brown butter pound cake

by Patricia on October 1, 2009 · 11 comments

brown butter pound cake

Please note: this post contains obscene butter usage.*

I’ve been thinking a lot about butter lately. Not in terms of health concerns or anything like that. The thing that has held my focus the most is simple yet perplexing to me… there can never seem to be too much butter in something. No, I’m not running for president of the Paula Deen fan club or anything like that (even if we are from the same hometown). But… can you think of anything that a little butter does not make better? Cooking mushrooms? butter. Radishes? butter. Pancakes? butter. Toast? butter. What are brownies without butter?… Have you ever put butter on a biscuit? How about a muffin? But… why would you do that? I mean, they are made with a reasonable amount of butter already. And yet, it isn’t wrong. It is oh so right. Right? (or am I the only one who butters her biscuits?). Anyway, this is what has been running through my head lately.

All of this is really just to say that butter is a wonderful thing. And brown butter? Well, I hadn’t thought much about brown butter until I opened the October issue of Gourmet, and there on the last page was a brown butter pound cake. For the next week I obsessed over it. At first I wanted to put it off… pound cake is a pretty big commitment. Not that it’s hard to make, it’s just… well, a lot of butter. And I love butter. But even for me, it seemed a little excessive. I could not shake the idea of brown butter and so yesterday I broke down and baked the pound cake.

I told Dan I was making pound cake, but not to worry because there was “hardly any butter” in it. He said, “so… on a scale of none to a ton, it’s closer to none?” Yes, exactly. You see why I love him, right?

brown butter pound cakebrown butter pound cake
brown butter pound cakebrown butter pound cake
[by the way, I had to retype the title of this post 3 times because I kept typing “pounds cake”. Freudian slip?]

*No butter was harmed in the making of this post.

brown butter pound cake
Brown Butter Pound Cake
(adapted from Gourmet, October 2009)

I may have over-browned the butter a little; I have to wonder since my cake came out at least two shades darker than the one pictured in Gourmet. Nonetheless, the (extra-)brown butter gives this cake a nutty, caramel character. The scent drove me crazy from the time the butter hit the pan until the cake came out of the oven.

Makes one 9-inch x 5-inch loaf

2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated (regular) sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract


  • loaf pan (8 1/2 inch by 4 1/2 inch or 9×5)
  • mixer (optional, but makes life easier)
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees with rack in the middle. Butter and lightly flour your loaf pan
  2. Brown the butter: Heat butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until the milk solids on bottom are a dark chocolate brown. Transfer to a shallow bowl and chill in freezer until just congealed, about 15 minutes. [I actually browned the butter and put it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours while I went to run errands. I had to take the butter out and let it soften just a touch when I was ready to use it.]
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Beat together brown butter and sugars with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
  6. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just incorporated.
  7. Transfer batter to pan, smoothing top, then rap pan on counter to settle batter [umm. I didn’t do this part and everything seemed to work out fine.]
  8. Bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
  9. Cool in pan 30 minutes. Then remove from pan and cool on a rack for 1 hour. [or cool in pan for 15 minutes, move to a rack and slice off a corner because you can’t wait to taste it… your choice]


1 Patricia October 6, 2009 at 10:45 am

@Glen – That is absolutely true. I can’t imagine life without butter, eggs, and cream.

@Ivonne – This one is definitely worth trying. I had to send half of it away because it was all I wanted to eat (not too sweet, nutty, mmm. Maybe I should make some more).

@Vicki – I haven’t had ghee, unless it was used when I ate out at Indian restaurants. I’ll have to check it out. I wouldn’t want to overlook a gift from the gods :)

2 Vicki October 5, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Oh gosh! There’s never been a pound cake I didn’t love but one with browned butter? I HAVE to try this one. Ever have ghee on basmati rice? Ghee is a gift from the gods.

3 Ivonne October 5, 2009 at 12:54 am


It’s just gorgeous! I actually bookmarked this one myself. I really enjoyed reading your deep thoughts about butter and I agree with you 100%!

4 Glen Campbell October 3, 2009 at 4:56 am

A friend of mine once told me that the secret to fabulous cooking is “real butter, real eggs, and real cream.”

5 Patricia October 1, 2009 at 7:19 pm

@Brit Hammer – Thanks :) I’ve only seen a couple of episodes of Diary of a Foodie. I found them online today after your comment though so I’m sure I’ll be all caught up before long. I have to admit it would be fun to work on something like that…

@Maria – Thanks. Brown butter really does change the character of the pound cake.

6 Maria October 1, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Browned butter makes this cake extra special! Looks great!

7 Brit Hammer October 1, 2009 at 8:31 am

PS-Ever see Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie vid series? Maybe something to meditate on? You write so well and show so much of your heart. I’m just sayin’…

8 Brit Hammer October 1, 2009 at 8:25 am

Pounds cake is a great title. LOVE browned butter – nothing else like it. Thanks for sharing this – will have to make this one!! :-)

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