About This Butter Cake Recipe
In many cultures, butter cake is celebrated as a staple and traditional favourite. This recipe calls upon the British method of a traditional sponge, but with a few extra twists and ingredients (such as buttermilk) to bring this so-so sponge into a flavour-filled butter haven.
Originally butter cake came from the British pound cake, but is now an American staple! Historically, the leaven for this cake would’ve been yeast but with the invention of baking powder and other chemical leaveners in the early 20th century, the pound cake evolved from a somewhat heavy and dense bake into this wonderful open crumbed sponge.
This recipe differs from tradition in the sense that it calls for extra sugar and butter to be scattered across the batter before baking – much the same as German Butterkuchen. It creates a thin, golden, almost caramel crust as the cake expands in the oven and cracks the topping.
A super easy recipe to make, express almost as it can be in the oven within 10 minutes of starting!
What You Need for This Butter Cake Recipe
- Caster Sugar – Finer than granulated sugar, meaning a more tender sponge. The finer the sugar, the quicker it’ll dissolve into the cake better when cooking, whereas granulated sugar can leave a crunchy and more firm texture in the mouth. If you can’t find caster sugar, you can simply blend granulated sugar until it’s a little finer, but not as fine as icing/confectioners sugar.
- Unsalted Butter – European butter is always best for baking as it has a higher fat percentage. Try using butter with a minimum of 82% fat for this recipe to get that luscious, buttery taste.
- All-Purpose Flour – This flour is fine enough for a tender cake, but not as fine as American Cake Flour as it needs a little more protein to hold all the wonderful fats from the butter.
- Baking Powder – Crucial in a recipe such as this one. You need the leaven from the baking powder to open the crumb of the cake as it bakes, ensuring a fluffy and tender loaf.
- Bicarbonate of Soda – Also known as Baking Soda. Do not get this confused with Baking Powder, although they are both leavenings, they react differently and with different products. The bicarbonate of soda reacts with the buttermilk in this recipe for a further lift, yielding a rich, moist but light sponge.
- Eggs – As with most bakes, eggs are included in this recipe for both structure and fat. The white provides the support for the cake crumb as it rises in the oven and helps prevent the cake from collapsing into a dense biscuit, and the yolk envelopes more fat into the batter. Remember, fat = flavour!
- Buttermilk – The secret ingredient to this bake. The buttermilk helps break down any gluten developed when folding in the flour, it also tenderises the sponge, adds more fat to compliment the flavour of the butter, and reacts with the bicarbonate of soda to create lift to the sponge.
- Vanilla Extract – Simply put, it’d be criminal to make a butter cake without the sweet spice of vanilla!
- Buttermilk – if you can’t source buttermilk, I recommend using the same amount of yoghurt, sour cream, natural yoghurt or regular full-fat milk.
- Bicarbonate of Soda – if you only have baking powder, omit the bicarbonate of soda and substitute it with baking powder instead, and I recommend using milk instead of buttermilk as these ingredients work together whilst baking.
- Caster Sugar – For a more caramel flavour to your sponge, try using half light brown sugar (but only if you’re using the bicarbonate of soda) or substitute the entire sugar amount for golden caster sugar instead!
Why must I leave the cake to cool in its tin?
This cake is so moist that it needs to cook in its residual heat once it’s left the oven. This method of using its own residual heat to bake prevents the cake from drying out as it would in the oven.
Do I have to cover it in sugar and butter before baking?
Not at all! This merely creates a thin textured crust to the loaf to add a caramel-esque texture to the bake. It can be omitted completely.
Can I split the batter between tins?
Yes! You can make two smaller loaves instead, however, you will have to reduce the baking time to 40-45 minutes. Remember, to test if the cakes are done, insert a skewer and once it comes out clean (albeit with a few crumbs on the end of the skewer) it’s ready to leave the oven!
Super Easy Butter Cake
Originating from the British Pound Cake, Butter Cake has become an American staple. Similar to Madeira cake, Butter Cake’s main ingredient is, yes you guessed it, butter! A wonderfully moist, fluffy, sponge with lashings of butter that’ll go down a treat served in any setting!
In a large bowl for a stand mixer, or using an electric whisk, cream together 1 cup of the caster sugar and 1 cup of the butter until incredibly pale and fluffy (5-10 minutes).
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 340F and line a 3lb loaf tin with greaseproof parchment.
Once the butter and sugar have creamed, scrape down the sides of the bowl using a silicone spatula. Combine the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and add half the dry mix and 2 of the eggs folding to combine - do not over whisk or you’ll develop gluten resulting in a tough cake. Once combined, follow with the remaining flour and eggs, folding until fully incorporated.
Add the buttermilk and vanilla extract, folding again until there is no marbling of colours or texture.
Spread the mixture into the loaf tin and smooth the top of the loaf using an offset spatula. Scatter the remaining sugar over the top of the cake batter, followed by the remaining butter in cubes.
Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean after being inserted into the cake.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing from the tin, slicing and serving.
- This cake is even better if you refrigerate it after it's cooled. Wrap it in cling film, a beeswax wrap or an air-tight container and leave it in the fridge overnight. The butter solidifies slightly creating a more impactful flavour without compromising on the tender crumb!
- This cake can keep for up to 3 days. If it begins to dry out, you can toast it for a few minutes and spread it with even more butter!