Butterscotch Cake

This butterscotch cake is a fluffy and moist brown butter, brown sugar cake with a hint of cinnamon and frosted with a luxurious whipped butterscotch ganache. Top with a butterscotch drip and a pinch of sea salt flakes. 

Why you’ll love this butterscotch cake 

  • I used butterscotch chips so it’s really easy. (I know I normally make everything homemade lol but I really wanted to try out a butterscotch ganache from the chips) .
  • Butterscotch chips can be SUPER sweet so I balanced it with a brown butter cake, made with brown sugar and a hint of cinnamon. It’s the perfect balance.
  • It uses a butterscotch ganache instead of a buttercream. I really see no point in adding the extra powdered sugar since it’s already so sweet and this way you get a stronger flavor as well. 
  • The cake recipe is very forgiving and allows for many substitutions and dietary restrictions. 

If you love the brown buttery goodness in the cake, you’ll have to try my brown butter cookie butter cake and my brown butter vanilla chai cake. They’re some of my first recipes on BB and still some of the best!

What is butterscotch?

Butterscotch is essentially caramel sauce made with brown sugar. & brown sugar is actually just granulated sugar with a touch of molasses. So I guess butterscotch is caramel with a little molasses (and few changes in how it’s made).

I would have normally made my own butterscotch sauce at home for a cake like this, however butterscotch can be kind of iffy and I really wanted to experiment with a whipped butterscotch ganache. So I used butterscotch chips for this recipe but I do a chocolate chip cake that uses homemade butterscotch sauce.

Ingredients & Substitutions

  • Flour: I use all purpose flour in most of my recipes and I HIGHLY recommend using a digital scale, as flour (and cocoa) is so often over measured. 
  • Baking Powder: I used just baking powder here. If you only have baking soda, you can just use 1 tsp of that instead. 
  • Sugar: I used brown sugar in the cake. I don’t recommend cutting any out as it affects the texture and the flavor of the cake.
    • Light or dark brown sugar works for the cake. 
  • Butter: I like to use salted butter in my cakes but you can also use unsalted butter. Dairy free butter also works well.
    • I browned the butter for the cake portion and I definitely recommend it to balance the sweetness of the butterscotch. 
  • Oil: I recommend using a neutral oil like sunflower, vegetable or canola oil. 
  • Eggs: make sure to use room temperature, large eggs.
    • Pop them in hot water for a few minutes if they’re cold.
  • Sour cream: I love the combination of sour cream and milk for cakes. The sour cream can be replaced with plain yogurt or greek yogurt. Make sure they are unsweetened.
  • Milk: I use whole milk or 2% milk but any milk works fine, even dairy free milk. 
  • Vanilla: I like to use vanilla bean paste in the buttercream and pure vanilla extract in the cake. Artificial vanilla works or real vanilla beans work as well. 
  • Cinnamon: I use ground cinnamon, any kind works. 
  • Cream: Use heavy cream or whipping cream to make the ganache. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Start by browning the butter by heating a stick of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. It will melt, bubble, foam and then the milk solids will toast and settle on the bottom. Allow the brown butter to cool back to room temperature. I like to refrigerate it and stir every so often (or make it the night before).

Make sure to read my whole post on browning butter if you haven’t done it before. 

Step 2: Make the cake by creaming the cooled brown butter with the sugar for 1-2 minutes. Then add the oil and beat at full speed until it’s pale and fluffy. 

Step 3: Add the eggs one at a time. Make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next egg. Then add the vanilla and sour cream, mixing just until they’re combined. 

Step 4: Add half of the dry ingredients, followed by the milk and the other half of the dry ingredients. Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl well so it’s evenly mixed.

Step 5: Distribute the batter evenly among the tree cake pans. You should get about 14-15 ounces in three 6 inch cake pans. 

Step 6: Bake for about 30-35 minutes. When the cake is done baking, it will release itself from the edge of the pan and spring back when you press on the center. Flip the cakes over onto a cooling rack or a tea towel right away and allow them to cool to room temperature. 

Step 7: Make the butterscotch ganache by placing the butterscotch in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Heat the cream in a saucepan and pour it over the butterscotch chips. Cover the bowl for 3-5 minutes to allow them to melt.

Step 8: Stir the ganache gently until it’s completely melted and smooth. Allow it to cool to room temperature. You can also refrigerate it but make sure to stir it every 10 minutes or so, so that it cools evenly and doesn’t harden around the edge. 

Step 9: Once the ganache has cooled, remove about ¾ cup (6oz) and set that aside. Use the whisk attachment on the electric mixer to beat the rest of the ganache at full speed until it’s pale and fluffy. Scrape the edge of the bowl, add the butter and beat again until the ganache looks shiny. Don’t over-beat, just until it looks shiny like buttercream.

Step 10: To assemble the cake, spread a layer of whipped butterscotch ganache onto the first layer of cake. Repeat with the next layer and then place the third layer on top. Make a little crumb coat by frosting the outside super lightly and then refrigerate the cake for 15-30 minutes.

