Kentucky Butter Cake Recipe

Y’all, this Southern Kentucky Butter Cake Recipe is in a league of its own – it’s not your average butter cake, honey! I’ve jazzed it up with a twist of that nutty, rich browned butter flavor and topped it off with a sweet sugar glaze that just soaks right into every delicious inch. The texture? We’re talking moist and tender on the inside, with that sugar glaze hardening up just a bit to give you a little crunchy surprise on the outside. It’s like a little piece of cake heaven that’s just out of this world!

This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy.

Close up of sliced Kentucky Butter Cake recipe cut across the cake to show the inside cake.

As most of you know, pound cakes made in my Big Mama’s kitchen are highlights of my childhood. We belly laughed while mixing batters and licking spatulas we used to scrape bowls until they were sparkling clean.

Those memories mean everything to me, and the recipes we use are ones I still make on a regular basis. Today, I’m sharing one of my favorite cake recipes with a small twist that is sure to wow: A Kentucky Butter Cake Recipe.

The Heart & Soul Of This Kentucky Butter Cake

Cuisine Inspiration: Southern American

Primary Cooking Method: Oven

Dietary Info: Vegetarian

Key Flavor: Kentucky butter cake is rich and buttery with hints of nuttiness from the browned butter in both the cake and the sweet glaze. The cake is beyond moist on the inside with a crackly, buttery crust on the outside.

Skill Level: Beginner-Intermediate

Sweet Spots

  • Perfect Buttery Flavor. Each bite of this cake is rich with butter! But it’s not just plain old butter, it’s browned butter so it has that extra richness and nuttiness from cooking the butter that infuses the cake and the glaze.
  • All-Occasion Cake. This cake is a classic! Its simple, yet exquisite flavor, is perfect for all types of occasions from a dinner party dessert to a cake to carry for a potluck or brunch, and so much more!
  • Great to Make Ahead. If you need a cake that’s even better the next day this cake is it! It actually even tastes better on the second day.
  • Simple Ingredients. You don’t need anything more than basic ingredients when making this rich browned butter cake. You may have some of them in your kitchen and if not, they’re all easy to grab at the grocery store.
  • Versatile Cake. It tastes amazing served up just as it is but also pairs well with a variety of different toppings and additions to create a dessert that will receive rave reviews!

What is Kentucky Butter Cake?

Butter cakes originated from the English pound cake, which traditionally used equal parts butter, flour, sugar, and eggs to bake a heavy, rich cake. Over time both butter-based cakes and pound cakes have become quintessential cakes in Southern American baking. My household saw more than its fair share of these cakes but Kentucky Butter Cake was a popular one.

Ingredients to Make Kentucky Butter Cake

  • Unsalted Butter: We’re talkin’ rich, creamy, and ready to make this cake and glaze pop! Brownin’ the butter gives it a nutty, toasty vibe that’s simply amazing.
  • Shortening or Oil: This is our secret weapon for added moisture.
  • Granulated Sugar: Sweetness galore because that’s how we roll! It’s used to sweeten the cake and the glaze.
  • Large Eggs: Room temperature, please! They mix in better and make our cake oh-so-fabulous.
  • Sifted Cake Flour: The finest of flours for the most tender crumb.
  • Salt: Just a pinch to balance the sweet.
  • Baking Powder & Baking Soda: These guys are liftin’ us up and making sure our cake is on point.
  • Buttermilk: Bringing in a bit of tang and tenderness.
  • Vanilla Extract: Because every great cake needs a splash of vanilla goodness. You will also need a bit more to add that sweet, sweet vanilla magic to the glaze as well.
  • Water: Just a splash to get our glaze to the right consistency.
Ingredients to make Kentucky Butter Cake on the table before mixing together.

How to Make Kentucky Butter Cake

Step 1: Mixing the Cake Batter

  1. It all starts with completely cooled browned butter. I like to do this the day before because it takes a while to cool down all the way.
  2. Add the browned butter and shortening. Beat them for two minutes at high speed.
  3. Add the sugar slowly to the bowl and beat on high speed until the mixture is very pale yellow and fluffy.
  4. Add your eggs in one at a time, making sure to scrape the sides as needed to fully incorporate them.
Steps showing the steps of making kentucky butter cake with browned butter.
  1. Add the flour and mix into the butter, sugar, and egg mixture using the lowest speed.
  2. Pour in your buttermilk and vanilla extract.
  3. Mix just until everything is combined. Be sure not to over-mix your batter!
  4. Pour the cake batter into a prepared cake pan.
Adding the flour to the cake batter, buttermilk, and then it all mixed together and in a pan.

Step 2: Make the Butter Glaze

While your cake is baking, you’ve gotta make that sweet brown butter glaze that is going to take your cake from good to unbelievable. It comes together simply and with ease.

