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!
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.
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!
Triple "Browned" Cake
For the 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 (226 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
- 5 large eggs
- 2 teaspoon vanilla
Brown Sugar Meringue Buttercream:
- 5 large 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
To make the cake:
- 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.
To make the buttercream:
- 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.