Toasted Butter Pecan Cake

May 9, 2012

butter pecan cake recipe

It’s one of my favorite things to experiment with new flavors and recipes, especially when it comes to cakes. When people think of layer cakes they usually think of white, yellow, and/or chocolate. Sometimes carrot or lemon come to mind. There are so many great recipes out there for different cakes. This past February I made a Cherry Layer Cake and it was simply incredible! AND of course, this particular cake here, Toasted Butter Pecan, well… let’s just say if you’re a fan of pecans, you won’t be disappointed.

recipe for butter pecan cake

What gives this cake that signature “Butter Pecan” flavor is toasting the pecans in a skillet with some melted butter. It smells AMAZING! Just like the ice cream. That is the very first step to this cake since you want to set your pecans aside to cool. It’s vital that you do this or else you may create cooked portions of cake batter upon adding hot nuts. Not ideal.

The cake batter itself seems to be based off the old-fashioned 1-2-3-4 cake (1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 eggs). That is if you don’t count the extra 1/4 cup of butter used to toast the nuts. I’ve never made a 1-2-3-4 cake before. I wasn’t completely impressed with it, but I didn’t think it was bad (kind of dry). I will say though, if you have a favorite white or yellow cake recipe, you should use that instead (this is mine) and then follow the same step for making the toasted butter pecans, add them in, and absolutely use this frosting recipe. If you want to use your own 2 layer recipe instead of a 3, then you’ll need to use less pecans, maybe just 1 1/4 cups would be perfect.

toasted butter pecan cake

I really thought this cake was just lovely. Just so old-fashioned in nature, I was completely impressed. I chose to keep it simple with the decoration. I am not big on fancy piping of cakes, simply because I haven’t done it enough to be any good at it. So I decided to press finely chopped pecans into the side of the cake and then just fluff and swirl the top of the cake with a small offset spatula to give it a pretty appearance.

Oh and before I forget to mention- the frosting. If you like to have plenty of frosting when frosting your cake, you may want to use 1 1/2 times the given recipe. I had just enough for the 3 layers with this cake. It made me a little nervous. If you decide to make your own 2 layer cake recipe, then you will have plenty, but for the 3 layer I highly recommend making more frosting especially if you are planing on piping. And I should also mention that the frosting recipe is SOOOOO delicious! : D

butter pecan cake

4.6 from 18 reviews
Toasted Butter Pecan Cake
Serves: 12-16
  • 1¼ cup butter, softened, divided
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 pkgs (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 pkg (2 lbs) confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 Tb milk, as necessary
  • extra chopped pecans for garnish, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour three 9" round cake pans.
  2. In a medium heavy skillet, melt ¼ butter over medium heat. Add pecans; cook until toasted and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Spread across sheet of foil to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine; set aside.
  4. In a separate large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
  5. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with the flour (flour in 3 parts, milk in 2). Fold in toasted pecans.
  6. Divide between cake pans and bake 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack before removing from pans. Cool completely.
  7. FOR FROSTING: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla. Beat in enough milk, as necessary, to achieve spreading consistency. Frost cake. Store in refrigerator.
You may not need to add any milk to the frosting if it is already soft enough.
NOTE: The cake batter itself seems to be based off the old-fashioned 1-2-3-4 cake (1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 eggs). That is if you don't count the extra ¼ cup of butter used to toast the nuts. I wasn't completely impressed with it, but I didn't think it was bad (a tad dry). I will say though, if you have a favorite white or yellow cake recipe, you should use that instead and then follow the same step for making the toasted butter pecans, add them in, and absolutely use this frosting recipe. If you want to use your own TWO layer recipe instead of a three, then you'll need to use less pecans, maybe just 1¼ cups would be perfect.

{ 96 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah May 11, 2012 at 4:42 am

Wow I tried licking the screen but I got nothing, the frosting is what’s doing it for me it looks incredible! I have never been able to bake cakes to this standard but I certainly enjoy eating them!


lmachell May 11, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Thanks Sarah! It really was quite delicious : )


Julia June 26, 2012 at 11:41 am

I love cake and butter pecan ice cream, so um, yaaaa, I want some of this!


Ashley @ Eat, Sleep, and Breathe It June 26, 2012 at 5:07 pm

I found this via Pinterest, and it looks SO good! Butter pecan ice cream is my favorite…will definitely be trying this cake…with a scoop of ice cream on the side!


Becki June 26, 2012 at 10:31 pm

OH LARDY! This looks so divine! I could just imagine my spoon going down into it with a scoop of Butter Pecan ice cream on the side. Oh Yeah! Gotta try this one REAL soon!


