This very rich butter cake is decadent, extra moist, and super buttery. Vanilla and almond extracts, brandy and condensed milk create a really special flavour that’s not too sweet.
This is my favourite butter cake for 3 reasons: it’s extra rich, extra moist and extra buttery! That’s a lot of extras.
When I first shared this butter cake recipe, it didn’t quite work out for some readers. Now that’s on me because I should have known better.
While most standard butter cakes start with creaming butter and sugar, beating in the eggs, and alternately adding the dry and wet ingredients, this butter cake recipe is a bit more involved than that.
So I fleshed out the recipe into 8 easy steps with photos, useful tips, and detailed instructions.
Then, I created a recipe video. And as soon as I got all of this nailed down, this butter cake started receiving 4 – 5 star reviews. The results my readers are getting now are nothing short of amazing!
Be sure to watch the video as this recipe is a bit more work than most butter cakes, but totally worth it. I promise you, when done right, this butter cake is 100% sheer delight!
The gold standard of Asian butter cakes
This very rich butter cake is a beloved classic reminiscent of traditional Nonya tea cakes. It’s an heirloom recipe by Mrs. Leong Yee Soo, one of our finest Peranakan culinary matriarchs.
Her cookbook titled ‘Best of Singapore Cooking’ has been my culinary bible since the first time I fired up a wok, bought a cake mixer, and blitz cooked a full 5-course meal.
But this butter cake also has a special place in my heart because it was my Dad’s favorite. He had a good eye for modest looking but delicious home-styled cakes, and once told me, ’Don’t be fooled by their humble appearance – they’re the best tasting ones!’. Dad knew best.
What readers say about this butter cake…
“I made this butter (cake) and it tasted so buttery, moist and fluffy! I was surprised that it is a really tall cake. I will make this again. Your recipe instruction is very clear. It is really good!” – Maggie
“I tried it and it tastes amaaaazingggggg!!! I’m just a beginner baker, but this recipe is soo easy and very detailed.” – Nurul
“I only baked it in a tiny oven toaster lol (no oven at home now) but my cake came out super yummy! I think I got the perfect texture and moistness since I followed all the tips and steps given by you carefully. I can’t wait to bake this again with a proper oven!” – Ming
Frequently asked questions
- Can I reduce the amount of butter? This is called a very rich butter cake for a reason but if you’re thinking of your cholesterol levels or watching your weight (even if you don’t need to), you can make a slightly less rich version by reducing the butter to roughly 1.5 sticks of butter (350 gm).
- Can I bake in different pans? Absolutely. Have a read in the section below on ‘How to bake with different pans’.
- Can I add nuts and fruit? For added texture and flavour, mix in some roughly chopped nuts like walnuts, pecans, almonds or hazelnuts. Add a fruity twist with grated lemon or orange zest, your favourite dried fruit or a fruit mix including raisins, currants, cranberries, prunes or glace cherries.
- Can I make a marble cake? To turn this into a marble cake, set aside one-third of the cake batter. Sift in 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder (Dutch-process or natural) and stir lightly into the mixture. Then marble with the plain and cocoa batters as desired.
- Can I skip the brandy? Yes, you can replace with the same amount of dairy or non-dairy milk, lemon or orange juice.
- Can I frost this cake? This cake tastes wonderful with a great cream cheese frosting, coffee buttercream, classic chocolate buttercream or a simple lemon glaze.
How to bake with different pans
This recipe makes a lot of cake batter. You can bake with any one of the following:
- 8-inch square cake pan (8-cup capacity) measuring 8 x 8 x 3 inches (20 x 20 x 7.5 cm)
- 8.5-inch loaf pan (6-cup capacity) measuring 8.5 x.4.5 x 2.5 (21 x 11 x 6 cm)
- 9-inch loaf pan (8-cup capacity) measuring 9 x 5 x 3 inches (24.4 x 7.1 x 14.7 cm)
- 9-inch bundt pan (10-cup capacity) measuring 9 x 3 inches (23 x 8 cm).
- 9-inch round pan (8-cup capacity) measuring 9 x 2 inches (23 x 5 cm).
Ingredients for butter cake
- Butter. Use good quality unsalted butter. If using salted butter, omit the salt in the recipe. Make sure you start with room temperature butter. It’s easier to cut cold butter, then let it stand at room temperature until slightly softened. It’s ready for creaming when it gives way when pressed with a finger, but doesn’t feel greasy.
- Eggs. Use large eggs, each weighing between 60 to 65 gm. Like butter, let eggs come to room temperature. Room temperature eggs will whip up quicker and fluffier than cold eggs.
