Spice Cake with Browned Butter Brown Sugar Frosting

This was Monday’s cake, baked to celebrate my mom and sister’s birthdays, but after a batch of cookies and another of muffins I thought you might not want to see another sweet for at least a few days. And as I’ve just jetted off to Vancouver for a little over 24 hours -I’ll keep you posted on twitter– I thought I’d leave you with something tasty.

Spice Cake browned butter frosting 3

A money cake, of course.

Spice Cake browned butter frosting 1

Although this particular cake – and variations of it – has been a tradition in our family for decades, old-fashioned cakes have gone and got all trendy. We thought bundts were going to make a comeback, but they got hip-checked by old-school spice, lemon and vanilla layer cakes of the sort our moms and grandmas used to make on birthdays. So there you go – if you are the type to follow food trends, this is one of them.

Spice Cake browned butter frosting 2

A new addition this year: browned butter frosting. If you love browned butter, you’ll love what it does to icing sugar.

Birthday Spice Cake

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg and/or allspice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter or spray two 8” or 9” round cake pans.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt. In a larger bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer for about half a minute, until it’s pale and creamy. Pour in the sugar and continue to beat for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl whenever it needs it. It may look separated – it’s OK.

Stir the vanilla into the milk. Add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir it in by hand or with the electric mixer on low speed, just until it’s combined. Add about half the milk in the same manner, then another third of the flour, the rest of the milk, and the rest of the flour, mixing just until the batter is blended.

Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cakes are golden and their tops are springy to the touch. Cool completely before frosting.

Browned Butter Brown Sugar Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup half & half
2 cups icing sugar, plus more if you need it

In a small saucepan, melt half of the butter. Continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until it turns brown and smells nutty; the foam will turn golden, too. Pour into a large bowl and add the rest of the butter.

Put the brown sugar into the same saucepan along with the cream, put it over the heat and stir until it starts to bubble and the sugar has melted. Scrape it into the bowl with the butter, add half the icing sugar and beat until smooth. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat until smooth; add a little extra sugar or cream if it needs it to achieve a spreadable consistency.

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January 24 2013 11:11 am | cake

37 Responses to “Spice Cake with Browned Butter Brown Sugar Frosting”

  1. Elaine on 24 Jan 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    Oh, that frosting looks crazy-good. And perfect for wintry cake flavors. Do you think swapping some of the brown sugar for maple syrup (to amp up the awesome even more) would work here?

  2. Sarah Galvin (All Our Fingers in the Pie) on 24 Jan 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    I haven’t made a money cake in eons! Thanks for bringing it back to mind.

  3. Asiya @ Chocolate and Chillies on 24 Jan 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    Gorgeous pictures! I’ve never heard of money cake…interesting! Browned butter in the frosting sounds divine!

  4. Jan @ Family Bites on 24 Jan 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    Fantastic! I made one for the boys last year and they loved it. I’m glad everything old is new again!

  5. nancy on 25 Jan 2013 at 10:32 am #

    I have never met anyone else who puts money in their cake…..how great to see it in yours!!! My Mom (92 years old now) always put money in our cakes…..I have continued the tradition…..icing looks amazing!!!

  6. Renee on 25 Jan 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    My mom made the best money cakes when we were kids and if I didn’t get the quarter there were sure to be tears. Mine was usually chocolate, covered with chocolate icing and smarties. Maybe I’ll get her to make me one for my 40th coming up quick, subbing the smarties for a little browned butter action :)

  7. Patty on 26 Jan 2013 at 9:09 am #

    My family always had money cakes too! My problem was I always wanted a second piece so I’d get more money. My daughter made one this year, but it was more costly with loonies and toonies. My mom always made spice cake with Penuche (spelling?) icing.

  8. kickpleat on 26 Jan 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    Wowzers!! That frosting looks amazingly fluffy and delicious. Making!!

  9. Karen on 26 Jan 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    When I worked at a remote hotel, the staff cook made us a money cake for dessert one day. I haven’t thought/laughed about that for years. :)

  10. Laura on 28 Jan 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    You had me at browned butter. Or maybe brown sugar. Certainly both!

  11. Soberjulie on 28 Jan 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    Oh hellooooo there my lovely cake! I haven’t seen a money cake since I was a girl and my Mum baked for me. I’m def going to try this

  12. molly on 29 Jan 2013 at 8:41 am #

    saw this yesterday. whipped out the bowls yesterday. and the cake tins. and butter and sugar. made my day. even my I DON’T LIKE ANYTHING THAT DOESN’T HAVE CHOCOLATE PERIOD END OF SENTENCE liked it. loved it.

    thank you, thank you.

