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Salted Caramel Butterscotch Cake with Brown Butter Frosting

With three layers of moist butterscotch cake and a dreamy brown butter frosting, this Salted Caramel Butterscotch Cake is decadent and rich and oh-so-good! Perfect for any fall occasion!

Salted Caramel Butterscotch cake on a cake stand

The Best Butterscotch Cake Recipe

This Salted Caramel Butterscotch Cake is seriously one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. You’ve got toasted pecan, three layers of butterscotch cake, plenty of salted caramel, and brown butter frosting. (The frosting is similar to what I use on my banana cake.) Not to mention a little bit of bourbon because…why not? I am seriously addicted.

I’ve shared slices with a few people to prevent myself from eating the entire cake and one coworker said it reminded him of Werther’s Original Candy. I’ll take that!

There are three glorious layers of cake, which I made in 8-inch pans, and it all begins with a cake mix. Using a cake mix makes the prep slightly easier but don’t worry, we doctor it up with all kinds of additions like brown sugar, butterscotch pudding, butterscotch chips, and buttermilk. No one will know you started with cake mix!

The brown butter frosting is really what sets this butterscotch cake over the type. It’s made with regular butter and brown butter for a slightly nutty flavor. The frosting is definitely rich but it’s the perfect compliment to this cake. Add some salted caramel sauce on top and you have absolute perfection!

A slice of butterscotch cake on a blue plate

Why Is This Cake the Best?

This Salted Caramel Butterscotch cake is one of the best cakes I’ve ever tasted. Here are a few things that make it so special.

  • Super moist, tender cake layers.
  • It starts with a box cake mix to make prep quick and easy.
  • Rich, warm butterscotch flavor throughout.
  • Lovely bourbon flavor in the cake and frosting (but you’re welcome to leave it out!)
  • Thick, rich frosting and salted caramel sauce to really set it over the top

What is the Butterscotch Flavor?

Butterscotch is a flavor that’s a bit hard to describe as it’s quite specific. It’s similar to caramel and made with butter and brown sugar. It has a warm, lightly nutty and very aromatic flavor.

Are butterscotch and caramel the same?

Butterscotch and caramel are similar but not quite the same. Caramel is made with white sugar, while butterscotch is made with brown sugar. Caramel also usually is not made with butter. Both caramel and butterscotch are used in this cake and you can definitely notice the difference between the two flavors.

A slice of butterscotch cake on a plate with a fork

Recipe Ingredients

Here is what you’ll need for this salted caramel butterscotch cake. Most of the ingredients are likely in your pantry already. See the recipe card for full measurements.

For the cake:

  • Pecans – Toasted and divided to be used in different parts of the recipe.
  • White cake mix – Any brand will work.
  • Butterscotch pudding – Make sure it’s instant.
  • Brown sugar – Adds a richer, more caramel-like flavor than white sugar.
  • Butterscotch chips – Melted.
  • Eggs
  • Buttermilk – You can substitute milk or make your own buttermilk.
  • Vegetable oil – Helps to keep the cake moist.
  • Sour cream – Also keeps the cake moist and adds a little flavor.
  • Bourbon – Optional but I like the flavor it adds.

For the frosting:

  • Unsalted butter – Divided, as part of it will be browned.
  • Powdered sugar – Creates a sweet and smooth texture.
  • Bourbon – Adds flavor.
  • Heavy whipping cream – Helps the frosting hold its shape.
  • Salted caramel sauce – This can easily be found at most stores in the ice cream topping section.
A butterscotch cake with a slice missing

How to Make Salted Caramel Butterscotch Cake

Making this decadent cake really consists of two parts – baking and cooling the cake layers, then making the frosting and decorating the cake.