- Egg whites and yolks. Separate the yolks and whites when eggs are cold, taking care not to get any yolk in the whites. Otherwise, the whites will not whip up stiff.
- Condensed milk. Condensed milk adds a creamy, milky sweetness and contributes moistness as it has a high sugar content.
- Sugar. Use caster sugar or fine granulated sugar.
- Flour. Use plain or all-purpose flour. You can also use cake flour, which will give a more tender crumb if that’s what you like. Sift the flour twice with the salt to loosen it and to evenly distribute the salt.
- Baking powder. Gives the cake it’s lift, as it’s the only leavening agent used.
- Extract. I love the combination of vanilla and almond extracts. Wherever possible, always use extracts over artificial essences for bolder, deeper flavour in the cake.
- Brandy (optional). I personally love brandy in my butter cakes, though you’ll hardly notice its there. Feel free to omit it for a family-friendly version.
How to make a very rich butter cake in 8 steps
Before you start. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and position an oven rack in the lower half of the oven.
Grease the sides and base of the pan with softened butter. Dust lightly with flour and tap out the excess. Line the base with baking paper (this is optional – I don’t always do it).
Step 1: Sift the flour and salt twice
Sift from a height a couple of inches above the bowl, to incorporate more air into the flour. (Note: omit the salt if you use salted butter.)
Step 2: Whip up the egg whites with baking powder and sugar
Important: Start with a dry and grease-free mixer bowl. Egg whites will not whip up stiff if there’s even a trace of fat in it (eg. a speck of egg yolk), in the bowl, or on the beaters.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or using handheld beaters, whip whites on medium-high speed until they turn foamy. Stop the mixer, and sprinkle the baking powder. Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and whip for a few seconds to incorporate the baking powder.
- Gradually add sugar, a little at a time. Continue whipping at medium-high speed until the whites are just about stiff (please see what this looks like below, or watch the video). This may take several minutes.
Step 3. Whip in the egg yolks
- Lightly beat the egg yolks with a fork. Start the mixer on low-medium speed, drizzle in the yolks bit by bit until well incorporated. Whip for another 10 – 15 seconds after beating in all the yolks. The whipped egg mixture should feel thick and fluffy at this point, and look a pale shade of yellow.
- Transfer the mixture to another mixing bowl, and wash and dry your mixer bowl for the next step.
Step 4. Cream butter and condensed milk
Switch out the whisk for a paddle attachment. In the clean mixer bowl, beat butter and condensed milk on medium speed. Stop a few times to scrape the butter down the sides and off the bottom of the bowl.
Beat until the butter mixture feels light and fluffy on your spatula and turns pale in colour.
Step 5. Beat in extracts and brandy.
Add the vanilla extract, almond extract and brandy (optional). Beat for 15 seconds to combine well.
Step 6. Beat in the eggs mixture.
Pour in 1 cup of the whipped eggs mixture and beat until well incorporated, about 30 seconds.
Step 7. Fold in flour mixture and whipped eggs mixture.
Tip in all the flour mixture, followed by the remaining whipped eggs mixture. You can mix it all together in a stand mixer or by hand, to get both the mixtures to combine well.
I personally prefer using the stand mixer – I recommend doing it this way if you’re trying this recipe for the first time.
Method 1: Stand mixer or handheld beaters
- Do not start the mixer yet. First fold lightly by hand for a bit. You don’t need to get it well mixed – just enough to get the flour, eggs and butter mixtures to start combining.
- Then start the mixer on the lowest speed. Beat until the batter looks smooth and even, about 20 – 25 seconds. Stop the mixer and remove the bowl.
- Finish folding by hand. I like finishing up this way, so I can feel if the batter is at the same consistency throughout. You want to be sure that all the butter is mixed in, as butter tends to sit heavy towards the bottom of the bowl.
Method 2: By hand
This is a huge batter so it can feel like an enormous exercise to fold all the eggs mixture together with the flour. But this batter does become manageable fairly quickly.
- Tip in all the flour followed by the rest of the egg mixture. Start folding by hand with a spatula, gently scooping the batter from the bottom of the bowl towards the top like making the letter ’J’.
- Alternatively, you can fold in the flour mixture and the remaining egg mixture in 2 batches, alternating between the two.
- Make sure you keep folding until the batter appears homogeneous and is at the same consistency throughout. Keep the mixing light and gentle, until the batter is smooth and well combined.
Step 8: Bake!