  13. Gina on 02 Feb 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    This cake is amazing! The flavor of the cake itself is so wonderful! I must have done something wrong, because my frosting did not turn out light and fluffy…it’s more thick and fudgy. Did you let the butter and sugar/cream mixture cool before making it? Just wondering what I did wrong. The flavor is great, but the consistency is not like your cake. :)

  14. Spiced Pear Cake with Browned Butter Fudge Dribble » Dinner With Julie on 17 Feb 2013 at 11:47 pm #

    […] but it seemed like a perfect pairing here. I had been thinking about Gina’s comment about the last browned butter frosted cake and how hers came out firmer, which I’ve had happen when making this sort of icing – it […]

  15. Jayne on 04 May 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    This cake in oven! Going to make the icing too – any tips so it doesn’t turn out thick and fudge-like (as mentioned above)? I’m having the cake tomorrow…Thanks!

  16. Jayne on 04 May 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    Darn! The cake didn’t really rise very much…followed recipe exactly???

  17. Julie on 04 May 2013 at 11:35 pm #

    Hmmm.. could your baking powder be inactive? We’ve been making this cake for years!

  18. Jayne on 06 May 2013 at 9:54 am #

    I made a white cake 2 weeks ago with the same baking powder and it turned out great…the cake did rise some, I think I was just expecting it to rise a bit more. That said, it tasted great and was not dry at all :). The frosting was more fudge-like than it seems in your pictures but still very tasty! What’s not to like about fudge!

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  21. Jessica on 24 Jun 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    I just made this cake and icing for fathers day for my dad. The cake turned out great, but I had the same issue with the icing at the beginning. It was thick and fudge like, I was a bit frustrated with it, but I decided to try letting it cool completely and then whipping it again and it worked! So I think its best if you let the mixture cool before whipping! Hope that helps!

  22. Candice on 30 Jul 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    Hi, I’m wanting to make this icing…. but what is “half and half” ?????? I see the method says cream and thats not in the ingrediants list, so is that what it is?
    Thank you :)

  23. Julie on 31 Jul 2013 at 10:18 am #

    Candice – yes, half & half is light cream – the stuff you put in coffee!

  24. lingting on 22 Aug 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    Made the cake and frosting yesterday, topped it off with some honey roasted pecan praline and it was AMAZING. thanks so much for the lovely recipe x

  25. Browned Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes | the toasted sprinkle on 09 Oct 2013 at 7:09 am #

    […] Adapted barely from Dinner with Julie […]

  26. Reenie B. - Toronto, Canada on 19 Oct 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    I definitely remember my Mom baking a money cake for my birthday as a child. This recipe was really easy and the cake was fantastic. I did have to add a little more icing and cream to the frosting as it wasn’t quite enough to cover the whole cake generously. The frosting whipped up nice and fluffy and the cake was incredible! Thanks for a great recipe!

  27. The Icing That Just Wouldn’t… « The Word Magician's Kitchen on 05 Dec 2013 at 7:32 am #

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  28. Ruth on 08 Feb 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    My Grandmother always put money in the Christmas pudding … all sorts of coins wrapped in wax paper and dropped into the batter. Sometimes in birthday cakes too. Thanks for bringing back this memory.
    The cake, esp the icing, looks great. I just finished creaming butter and sugar, when I realized I was out of eggs, so I’ll have to finish cake making in the morning.

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  34. Kathleen Walshaw on 19 Oct 2014 at 9:01 pm #

    This is great and just so you know I am using this on a bundt cake however it is put together to look like a pumpkin for my daughter’s birthday. Thanks for the recipe can’t wait to make this!!

  35. Nanci on 10 Nov 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    This frosting is divine- so creamy and delicious!. I increased the recipe and added two sticks of butter, 1 cup more icing sugar, and 1/2 tsp double strength vanilla. The browned butter adds an unbelievably good taste- thanks for sharing!

  36. Julie on 12 Nov 2014 at 11:34 pm #

    So glad you liked it Nanci!

  37. Fawn on 19 Mar 2015 at 8:02 am #

    I’ve never heard of a “money cake!” I’m so glad I clicked on this recipe! I’ll making this cake (sans money) on Saturday for a birthday. I’ll be using the “money cake” idea in May when niece turns one. This “money cake” tradition works well here in Canada since our $1 and $2 are coins.

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