Kentucky Butter Cake

Kentucky Butter Cake

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Classic Kentucky Butter Cake is a beloved dessert that has stood the test of time, enchanting taste buds with its rich, buttery flavor and moist texture. This traditional treat hails from the Southern United States, where it has been a staple at gatherings, potlucks, and holiday tables for generations. The cake’s simplicity belies its decadent nature, making it a favorite among both novice bakers and seasoned pastry chefs.

The origins of the Kentucky Butter Cake are somewhat murky, but it is widely believed to have roots in the American South. It shares similarities with the pound cake, which dates back to the early 1700s. The pound cake was named for its simple formula: a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Over time, bakers began to adapt this recipe, adding leavening agents like baking powder or soda to make the cake lighter and more tender.

What sets the Kentucky Butter Cake apart from other butter cakes is its signature butter sauce. After the cake is baked, it is infused while still warm with a rich sauce made from butter, sugar, and sometimes a touch of alcohol such as bourbon or rum, which enhances the cake’s flavor profile. This process not only adds an extra layer of moisture but also creates a slightly crisp, sugary crust that contrasts beautifully with the soft crumb of the cake.

The texture of the Kentucky Butter Cake is one of its most alluring attributes. When done right, the crumb is dense yet velvety, melting in your mouth with each bite. The cake’s richness comes from the generous amount of butter used in the recipe, which imparts a luxurious mouthfeel and depth of flavor that can’t be achieved with oil or shortening.

Despite its name, the Kentucky Butter Cake is not overly sweet. The sweetness is balanced by the butter’s savory notes, creating a harmonious blend that isn’t cloying. This makes it an ideal companion to a cup of coffee or tea, and it’s just as delightful served as a dessert after a meal or as a special treat during afternoon tea.

The cake’s versatility is another reason for its enduring popularity. While delicious on its own, it can also serve as a canvas for a variety of toppings and accompaniments. Fresh berries, a dollop of whipped cream, or a drizzle of caramel or chocolate sauce can elevate the cake to new heights. Some bakers even like to add nuts or citrus zest to the batter for an added dimension of flavor.

Making a Kentucky Butter Cake is a labor of love, but it’s a straightforward process that rewards patience and attention to detail. The key is to use high-quality ingredients and to follow the steps carefully, ensuring that the butter and sugar are well-creamed and that the eggs are fully incorporated. This creates the foundation for a perfect crumb.

Another important aspect is the baking time. Overbaking can dry out the cake, while underbaking will leave it too dense. Achieving the right balance requires a watchful eye and a good understanding of your oven. Once baked, the timing of the sauce infusion is critical; it should be poured over the cake shortly after it comes out of the oven so that it absorbs evenly.

The presentation of the Kentucky Butter Cake is typically understated. Often, it is simply turned out onto a plate or cake stand, showcasing its golden brown exterior. Some bakers might dust it lightly with powdered sugar or add a glaze, but generally, the cake’s beauty lies in its simplicity.

Over the years, the Kentucky Butter Cake has become more than just a dessert; it’s a symbol of Southern hospitality and comfort. It’s the kind of cake that’s passed down through family recipe books, each generation adding their own touch but always respecting the essence of what makes it special.

In a world where culinary trends come and go, the Kentucky Butter Cake remains a timeless classic. Its appeal lies in the way it evokes nostalgia, conjuring up memories of family gatherings, Sunday dinners, and warm kitchens filled with the scent of baking. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the simplest things can bring the greatest pleasure.

As the Kentucky Butter Cake continues to be discovered by new fans and cherished by long-time admirers, it stands as a testament to the enduring power of traditional baking. Whether you’re enjoying a slice in a quaint Southern diner or baking it at home for loved ones, this cake offers a taste of history and a connection to a rich culinary heritage that is worth savoring.

Kentucky Butter Cake

Kentucky Butter Cake

Classic Kentucky Butter Cake: A moist and buttery pound cake with a rich butter sauce that soaks through, creating an irresistible dessert.
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Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 116


  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 TB shortening or oil
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs room temperature
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
  • 1 TB vanilla extract

For the Brown Butter Glaze

  • cup unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 TB water


  • In a small saucepan, add butter and melt over medium heat. Once the butter has fully melted, a white foam will begin to appear over the top of the butter.
  • Watch carefully as the butter’s color changes to brown and the smell of the butter becomes somewhat nutty.
  • As soon as the butter is an amber brown color, remove from heat and cool in the refrigerator until it the butter has become solid again (can take 1-2 hours so I sometimes do this the night before baking the cake).
  • Once butter is solid, preheat oven to 325 degrees then liberally spray 10 cup bundt pan with non-stick baking spray.
  • In your mixer bowl, add butter and shortening and beat for 2 minutes on high speed. Slowly add in sugar beat on high speed for an additional seven minutes until very pale yellow and fluffy.
  • Next, add eggs, one at a time, combining well after each addition and scraping down the sides as needed.
  • Turn your mixer down to its lowest speed, and slowly add flour into batter in two increments then add salt, baking powder and baking soda. Be careful not to overbeat.
  • Lastly, pour in buttermilk and vanilla extract, scrape down sides and mix until just combined and turn off mixer.
  • Add batter to prepared cake pan and bake for 45-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out mostly clean but still moist.
  • Cool for 10 minutes then invert cake onto serving plate.
Keyword cake
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