Pam June 27, 2012 at 1:03 am

I noticed you used all purpose flour…..have you tried the cake flour (which is a lighter)


lmachell June 27, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Not for this recipe I haven’t, but honestly I prefer the texture from all purpose flour with cakes. I feel like the crumb is too tight with cake flour. That’s just my personal preference though.


Drucilla Williams October 1, 2015 at 9:45 pm

For this recipe did you use cake flour? And was it less dry?


britani June 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Do you think this recipe would translate to cupcakes ok?


lmachell June 27, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Sure, I don’t see why not : )


laurey June 30, 2012 at 4:55 am

I made this for my father’s birthday party! Big hit. My only thing would be that if you are wanting a larger cake just make sure that you make the three tiers instead of 2, because I didn’t feel like I was going to have enough batter, so the cakes are on the smaller side. I don’t think that 2 would have been big enough for my large family. If you have a higher cake you can serve smaller slices. Also, I did make the extra frosting so I could ensure that I wouldn’t have to go light on frosting. The cake is so moist, and everyone was so impressed that it was all homemade! It took exactly 25 minutes for the cakes just like the recipe called for. Great recipe. Thanks!


Dee July 3, 2012 at 10:48 pm

This may be a silly question but do I put the whole cake in the fridge?


lmachell July 7, 2012 at 12:45 am

For storing, the cake will last much longer if you refrigerate the entire thing and then let slices come up to room temperature (about 2 hours) before serving them. Or of course, if you plan on eating the whole cake, take the whole cake out and let it come to room temperature (3 or 4 hours).


Terra July 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Hi! I am excited to try this. Butter Pecan is my dad’s favorite ice cream, so I’m sure he will love this! I am just curious about your method of attaching all those pecans on the side. I’m envisioning myself taking a handful at a time and just chunking them at the cake. I think that might make a mess though. 🙂


lmachell July 11, 2012 at 2:33 pm

haha That’s a really good question- I put some parchment strips along the bottom of the cake, then frosted it, then immediately started pressing chopped pecans on the side before the frosting started to harden at all. It was actually a it tricky- I just tilted the cake ever so slightly, took handfuls and pressed them on the side. Afterwards I had a nice pile along the bottom that didn’t stick that I had to pick up but it worked pretty well as long as you keep at it. At one point I was so frustrated I started to kind of throw them at the sides haha but that didn’t work so well…


Terra July 11, 2012 at 3:23 pm

lol! Thanks!


Beth July 11, 2012 at 10:10 pm

I made this cake and was a little disappointed in it. The cake just seemed too dry. Maybe I did something wrong?!? :/

The frosting however, was divine!!!


lmachell July 12, 2012 at 11:51 am

I felt the same way about the cake layers themselves, that’s why I wrote that you should use a favorite white/yellow cake recipe in place of it if you had one. Maybe I’ll write it within a note on the recipe card instead of just the post. Sorry about the disappointing results.


Elle November 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Adding a couple TBL of vegetable oil should help the cake. I guess people used to like cakes “drier,” the “old” recipes don’t have enough fat in them for a moist cake like everyone likes today. I add at least 2 TBL of veg oil to any recipe that only uses butter and milk as the fat sources.


lmachell November 13, 2012 at 7:33 pm

That is interesting! What a good idea, I will have to try it some time.


Toshia March 25, 2016 at 12:07 pm

Yes I have to agree. Butter only recipes are always dry.


Marcia S. December 13, 2016 at 12:15 am

You can substitute buttermilk instead of the plain milk; this always helps my scratch cakes be more moist. The 2T of veg oil will do the trick as well. I will be making this recipe soon (I love trying new cake recipes to add to my list😉) Also, my go-to white cake recipe is Martha Stewart’s cake here on Pinterest- still substituted the milk with buttermilk; it amped up the moistness to ten!


GEnia March 2, 2013 at 3:15 am

Same here! Thought I over cooked it. Add Vanilla ice cream and that helped! The frosting was fantastic!!


Jennifer Paul Gibson July 16, 2012 at 1:12 am

This recipe is to die for! I tried it out and it was a huge hit! Thank you so much for posting the recipe!

I hope you don’t mind but I did a write up on it and have placed it under my Surreal Approved Recipes!


As well as placing it on my Tested Recipe Pinterest Board – https://pinterest.com/jenng79/tested-recipes/

Feel free to use this image if you would like and thanks again for posting!!!


Dee July 23, 2012 at 4:12 pm

The cake was a hit! My husband loved it. It had a great taste but it was a little dry. Thank you for sharing. I will still make it again!!


