Very Rich Butter Cake

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 This very rich butter cake recipe post is now updated with step-by-step instructions and tips. Whether you’re a novice or experienced baker, you can easily bake up and savour this marvellously moist and super buttery cake.

rich butter cake

{Update} Dear readers, I hear you! You’ve been telling me how you all absolutely love the flavour of this very rich butter cake, and would love to see how it’s really done. So I’ve now included step-by-step photos, with more detailed tips and instructions. I hope these will offer greater clarity and precision to your bakes.

Which also means that this post just got a whole lot longer but so much better, I promise! It’s so important to me that you can bake up this wonderfully rich butter cake with ease and confidence. Skip right to the end of this post, just before the recipe, for the updates!

Asian butter cakes are super moist and buttery!

This rich butter cake is reminiscent of the traditional Nonya tea cakes of older days. It is a traditional Asian recipe from the cookbook of the late Mrs Leong Yee Soo, one of Singapore’s finest Peranakan culinary matriachs. It seems to have withstood the test of time, and remains a beloved classic that hasn’t lost its appeal nor fallen out of favour.

rich butter cake

This butter cake is decadent, marvellously moist, and super buttery. Just sweet enough and with the lightest hint of vanilla. A simple, back-to-basics butter cake but so very delicious. It’s really hard to resist a slice!

This could be your dream butter cake!

This rich butter cake reminds me of the times when I used to have these crazy cravings for really rich Asian-style butter cakes. You know, the kind that leaves a buttery grease on your fingers holding a slice. I know! May not be heart-healthy, but certainly taste-worthy!

When I was in Canada, I couldn’t find any butter cake quite like it. Not even in the popular bakeries in Chinatown. Out of longing, I tried making my own from scratch. This was way before the era of the internet and the world wide web. Before I was able to afford my first recipe book. And when the only cooking shows I was even remotely aware of were ‘Wok with Yan’ and ‘The Martha Stewart Show’.

slices of rich butter cake

I was renting the basement of a house at the time as a university student. It had half a kitchenette and three little windows. Actually, they were more like half-windows. My landlady’s lawn always seemed to grow faster than she could keep up with the mowing.

I barely had more than one or two large mixing bowls. And a long wooden spoon that served as a paddle beater, whisk and spatula all rolled into one. It was a blessing that my landlady’s oven even worked!

Trying earnestly to recall how my father made his butter cakes, I had to estimate all the ingredients. I had next to nothing for a recipe, save for sheer will and determination. My amateur attempts were less than successful.

Though the butter cakes turned out perfectly edible, it just wasn’t my dream version! Nonetheless, I was delighted that I could tuck into my first homemade butter cake. Every bite, morsel and crumb was savoured!

rich butter cake

Options for making this butter cake

A word of caution, this is a indeed a rich butter cake, with emphasis on ‘very rich‘! But it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try it. In fact, all the more reason for you to dive in! It really is a dreamy, delicious butter cake! 

Reducing the amount of butter

I’ve included a reduced butter amount next to the original recipe amount. This way, you can make a choice between making a ‘very rich’ or ‘rich’ version .

Using different sized cake pans

This recipe makes enough batter for one large 20-cm (8-inch) square cake.If you want to bake in loaf pans, there is enough cake batter for 2 loaf cakes. Halve the ingredients if you want a regular sized cake or one loaf. 

How to make rich butter cake – Step-by-step

Butter_Cake_1C

To start, have all your ingredients at room temperature.

Now, depending on where you live, room temperature could be anything from a cool, even chilly, kitchen, where it’s 18°C inside, in the middle of winter somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere. Or it could be a searing hot and humid 33°C if you live near the Equator like here in Singapore! But for most intensive purposes, it is widely regarded as between 19°C to 21°C.

First, dice the butter when cold and let it come to room temperature.

Chilled butter cuts and slices easily, so have it weighed and cubed once out of the chiller. It’ll probably need 20 to 25 minutes to come to room temperature, so you can go on to prep other ingredients.

If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, you can easily gauge when butter is ready for creaming by pressing your index finger lightly on its surface. The butter should give way slightly, and you’ll see a slight indentation. It should feel cool to the touch, yet warm enough to spread.

If it starts to get too soft before you’re ready to use it, pop it back into the chiller. But only just long enough for it to firm up a little. Remember to take it out ahead of time, probably when you’re starting to whip up the egg whites.