The batter feels a little heavy at this final stage, and that’s perfectly normal. Pour into the greased pan, spread the batter and level the surface evenly with an offset spatula. Give the cake pan a few firm taps on the counter to get rid of air pockets.
Bake for 10 mins at 175°C, then reduce oven temp to 135°C. Continue to bake for another 1 hour to 1 hr 15 mins or until done.
How to check that the cake is done baking
- Colour and appearance. 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.
- Firmness and spring. Press lightly in the centre of the cake. When the cake feels firm to the touch and springs back, it has baked through.
- Check for sticky batter. Insert a bamboo or metal skewer into the centre of the cake. The cake is done if it emerges free of sticky batter. If you’re at the end of the suggested baking time and there’s still some sticky batter, extend the baking time, checking every 5 mins.
The baking times suggested here are guidelines, as each oven behaves differently. When in doubt, give the cake a little extra baking time and check every few minutes.
This cake enjoys a slow, long bake – it’s a pretty big cake after all! Do not be tempted to take the pan out of the oven until the cake is completely baked through.
When done, remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Release the cake from the pan and set it on a wire rack to cool completely.
How to store this butter cake
Because this butter cake is super moist, it will keep well in a positively air-tight container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days. Pop it into the chiller to extend its freshness, and it will keep well for a week.
This cake also freezes well. Wrap in a few layers of cling wrap and a final layer of aluminium or tin foil. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
The day before, thaw the cake (still sealed in its wrapping) overnight in the refrigerator. About an hour before serving, take the cake out, remove the wrapping, and let it come to room temperature.
Here are more awesome butter cake recipes to inspire your next bake:
- Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Cinnamon Streusel Topping
- Banana Butter Cake
- Pound Cake – An Indulgence You’ll More than Love
- Indonesian Prune Layer Cake
- Coffee Walnut Cake
Tried this recipe? I’d love to see! Remember to share your pics on Instagram and tag @foodelicacy or #foodelicacy.
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Very Rich Butter Cake
- 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 unsalted butter cut into cubes and softened at room temperature (you can use 350 g for a less rich version)
- 6 tbsp condensed milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 drops almond essence
- 2 tsp brandy optional
- Before you start. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and position an oven rack in the lower half of the oven so that when you place the pan, it will be in the center of the oven. Grease the base and sides of a 20 x 20 x 8 cm (8 x 8 x 3 in) cake pan with butter. Dust lightly with flour and tap out the excess.
- Sift the dry ingredients: Sift flour with salt twice (omit salt if using salted butter).
- Whip up the egg whites: In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk or with handheld beaters, whip egg whites on medium-high speed (speed 4 on Kitchen Aid mixer). Once whites get foamy, stop the mixer and sprinkle baking powder. Turn the mixer on, and whip for 5 – 10 seconds to combine well. Next, add sugar a little bit at a time and continue whipping at medium-high speed until the egg whites become thick, glossy, and form stiff peaks.
- Beat in the egg yolks: Beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork. Now reduce the mixer speed, and drizzle in the yolks, 2 to 3 tbsps at a time. After adding all the yolks, continue whipping for 30 seconds until thick and creamy. Pour out into another large mixing bowl. Clean and dry the mixer bowl thoroughly for the next step.
- Cream butter and condensed milk: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or with handheld beaters, beat butter and condensed milk on medium speed (speed 3 on my Kitchen Aid mixer) until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Beat in extracts and brandy (optional): Add the vanilla extract, almond extract, and brandy (if using) and beat for 15 seconds to combine well.
- Beat in the whipped eggs mixture: Add one cup of the whipped eggs mixture and beat for 30 seconds until well mixed.
- Fold in the flour mixture and remaining eggs mixture: Tip in all the flour mixture, followed by the rest of the whipped eggs mixture all at once. Without starting the mixer, fold lightly by hand to combine the wet and dry mixtures. Then start the mixer at the lowest speed. Beat until the batter is smooth and even, about 20 – 25 seconds. Stop the mixer and remove the bowl. Finish folding the cake batter by hand, until it is smooth and is at the same consistency throughout. (Alternatively, you can fold the batter entirely by hand.)
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Spread it to the sides and corners of the pan, and level the surface evenly with an offset spatula. Bake at 175°C (350° F) for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 135°C (275° F) and bake for a further 60 to 75 minutes. Note: This cake needs to bake slowly and for a longer period of time.
- To test for doneness, press the center of the cake gently with your fingers. If it feels firm and springs back, it is done. Also, test with a metal skewer by inserting into the centre of the cake. It should come out clean without any sticky batter. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack. Let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.