This is a moist and decadent easy butterscotch cake recipe that your family will clamor over. While it’s easy as can be, there are no shortcuts here!
Inspired by vintage recipes and covered in butterscotch frosting, it’s baked in a half sheet pan or 9×13 and made from scratch in the simplest way possible.
This cake focuses on the true ingredients of homemade butterscotch: butter and lots of dark brown sugar.
Well, I’ve been on a bit of a cake kick lately. I can’t get enough of them, and my hips don’t lie! Developing recipes is one of the best parts of my job and this is especially true when it comes to fall baking.
While my family is thrilled when I put my stretchy baking pants on, I do have to think in terms of moderation. However, when it comes to this easy butterscotch cake recipe, it’s hard to stop at just one slice!
Before there was a trend towards salted caramel sauce, butterscotch was the ultimate dessert indulgence. Don’t get me wrong – I love salted caramel (passionately, I might add).
The simplicity and buttery richness of a butterscotch dessert is unforgettable! Don’t skip this moist, easy brown sugar butterscotch cake recipe.
Many of the old-fashioned butterscotch cake recipes call for butterscotch pudding. Personally, I find that packaged pudding flavor to be a little inauthentic and wanted a cake with a richer, deeper flavor.
Table of Contents
What is Butterscotch?
What’s the difference between caramel, toffee and butterscotch? There are subtle but significant differences that can cater to a variety of tastes.
While each of these three sweet candies or sauces is created with a delicious concoction of sugar and butter, caramel generally includes white granulated sugar, cream and vanilla flavorings for a creamy, delicate balance.
Butterscotch is a little deeper in flavor because it’s created with brown sugar (which contains molasses). A butterscotch dessert is richer and more flavor-focused for that reason!
While butterscotch and caramel are often used interchangeably, butterscotch is probably best differentiated by the absence of milk or cream.
Toffee is generally considered to be butterscotch that is cooked for longer. It can create a sticky, rich sweet sauce that pairs beautifully with many old-fashioned butterscotch desserts.
Why You’ll Love this Butterscotch Cake Recipe
- Simple ingredients
- Sweet, but subtle
- Tender and moist
- Quick and easy
5 STAR REVIEW
“This recipe was so decedent! Absolute hit!”— NATASHA —
Ingredients and Substitutions
- All-Purpose Flour – No need to sift. Don’t get me wrong- you can definitely add this extra step, but I rarely do.
- Baking Powder – Helps this cake rise to fluffy perfection.
- Salt – A little salt balances the sweetness of rich brown sugar.
- Butter – Salted or unsalted at room temperature.
- Dark Brown Sugar – Dark brown sugar to create that rich, moist flavor of butterscotch!
- Vegetable Oil or Canola Oil – Canola oil has less flavor, but either will work.
- Vanilla – Vanilla extract for a hint of flavor.
- Eggs – Eggs bind the ingredients, add to cake rise and moisture content.
- Milk – Milk adds a creamy density to this butterscotch cake recipe! I used whole milk but you can use whatever you have on hand.
- Add a layer of butterscotch chips on top of the frosting.
- Drizzle with a butterscotch sauce for even more decadence.
Butterscotch Frosting Ingredients
This easy butterscotch frosting is decadent, creamy and perfectly balanced.
- Butterscotch Chips – They give rich, buttery flavor of this frosting. Use name brand for best results. They’re more natural in color, flavor and consistency.
- Butter – This is not a full buttercream frosting, just a little butter for added creamy flavor!
- Powdered Sugar – This finely powdered confectioner’s sugar keeps frosting silky smooth and lump-free.
- Milk – I used full fat milk in this butterscotch frosting recipe. You can do less or more milk depending on the thickness you’d like to see in your butterscotch frosting!
How to Make
- Prep – Prepare your sheet pan with baking spray to grease the bottom and sides. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Combine Dry Ingredients – Set aside.
