I told someone recently that summer is a birthday cake marathon in our house. I was only half joking: we have four summertime birthdays in our family and they are all just weeks apart.
Ever since my kids were toddlers, I have enjoyed baking their birthday cakes and customizing the cakes to their tastes and interests. Over the years, cake decorations have included everything from Barney (the purple dinosaur!) to Barbie, from malted milk balls to volcanos with lollypop lava.
When I was in grade school, my mom took a Wilton cake decorating class. Each week she baked a cake and learned to decorate it, making beautiful flowers and leaves from frosting. And our family got to eat it. I was in cake heaven!
She also made cakes for our family on our birthdays. I would help tint the frosting and choose the piping tips with her. Lots of good cake memories for me. My mom inspired me and I love continuing the birthday cake tradition.
As my kids have gotten older, their tastes have matured. It’s not so much about the decorations anymore. Taste is king. Birthday cakes now encompass flavors like choco-banana-hazelnut, dark chocolate with raspberry Chambord, vanilla with blackberry and lemon and the always popular salted caramel.
My birthday, too, is in the summer. And yes, I bake my own cake. Choosing which one I want to make is half the fun and I have Pinterest to thank for the many options. You should see my “Sweets” board! The saying is true, “so many cakes, so little time.”
Earlier this year, my friend Kerri inspired me with some Browned Butter Jam Bars that she made. She is an accomplished baker who was trained at a culinary school and makes desserts that are truly swoon-worthy.
I found that I love browned butter. So, when I saw this on Pinterest, well, you know the rest of the story. Happy Birthday to me!
Browned Butter Pecan Layer Cake
- 2 1/4 cups chopped pecans
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 5 large eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 1/4 cups butter, divided use
- 6 cups powdered sugar
- 6 tbsp water or milk
To toast the pecans, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, scatter pecans evenly onto sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Set aside to cool.
To make the cake, line bottoms of three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper circles and grease the sides. Next, cream butter and sugar together with a mixer until fluffy, then add sour cream and vanilla extract; mix until well combined.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each egg. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until well combined. Stir in milk and water to batter and mix. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Add 1 cup of the toasted pecans into the batter. Evenly divide batter among pans and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on wire racks.
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 cups butter. Cook the butter, whisking occasionally until it turns a light tannish brown.
Pour browned butter into a bowl and set it in the fridge to cool until hard. Add butter to a large mixer bowl with the additional 1/4 cup of softened regular butter and beat until smooth. Add powdered sugar in 1 cup increments and mix until smooth. Add 4-5 tablespoons of water or milk and mix until smooth
To assemble, put the first cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Spread some frosting evenly on top, then sprinkle with 3-4 tablespoons pecans. Repeat with second layer. Top the cake with the third layer and frost top and sides of cake.
Using a piping tip, pipe swirls of remaining frosting around the top edge of cake. Press the remaining pecans into the sides of the cake and sprinkle on top.