For the Cake:

  • Toast the pecans. Toast the pecans for 5 to 8 minutes at 350F. Cool and chop into smaller pieces.
  • Make the batter. Combine the cake mix, pudding mix, and brown sugar. Melt the butterscotch chips in 30-second increments until melted and smooth. Add the eggs, buttermilk, oil, sour cream, bourbon, and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Mix on low until the ingredients incorporate. Increase the speed and add the melted butterscotch. Mix until everything is well combined, then fold a cup of toasted pecans.
  • Bake. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans. Bake for 21 to 25 minutes, until baked through.

For the Frosting:

  • Brown the butter. Cut the butter into small pieces and melt over medium heat. Allow to boil and bubble. Stir frequently, as it turns an amber color and releases a nutty aroma. Place in the freezer for 20 to 25 minutes, then stir until smooth.
  • Whip the butter. Whip the remaining butter for 3 to 4 minutes, until light in color. Beat in the cooled brown butter.
  • Add the remaining ingredients. Mix in 3 cups of powdered sugar, until incorporated. Add the bourbon, followed by another 3 cups of powdered sugar, salt, and heavy cream. Add the final cup of powdered sugar, beating on high for a minute after incorporated.

How to Assemble:

  • Prepare the first cake layer. Slice the domes off each cake so they’re flat.
  • Layer the cakes. Pipe a layer of frosting on the first cake, starting on the edge and working into the middle. Spread evenly with a spatula. Add the second layer and repeat. Place the third layer on top, inverted. This gives you a nice, flat top to frosting.
  • Add the crumb coat. Fill any gaps between the layers and use an offset spatula to create a crumb coat. Refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Finish frosting the cake. Frost the outside and edges of the cake, using an offset spatula or icing smoother to get a nice, smooth edge.
  • Garnish and serve. Push the remaining pecans into the bottom edge of the cake and drizzle with caramel sauce just before serving.
A slice of butterscotch cake on a blue plate with a bite on a fork

Tips for Success

Here are a few tips and tricks that make this butterscotch cake even easier.

  • Grease and line the cake pans. Grease two 8-inch cake pans with Crisco and dust with flour to help easily release the cake after it is baked. I also line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper to ensure they don’t stick.
  • Can I use 9-inch pans? Yes, though your layers will be thinner and you’ll need to adjust the bake time by a few minutes.
  • Be sure to stir the butter constantly. Once the butter starts to bubble, it’s essential to stir constantly. There is a fine line between nutty browned butter and burnt butter. Also, be sure to cool it before stirring it back into the frosting. Otherwise, it will melt completely! See this post for more tips of brown butter.
  • Chill the cake after the crumb coat. The crumb coat helps create a smooth, clean final coat of frosting. However, it’s important for it to set and chill before adding the second layer of frosting.
  • Add the caramel just before serving. The butterscotch cake should stay refrigerated until just before serving. However, I do recommend waiting to add the caramel as it does run down the sides!

Storage & Freezing

Salted caramel butterscotch cake can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days. I recommend using a cake carrier, as that’s the easiest way to keep it covered.

The cake can also be frozen for up to 2 months. Personally, I think it’s better to freeze individual cake layers without the frosting. Wrap them tightly twice in plastic wrap and freeze. However, you can also freeze individual slices wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and foil for up to 2 months. Thaw in the fridge.

 

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A slice of butterscotch cake on a plate

Salted Caramel Butterscotch Cake

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.9 from 13 reviews
  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 24 minutes
  • Total Time: 54 minutes
  • Yield: 10-12 slices
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

With three layers of moist butterscotch cake and a dreamy brown butter frosting, this Salted Caramel Butterscotch Cake is decadent and rich and oh-so-good! Perfect for any fall occasion!


Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 cups pecans, toasted & divided
  • 1 box (15oz) white cake mix
  • 1 pkg (3.4 oz) instant butterscotch pudding
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ c cup (5 oz) butterscotch chips, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (236ml) buttermilk (or milk)
  • ½ cup (118ml) vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup (180g) sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) bourbon (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, browned
  • 1 1/2 cups (339g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 7 cups (911g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup salted caramel sauce

Instructions

For the Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Once preheated, toast the pecans on a cookie sheet for 5 to 8 minutes. Cool them and them chop into smaller pieces.
  2. Grease three 8-inch cake pans with Crisco and dust with flour to help easily release the cake after it is baked. I also line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper to ensure they don’t stick.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix and light brown sugar and stir to combine.
  4. In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the butterscotch chips in 30 second increments, stirring occasionally, until the chips are melted and smooth. Set aside.
  5. Add to the dry ingredients: eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, sour cream bourbon and vanilla extract. Start mixing on a low speed until the ingredients start to incorporate. Then increase the speed to medium high and add the melted butterscotch chips. Mix the batter until all the ingredients are well combined. Lastly,  fold in one cup of the toasted pecans into the cake batter.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the 3 cake pans. Bake at 350°F for 21-25 minutes until the cake is baked through. To test the cake for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, your cake is done. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the frosting:

  1. To brown the butter, use a small saucepan, and cut the butter into pieces. Melt the butter over medium heat and allow it to boil and bubble. Once it starts boiling, stir it frequently and it will slowly start to turn an amber color and releases a nutty aroma. Remove the butter from the heat and place in the freezer for 20-25 minutes and then stir until smooth.
  2. Cut the remaining butter into pieces. Using the paddle attachment, whip the butter for 3-4 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat until butter looks light in color. Then add in the cooled brown butter, beating until it’s incorporated.
  3. Add 3 cups powdered sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated into butter. Add 1 tablespoon of bourbon and continuing beating. Add another 3 cups of powdered sugar, the salt and the heavy cream and beat until well combined.
  4. Add the cup of powdered sugar, beat on low speed until incorporated then increase to high speed, beating for 1 minute.

To Assemble:

  1. Cut off the domes on top of the cake layers so they’re relatively flat. Place a dollop of frosting on the bottom of the cake plate and place the bottom layer of cake on top. The frosting will help prevent the cake from sliding.
  2. Place about 2 cups of frosting in a large piping bag fitted with a large open round tip, or simply cut off the end of the piping bag. Pipe a layer of frosting on top of the leveled cake, starting at the outside edge and working your way into the middle. Spread evenly with an offset spatula. Place another layer on top and repeat the frosting with the second layer, then place the final layer on top, inverted so the bottom of the cake is on top.
  3. Use your piping bag to fill in any gaps between the layers and to create a rough crumb coat. Using an offset spatula, wipe away the excess frosting, leaving just enough to coat the outside of the cake. Do not mix your crumb coating frosting back into your icing if it has cake debris in it. Refrigerate the cake for 15-20 minutes to allow the crumb coat to harden.
  4. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and proceed to finish frosting the top and edges of the cake. To get a nice smooth edge, use your offset spatula and icing smoother to wipe away excess frosting.
  5. Use the remaining pecans and push into the bottom edge of the cake then drizzle with caramel sauce right before serving.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 Slice
  • Calories: 977
  • Sugar: 100.7 g
  • Sodium: 253.2 mg
  • Fat: 60.6 g
  • Carbohydrates: 107.7 g
  • Fiber: 2.6 g
  • Protein: 6.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 135.8 mg

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63 thoughts on “Salted Caramel Butterscotch Cake with Brown Butter Frosting”

  1. This recipe looks promising. I am new to baking, so it might sound silly, but if I had to bake just two 8″ cakes and make four layers in total, what measurement should I follow? Also, when you halve the recipe, do you also halve the cake mix and pudding mix?






    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Hi there. You should be able to bake the cake as is with two 8-inch layers and just adjust the baking time. If you are going to make a half recipe, you would need to half the entire recipe, including the cake mix and pudding

  2. This cake was so moist and delicious! My mom always loved butterscotch cake but is now celiac. Can you think of any reason substituting a box of white gluten free cake mix wouldn’t work if I found one the same weight?






