This Butter Pecan Cake has an incredibly soft and moist texture that simply melts in your mouth! It’s studded with chopped pecans throughout and cloaked in an irresistible brown sugar frosting. Recipe includes a how-to video!
Southern Butter Pecan Cake
This butter pecan cake is simply incredible. It is soft, super moist (it literally melts in your mouth), and the flavor is out of this world. You will love how easily it mixes together with the reverse creaming method (first used in my caramel cake and most recently in my peanut butter cupcakes). And don’t even get me started on the brown sugar cream cheese frosting…
The crumb of this cake is unique and irresistible. It is so fluffy and light, and thanks to the finely chopped pecans, it’s almost a bit crumbly (but in a moist, light way!). The shining flavors of browned butter and nutty pecans are perfectly enhanced by brown sugar and vanilla, and everything is beautifully tied together with the brown sugar frosting (carefully designed to not be too sweet!). It’s the best pairing!
What you’ll love about my recipe:
- Takes just over an hour to make.
- Stunning (yet easy!) final look your guests will love.
- Cozy and unique flavor–great for mixing up your traditional birthday cake!
- Incredible texture and crumb.
What You Need
Here are the key ingredients that make this butter pecan cake so special:
- Cake flour. I don’t recommend using all-purpose flour here, as fine cake flour works better for making the cake crumb light and extra soft. Do make sure you measure your flour properly!
- Brown sugar. We’ll use light brown sugar in the cake and the icing. Yes, we are also using powdered sugar in the icing, but I promise it’s not too sweet! It’s actually less sugar than standard American buttercream.
- Buttermilk. Buttermilk keeps this butter pecan cake super tender and moist. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can use my easy buttermilk substitute.
- Cream cheese. While there is cream cheese in this frosting, it’s not overpowering. Instead, it keeps the frosting from being too sweet and accents the other flavors of the cake nicely. Use full-fat, brick-style cream cheese.
- Pecans. Make sure to measure your pecans before chopping them. For ease, I like to chop my pecans in a food processor.
SAM’S TIP: I don’t toast my pecans before adding them (I just don’t find it necessary here), but you certainly can. I have an easy guide on how to toast pecans, for your reference!
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Butter Pecan Cake
Browning the Butter
- Melt and cook – Melt butter over medium-low heat. Increase the heat and cook, stirring frequently, as the butter begins to foam and sizzle.
- Let it cool – Once you see brown specks forming on the bottom of the pan, remove the butter from the heat and pour into a heatproof bowl to cool completely.
Chopping the Pecans
- Measure your pecans and place them in the bowl of a food processor.
- Pulse until the pecans are fine crumbs, then stop. Set aside 1 ½ cups for the cake and ⅓ cup for the decoration.
Making the Cake Batter
- Dry ingredients – Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- Add the browned butter and stir with the mixer on low speed until incorporated.
- Wet ingredients – Combine the remaining wet ingredients in a separate bowl, then gradually add them to the dry ingredients, pausing halfway through to scrape the bowl.
- Add the pecans and stir until incorporated.
SAM’S TIP: Don’t stress if you see small lumps in your batter–these are totally normal!
Making the Cake Batter
- Bake – Divide the batter between greased/floured/lined pans and bake for 30 minutes at 350F.
- Let the cakes cool in their pans for 15 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
Making the Frosting/Prepping the Cake
- Cream the butter – Beat together the butter, cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
- Add the sugar – Gradually add the powdered sugar until combined.
- Add the cream – Pause to scrape the bowl, then add the heavy cream.
- Whip until smooth and fluffy.
- Level and stack your cake layers, adding a thick layer of frosting in between each.
- Frost the sides and top of the cake with a thin layer of frosting.
- Add pecans on top, if desired.
- Decorate the top of the cake with piped frosting swirls.
SAM’S TIP: If you only have two cake pans, you can let the remaining batter sit covered at room temperature while your first two layers bake. Remember to let your pan cool completely before adding the batter for the third layer!
Frequently Asked Questions
This cake can be made in a 9×13″ pan, but you will have excess batter. Fill your pan ⅔ of the way full, then either discard the excess batter or use it to make cupcakes.
Personally I do not refrigerate if I plan on enjoying within two days. If you want your cake to last longer, you can store it in the fridge for up to one week. Butter pecan cake also freezes well.
My brown butter frosting, caramel frosting, german buttercream, or cream cheese frosting would all be a nice fit for this cake. I highly recommend trying the frosting included here at least once though–it really is the best option!
Looking for more southern-inspired recipes? Try my sweet tea or coca cola cake!