Meanwhile, let’s get those eggs cracking.

If your eggs are chilled, this is when you’ll want to separate the whites and yolks. It’s just a lot easier. Separate cleanly and carefully. Do not let a single streak of yolk taint your egg whites or else, the whites will not whip up (yolk=fat=grease).

On this note, it’s also very important that the mixer bowl you’ll be using to whip up your whites is dry and completely grease-free. Once separated, eggs should be allowed to come to room temperature before whipping. Cold eggs will take longer to whip, and also do not whip as well as eggs at room temperature (which means less trapped air bubbles = less volume = denser batter).

Sift the flour and salt together – 2x

Next, weigh and sift flour and salt …twice, please.  Try sifting from a height a couple of inches above the bowl, to incorporate more air into the flour. If your salt is coarse and it stays on your sifter, just tip it over into your sifted flour.

In a small bowl, combine the extracts and brandy (optional).

Separately, prepare the condensed milk.

Now, let’s whip up the egg whites.

In a dry and grease-free mixer bowl, pour in the egg whites. Using a hand-held or electric mixer, whip on medium-high speed until the whites start to turn foamy like soapy bubbles.  

Stop the mixer, and spread the baking powder over the egg whites. Turn the mixer back on to medium-high speed, and whip to incorporate the baking powder. Then add the sugar in a slow and steady stream, a little at a time. Continue whipping at medium-high speed until whites reach just stiff peaks. This may take several minutes.

Whip in the egg yolks.

Lightly beat yolks before adding to the whipped egg mixture. Reduce mixer speed to medium. Drizzle in the yolks, a little at a time, and whip until well incorporated. Continue to whip for 1 minute after all the yolks have been added. The whipped egg mixture should be quite thick and fluffy at this point, and tinged evenly to a pale cream colour.

Next, beat the butter.

Now, fit your mixer with the paddle attachment. In the cleaned mixer bowl, put in the butter which should now be at room temperature, as well as the condensed milk. On medium speed, beat together. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat until the butter mixture turns a pale colour, and is light and fluffy like whipped cream.

Then, add extracts and liquor (optional).

Beat for 15 seconds to combine well.

At this point, pour in 1 cup of the whipped egg mixture and beat until well incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Last, fold in sifted flour-salt mixture and remaining whipped egg mixture.

Here, you have two ways of going about this.

❶ For the more experienced baker, you can tip in all the flour followed by the remaining egg mixture, altogether at once. I do it this way as I feel that I can achieve a well-combined batter with fewer folds.

Fewer folds will mean the batter will be less worked, and thus minimise the loss of trapped air bubbles. I know it will seem like an enormous exercise to fold all that whipped egg mixture together with the flour, but this batter does become manageable fairly quickly. Be sure to fold until the batter appears homogeneous and has an even consistency.

❷ Alternatively, you could fold in the flour mixture and the remaining egg mixture in 2 batches, alternating between the two. Keep your folding as light and gentle as possible, folding until batter is well combined and smooth. Your batter will feel a little heavy at this final stage, but is of pourable consistency and can be tipped out into the greased pan.

All that’s left to do is BAKE!! Yayyy!!!

Once the batter is poured into the greased pan, spread the batter to cover all the corners of the pan. Level the surface evenly. Give the cake pan a few gentle taps on the counter to get rid of air pockets.

Bake on an oven rack placed in the centre of the oven for 10 mins at 175°C. Then reduce oven temp to 135°C and continue to bake for another 1 hour to 1 hr 15 mins, or until done. 

This cake enjoys a slow, long bake as it is a pretty big cake, after all! So do not be tempted to remove the cake until you’ve checked thoroughly for doneness.

The baking times suggested here are guidelines, as each oven behaves differently. In fact, I recently replaced my old oven with a brand new one, and it seems to take me at least 20 minutes longer to bake this exact same recipe.

How to check that the cake is done baking

So I usually use a couple of methods to assess when a cake is done baking.

  • Use your sight. Check to see if the cake surface has browned evenly to a deep golden brown. Also see if the centre of the cake has fully risen and if the cake has shrunk from the sides of the pan.
  • Use your fingertips. Press lightly in the centre of the cake. When the cake feels firm to the touch and springs back, it is done.
  • Use a bamboo or metal skewer. Insert a bamboo or metal skewer in the centre of the cake. The cake is done if it emerges free of sticky batter.