Step 11: Use the rest of the whipped ganache to frost the cake. I like to place it all on top and work my way down the sides of the cake with an offset spatula. Once the cake is covered, use a cake scraper to smooth out the ganache. Then run the cake scraper under super hot water and go around the ganache really slowly and gently to get it as smooth as possible. Refrigerate the cake for 15-30 minutes again.  

Step12: Reheat the reserved, un-whipped butterscotch ganache, for about 10-15 minutes, just until it’s a little runny. Spread the ganache on top of the cake, allowing it to drip off the edge. If it’s too runny, it’ll run down quickly, if it’s cooled too much it won’t drip. If it’s right in the middle, it’ll run off the edge but still let you create those swirls on top. Top with a pinch of sea salt flakes. 

How to make a butterscotch drip

Drips are simple to make. Just follow the same process as making chocolate ganache with a few differences in how it’s used:

  • The level of “drip” you’ll get depends on how cold the cake is and how warm/runny the ganache is. 
  • I like to make sure the cake is chilled when you pour the drip on top. 
  • Work quickly so it doesn’t set before it’s done dripping off the edge.
  • For a waterfall drip, pour the ganache on top of the cake, while it’s still a little warm and runny and use an offset spatula or a spoon to spread it out to the edges, allowing it to fall off of the cake naturally.
  • For a more uniform drip, allow the chocolate to cool slightly more so it’s not quite as runny. Then place it in a piping bag with a small tip and pipe the drips along the edge of the cake. Then spread the rest on top, being careful not to ruin the drips on the side of the cake.
  • For something in between, like I did here, allow the ganache to cool slightly so it’s not super thin and runny, then apply the same technique as the waterfall but the ganache will set quicker because it’s not as warm. Then use the back of a spoon or an offset spatula to create some swirls on top as it’s setting. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this dairy free?

You can use dairy free butter, dairy free milk/cream to make any of my cakes. You can also use a dairy free cream to make the ganache.  

Can I make this gluten-free?

All my cake recipes work well with a 1:1 gluten-free flour like Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur Flour

Can I make this in a different size pan?

You can make this cake in:
– Three round or square 6 inch baking pans – I used round
– Two round or square 8 inch baking pan 
– Two round or square 9 inch baking pan (will be thinner than the cakes in the photo) – reduce bake time by 5-10 minutes
– One round or square 10 inch baking pan – increase bake time by 10-15 minutes, look for ques. 
– A 9×13 inch pan – increase bake time by at least 10-15 minutes, look for ques. 
– Cupcakes – Should make about 23 cupcakes, bake for 16-18 minutes

How do I know when it’s done baking?

Just like all the rest of my cakes, I test if it’s done baking by pressing gently on the tallest part of the cake. The cake will spring back if it’s done baking. If it stays indented, give it a few minutes in the oven, before testing again. 
You can also insert a toothpick into the center of the cake (the tallest part) and make sure it comes out clean or with a few crumbs but without any batter on it. 

What if I want to decorate the cake with frosting

You can make one batch of swiss meringue buttercream, french buttercream or american buttercream to decorate the outside of the cake more than this. 

How to make ahead

To make the cake ahead of time you can make the cakes even a month in advance. When you remove them from the oven, let them cool for about half an hour and then wrap them individually  in plastic wrap. Then place them in a freezer bag, squeezing out all the excess air. 

Bring back to room temperature before frosting. If you frost them while they’re frozen, the whipped ganache will set way too quickly from the cold cake and make it difficult to spread. 

To make the ganache ahead of time just follow the instructions until it’s done, place it in an airtight container and refrigerate for a few days. Bring back to room temperature before assembling the cake. 

Ganache can be sensitive to temperature sometimes so I prefer to use it fresh as I don’t like to refrigerate it. To save time, make it the night before and allow it to cool overnight at room temperature. Then assemble the cake in the morning. 

How to store finished cake

I usually just cover it with a cake dome or place it in an airtight container and store it at room temperature for 1-2 days. 

Refrigerate for an additional up to a week but I recommend freezing it to keep it more fresh.

To freeze the whole cake, refrigerate it until it’s firm. Then wrap it in plastic wrap so it’s completely covered. Then wrap it in aluminum foil and freeze. 

To freeze slices, place the slices in an airtight container and then place the container in a freezer bag, squeezing out all the excess air. 

Bring it back to room temperature by thawing at room temperature for a few hours before serving. 

Thanks so much for reading today’s post, if you have any questions just comment down below. Make sure to leave it in the comment section because I can’t answer in the rating section.

If you make this butterscotch cake, I’d love it if you left a star rating for me. If it’s less than five stars, please leave a comment with the rating so I know why! 🙂

As always, have a blessed day and happy baking!

