top (because we’re crazy like that) and it was a dream come true

  20. How could I make this into a peach shortcake? Would it be best just to make it as is and then pile peaches, whipped cream, etc. on top?

  21. 5 stars
    I didn’t think there was room for improvement for the EBC, but wow! This is absolutely delicious, moist with a nutty/caramel-y flavor to it. And it’s even better on day 2 (for breakfast with a cup of tea).