I have recently become obsessed with brown butter. I put it in everything— pancakes, pasta sauces, cakes, you name it. I just can’t get enough. The smell that fills my kitchen when I brown the butter is amazing. And the flavor is incredible, rich and nutty. It takes an ordinary dish and sends it over the top.

When I went searching for the perfect birthday cake for a family member recently, nothing seemed quite right. I found a few recipes in a favorite cookbook of mine, Sky High Cakes, and put pieces of recipes together to make a whole new creation. And what would make it better? Brown butter, of course!

Brown sugar, brown butter


Pouring the batter


The “triple” in the title refers to the brown sugar and brown butter in the cake itself, and the brown sugar in the meringue buttercream icing. I used dark brown sugar because I wanted the deepest, darkest flavor possible, but light brown sugar would work too.

I loved how this cake turned out. It was simple, no complex fillings or toppings, but the flavor was anything but. The cake was very tender, and the icing was light and buttery. Together they were delicious.

If you’ve never tried a meringue buttercream, you have no idea what you’re missing out on. It really is exactly as it sounds, whipped meringue meets sweet buttercream. And the result is heavenly. It’s a little more complicated than a traditional buttercream, but look for a tutorial here soon.

Triple Browned Cake

I think this is a wonderful dessert for fall, and certainly a nice break from all of the pumpkin and cinnamon recipes you typically see this time of year.

I will definitely be making this cake again. I might even take the “browned” concept a little further with a caramel or dulce de leche filling. The brown butter obsession continues!

Brown Sugar Brown Butter Cake
Adapted from Sky High Cakes
Makes one 9-inch triple layer cake

3 3/4 cups cake flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
5 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line three* 9-inch round cake pans with parchment and grease with butter and flour.

In a saucepan over medium low heat, melt the butter completely. Then let it continue to cook until it turns golden brown in color. Don’t stir, but swirl the pan periodically to ensure it browns easily. Keep your eyes on it, you don’t want it to burn. When sufficiently browned, put in the fridge to solidify. This will take about 20-30 minutes. You want the butter to still be soft, but not liquid.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the brown sugar, brown butter, and 1 cup of the buttermilk. Mix on medium speed until smooth.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and the remaining 3/4 cup buttermilk. Add to the mixer in three additions, mixing after each until just combined. Then turn the mixer up to medium high and beat for a few minutes until smooth.

Divide evenly between the three prepared cake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35-45 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, before inverting onto a cake pan to cool completely before icing.

*I only have 2 pans. So I do a little math and use a scale to determine the weight of the batter. Then I divide it into thirds and fill the 2 pans. When those are done, I pour the remaining third into a pan and bake separately.

Brown Sugar Meringue Buttercream
From Sky High Cakes
Makes 5 cups

5 egg whites
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup water
2 cups (1 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes

In a medium saucepan, combine the water and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it reaches a boil, stop stirring and add a candy thermometer. Continue to cook the sugar until it reaches 238 degrees F, or the soft ball stage.

Meanwhile, beat the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Once the sugar is ready, slowly add it to the egg whites while the mixer is one medium speed. Be careful to pour the sugar in a small steady stream without letting it hit the side of the bowl or the beaters.

Once the sugar is all incorporated, increase the speed to medium high and beat the mixture until cooled to room temperature. Add the butter a few tablespoons at a time while the mixer is still on medium high. Once all the butter is added, continue to beat until smooth.

Note, if your butter is too soft or to hard, the icing may separate. Continue beating on medium high and it should come together though it may take several minutes.

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24 Responses to Triple Browned Cake

  1. The Blue-Eyed Bakers says:

    Oh goodness, this looks completely delicious…and totally gorgeous as well! We love this!

  2. The Comfort of Cooking says:

    Wow, this cake is amazing! If you've never made someone a wedding cake before, you should start because this is SO impressive. I bet it tastes marvelous, too, with that brown butter. Yum!

  3. oneshotbeyond says:

    looks so comforting! I love all things brown sugar. :-)

  4. Alicia says:

    Um, yeah that looks and sounds amazing.