  1. Melt the butter in a skillet.
  2. Continue to cook until it’s browned and then remove from the heat.
  3. Add the sugar, water, and vanilla.
  4. Whisk together until the sugar dissolves.
Melting the butter, it browned, and then turned into a glaze for the cake.

Step 3: Assemble the Cake

  1. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes and then invert it onto a platter.
  2. Poke several holes all over your cake using a wooden skewer.
  3. Pour the glaze all over the cake so it seeps in and distributes all through the cake.
  4. Dust with powdered sugar and serve it up!
Assembling a Kentucky butter cake.

Tips for Making the Best Brown Butter Cake

  1. Watch the Butter Closely. You want it to brown and not burn so it’s a good idea to stay close to the pan while it’s cooking. The butter will first melt and then begin to foam a bit as it cooks. Then you will start to see browned flakes appear on the bottom of the pan. Cook until it’s an amber color and then remove it from the heat.
  2. Cooled Browned Butter. The cooling process can take a few hours so I suggest making your butter the night before. Even if that is not possible for you, I can’t stress enough that your butter needs to be completely cool. Using brown butter that is still warm will change the texture of the cake. You’ll end up with a dense, not fully risen, and eventually hardened cake that won’t last through dinner.
  3. Do Not Over Mix. This is THE key to tender cakes! Mixing too much causes the gluten to activate more which leads to a more dense texture.
  4. Make to Poke Holes Over the Whole Cake. The holes will allow the glaze to thoroughly seep into the cake so make sure you cover the entire thing so it soaks into the cake evenly.
  5. Cool the Cake in the Pan for a Bit. This makes it much easier to remove the cake from the pan while keeping it intact.

Popular Substitutions & Additions

  • No Cake Flour? It’s important to use cake flour to keep this cake from developing too much gluten so don’t try to swap it for all-purpose flour. If you don’t have any you can make your own cake flour using flour and cornstarch.
  • Rum or Bourbon Flavor. Add a bit of rum extract or liquor, bourbon, brandy, or any other extract flavor you enjoy to the butter glaze!
  • Salted Butter. I prefer unsalted butter because you have more control over the amount of salt. However, you can use salted butter to make your cake but you might want to cut back or reduce the amount of salt you add to the cake. It may make the butter sauce poured over the top a bit saltier than the unsalted butter.
  • Add Nuts. Stir in chopped pecans or walnuts into your cake batter just before baking.
  • Buttermilk Substitute. If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand use regular milk instead combined with an acid. Add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring cup and then add milk to the one cup measure. Let it sit for five minutes.
Sliced browned butter cake on cake stand with crumbs and a peak of a slice of cake on a plate.

What to Serve with Brown Butter Pound Cake

  • While it tastes great all on its own, it’s even better with some fresh sliced fruit and whipped cream.
  • Add a scoop of ice cream! It’s great with any flavor but you can’t go wrong with vanilla ice cream though strawberry ice cream is great too! You can even warm up the cake when serving with ice cream.
  • Add a spoonful of homemade fresh berry sauce over the top!
  • Add a dollop of lemon curd or another flavor of this tart creamy fruit custard.

How to Store Kentucky Butter Cake

Y’all keep this note: This browned butter cake gets even better as it sits so it actually tastes the bomb on the second day. Here’s how you can store it so it stays super fresh! Cool the cake completely and then wrap it in plastic wrap. Keep it at room temperature but someplace that’s cool and out of the sunlight.

If you want to serve it up warmed (so bomb!) you can heat individual slices in the microwave for a few seconds.

How long will Kentucky butter cake last?

When stored properly it will last at room temperature for up to four days. You can extend its freshness by keeping it in the fridge for up to a week however the refrigerator may dry out cakes.

Can I freeze browned butter cake?

Yep fo sho. Wrap it in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil. Store it in the freezer for up to three months. Thaw it out in the refrigerator overnight and then let it sit at room temperature a bit before serving it.

Overhead image of brown butter pound cake with slices cut on a cake stand.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best way to measure ingredients for baking?

Proper measurement is one of the keys to baking. A scale is the gold standard for measuring but most American recipes or Americans do not use the scale. The best way to measure dry ingredients is to use a spoon to scoop the dry ingredients into the measuring cup and then level it off with the straight edge of a knife. For liquids, make sure to use a lined measuring cup and check it at eye level to ensure you have measured correctly.

How do you keep a bundt cake from sticking?

Bundt cakes are notorious for sticking. Mainly because the pan usually has lots of little creases which may be difficult to coat. You may find using a special baking spray works well or you can also grease the pan using shortening or butter. With this method use a paper towel or wax paper to make sure you get all the little crooks and crannies in the pan coated. Then dust it lightly with flour. Double check that there are no areas not covered. Then pour the batter in the pan.

Can I bake this cake in a different pan?

