Nothing makes a more impressive presentation at a Southern holiday gathering than gorgeous, layered Butter Pecan Cake iced with a dreamy spread of whipped vanilla frosting and a generous topping of chopped pecans! The interior is moist, tender, full of buttery goodness, and loaded with big pecan flavor. Best of all, it's way easier than it looks.
There's no toasting pecans, no browning butter, and no unnecessary steps. This recipe is simple, straight-forward, and it's guaranteed to result in the best Butter Pecan Cake the South has ever laid tastebuds on.
You can serve this beauty on any given occasion -- holiday parties, potlucks, and of course, it's absolutely perfect for the Thanksgiving dessert table! If you're looking for more holiday desserts to add to this year's lineup, be sure to check out our Apple Crumble Cake next!
HOW TO MAKE A BUTTER PECAN CAKE
- Sift Dry Ingredients - Add the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a sieve and sift the mixture over a medium-sized mixing bowl.
- Cream Butter and Sugar - Add room temperature butter and sugar to a large mixing and mix on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale yellow in color. Be sure to take the time to cream the butter and sugar properly. It will make a huge difference in the texture of the cake!
- Add Eggs and Vanilla - Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Then, add the vanilla and mix again. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl and mix once more.
- Add Dry Ingredients and Buttermilk - Mixing on low, add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and again, and mix.
- Add Pecans - Fold in the chopped pecans.
- Bake - Divide the Butter Pecan Cake batter evenly amongst three greased, parchment paper-lined, 9" cake pans and bake for 23-26 minutes at 350°F.
- Cool - Set the cake aside on a wire rack until the pans are cool to the touch. Then, remove the cakes from the pan and place the cakes on the cooling rack to cool completely before icing.
WHY SCRAPE DOWN THE BOWL?
In a nutshell, scraping down the sides of the bowl keeps your baked goods from coming out wonky, with sliding sides and pools of grease. It ensures all of your ingredients mix properly and is a good practice to incorporate in any baking recipe.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN CAKE IS DONE?
You know your cakes are done baking when it springs back ever so slightly after a gentle poke or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs clinging to it. If your toothpick comes out completely dry, you are running the risk of an overbaked cake!
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HOW TO MAKE BUTTER PECAN CAKE ICING
- Whip the Butter - Add room temperature butter to a large mixing bowl and mix on medium-high speed for 2-4 minutes until it has almost doubled in volume.
- Add Remaining Ingredients - Add powdered sugar, cream, vanilla, and salt. Mix on low, and then gradually increase the speed to medium-high speed for 2 minutes more until the mixture appears light and fluffy.
- Add Chopped Pecans - Add about half the reserved chopped pecans to the frosting and mix once more. You will use the other half to garnish the cake!
WHY WHIP THE BUTTER FOR ICING?
For the fluffiest, most delicious Butter Pecan Icing, you'll first want to whip the butter. By whipping the butter, you are adding air molecules into it, which in turn, makes it extra soft and fluffy!
HOW TO ICE A LAYERED CAKE
- Level It Out - Use a long serrated knife to cut away any domed toppings from the cakes.
- Ice - Place one of the cake rounds on a serving dish or cake stand and add a dollop of frosting. Spread to the edges, add the second cake layer, and repeat. Once the third cake layer is in place, add the remaining frosting and spread it across the top and down the sides.
WHY DO YOU TRIM THE CAKES?
Trimming the cakes before icing them makes for beautiful, even cake layers and keeps you from potentially serving a lopsided cake! Not to mention, you won't have to waste any frosting filling in those gaps!
BUTTER PECAN CAKE INGREDIENTS
Cake Flour | Not all flours were created equal, and when a recipe calls for cake flour, use only cake flour. Cake flour is lower in protein than all-purpose flour, which makes for a softer and more delicate crumb. It is also better structured for baked goods with a high sugar-to-flour ratio. The best way to measure cake flour is to spoon the flour into the measuring cup, rather than dipping the cup into the bag of flour. Then, use the back of the spoon or a knife to level it off.
Leaveners | This recipe calls for both baking powder and baking soda. Be sure to pay attention to the quantity of each and don't to mix them up!
Butter | Use room temperature, unsalted butter for this recipe. Room temperature butter is very important when it comes to a properly mixed cake!
Sugar | This recipe was developed with granulated sugar and it's best if you stick with it when whipping up the Butter Pecan Cake batter! Granulated sugar is very "vanilla" in flavor, and allows the flavor of the butter and the pecans to shine!
Eggs | This recipe calls for three eggs, so make sure you've got all three in the carton before you begin baking. Also, it's best if you can set them out ahead of time and add them to the batter at room temperature.
Vanilla | One small splash of pure vanilla extract will enhance every other flavor in the cake. Be sure not to overlook it!
Buttermilk | The acid in buttermilk has an amazing tenderizing effect on baked goods. It will amp up the flavor of your cake tremendously!
Pecans | You definitely can't have a Butter Pecan Cake without the pecans! Buy your pecans in halved and chop them yourself, or buy them already chopped. Whichever best suits your timeline needs!
BUTTER PECAN ICING INGREDIENTS
For the Butter Pecan Cake Icing, you'll need to have room temperature butter, powdered sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and salt on hand. When making a fluffy, whipped icing, keep in mind room temperature butter is very important!
If you don't have cream, feel free to sub in half-and-half or milk, but know, these ingredients will not add the same amount of richness to the frosting.
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An easy recipe for the best Butter Pecan Layer Cake with a creamy, vanilla Buttercream Pecan Icing!
- 2 ½ cups cake flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cup buttermilk
- ¾ cup finely chopped pecans
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¾ cup finely chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 350°F and have ready three greased 9" baking pans, lined with parchment paper on the bottom.
Sift the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt over a medium-sized mixing bowl. Set aside until ready to use.
Add the butter and sugar to a large bowl and using a handheld mixer, mix until fluffy and pale yellow in color (about 3-5 minutes). You could also use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for this task.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix again. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl using a silicone spatula and mix once more.
With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in 3 rounds, alternating with the buttermilk (adding it in 2 rounds). Scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl, and mix once more.
Fold in ¾ cup of chopped pecans, divide the batter amongst the prepared pans, and smooth over the top. Bake for 23-26 minutes. Set the cake aside to cool completely on a wire rack before icing.
For the frosting, you will need a large mixing bowl and a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter to the bowl and mix on medium-high speed for 2-4 minutes, smooth and almost doubled in volume.
Add the powdered sugar, cream, vanilla, and salt and begin mixing on low. Once the sugar is mostly incorporated, you can begin mixing on medium-high. Mix for 2 minutes more, until light and fluffy. Add about half of the remaining pecans to the icing and mix once more.
Level out any uneven cake layers using a long, serrated knife. Place one of the cake layers on a cake stand or serving dish, and top with a large dollop of frosting. Spread the frosting to the edges and repeat with the second layer. Add the third cake layer on the top and use the remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle with the last of the pecans, serve, and enjoy!
HOW TO KNOW WHEN THE CAKE IS DONE:
The cake is ready when the center of it springs back ever so slightly after a gentle poke or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs clinging to it.