This Brown Butter Pecan Sheet Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting is the most festive, prettiest cake to make around this time of year.
The holidays truly are my favorite time of year. I usually have most of my work done for the year and I’m preparing my mind for two full weeks of rest and relaxation. I like to travel during this time, too, but if I end up at home near with the fireplace going, I’m truly happy. This cake is one of my favorite things to a friends house because it serves a crowd, everyone loves it and the flavor profile is holiday-central!
Why Sheets Cakes Are The Best!
Okay let’s talk about this cake. I think it’s safe to say that 2017 was the year that I fell in love with the art of “the sheet cake.”
I first made this strawberry-rhubarb version. Then I moved on to this chocolate one (which btw would be perfect for the holidays, too). And then, in October, there was a pumpkin sheet cake with brown butter frosting. It immediately became the most popular recipe this year!! Crazy!
They are amazing for a ton of reasons, here are a few:
- Making them in a 9×13 cake pan means you only need one single layer. And yet they can feed a crowd.
- Easy decorating! If you’re not the best at decorating layer cakes, then sheet cakes are the move. It’s super easy to add all of the frosting to the top of the cake, swoop and smooth the frosting and BOOM! A pretty cake.
What is (Brown) Butter Pecan?
Butter pecan is a popular flavor profile that is very American. It’s popular in ice cream, cookies, cakes, etc. I took it a step further and cooked the butter a bit further, browning the butter. Brown butter pecan is a delicious flavor profile that’s extra nutty.
The butter cooks with the chopped pecans until the butter gets all nutty and delicious. The frosting is perfectly tart. Perfectly spiced and fluffy AF.
How to Make a Holiday Cake
What’s good about this cake is that it can be made year around. Of course, the snowflake cookies on top, really take it over the top and make it quite festive.
Let’s talk about the cookies on top! I used the corgi chai sugar cookie recipe.
And I used these punch out cookie cutters that I was super skeptical about—I was convinced that the dough wouldn’t come out. But they worked great. Here are some tips:
- I think the trick is to press the dough into the punch snowflake cookie cutters.
- And then pressing them out onto a baking sheet. This way you don’t have to transport the cookies because they’re quite fragile.
- The smaller ones will need to be baked on their own. They bake very quickly (maybe 5 minutes) and the rest bake in about 10 minutes.
- Do not move them until they’re completely cooled.
- For royal icing, I always, always use Wilton’s meringue powder and just added a few more teaspoons or water to get it to the perfect consistency.
- Ok I think that’s it!
If you make this Brown Butter Pecan Sheet Cake, let me know on Instagram!
Happy holidays, friends!
Brown Butter Pecan Mixture:
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup neutral oil, (vegetable oil, avocado oil or grape seed oil)
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup milk
Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- Corgi Chai Cookies, for the topping (optional)
To Make the Brown Butter Mixture:
- To a medium saucepan, set over medium heat, add the butter. Once it’s melted, it will begin to foam up and bubble a bit. Allow it to cook until you begin to see very lightly browned specks beginning to form. Add the pecans; toss the pecans until they’re evenly coated. Give it a stir and cook until it’s browned, about an additional 1 minute. Allow to stand until room temperature.
To Make the Cake Batter:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch cake pan with cooking spray and set aside. I also like to line my cake pan with a sheet of parchment because I don’t like anything to stick!
- In the a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand-up mixer (or a large bowl using an electric mixer), using the paddle attachment, whisk the vegetable oil and sugar together, until combined about 1 minute. Then, add the reserved pecan/butter mixture and beat for an additional minute. Add the eggs, along with the vanilla extract and mix until combined.
- Add half of the dry ingredients and half of the milk and mix until incorporated. Add the remaining dry ingredients and the remaining milk; mix until smooth, about 30 seconds.
- Pour the batter into the pan and smooth it out using an offset spatula or butter knife. Transfer to the oven to bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes and then invert it onto a cooling rack. BE CAREFUL IT'S A BIG CAKE.
To Make the Frosting:
- To a bowl of a stand-up mixer with the paddle attachment (OR a medium bowl using an electric mixer), add the butter, cream cheese, spices and vanilla. Beat until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Sift in the powdered sugar in increments of about 1 cup (just so it doesn’t make a mess when you start your machine). Repeat until you’ve worked your way through the powdered sugar.
- Lastly, add the heavy cream and beat the frosting for about 3 minutes. The fluffiness from the heavy cream really lightens up this frosting so be sure to beat it for the full 3 minutes.
To Assemble the Cake:
- Pour all of the frosting on the cooled sheet cake and spread it around, creating cute swoops as you go. Top it with whatever you like! I added lil’ cookies. Cake will stay moist for about 3 days when wrapped properly.