  5. Barbara | VinoLuciStyle says:

    I just made zucchini bread with a Cinnamon, Cream Cheese and Brown Butter frosting and I concur…it just elevates it to another level.

    This sounds wonderful and you did a beautiful job on the frosting.

  6. Alicia says:

    And can I just say that I love, love, love that you took the pictures on your picnic table?

  7. Taz says:

    yum, this looks and sounds delicious!

  8. Anonymous says:

    i have been looking for the perfect birthday cake for my brown sugar obsessed boyfriend. this is it. if he catches me making it, there is no way the frosting will make it on the cake. if any batter even makes it into the oven!

  9. Celeste says:

    YAY! I've been searching for a cake to make for a party and you totally sold me on this one. I wish I could stick my fork through the screen and take a bite!

  10. Jane says:

    I completely agree with you about the fantastic smell of browned butter, and of the incredible difference a meringue-based buttercream makes. Your cake looks sensational, and I can only imagine how good it must have tasted. The photos you took for this post are really beautiful.

  11. Pretty. Good. Food. says:

    Wow, those photos are gorgeous! Makes me hungry :) I definitely want to try the Brown Sugar Meringue Buttercream :)!

  12. jen cheung says:

    Congrats Congrats going onto challenge #4!!! Must be exciting for you! Good luck and all the best. Happy Thanksgiving to you! You'll be getting the next vote from me :) Your awesome!

    Have a happy thanksgiving!
    jen @ http://www.passion4food.ca

  13. jen says:

    gracious that looks completely delicious.

  14. Allie says:

    Beautiful! I'd love to include it in the October Layer Cake edition of Sugar High Friday's. See http://zuccherodolce.blogspot.com/2010/10/sugar-high-friday-octobers-theme-is.html for more info.

  15. Amanda says:

    What a beautiful cake! Great job!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful cake! I was just wondering, about how tall did this cake end up being? And how many did it serve?

  17. LucyinAust says:

    I made this cake for a birthday using dark brown sugar. I used 9" square tins and it was HUGE! I did two tins then divided them in half (so four layers). It ended up about 5 1/2" high (I added in an extra raspberry jelly layer). Cake was just delicious!!! Tasted nearly like a sticky date pudding cake – delicate and moist! There could have been a bit more buttercream to make covering it easier. For the person on 25/5/11 – a QUARTER of my cake fed 6 … so whole cake would be 20 serves!!!

  18. Rosie says:

    I just found your blog and I totally love it! and I wanted to ask you about the brown butter. Do you know if you can brown your butter and save it for later use? also, about how long does it take to brown the butter? do you refrigerate the brown butter or live it at room temperature?
    Sorry for all the questions (**blushing**) :)

    Thank you, I love your blog!!

    • Annalise says:

      I would imagine brown butter would keep in the fridge similar to regular butter, probably for a few weeks though I couldn’t say for sure. It usually takes me about 15 minutes to brown a cold stick (1/2 cup) of butter over medium low heat. Once it’s browned I usually stick it in the fridge to speed up the hardening process, for 30-60 min, since most recipes want the butter at room temperature and not melted. I hope this helps answer your questions!

      • Rosie says:

        Ahhhh, thank you for your prompt response Annalise, you are so kind. Your blog is my new favorite!
        Can’t wait to try brown butter :)

  19. Wiki Links says:

    …A Friend recommended your blog…

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  20. Zsuzsa says:

    Dear Annalise,

    I just made your magnificent cake for a special event yesterday. I must say I never had the same kind of reaction to a cake I made before and over the years I made a few good ones. Every mouthful was a delight. Thank you for sharing your interpretation from Sky High Cakes. I love and use that book too.

    Greetings from Kamloops, B.C.


    • Annalise says:

      Thank you so much for the comment and kind words! Thank you also for reminding me about this cake, it’s been too long since I’ve baked it. It’s one of my favorites!

  21. Annie says:

    Im going to bake this up tonight and ice it tomorrow as a wonderful baby boy is being born tomorrow and he needs a BIRTH DAY cake!!! This one looks like it will be delicious!!

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