- Cream Butter, Oil and Sugar – Beat until light and fluffy in texture and light in color. This process takes about 3-4 minutes and is essential to give this cake a beautiful rise and texture.
- Add Eggs, Milk and Vanilla – Mix until combined.
- Combine – Gradually add dry ingredients to wet until smooth, but just combined.
- Bake – Bake times vary based on pan size, type and altitude. Use the toothpick test. When a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, it is done.
- Cool – After removing cake from the oven, place on a wire cooling rack for up to 5 minutes. Make your frosting and smooth onto cake after it has cooled completely.
- Frost – Combine frosting ingredients and spread onto cake when it’s cool to the touch.
- Half Baking Sheet – For a thinner sheet cake, bake in a large jelly roll style pan for approximately 20 minutes.
- 9×13 – For a thicker cake, bake approximately 30 minutes.
- For the fluffiest cake, don’t over mix your batter.
- Don’t Overfill Your Cake Pan – Fill 2/3 full to compensate for rise.
- Use the Toothpick Test – Insert a toothpick in the center. When it comes out clean, it’s done.
- Yes, you can make this simple old fashioned cake in two round pans for a layer cake! I haven’t tested the timing, so watch carefully while they are in the oven, and don’t fill your layers more than 2/3 full to prevent overflow.
Scaling up, down or substituting? You’ll love this printable Measurement Conversion Chart!
Frequently Asked Questions
Delightfully light and moist rich caramel toffee.
Dark brown sugar creates a rich, moist butterscotch flavor you just can’t resist!
While they are both made by cooking sugar, caramel is made with white granulated sugar and butterscotch is made with dark brown sugar. To make a sauce, butter and heavy cream are added.
How to Store
- Room Temperature – Store in an airtight container or covered for up to three days.
- Refrigerator – Store this cake refrigerated for up to one week.
- Freeze – Cake can be stored up to six months in an airtight container without icing. Bring to room temperature to enjoy.
- To make this cake Gluten Free, use a 1:1 gluten free flour for baking.
- Nut Free
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Incredible Butterscotch Cake
- 2½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder plus ½ teaspoon, (for a total of 1 tablespoon + ½ teaspoon of baking powder)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup butter unsalted
- 1½ cups dark brown sugar packed
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 4 eggs large
- 1¼ cups milk whole is best
- 1 cup butterscotch chips
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 5 tablespoons milk
- Prepare your sheet pan with baking spray to grease the bottom and sides. Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, add butter, dark brown sugar and canola oil. Beat until light in color and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add eggs and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
- Add milk and blend to combine.
- Gradually add dry mixture to wet until just combined and smooth. Don't overmix.
- Bake in your 1/2 sheet pan for a thinner sheet cake 15 minutes (up to 20 minutes, use the toothpick test to ensure it's done). In a 9×13 baking dish, bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Remove cake and place on a wire cooling rack to cool.
- Melt butterscotch chips and butter together in a microwave safe bowl. Start with one minute and then melt in 10 second increments, so you don't burn or overcook.
- Add melted butterscotch and butter mixture to a large mixing bowl or stand mixer.
- Alternate adding powdered sugar and milk until fully combined.
- Spread onto cooled cake.
- Properly Measure Flour – Spoon flour into measuring cup rather than scoop it, which will result in too much flour and make the cake dry.
- Note: This recipe calls for 1 tablespoon PLUS 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. (it all goes in at the same time but it’s difficult to include that in the measurements of this recipe card.)
- Don’t Overbake – Use the toothpick test to prevent over or under baking. When a toothpick inserted in the center f the cake comes out clean, the cake is done.
- Avoid using dark color pans. They tend to dry the edges of the cake.
- Use high quality butterscotch chips for the best result.
- Room Temperature – Store in an airtight container or covered for up to 3 days.
- Freeze – Cake layers can be stored up to 3 months in an airtight container without icing. Bring to room temperature to enjoy.
Estimated nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is not guaranteed.
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