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Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Cake with Salted Caramel Ganache

The classic American birthday cake gets a major upgrade with vanilla bean and brown butter yellow cake, and a salted caramel ganache whipped into the smoothest frosting.
Servings 12


Vanilla Bean Browned Butter

  • 1 cup butter 226g
  • 1 large vanilla bean

Vanilla Brown Butter Yellow Cake

  • cups vanilla bean browned butter* from above
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ⅓ cups brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons baking powder
  • ½ tsp soda
  • 1 ⅓ cups buttermilk 320g
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 ⅔ cups all purpose flour

Whipped Salted Caramel Ganache

  • 200 g dark chocolate chopped
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cups sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp flaked sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla bean browned butter* from above


To make the vanilla bean brown butter:

  • Add the butter to a skillet. Using a paring knife, slice open the the vanilla bean lengthwise without cutting through the other side. Using the tip of a spoon scrape out the ‘seeds’. Add the seeds to the butter and place the bean open-face down into the butter as well. Cook on medium high until the butter first melts, sputters and spits, then gets foamy and quiet and you can spot dark brown bits at the bottom.
  • Pour into a heatproof bowl. Once the bowl is cool enough to handle, transfer it to the fridge for 30 minutes, until the butter is slightly solid, but still soft enough to stir. Measure out ⅔ cup of the browned butter and set aside for the cake. You should have about 2 tablespoons left, we’ll use this for the caramel.
  • To make the Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cake:
  • Preheat the oven to 325. Butter and flour two 8” cake pans (preferably 3” high).
  • Add the browned butter, canola oil and brown sugar to a stand mixer bowl fitted with a spatula attachment. Beat on medium until the mixture is light and well-combined, about 3-4 minutes. With the mixer on, add the eggs, one at a time, giving time for each to be beaten in before you add another. Add the vanilla extract and salt and beat.
  • Into the bowl sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Use a hand-held rubber spatula to gently stir the flour so it’s partially combined (if we do this with the mixer on the flour will ‘fly’ out of the bowl). Turn the mixer on and slowly pour in the buttermilk. Scrape the bowl a few times to ensure there’s no clumping at the bottom. Stop mixing as soon as the batter is smooth.
  • Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for 35 minutes.

To make the Salted Caramel Ganache:

  • Set the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Have the heavy cream, salt and butter measured and set next to your stove.
  • Pour the ¼ cup water into a pot. Pour the sugar in the center of the water (this helps avoid getting sugar on the side of the pot) and gently stir it just in the center so that all the sugar is covered with water. Turn the heat on medium high and cook for about 10 minutes, until you see the sugar turn amber. Keep a watchful eye on it now, let the sugar go a bit deeper in color but don’t let it cook more than a minute or two after the amber stage so that it doesn’t burn.
  • Turn the heat down to very low and slowly pour in the heavy cream while whisking. The mixture will boil up so be careful, keep pouring and stirring. Once it calms down, add the butter and salt and turn the heat back up. Whisk until the salt is melted and the mixture is smooth.
  • Pour the hot caramel over the chocolate and stir until you have a smooth ganache. Let the bowl sit on the counter until it’s cool enough to handle, then transfer it to the fridge. Let set for 1-3 hours, checking it by stirring it with a spatula to see if it has thickened. Once thick, use a hand mixer to beat the ganache for 2-5 minutes, until it’s lighter in color and smooth enough to spread.