Love, B

Yield: 8-12 servings

Butterscotch Cake

6 inch butterscotch cake on a marble board topped with butterscotch ganache swirls and sea salt flakes

This butterscotch cake is a fluffy and moist brown butter, brown sugar cake with a hint of cinnamon and frosted with a luxurious whipped butterscotch ganache. Top with a butterscotch drip and a pinch of sea salt flakes. 

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 45 minutes
Additional Time 4 hours
Total Time 5 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients

Brown Butter

  • 1/2 cup (113g) salted butter

Cake

  • 2 1/4 cup (270g) all-purpose flour spooned and leveled
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • The browned butter (93g), cooled back to room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (300g) light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/3 cup (80mL) vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (170g) sour cream
  • 3/4 cup (180mL) milk, room temperature

Butterscotch Ganache

  • 22 oz (2 packs) butterscotch chips
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz) heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup (113g) salted butter, room temperature
  • sea salt flakes for topping

Instructions

Brown Butter

  1. Brown the butter by heating a stick of butter in a saucepan over medium heat, while stirring intermittently. It will melt, bubble, foam and then the milk solids will toast and settle on the bottom.
  2. Allow the butter to cool back to room temperature (stir often cooling in the refrigerator).
  1. Make sure to read my whole post on browning butter if you haven’t done it before.

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease and line three 6 inch cake pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt until they're evenly distributed.
  3. Place the room temperature brown butter, the oil and the brown sugar in a large bowl and use an electric mixer with the whisk attachment to beat them for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed until each egg is fully incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and sour cream and beat just until combined.
  5. Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, turn the mixer on low speed and then pour in the milk, followed by the rest of the dry ingredients.
  6. Distribute the batter evenly among the three cake pans, about 14oz in each pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. When the cake is fully baked it will release itself from the edge of the pan and it will spring back if you press on the center of it.
  7. Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.

Butterscotch Ganache

  1. Place the butterscotch chips in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and place the heavy whipping cream into a small saucepan. 
  2. Heat the cream over medium heat until it comes to a simmer (bubbling all around the edge).
  3. Pour the cream over the chips and cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap for about 5 minutes, so the they melt.
  4. Use a whisk to gently stir the ganache until it's completely smooth.
  5. Cover again and allow it to cool completely to room temperature. You can refrigerate to speed up the process but make sure to stir it every 5-10 minutes so it cools evenly.
  6. Remove 3/4 cup (6oz) of the ganache and set it aside in a smaller bowl.
  7. Use the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, at full speed, to beat the ganache in the large bowl for 3-5 minutes, until the ganache has lightened in color and grown in volume.
  8. Scrape the edge of the bowl, add the butter and beat the ganache just until it's shiny like buttercream. Use a rubber spatula or the paddle attachment at low speed to beat press out excess air bubbles.

Assemble

  1. Place the first layer of cake onto a flat surface and spread a layer of whipped butterscotch ganache onto the first layer of cake.
  2. Repeat with the next layer and then place the third layer on top. Make a little crumb coat by frosting the outside super lightly and then refrigerate the cake for 15-30 minutes.
  3. Use the rest of the whipped ganache to frost the cake. I place it all on top and work my way down the sides of the cake with an offset spatula.
  4. Once the cake is covered, use a cake scraper to smooth out the ganache. Then run the cake scraper under super hot water and go around the ganache really slowly and gently to get it as smooth as possible. Refrigerate the cake for 15-30 minutes again. 
  5. Reheat the reserved, unwhipped butterscotch ganache, for about 10-15 minutes, just until it’s a little runny. Spread the ganache on top of the cake, allowing it to drip off the edge.
  6. If it’s too runny, it’ll run down quickly, if it’s cooled too much it won’t drip. If it’s right in the middle, it’ll run off the edge but still let you create those swirls on top. Top with a pinch of sea salt flakes.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 781Total Fat: 50gSaturated Fat: 31gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 84mgSodium: 462mgCarbohydrates: 78gFiber: 1gSugar: 59gProtein: 5g

Nutrition information may not be fully accurate.

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  1. Thank you for responding in I’m sure such a busy day! I went ahead and made it … we’ll see it looks yummy! But y last topping of butterscotch turned grainy? Still tasted great but not as pretty! 🤞🏽🤞🏽🤞🏽

  2. Your cake looks beautiful… but I have read and reread your instructions and I see no measurements or mention of granulated sugar only brown sugar I’m very confused…. Apparently I’m starting over ? You say use it in the ganache but I see no mention of that either? Hoping it turns out…

    • Hi Cheri, this cake doesn’t have any granulated sugar, that was a typo and meant to say brown sugar in the cake. there is no added sugar in the ganache, just butterscotch chips, heavy cream and butter 🙂

    • Hi Sara, when it splits it’s usually from a variation in temperature. Try removing about 1/2 cup of the buttercream and microwave it for 10-20 seconds. Then stream it in with the mixer going at medium speed and mix just until it comes back together.

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