Nicole August 16, 2012 at 3:54 am

I made this cake last weekend and it was absolutely perfect. I toasted 4 cups of pecans in butter, mixing half into the cake and pressing the rest either into the side or sprinkled on top. It tastes just like butter pecan ice cream – only in a cake! And mine turned out very lucsiouly moist too, perfect texture. I added the extra butter and vanilla for the frosting, but decided it was already sweet enough with one whole bag of powdered sugar, so I didn’t include the extra 2 cups. Maybe that extra butter in the frosting is what helped seal the moisture into my cake. I give it two huge thumbs up!

Now, how many hours of exercise do I need to do before I may be allowed to make it again?!?! 😉


Lori August 19, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Thanks for my additional cellulite!!;) all I can say is YUM YUM!!


Becky August 29, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Do you think this would work with a boxed cake mix?


lmachell August 30, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Yes, absolutely!


tousha May 10, 2014 at 6:58 pm

I used betty crocker butter recipe cake and it turned out awesome… better then the ice cream by far


Brenda August 30, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I love butter pecan ice cream, so I can’t wait to make this one! Looks wonderful 🙂


Averie @ Averie Cooks October 14, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Laura this cake is gorgeous! I just pinned it (so I can also remember to put it on my to-make list!) I love buttery cakes like this one and thanks for the link to your fave white cake recipe.


lmachell October 14, 2012 at 6:54 pm

You’re welcome! I hope you enjoy it : )


Taskeen October 19, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Hi, i was so inspired by this recipe. But it really didnt come out nice! I got away with amazing decoration but the cake itself was very dry, and compact. I used my regular flop proof sponge cake recipe and added the pecans. but it wasnt good at all!
didnt even enjoy the frosting.

any ideas why it didnt come out right?


lmachell October 19, 2012 at 5:59 pm

I have noooo idea… especially since you used a cake recipe that you find dependable. The cake recipe provided is a little dry, that’s why i suggest using one you enjoy. So, if that was one that usually works, I don’t know why it wouldn’t this time. Adding nuts doesn’t change the texture of a baked cake. Unless you used the full amount of nuts (made for a 3 layer cake) for a 2 layer cake, that may make it a little nut dense. And as far as the frosting, I don’t know what to tell you- it’s a very standard cream cheese frosting recipe.


Sierra Brown October 24, 2012 at 8:16 pm

I absolutely love this recipe!! I tried it with the favorite white cake you suggested and it came out perfect!!
I am attempting to make a cupcake version and am wondering how would you recommend storing the cupcakes so they dont dry out if I were baking them the night before?

Thanks again for the amazing recipe!!!


lmachell October 28, 2012 at 9:21 am

I am SO happy to hear that!! I would just frost the cupcakes as you normally would and then just store them, covered air tight, in the refrigerator. About two hours or more before you plan on serving them, take them out and let them come to room temperature.


Amber November 4, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I used cake flour and it made 24 wonderful cup cakes.


lmachell November 4, 2012 at 7:25 pm

So glad to hear that Amber!


April November 9, 2012 at 2:48 am

Hi Laura,

The cake looks so scrumptious! I was looking over the ingredients, and sort of wondered if you had tried swapping the cup of milk for a cup of sour cream?

I dont recall where I had read about the sour cream trick, but was wondering if you had ever tried that instead, and if you had – did it improve the moistness of the cake?

Im eager to try your recipes – im debating to use your white cake recipe or try this original version 🙂


lmachell November 10, 2012 at 9:41 am

I have not tried that myself, but I would be interested to see if it worked… let me know if you test it out!


tonya November 23, 2012 at 8:00 pm

I made this for Thanksgiving this year. I am still picking confetti out of my hair.


Sue December 7, 2012 at 3:47 am

I tried this out because it looked so good, and I received a kitchen-aid mixer for my birthday! I loved it, and it came out perfect, just like it was supposed to, even the frosting. I found the cake to be just a tad dry, but my “official” cake tester said he loved it and the frosting kept it from being dry. I went a little light on the frosting, and also only did a two layer – even though I used two cups of pecans. It smelled devine and tasted as good! Thanks for sharing!


MzMiller January 15, 2013 at 3:08 am

Goodness..Im five months prego and even my baby started kicking after me seeing this one. This cake looks tastylicious!!! Will be making it!!! Thank you so much for sharing this!!


Jennifer January 24, 2013 at 10:03 pm

First–I want to say I found the frosting to be PLENTY even for a three layer cake. I didn’t put a whole lot in between layers because I was nervous because of people’s comments, but I put a very thick layer around outside (even thicker than I normally would) and had about 1/2 cup frosting left over.

I made the cake with two alterations. I added about 2 tbs of olive oil after mixing in the eggs and I used whipping cream instead of milk. It came out WONDERFULLY moist.

Great recipe, delicious cake!!!

PS, made it with fresh gather pecans–yumm-o!


Michele March 1, 2013 at 4:54 am

This cake was really tasty. I made it for my husband’s birthday party. Everyone loved it. The cake itself was a little dry but no one seemed to mind. I think I will use a different layer recipe and add butter flavoring instead of vanilla.


Ann March 6, 2013 at 12:39 am

The pecans 1.5-2 cups are poured into the finished batter?


lmachell March 6, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Yes, you mix them into the cake batter and they are baked into the cake.


Emily March 10, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I was so looking forward to making this cake, but I’m kind of disappointed with the result! As you warned us about, the cake did come out a bit dry…but mine also came out quite flat, barely two layers. Not sure what happened! Delicious frosting though. 🙂


Tea April 11, 2013 at 9:29 pm

I noticed you said the cake was a little dry and I was wondering if you had any tips or tricks to make the cake moister?


lmachell April 16, 2013 at 3:53 am

If I was going to tweak this particular cake recipe, I would just use less flour maybe. Or maybe 1/4 cup extra milk… but to play it safe I would just use a favorite white cake recipe or yellow cake recipe.


SK August 1, 2015 at 11:19 pm

Hi I’m reviewing the comments about this cake as I just saw the recipe. I bake quite often. I would suggest buttermilk instead of regular milk to help with moisture and cake flour


Elizabeth White April 21, 2013 at 1:16 am

Incredible! May I share the photo and recipe on my facebook page, with credit and link to your blog post? I tried to share via the share button and it wouldn’t show a thumbnail photo, for some reason.


lmachell April 28, 2013 at 10:45 am

Of course! I would love that- thank you!


SYLVIA SALVATORE April 22, 2013 at 3:51 pm



lmachell April 28, 2013 at 10:46 am

I am so happy that you didn’t have any problems with the recipe- I bet adding more milk probably helped. Good idea!


Allonyah May 2, 2013 at 5:05 am

I JUST baked this cake tonight for my husband and I & I may say it was DELICIOUS! Perfectly sweetened & the cake wasn’t too dry at all! Definitely will use this recipe in the future. Thank You


lmachell May 7, 2013 at 7:20 pm

SO happy your cake wasn’t dry! There is nothing worse than that- especially when you put all that effort into making a nice layer cake.


liz May 15, 2013 at 10:06 am

This is an all time family favorite. We know it as Italian Wedding Cake. Absolutely Divine. Always a party pleaser throught the years cannot have a family gathering without one for over 30 years.


Ashlee May 17, 2013 at 2:45 am

Have everything to make this cake!! Can not wait to try it!! Going to use a little whipping cream and see how the batter looks 🙂 Hope and pray its moist!! thanx for posting!


Ashlee May 17, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Just finished the cake and found it to be sort of plain, I was really hoping for the butter pecan flavor. Didnt think it was dry 🙂 Frosting to me too was just basic but the toasted pecans were nice 🙂 Thanx for posting! enjoyed making it


Karen June 8, 2013 at 7:15 pm

I made this today in chocolate and added a couple heaping TBS of sour cream!! I used the same frosting!! It is wonderful!!


lmachell June 9, 2013 at 9:13 am

Good idea with the sour cream! I bet that really helped the texture.


Makaela August 14, 2014 at 10:27 pm

Sm-dakcab what I was looking for-ty!


Bren June 16, 2013 at 8:33 pm

I just made an emergency run to the store for ingredients to use in this cake.
I can’t wait to make this for my husband later today!
He loooove a Butter Pecan ice cream, & I love any recipe that calls for “Butter!”
HA! I hope mine turns out great, and not too dry.
This will be the perfect touch for my husband to
Enjoy on Father’s Day!
Thank You soo much for sharing!


lmachell June 17, 2013 at 8:23 am

I hope it’s not dry too!! Good luck and Happy Father’s Day to your Husband!


Sharron June 21, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Someone said the cake did not have enough butter pecan taste. I wonder if you could use half butter pecan flavoring and half vanilla, if that would help. It sounds wonderful and I plan to make it sometime.


lmachell June 21, 2013 at 7:20 pm

I’m sure that would help. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as butter pecan flavoring.


Bren June 23, 2013 at 1:00 am


I made this cake and added 2 TBSP. Vegetable oil
Which made the cake moist. It was such a hit, and had great
Flavor! Can’t wait to try more of your recipes!


lmachell June 23, 2013 at 6:35 am

That’s a great idea! I’m glad that it worked out for you : )


Susan Middlestead June 28, 2013 at 2:21 pm

How do you toast the pecans? Am I missing the instructions?


Susan Middlestead June 28, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Oh shoot, I just found them. Sorry! Can’t wait to try this for my husband’s birthday!


lmachell June 28, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Hope you like it!


Michelle walker August 8, 2013 at 11:37 pm

Just made this cake. Thought i followed instructions perfectly but my cake turned out very flat. Any suggestions as what i did wrong. Should i have folded in the milk and dry mixture like i did the pecans? Please help.


lmachell August 10, 2013 at 8:56 pm

It shouldn’t come out flat… maybe your leavening is old and inactive?


Cynthia November 20, 2013 at 4:23 am

Is the icing real sweet like buttercream or more on the lighter side?


Bertha Wray November 20, 2013 at 1:35 pm

I am making cupcakes for a friends b-day. I added 1 tab. of oil & halfed the recipe.


Allonyah November 28, 2013 at 5:36 am

I love love love this cake and it has now become my husbands favorite cake. The first time I made the cake it was PERFECT. However I just made it again and now it’s super light and fluffy 🙁 lol I wanted it more dry like the first time. I have no idea what happened . I live in Wyoming and it is high altitude . Do you know what I may need to adjust?


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susan May 28, 2014 at 2:00 am

Cake was awsome i used some butter milk and sour cream……..yum


susan May 28, 2014 at 2:02 am

Awsome cake i used butter milk and sour cream…….


liliana July 27, 2014 at 8:19 am

I was wondering if you can do ous all a favor, if you can do a video of this cake? Is that I want to do this cake so bad and I want to see how you make it exactly step by step so my cake comes out perfect..Please; )


Ayana Dawkins December 21, 2014 at 8:52 pm

I made this for thanksgiving and my family loved it now I have to make two for Christmas 🙂


Laura February 21, 2015 at 8:53 pm

i made this cake for a special dinner… Oh my goodness it was sheer happiness!!! Neither my husband or the hostesses husband eat cake, they both went back for seconds!! I even left the cake there for him to finish off. He was one happy camper!
This is a repeat cake over and over


Michael Ann October 6, 2015 at 2:25 am

This looks absolutely amazing! I have printed up the recipe to give it a try, thank you!


Delma October 18, 2015 at 9:13 am

Hi. This is certainly a gorgeous cake , and toasting the pecans makes a huge difference, but it is far to sweet!
Delma ( UK )


Mary October 24, 2015 at 3:18 am

This Pecan Cake looks soooo good, I’m going to make this one over the weekend.
Thanks Laura !


Luisa November 6, 2015 at 10:32 pm

Since I don’t have the round cake pans I could just use a rectangular pan right?? Or would it come out better with round pans


Dana November 20, 2015 at 2:03 pm

I would love to make this cake for Thanksgiving but have to travel 4 hrs. Do you think it will travel ok or melt in the car???


Monica January 25, 2016 at 2:46 am

Hi Laura! I really love pecans and dying to try this recipe but I have a small problem.. I have a small oven and it can only fit one baking pan at a time.. will it be ok if I let the rest of the batter sit at room temp while baking? Thank you!


Mary February 14, 2016 at 7:24 pm

I want to make a sheet cake from this recipe, doesn’t seem like it would be an issue. But I have to grind pecans to almost a powder because of dental issues. Should I use the pecan powder as part of flour measurement to prevent excess dryness? Especially since it tends to be dry anyway.


Susan April 1, 2016 at 11:04 pm

This cake is terrific and tastes great. As regular milk has less fat and will culminate in a drier cake, I used one cup of buttermilk. I also added 1/4 tsp almond extract. I then added an extra egg yolk which yielded a richer and moister cake. The calories, of course, increase with these additions!


Crystal October 22, 2016 at 2:29 pm

This recipe is amazing. I made this cake twice and it was a HUGE hit with everyone. I garnished the first cake with candied pecans, and mixed in crushed candied pecans in the second cake. Both were awesome!


Jennifer May 13, 2017 at 3:06 am

I’ve made this a few times both as a cake and cupcakes. It’s an amazing tasting cake and frosting.


Toni Duffie June 26, 2017 at 9:19 pm

I have made in a few times and it turned out very moist! My customer’s love it. Thanks for the recipe!!!


Margaret December 16, 2017 at 3:23 pm

Did you uses salt or unsalted butter you didn’t SAY


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