Here are more awesome butter cake recipes to inspire your next bake:

Tried this recipe? I’d love to see! Remember to share your pics on Instagram and tag @foodelicacy or #foodelicacy.

Save this recipe!

Very Rich Butter Cake

Very Rich Butter Cake

Yield: 20 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

A simple and classic Nonya recipe for a very rich, moist and decadent butter cake with a light hint of vanilla flavour. (Adapted from source: 'The Best of Singapore Cooking' by Mrs Leong Yee Soo). Makes one 20-cm (8-inch) square cake or 2 loaf cakes.

Ingredients

  • 310 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 10 egg whites
  • 310 g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 10 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 455 g butter (or use 350 g for a less rich version)
  • 6 tbsp condensed milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 drops almond essence
  • 2 tsp brandy

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175 deg C (350 deg F). Place oven rack in the bottom one-third of the oven. Lightly grease the base and sides of a 20-cm (8-inch) cake pan with butter, and sprinkle lightly with flour. Tap out the excess flour.
  2. Sift flour with salt twice.
  3. In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip egg whites on medium-high speed (speed 4 on my Kitchen Aid mixer). Once whites get foamy, stop the mixer and sprinkle baking powder over the whites. Turn on the mixer, and whip to mix well. Add sugar, a little at a time, in a steady stream. Continue whipping on medium-high speed until thick or just about stiff peak stage. Reduce speed, and add the beaten egg yolks, a little at a time. Continue whipping for 1 minute after all the yolks have been added, until thick and creamy. Pour out into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Clean the mixer bowl and dry thoroughly. Place butter and condensed milk in the bowl. Using the electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat on medium speed (speed 3) until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add almond essence, vanilla extract and brandy (if using), and beat for 15 seconds until well blended.
  5. Add one cup of egg mixture and beat for 30 seconds till well mixed. Fold in the flour-salt mixture lightly together with the rest of the egg mixture, all at once. Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Level the surface evenly.
  6. Bake at 175 deg C (350 deg F) for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 135 deg C (275 deg F) and bake for a further 60 to 75 minutes, or until a metal skewer inserted into the centre of the cake emerges free of batter. When cake is done, remove pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 337Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 143mgSodium: 351mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 0gSugar: 19gProtein: 5g

All nutritional values are approximate only.

166 Comments

  1. Hi Lynette, thank you for trying this out! Not to worry, I’ll try my best to help you sort out the process (my recipe post also shows the step-by-step pictures for easier reference):
    (1) I would recommend you halve the recipe. The original amount makes a lot of batter, so halving it might help you manage each step in the process with more ease and confidence. In this case, you can bake in an 8″ round pan. The original amount was too much for the pan, and needed to be baked in a 8″ square pan.
    (2) Bake at 175°C (10 mins) then lower to 135°C to continue baking until done.If you halve the recipe, the baking time will be slightly shorter. I would recommend checking from 45 minutes, then every 5 minutes after until done.
    (3) FIRST, add the whipped egg batter (1/2 cup only, if you halve the recipe) into the creamed butter mixture and beat until well combined. NEXT, add ALL flour in one go, as well as ALL the remaining whipped egg batter. THEN, fold gently by hand until the flour and egg batter are well incorporated with the creamed butter mixture. If you prefer, you can add 1/2 the flour first, followed by 1/2 the remaining egg batter, then all the remaining flour, followed by all the remaining egg batter. The important thing is to fold gently but thoroughly, until you don’t see any streaks of flour in the batter. The batter should look homogeneous and be of an even consistency. It’s hard to say how long this will take, but it shouldn’t take too long. It’s best to judge from the feel and appearance of the batter. I bake often, so for me, the folding part takes under 30 seconds.
    (4) Could either be that the butter was not creamed till light enough, OR the folding was not thorough enough, so you might have ended up with uneven consistency in the batter.
    (5) Not sure why it would end up spongy, but likely a result of uneven mixing or combining during the steps where you add flour and whipped egg batter to the creamed butter mixture.
    (6) If you do use all-purpose flour, you will need baking powder to help it rise.
    Don’t give up, Lynette! This is actually a medium level of difficulty recipe to start with, so it’s common to experience some issues especially if you don’t bake often. That’s how I started too! Just halve the recipe, and it will be so much more manageable! Wishing you every success! Do share how it works out the next time, ya?

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