This isn’t a good idea. This cake, like most pound cakes, is quite dense. The structure of the bundt cake helps it to cook evenly. It disperses the cake batter from the center — which is usually the last to cook. This ensures the cake cooks completely without the outside of the cake getting too dark.

A slice of Kentucky butter cake on a plate with a fork to the side.

This Kentucky Butter Cake is not just another buttery dessert – it’s a whole mood! It’s got this extra little nutty oomph from browned butter and a sweet sugar glaze that just elevates it to superstar status. You better believe it’s gonna be the talk of the town at your next get-together.

More Brown Butter Dessert Recipes

Close up of two slices of Kentucky Butter Cake on white plates.

Kentucky Butter Cake Recipe

Kentucky butter cake is a Southern delight! Made with a buttery soft pound cake and a crystalized sugar glaze this Kentucky better cake is the real deal!
4.34 from 68 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course: Dessert
Servings: 16 servings

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp shortening or oil
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs room temperature
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

For the Brown Butter Glaze

  • cup unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Instructions

For the Cake

  • In a small saucepan, add butter and melt over medium heat. Once the butter has fully melted, a white foam will begin to appear over the top of the butter.
  • Watch carefully as the butter’s color changes to brown and the smell of the butter becomes somewhat nutty.
  • As soon as the butter is an amber brown color, remove from heat and cool in the refrigerator until it the butter has become solid again (can take 1-2 hours so I sometimes do this the night before baking the cake).
  • Once butter is solid, preheat oven to 325 degrees then liberally spray 10 cup bundt pan with non-stick baking spray.
  • In your mixer bowl, add butter and shortening and beat for 2 minutes on high speed. Slowly add in sugar beat on high speed for an additional seven minutes until very pale yellow and fluffy.
  • Next, add eggs, one at a time, combining well after each addition and scraping down the sides as needed.
  • Turn your mixer down to its lowest speed, and slowly add flour into batter in two increments then add salt, baking powder and baking soda. Be careful not to overbeat.
  • Lastly, pour in buttermilk and vanilla extract, scrape down sides and mix until just combined and turn off mixer.
  • Add batter to prepared cake pan and bake for 45-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out mostly clean but still moist.
  • Cool for 10 minutes then invert cake onto serving plate.

For the Brown Butter Glaze

  • While cake cools, add butter to saucepan and again melt then brown until the butter turns an amber color.
  • Turn off heat and whisk in sugar, water and vanilla extract until smooth.
  • Poke warm cake with a toothpick or skewer in several places all over the cake then pour glaze over cake, allowing it to seep in.

Notes

  • Watch the Butter Closely. You want it to brown and not burn so it’s a good idea to stay close to the pan while it’s cooking. The butter will first melt and then begin to foam a bit as it cooks. Then you will start to see browned flakes appear on the bottom of the pan. Cook until it’s an amber color and then remove it from the heat.
  • Cooled Browned Butter. The cooling process can take a few hours so I suggest making your butter the night before. Even if that is not possible for you, I can’t stress enough that your butter needs to be completely cool. Using brown butter that is still warm will change the texture of the cake. You’ll end up with a dense, not fully risen, and eventually hardened cake that won’t last through dinner.
  • Do Not Over Mix. This is THE key to tender cakes! Mixing too much causes the gluten to activate more which leads to a more dense texture.
  • Make to Poke Holes Over the Whole Cake. The holes will allow the glaze to thoroughly seep into the cake so make sure you cover the entire thing so it soaks into the cake evenly.
  • Cool the Cake in the Pan for a Bit. This makes it much easier to remove the cake from the pan while keeping it intact.

Nutrition

Calories: 397kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 220mg | Potassium: 94mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 35g | Vitamin A: 555IU | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 0.5mg
Tried this Recipe? Tag me Today!Mention @GrandbabyCakes or tag #grandbabycakes!
Filed Under:  Dessert and Baking, Mother's Day, Oven, Pound Cakes

Comments

  1. After using two of your recipes to make birthday cakes for family members, I chose this one for my own birthday cake. Holy smokes, it is AMAZING! Just like the other two, the instructions are easy to follow and the results were phenomenal.

  2. Amazing! Never made a cake from scratch before. Perfect recipe and the step by step photos were en pointe! Huge hit with the neighbors.

  3. I literally have this cake waiting for the glaze! I make this cake a lot, and everyone LOVES it! Only complaint is the time it takes poking the holes, but in the end, it’s worth it!

    1. Nope, that is part of the brown butter. Now, if they turn black then I would not use it as the butter did burn.

  4. OMG! Just made this cake. OMG. Best pound cake ever! I followed her directions exactly as written. I even made her cake “goop” for the pan. Love love love. And now I cannot wait to try her other recipes

  5. do the butter look yellowish when its solified or did i not it heat long enough??? It does have the brown bits at the bottom tho..when i took it off the stove it was a amber color but looks back yellow once i let it solified in the fridge

4.34 from 68 votes (42 ratings without comment)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating