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Brown-Sugar Layer Cake with Caramel Buttercream Frosting

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 12
Brown-Sugar Layer Cake with Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Source: Martha Stewart Living, October 2012


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
  • 3 cups cake flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Caramel Buttercream Frosting
  • Marzipan Animals


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment. Butter paper, and flour pans. Beat together butter and sugars with a mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Whisk together flour and salt. In another bowl, combine sour cream and baking soda. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream mixture and starting and ending with flour mixture.

  2. Divide batter between pans. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans, about 30 minutes. Invert cakes, remove pans and parchment, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

  3. Trim tops of cakes with a serrated knife to make level, then cut each cake in half horizontally. Reserve 1 bottom layer for another use. Place remaining bottom layer on a cake stand, and spread evenly with 1 1/4 cups frosting. Repeat with a second layer and another 1 1/4 cups frosting. Place third layer on top. Spread entire cake top and sides with 1 1/4 cups frosting. Refrigerate cake until firm, about 30 minutes. Spread with 1 1/2 cups frosting, smoothing top and sides. Serve immediately with marzipan animals, or refrigerate up to 2 days; if refrigerated, let cake come to room temperature before serving.

Reviews (14)

  • Janetb21 20 May, 2014

    This was a wonderful cake! I have the standard 2" deep Wilton pans, and had no problem with overflow. The batter was delicious, it tasted like chocolate chip cookie dough. The cake itself had a nice fine crumb and a firm but moist texture. It made a beautiful tall cake. I didn't use the frosting, I used a quick penuche frosting from my old Betty Crocker cookbook from 1959, but the frosting recipe that goes with it sounds really good too. This is a keeper. My family raved over it.

  • Bixxels 2 Jan, 2014

    This recipe makes far too much batter for two standard 8" layers. Unless you have extra deep pans, use three pans. I used 2 pans & the batter overflowed (burned) - I removed a considerable amount and got 2 usable layers. alternatively, back in a 10" tube pan. The cake is very sweet and has a good texture. I used a maple-walnut-coconut filling adapted from German Sweet Chocolate cake. My husband loved it, but it was quite sweet.

  • elfhaven13 1 Aug, 2013

    I think I see what happened for one of you, it was 6 sticks butter and this is the way I like my butter cream , you might be a powdered sugar and butter person and they are very different. If you follow the directions on the icing it is perfect!! Good luck!

  • elfhaven13 1 Aug, 2013

    I have never seen a cake that had the same amount of sugar as flour so I think maybe a mistake in the recipe? I would really like to find out so I am going to try to contact someone. I love brown sugar and I have a recipe for a brown sugar cake but it is to die for. I might compare it. I found it in a magazine or somewhere so I am going to check my recipe box.

  • StephA47 16 Jul, 2013

    The cake is very good, the frosting not so much. It has no flavor. It feels like shortening on the tongue. It makes the cake seem less than good. We won't be making this again. If we do, we'll add fine chopped nuts to the cake and we'll find a different frosting altogether. Yuck.

  • Lulubakes 27 Apr, 2013

    I was concerned by the previous posts of warning, but this turned out great for me. I made cupcakes instead of a layer cake, but it baked like any cake and yielded a tender crumb that was moist. It's very sweet, so pair w/ something that cuts and compliments the molasses flavor of the dark brown sugar.

  • elbiesmom0 28 Mar, 2013

    OMG-I nearly cried-this was supposed to be for a very special birthday party at work-total disaster-it spilled over in the oven - so liquid-y that I just turned off the over and left it-Gosh-the cost of the cake and especially the icing-6CUPS OF BUTTER-LORDY-WAS THIS A JOKE?

  • lfjlfb 22 Dec, 2012

    I was super excited to make this recipe for my friend's birthday, but it was a complete disaster! Every time I've used a Martha cake recipe, it's been perfect. The cake sunk terribly in the middle. I ended up making another cake with half the amount of sugar. It was much better. As for the frosting, I practically had to start over, but was able to save it by adding a little powdered sugar.

    Will not be making this again!

  • CTEW 15 Dec, 2012

    I'd like to make this recipe gluten-free for Christmas. I'll definitely change the flour. Any other recommendations?

  • Los Altos Barbara 3 Dec, 2012

    Frosting was super rich. Kids did not like. Cake was good, but fell in the middle. That has never happened to me before. Frosting turned out much darker than picture. Marzipan animals were tricky, but ended up looking cute, but sweaty/shiny!

  • AmandaK11 22 Sep, 2012

    I made this recipe today and strongly advise against the frosting. I've learned in the past that Martha's recipes can be unforgiving and followed this one to a "T". The 6 CUPS of butter ruins the frosting!

    So I ditched Martha's frosting and instead used a vanilla buttercream filling between layers, and a cream cheese frosting and it turned out beautifully and tasty!

    I also added few teaspoons of the caramel to the butter cream frosting too, which was a nice touch.

  • Smoo 22 Sep, 2012

    I also had a terrible time with the frosting and question the use of SIX sticks of butter. Is there a typo? The frosting was a complete mess :-(

  • Wanda116 22 Sep, 2012

    Tried this icing...did not look or ice cake as in pictures...way too thin. Not sure I will try this again...very expensive to make and not the results I was expecting. Followed directions exactly so not sure what happened.

  • Wanda116 22 Sep, 2012

    Tried this icing...did not look or ice cake as in pictures...way too thin. Not sure I will try this again...very expensive to make and not the results I was expecting. Followed directions exactly so not sure what happened.

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