Brown Butter Pecan Cake Recipe – Our moist and tender pecan cake is made with toasty browned butter, then topped with a rich cream cheese frosting and more crunchy nuts.

Square of brown butter cake on a plate with pecan halves on top of the white frosted cake.

Why We Love This Pecan Cake Recipe

We have two other lovely pecan cakes on the site… A pecan upside-down cake, and a pecan praline poundcake. Both are fabulous!

However, if you love a traditional sheet cake with fluffy frosting (or a layer cake), this ultra-tender Brown Butter Pecan Cake recipe is what you’re looking for!

So what is butter pecan flavor? It comes from the combination of butter, pecans, and vanilla extract. But, to get the most out of the butter pecan flavor, you should brown the butter and toast the pecans. That essentially makes this a brown butter cake with pecan speckled throughout and provides a doubly brilliant nutty flavor.

How do we make that sweet and savory goodness really shine? The frosting is a cream cheese and butter base with brown sugar mixed throughout. It is the perfect complement to this dessert with nutty brown sugar flavor in every bite!

Rectangle pecan cake, topped with nut halves and piped with frosting around the edge.

Ingredients You Need

For the Pecan Cake –

  • Cake flour (or a combination of all-purpose flour and cornstarch)
  • Salt
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Light brown sugar
  • Granulated white sugar
  • Butter
  • Vegetable oil
  • Buttermilk (or whole milk)
  • Eggs
  • Vanilla extract
  • Finely chopped pecans

For the Butter Pecan Frosting –

  • Cream cheese
  • Butter
  • Light brown sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Salt
  • Powdered sugar

And optional but highly suggested: Pecan halves to decorate the top of the cake. You’ll need a large bag!

(PS – Ingredient proportions are provided in the official recipe card below.)

Square of brown butter cake on a plate with pecan halves on top of the white frosted cake. A fork is taking a bite of cake.

How to Make Brown Butter Pecan Cake

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Set out a 9 x 13-inch baking dish or two 9-inch round baking pans. Grease the pans on all sides.

Set a small pot over medium heat. Add ½ cup of butter to the pot and melt. Once melted, stir and watch the butter as it starts to turn brown. The moment the butter is a light golden brown and smells toasted and nutty, remove it from heat. Place the small pot in a dish of ice to cool the butter down quickly.

Browning butter in a large skillet on the stovetop.

Meanwhile, place 1 cup of chopped pecans in a dry skillet. Set over medium heat. Shake and toast pecans for 2 to 3 minutes, until they start to smell rich and nutty. Then remove from the heat and allow the chopped pecans to cool.

Set out a large mixing bowl for the dry ingredients. Combine the cake flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk well to make sure there are no clumps of baking powder or baking soda in the mix.

Once the butter has cooled and started to solidify, set out a large stand mixer. Combine the cooled brown butter, vegetable oil, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat on a high for 3-4 minutes, to break down the sugar crystals.

Get the Complete (Printable) Brown Butter Pecan Cake Recipe + Video Below. Enjoy!

Then scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula, and mix in the eggs, additional egg white, and vanilla extract. 

With a mixer running on low, alternate mixing in the flour mixture and the buttermilk until a smooth batter has formed. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula one last time. Then turn the mixer on low and mix in the cooled toasted pecans. 

Scoop (or pour) the cake batter into the prepared pan(s) and smooth it out evenly. Bake for 22-25 minutes for round cake pans or 35-40 minutes for a sheet pan.

Frosted cake in a white baking rectangle dish.

Once a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean, the cake is ready to take out of the oven. Allow the cake to cool completely before proceeding. 

For the frosting: Place the cream cheese, softened butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in the (clean) bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on high for 2 to 3 minutes to break down the sugar and make sure there are no clumps of cream cheese or butter left.

Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula, then turn on low and slowly beat in the powdered sugar. If needed, you can add a little additional powdered sugar to firm up the frosting.

Homemade white frosting in a white mixing bowl with spatula.

Once the butter pecan cake is fully cooled, frost the top of the cake. If making a layer cake, scoop ¾ cup of frosting over one cake layer, then spread it out evenly to the edges. Place a second cake layer on top of the first, and scoop the rest of the frosting on top of the cake. Use a spatula to work the frosting over the top and down the sides of the cake.

You can decorate the top of the cake with whole pecan halves, forming a checkerboard pattern as we did, or any other pattern you like!

Adding nuts to the top of the frosted cake.

We also piped the remaining frosting around the edge of the sheet pan. This can be done around the top of a layer cake or at the base as well.

Rectangle pecan cake, topped with nut halves and piped with frosting around the edge.

Recipe Variations

You can make this cake a sheet cake, as seen in the photos, or you can make it in two 9-inch cake pans and stack them to make a layer cake. There’s enough frosting for both methods!

