Brown Butter Layer Cake with Salted Bourbon Buttercream

Brown Butter Layer Cake with Salted Bourbon Buttercream is a rich, decadent dessert that will wow your friends and family.

Brown Butter Layer Cake with Salted Bourbon Buttercream is a rich, decadent dessert that will wow your friends and family. Get the recipe from

Before I talk about life and about this cake, I’d love to tell you about a workshop I’ll be attending in May. There are still a few more spaces available! I’ll be joining Eva from Adventures in Cooking and Carey from Reclaiming Provincial in Cape Cod for a food styling, photography and cheese making workshop! We’d love for you to join us so please take a moment to check out the event.

Brown Butter Layer Cake with Salted Bourbon Buttercream is a rich, decadent dessert that will wow your friends and family. Get the recipe from

On a more personal note, I’ve been struggling over the past month which is why it has been so quiet around here. I’m tired, both physically and mentally. And I just can’t seem to keep up with things anymore. There’s pressure. I feel pressure to blog so I don’t lose my audience, pressure to create content for the book with this ever looming deadline, pressure to continue exercising so I don’t fall out of the habit. There’s pressure to get our grocery budget down and use everything in the fridge, because food waste is a terrible thing. I’ve tried taking breaks and rests and mini vacations. I’m still tired.

I’ve recently begun to suspect that increasing my exercise might actually be the culprit so I’ve been adding vitamins, increasing my water intake and am seeing a doctor at the end of this week to see if he has any other insight into to what might be causing this prolonged fatigue. Maybe it’s blood sugar related. I kept assuming it was just pressure from life but I think it’s time to rule out the medical stuff because it has been a month and I’m getting very behind on life.

Brown Butter Layer Cake with Salted Bourbon Buttercream is a rich, decadent dessert that will wow your friends and family. Get the recipe from

This cake was a struggle. I’m not sure why I decided to try and get my feet wet with such a complicated dessert but as I’ve said in the past, I often find layer cakes relaxing. The experience of preparing this felt off to me and I feel like if I was more on my game the results would be better. I only made this cake once but I would like to try it again at some point and work on amping up the flavors. I can taste the brown butter, the bourbon and the salt… but not as much as I was hoping to. However, preparing, decorating and photographing this cake was an achievement which I’m choosing to celebrate by sharing the current results. If I remake it, I will edit the recipe with subsequent tests which will hopefully have more enhanced flavors. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good cake. I just know I can do better.

Edited to add: a few people have made this and told me how much they enjoyed it, so I think I was being too hard on myself.

Brown Butter Layer Cake with Salted Bourbon Buttercream is a rich, decadent dessert that will wow your friends and family. Get the recipe from

Brown Butter Layer Cake with Salted Bourbon Buttercream
Prep Time
2 hr
Cook Time
1 hrs
Total Time
3 hr

Brown Butter Layer Cake with Salted Bourbon Buttercream is a rich, decadent dessert that will wow your friends and family.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12 -16 servings
Author: Jennifer Farley
Brown butter cake
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 10 1/2 ounces all purpose flour
  • 3 ounces (9 tablespoons) cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup half & half, or 50% heavy cream and 50% whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
Salted bourbon buttercream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 16 ounces unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
  • 3 - 4 tablespoons bourbon or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
Prepare the cakes:
  1. Melt the 4 ounces of butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. As the butter melts, whisk it frequently until foam begins to appear. Once you see the foam, whisk constantly until the butter begins to brown and it smells nutty and fragrant. Butter can go from brown to burnt very quickly so do not leave it unattended. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. There should be approximately 1/2 cup liquid. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place an oven rack in the middle position. Lightly spray the bottom of 3 8-inch cake pans with baking spray and then cover them with parchment rounds. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate small bowl, combine the half and half, bourbon and vanilla extract.
  4. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the 8 ounces room temperature butter and sugar together on low speed for 3-4 minutes, then turn the heat up to medium-high and cream for an additional 2-3 minutes. On low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, allowing each egg to incorporate before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer still on low speed, quickly alternate between adding the dry ingredients, the browned butter (make sure to scrape out the brown bits), and the liquid ingredients (ending with the dry) until just combined. Scrape down the sides well, making sure to reach the bottom of the bowl.
  5. Distribute the batter evenly between the 3 prepared cake pans, using a spatula to even out the tops. If you want to make sure the cakes are very even in size use a kitchen scale.
  6. Bake until the a toothpick comes out of the center of each cake clean, approximately 32-37 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pan before removing.
Prepare the buttercream:
  1. Place the sugar and water in saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Turn the heat on high and cover.
  2. While the sugar syrup is heating up, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until a soft peak forms, then turn down the speed to medium.
  3. Once the sugar syrup is simmering, remove the cover from the pan and turn the heat down slightly to medium high. Cook the syrup for 5 minutes (until a candy thermometer reached 235-240 degrees F) and then slowly and carefully pour it down the side of the mixing bowl into the meringue while the machine is still mixing. Add the syrup very slowly to avoid scrambling the eggs.
  4. Once the syrup is added, turn the mixer back up to high and allow the meringue to cool as it whips. This can take up to 20 minutes.
  5. Once the meringue has cooled to room temperature, slowly add the butter one piece at a time. The meringue will deflate slightly.
  6. Once all of the butter is incorporated, slowly drizzle in the bourbon and sprinkle in the salt. You can push these flavors as much as you like.
Assemble the cake:
  1. Place the first layer of cake on a revolving cake stand and remove the parchment paper. Placing a cardboard round below the cake is optional but will make transporting the cake easier after it is assembled.
  2. Spread approximately one cup of buttercream on the cake and spread it around evenly with an offset spatula. Add more buttercream as needed to reached the desired thickness. Repeat with the second and third layer (don't forget to remove the parchment each time). Use an offset spatula to apply a thin layer of frosting to the side and top of the cake. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set this first layer of buttercream. Cover the entire cake with a final layer of frosting.
  3. Cake is best when served at room temperature.