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
Butter Pecan Cake
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter
- 3 cups (333 g) cake flour
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (200 g) light brown sugar firmly packed
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups (354 ml) buttermilk room temperature preferred
- 2 large eggs room temperature preferred
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups (160 g) pecan halves very finely chopped (see note)
- 1 ½ cups (340 g) unsalted butter softened
- 6 oz cream cheese softened
- ⅓ cup (66 g) light brown sugar firmly packed
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 ½ cups (562 g) powdered sugar
- 1 Tablespoon heavy cream
- ⅓ cup (35 g) pecan halves very finely chopped, optional
Brown the Butter
- Place butter in a medium-sized pan and cook over medium/low heat until butter is melted. Increase heat to just above medium and cook, stirring frequently. Butter will foam, crackle, pop and sizzle. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan, until you see golden brown specks. Remove from heat and pour into a heatproof bowl. Allow butter to cool completely (it should still be liquid, but should no longer be warm to the touch) before proceeding.1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter
Make the Cake
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and grease 3 8” round baking pans with baking spray. Line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper to ensure the cakes won’t stick.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together cake flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.3 cups (333 g) cake flour, 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup (200 g) light brown sugar
- Add browned butter and use an electric mixer to stir on low-speed until thoroughly incorporated.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla, then slowly drizzle into the flour mixture. Pause halfway through and at the end to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl (it’s alright if you notice small lumps in the batter).1 ½ cups (354 ml) buttermilk, 2 large eggs, 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- Stir in pecans until well incorporated.1 ½ cups (160 g) pecan halves
- Evenly divide batter into prepared baking sheets and bake in center rack of 350F oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs.
- Allow cakes to cool in their pans for 15 minutes before running a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan then carefully invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Cakes must be completely cooled before decorating.
Brown Sugar Frosting
- Combine butter, cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in a large mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to beat until smooth and creamy.1 ½ cups (340 g) unsalted butter, 6 oz cream cheese, ⅓ cup (66 g) light brown sugar, 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon salt
- With mixer on low-speed, gradually add powdered sugar until completely combined (pause periodically to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula).4 ½ cups (562 g) powdered sugar
- Add heavy cream and beat on high speed for 30 seconds, until frosting is smooth and silky.1 Tablespoon heavy cream
- Level cakes if needed and decorate with frosting. I did a smooth, light covering for the sides of the cake with thicker frosting in between layers and on top of the cake. To decorate the top, I recommend using an Ateco 846 or Ateco 848 tip. If you’d like, finely chop another ⅓ cup of pecans and layer them over the top of the cake (don’t go all the way to the edge) before adding the frosting swirls around the edge.⅓ cup (35 g) pecan halves
PecansMeasure pecans before chopping. To get my pecans very fine, I toss them in the food processor and pulse until they are fine. Do not pulse too far, or you’ll turn them into nut butter!
Baking PansIf you only have two round pans, bake your first two layers and leave the remaining batter covered in the mixing bowl. Allow the cake pan to cool before adding the remaining batter and cooking your final layer.
StoringStore in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to a week. This cake may also be wrapped tightly and frozen
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
This cake is delicious ! I halved the recipe to bake a two 6‘‘ layer cake and it turned out great! I paired it with your white chocolate frosting because I like it so much .
THANK YOU again .
I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much, Anna! 🙂
I have a bag of finely chopped pecans. I realize that measuring the half pecans first would reduce the amount. Do you know how much of the chopped pecans I should use? Looks great and can’t wait to try it!
Hi Robin! It would probably be best to use weights here. That number will be the same. 🙂
Maria B Rugolo
Yet another recipe that deserves 10 stars. So moist and delicious. Amazing texture and flavor. Raves from everyone!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
We are so glad you enjoyed it, Maria! Thanks so much for the review ❤️
Made this cake with the frosting the other night and half was gone by the morning! Such a great recipe.
I’m so thrilled to hear this, Anna! Thank you so much for trying my recipe! 🙂
Maria B Rugolo
Can I make this recipe as written in a 9×13 sheet pan? Can’t wait to try this recipe!
Hi Maria! This should fit in a 9 x 13. It may make a little bit extra batter so make sure to not fill the pan more than 2/3 of the way full. 🙂
Could I just bake this cake in a 9×13 pan? …and thank you as always your recipes are always very easy and informative. Have a great day!!
Hi Shirley! It should work in a 9 x 13. It may make a little excess batter so make sure not to fill the pan more than 2/3 of the way full. 🙂