  3. i made this for christmas last year and my family DEVOURED it. when i showed up to thanksgiving with bread rolls instead of this cake (i like to try baking new things) they were so upset. so here i am, making this cake for christmas again lol. the frosting is my absolute favorite part of the whole thing, i swear i could eat it with a spoon






  4. My 9 year old daughter and I made this cake for Thanksgiving this year. It was devoured. It was so good. We left out the bourbon and we forgot the caramel for the top at home but it was still sooo good. I’m making it again this week for the Christmas party we have for our friends every year. I hope I can get more than one small piece this time!






    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      This is really really cool Terri! Thank you so much and here’s to you getting more than one piece this time!

  5. This came out really good!! I’m not sure if the rum did much, but then again it was just rum extract we used so that may have mad a difference. I came to get a slice a few days later and the whole cake was gone !! Safe to say it was a hit !!






    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Thank you so much Destini! I am sorry you didn’t get the last slice LOL. Definitely rum vs rum extract would not have as strong of a flavor.

  6. Any idea what the time and temp would be if I baked this into cupcakes instead of the 3 layers? I’m so excited to make this for Thanksgiving.






  7. Avatar photo
    Hunting for the Good Stuff

    Just found your recipe and wanted to try it. Can I omit the bourbon completely from the cake and the icing and it still be a tasty cake? Thanks so much!!

  8. I made this recipe for Thanksgiving & it was requested again for Christmas! This time I’m making cupcakes instead 🙂

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      That sounds wonderful Haley! Thank you so much for sharing and I am honored to be a part of BOTH of your holiday celebrations!

  9. Avatar photo
    Dolphine Cody

    Recipe for Salted Caramel Butterscotch cake instructs grease 2 pans yet batter should be divided
    into 3 pans , What gives!

  10. This was so good. I’m an avid baker and generally make everything from scratch, but this recipe was great! Everyone loved it – some said it was the best cake they ever had. One called it magical. It was a winner and one I’ll be making again.
    I did as a commenter suggested and melted the chips and oil together- that worked well. I used milk. I used vanilla bean paste in place of the bourbon in the frosting (so good!).
    I also halved this recipe (the measurements are perfect for that) and made mini cakes. I cut in half and put one layer of frosting in them, but first I put salted caramel sauce on the layer. Yum. I had to bake for quite a bit longer – about 35min. It’s possible my cake might have been thicker, since I just did essentially one 8” pan.
    The toasted pecans really are necessary and make this next level. I used Ghirardelli caramel sauce, but next time I might make my own if time permits. This is a tasty, fantastic recipe that everyone loved and I will make again and again! Thanks!






    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Thank you so much for the very thoughtful and detailed adjustments! I am so glad you liked this recipe!

  11. My husband wanted a Butterscotch Cake for his birthday. We’d never even heard of it. (He did a search of the top favorite cakes and Butterscotch was 4th). So I searched recipes and I liked that this one had a touch of bourbon which gives a true butterscotch flavor.

    This cake is FANTASTIC. We have a new family favorite.






  12. Great recipe! One tip for other bakers, try putting the butterscotch chips AND the vegetable oil in a microwave safe bowl and microwave them together. The oil helps keep the chips from burning and makes a smoother, runnier mixture that’s easy to incorporate into the cake batter. Other than that one change, I loved it, and the instructions were easy to follow. If you’re looking for a delicious salted caramel to top the cake, try the Smuckers salted caramel. It’s delicious!






      1. Avatar photo
        Julia Ingram

        Do you think it would make much difference to the cake if I left the pecans out? Halfway through making it realized my friend can’t eat nuts.

  13. Fabulous cake. Made for my moms birthday. Everyone loved it. My only issue was the butterscotch chips did not melt smoothly. I think next time I will just add the chips whole. I also made butterscotch ganache with butterscotch chips and cream instead of the caramel sauce. Was yummy.