Tools I used:

(these links go to my Amazon affiliate store)

Ateco Revolving Cake Stand
OXO Kitchen Scale
KitchenAid Stand Mixer
Parchment Sheets
Wilton Cake Rounds
Wilton Cake and Cookie Lifter
Digital Thermometer
Offset Spatula

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  • blogging can be so stressful-like a constant need to please everyone. I understand! I think you’re doing amazing, though! And this cake looks incredible-I love all things brown butter and salted anything buttercream is MOUTHWATERING!

  • HUGS. I have cycles like this periodically and I don’t have anywhere near as much going on in my life. This is a huge accomplishment and it sounds phenomenal! Hoping you get some answers at the doctor’s office!

  • It could be your thyroid…I thought I hit a wall when I turned 35, because I was exhausted all the time, had waning interests, depression, and a whole host of other issues. A couple years ago I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and while I’m not where I’d like to be, I’m feeling better than I was. Hopefully you either get some real answers at your doctor’s visit, or it truly is something more along the lines of blogger burnout. :) Also, that cake sounds simply amazing!

  • Oy, so sorry to hear you’ve had a rough month, Jen. I hear you on the fatigue. (Also, for what it’s worth, increasing the water intake sounds like a great idea! I just recently started drinking more water and feel like it helps so much!) But I’d never guess from this phenomenal cake — oh my goodness, the flavors! And the way you’ve frosted it is so gorgeous. Love that fluffy frosting and the perfectly moist cake. It looks like perfection already. Hope you’re on your way back to feeling rested, refreshed and energized soon!

  • I hope your doctor appt. can give you the insight you need to get your energy back! I know that’s such a tough thing to deal with and I hope you can heal soon. :( And also, this cake looks gorgeous and I am in love with the flavors!

  • Well, this is truly gorgeous. Looking at this cake, would never have guessed you are feeling tired and blah. Hopefully you’ll get some answers soon!

  • Those layers are so pretty and I love the salted bourbon buttercream! So sorry you’ve been exhausted, I know the feeling and it is not fun. I hope your doctor’s visit gives you some insight!

  • I hope this phase passes soon, it can be such a draining time I’m sure. Well, rest assured, if you need time off everyone would understand. Your healthy, and SANITY is key girl! We love you and can I say, I think I’m in love with this cake.

  • I initially came to your site to read about this absolutely delicious sounding cake, but found reading through your post being captivated. While I don’t know exactly what you’re experiencing, I too have felt waves of low-interest in blogging and sharing and baking– things I normally love– from time to time. I hope this is nothing but a wave for you, and that you’re able to be back to feeling your personal best soon! Hugs!

  • I’m stressed all the time but feeling so tired probably isn’t normal. Hopefully your doctor will have some insight. This cake certainly looks amazing! We all always think we can do better – it’s what keeps us on our toes. Feel better!

  • Hi. You should also consider testosterone levels. They drop as we age and it can hit hard. Also are you sure about the cornstarch amount? It sounds like a ton

    • I don’t put much consideration into testosterone levels when I’m developing cake recipes, I apologize. The reason there is so much cornstarch is because this is essentially homemade cake flour, which yields a softer cake. I buy all-purpose flour in 25 pound bags from Costco, so it doesn’t really make sense for me to also purchase cake flour. If you feel that potato starch would be less harmful to your testosterone levels, you could use that in place of the cornstarch when you bake the cake.