Kenan + Brown Butter Cake
Brown Butter Cake Slices

I’m going to ask you to politely ignore the fact that this recipe calls for a pound of butter.  Or get excited about it.  Either way, positive vibes only.  This election season has been extra tense and vitriolic, so we need to find goodness wherever we can.  And brown butter makes pretty much everything better.  Can I get an amen?

I’m not a purist when it comes to cakes (or a lot of things).  I prefer dense and fudgy to light and fluffy.  I’d take a pound cake over a chiffon cake any day!  That said, this falls into the more-dense-than-a-birthday-cake category.  If that’s not your style, use a different yellow cake recipe and brown the butter.  Or slap this icing and ganache on a box mix cake and don’t tell anyone…  I don’t care.  I’m just here trying to Make America Cake Again.  

(This cake was adapted from Magnolia Bakery’s vanilla birthday cake recipe.)

Brown Butter + Chocolate Ganache Cake

Category: Any Season, Food, Recipes

Servings: 16-20 servings

Brown Butter Cake Slices


For the cake:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened and divided

2 cups sugar

2 ¾ cup all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup milk or whey

For the icing:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

16 oz. cream cheese, softened

4 cups powdered sugar

¼ cup milk or whey

For the ganache:

5 oz. high quality dark chocolate

½ cup cream


    For the cake:
  • To begin, brown half of the butter for the cake (you may want to go ahead and brown the butter for the icing in a separate pan while you’re at it). Heat the butter over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until brown specks begin to appear on the bottom of the pan and it has a nutty aroma. This usually takes 3-10 minutes, depending on your pan, stove, and beginning butter temperature. If making the cake immediately, pour butter into a heatproof bowl and place it in an ice bath, careful to not get water in the butter. Stir until butter is opaque again. If making ahead, chill butter in refrigerator (an hour or more), and allow to sit at room temperature for a few minutes before beginning the cake.

  • Prepare three 8” cake pans by greasing and flouring the sides and bottoms. I highly recommend lining the bottom with a round of parchment as well. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  • With an electric mixer, whip ½ cup browned butter and ½ cup softened butter until combined. Add sugar, creaming butter and sugar together for 3-5 more minutes, scraping down sides once or twice, until very light and fluffy. While butter and sugar cream, sift together dry ingredients.

  • Reduce speed of mixer to low and add eggs one at a time, incorporating each one before adding the next. Stir in vanilla and scrape down sides of bowl. With the mixer still on low, alternate adding dry ingredients and milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Do not over mix.

  • Divide batter evenly between prepared pans, using a spatula to spread batter in pan. Place on the center rack of preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating once halfway through, until a cake tester comes out clean. Run a knife around edges, and allow to cool in pans for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

    For the icing:
  • Beat together browned, cooled butter (see above) with softened cream cheese.
  • With mixer on low, add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. Add a splash of milk, then add more sugar and/or milk until you reach your desired consistency. If making ahead, place in an airtight container in the fridge.

    For the ganache:
  • Chop chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Scald cream by heating it until almost boiling, then pour it over the chocolate. Let stand for a few minutes, then whisk until all of the chocolate is melted and combined with cream. Allow to cool either at room temperature or in the fridge until ganache is no more than lukewarm (you don’t want to melt your icing!).

    To assemble:
  • Place a small dollop of icing on your cake stand or board to help the bottom layer stick. Level cakes as necessary, then add about ½” icing in between each layer. Spread a thin layer of icing on sides and top of cake, scraping off excess, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (This “crumb coat” is optional, but will help keep crumbs out of your icing later.) Using an offset spatula, spread remaining icing on cake, then pour cooled ganache over top.


You can halve this recipe and use three 6" pans for a smaller cake. (Remember that the area of a circle is a function of pi*radius^2, so half the recipe does not mean half the cake pan diameter!)