Swap pecans with walnuts or almonds, or do a combination of your favorites. I still recommend toasting the nuts before adding them to the cake.

Use your preferred gluten-free cake flour alternative blend for a GF recipe. But note that the texture of the sponge tends to be slightly more dense and crumbly when baking with gluten-free ingredients.

If you don’t feel like browning the butter, don’t worry. You can use plain melted butter for a slightly less nutty but still wholly delicious cake.

Rectangle pecan cake, topped with nut halves and piped with frosting around the edge. Hand is removing a square of cake.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does brown butter do in baking?

Browning the butter creates a deliciously nutty, toasty, and deep flavor. Together with the chopped nuts, they add a great balance to the sweetness of the cake and frosting.

How many people will a sheet cake feed?

This butter pecan cake recipe yields 12 large pieces or 20 smaller portions. So it’s great to feed any size crowd!

What is the best way to store a cake?

Cover the cake with a glass dome or cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

If you choose to refrigerate the cake, it’s important to remember that all cakes taste best at room temperature. This also increases the quality of the cake texture as well. So if you’ve chilled the cake, let it sit out for 30-60 minutes before serving.

Square of brown butter cake on a plate with pecan halves on top of the white frosted cake. A fork is taking a bite of cake.

Looking for More Fabulous Cake Recipes? Be Sure to Also Try:

Butter Pecan Cake Recipe + Video

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Deliciously moist and tender pecan cake is made with toasty brown butter, then topped with a rich cream cheese frosting and more crunchy nuts.
Servings: 12 – 20 pcs

Ingredients

For the Pecan Cake –

For the Butter Pecan Frosting –

Optional Garnish –

  • 12 ounces pecan halves for the top

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Set out a 9 x 13-inch baking dish or two 9-inch round baking pans. Grease the pans on all sides.
  • Set a small pot over medium heat. Add ½ cup of butter to the pot. Once melted, stir and watch the butter as it starts to turn brown. The moment the butter is a light golden brown and smells toasted and nutty, remove it from heat. Place the small pot in a dish of ice to cool the butter down quickly.
  • Meanwhile, place 1 cup of chopped pecans in a dry skillet. Set over medium heat. Shake and toast pecans for 2 to 3 minutes, until they start to smell rich and nutty. Then remove from the heat and allow the chopped pecans to cool.
  • Set out a mixing bowl for the dry ingredients. Combine the cake flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk well to make sure there are no clumps of baking powder or baking soda in the mix.
  • Once the butter has cooled and started to solidify, set out a large stand mixer. Combine the cooled brown butter, vegetable oil, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat on a high for 3-4 minutes, to break down the sugar crystals.
  • Then scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula, and mix in the eggs, additional egg white, and vanilla extract.
  • With a mixer running on low, alternate mixing in the flour mixture and the buttermilk until a smooth batter has formed. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula one last time. Then turn the mixer on low and mix in the cooled toasted pecans.
  • Scoop the cake batter into the prepared pan(s) and smooth it out evenly. Bake for 22-25 minutes for round cake pans or 35-40 minutes for a sheet pan. Once a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean, the cake is ready to take out of the oven. Allow the cake to cool completely before proceeding.
  • For the frosting: Place the cream cheese, softened butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in a (clean) bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on high for 2 to 3 minutes to break down the sugar and make sure there are no clumps of cream cheese or butter left.
  • Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula, then turn on low and slowly beat in the powdered sugar. If needed, you can add a little additional powdered sugar to firm up the frosting.
  • Once the cake is fully cooled, frost the top of the cake. If making a layer cake, scoop ¾ cup of frosting over one cake layer, then spread it out evenly to the edges. Place a second cake layer on top of the first, and scoop the rest of the frosting on top of the cake. Use a spatula to work the frosting over the top and down the sides of the cake.
  • You can decorate the top of the cake with whole pecan halves, forming a checkerboard pattern as we did, or any other pattern you like! We also piped remaining frosting around the edge of the sheet pan. This can be done around the top of a layer cake or at the base as well.

Video

Notes

You can make this cake a sheet cake, as seen in the photos, or you can make it in two 9-inch cake pans and stack them to make a layer cake. There’s enough frosting for both methods.
Cover the cake with a glass dome or cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week.
If you choose to refrigerate the cake, it’s important to remember that all cakes taste best at room temperature. This also increases the quality of the cake texture as well. So if you’ve chilled the cake, let it sit out for 30-60 minutes before serving.

Nutrition

Serving: 1lg pc, Calories: 720kcal, Carbohydrates: 97g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 35g, Saturated Fat: 18g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 11g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 102mg, Sodium: 686mg, Potassium: 263mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 72g, Vitamin A: 908IU, Vitamin C: 0.1mg, Calcium: 130mg, Iron: 1mg
Author: Sommer Collier
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