This brown butter spice cake recipe is one you’ll want to remember. It’s perfect for the holidays and has an INSANELY delicious brown butter cream cheese frosting. Oh and did I mention there are candied nuts between each layer? You won’t be able to put your fork down, it’s just that good!
How to incorporate brown butter into this spice cake recipe
If you’ve been following along for a while, then you know I absolutely love brown butter. I’ve added it to my bakery style chocolate chip cookies and my brown butter cinnamon rolls. It enhances the flavor of anything you bake with just one simple step.
Typically with cakes, you need room temperature butter for both the cake and the buttercream. Since you have to melt down the butter in order to brown it, you might be wondering how the heck to incorporate it into this spice cake.
It’s easy! Once you brown the butter, you split it up between two glass measuring cups (one for the cake and one for the buttercream). You should brown the butter ahead of time so the butter can sit in the fridge to solidify again. Once solid, you use it just like any other butter!
What spices are in spice cake?
Most spice cake recipes include your traditional warms spices. It’s a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. These are all of your classic spices that are perfect for fall and winter baking. Some might also add cardamom, all spice, or even pumpkin pie spice.
Another flavor added in spice cake recipes is apple. It’s very common to include apple sauce because not only does it add moisture, but it works so well together with the spices.
You can even go as far as to add nuts, dried fruit, or chopped apples to the cake. I took it up a notch and added candied nuts to this spice cake. They are between each layer and add a delicious sweet crunch to each bite!
How to make candied nuts for your spice cake
I don’t know what I love more about this cake, the frosting or the candied nuts. They absolutely take this cake over the top but are such a simple step to take. You can use any nuts you like but my favorites for this spice cake are pecans and/or walnuts.
I just love the smell of the candied nuts roasting at the shopping mall around the holidays and making this recipe will make your kitchen smell exactly like that! All you have to do is toss the nuts in your ingredients, bake for a few minutes, and there you have it. Delicious roasted nuts for snacking or layering in this cake!
If you’re curious as to where I got the flowers for this cake, I grabbed them from Trader Joe’s! I always wonder where people get their beautiful flowers and I was surprised by the selection they had.
As for the cake stand, it’s this one from Target. It’s such good quality at a great price. In fact I think most of my cake stand are from there!
If you make this spice cake, make sure to tag me on Instagram @butternutbakery. I love seeing your creations! To save this recipe for later, you can pin it using the button on the recipe card, the buttons above or below this post, or on any of the photos listed. Happy baking!Print
This spice cake recipe is full of brown butter and covered in brown butter cream cheese frosting. Not to mention the candied nuts between each layer! It’s the perfect holiday cake recipe.
- 3 cups nuts (I used pecans and walnuts)
- 1 egg white
- 1 tbsp water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp salt
Brown Butter Spice Cake
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 3/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 2 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter, browned and cooled
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
- 6 large eggs
- 3 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
- 12 oz cream cheese, room temp
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, browned and cooled
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Brown the Butter
- First brown the butter so it has time to cool and solidify. Combine both the 1 cup for the cake and 3/4 cup for the frosting into one medium sauce pan (3.5 sticks total). Melt over medium high heat, stirring constantly.
- The butter will start to foam after about 5 minutes and that’s when you know it’s close. Let it sit for a couple seconds at a time to let it brown but don’t lose track of it as it will brown FAST.
- Once it reaches a deep brown color, remove it from the heat and give it a stir right before pouring it out so that you get an even dispersion of the brown bits in each glass (as they tend to settle on the bottom).
- Take your two glass measuring cups and measure out exactly 1 cup in one and add the rest to the other. It’s more important to have exact measurements for the cake than it is the buttercream.
- Let the two glasses sit out for about 15 minutes then move them to the fridge to solidify. This will take a couple hours or you can leave them overnight.
- Preheat your oven to 300F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Add the nuts to a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg white and water. Pour this over the nuts and toss to coat.
- In small bowl, mix together the sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add this to the bowl of nuts and toss to completely cover the nuts.
- Add the nuts to the baking sheet and spread them even. Bake for 15 minutes, toss them, then bake for another 15.
- Let them cool in the pan before breaking them up. Once cooled, you can take about 1 cup and give them a fine chop. Save the rest for snacking or decorating.
Brown Butter Spice Cake
- Preheat your oven to 350F and grease, line, and flour 3 8-inch cake pans. I also like to wrap mine in these cake strips to get a nice even bake.
- Now that your butter is solid again, make sure to leave it out at room temperature for about 30 minutes to soften. It can be tricky to get it out of the glass but cut it into chunks and then dig one out. That releases the pressure and makes it easy for the rest to pop out.
- Place the butter and sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream together on medium high speed for 3-5 minutes to incorporate some air into the butter.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
- To the butter and sugar, mix in the apple sauce and vanilla and then the eggs one at a time.
- Once that’s all combined, mix in half of the dry ingredients to the batter. Then, mix in the Greek yogurt until smooth. Finish up with the remaining dry ingredients.
- Evenly split the batter between your three pans and level out with an offset spatula.
- Bake for 28-30 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Let them rest in the pans for 30 minutes then remove the cakes from the pans to cool on a cooling rack. Once cooled, wrap them in plastic wrap and place them in the fridge for at least an hour so that your cake is easy to assemble.
Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
- While the cakes cool, make the frosting. Make sure to use ROOM TEMPERATURE cream cheese for this as well as your butter. This is how you get a nice and smooth buttercream.
- Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, cream together the brown butter and cream cheese (pop the butter out the same way you did for the cake).
- Mix in the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Add in the vanilla and if it’s too thick at this point, mix in one tablespoon of milk at a time until you reach your desired consistency. I don’t recommend going over 3 tablespoons.
- When your cakes are completely chilled, you’re ready to assemble. If they have a dome on top from baking, even it out with a large knife or cake leveler.
- If you frost this on a cake stand, lay pieces of wax paper all around the edges to catch the excess frosting. Lay down one cake round in the middle of your cake stand and dollop about 3/4 cup of frosting on top. Even it out with an offset spatula and sprinkle a handful of the chopped nuts on top.
- Layer your second cake on top and repeat. Flip the final layer upside down and place it on top. This helps you get nice even edges.
- Crumb coat your cake by adding a thin layer of the frosting all over. Place your cake in the fridge for about 15 minutes before finishing it off.
- Once set, add your final layer of frosting. There’s enough there to add a thick layer or keep it a naked cake like I did. You can use the remaining frosting and nuts to decorate.
- Serve at room temperature but store in the fridge in the meantime. Enjoy!
*The candied nuts recipe makes more than enough for this cake. You can halve the recipe but it’s tricky to divide a single egg white. You can make the whole batch and use the extras for snacking! They keep for up to a week.
Keywords: spice cake, spice cake recipe, brown butter, cream cheese frosting