Whipped Brown Butter & Vanilla Birthday Cake with Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

Now that’s a mouthful, both on the page and in real life.

Our friend Marica had another birthday and, as our tradition goes, we had the pleasure of making the annual birthday cake.  She usually opts for chocolate cake with white frosting and, as such, we have made Devil’s Food Cake or Red Velvet Cake, rotating between the two, for the past many years.  This year, however, she declared that she wanted a white cake.  Say what?  Since I’m always up for  baking something new and different, I was quick to oblige.

She had no thoughts on the type of frosting and left it up to us to surprise her.  We polled our friend Justin, who would also be in attendance, and he voted for chocolate, trying to convince us that this was what the birthday girl would prefer. Turns out that this was his choice and the furthest thing from her mind.  Nice try and no chocolate for you!  It was her birthday after all.

After much deliberation, we decided on white cake with lemon curd between the layers and a lemon frosting.  However, the white cake we chose is so much more than just white cake.  It is made with brown butter that gets whipped forever in my favorite kitchen appliance, the Cuisinart stand mixer.  The recipe comes from The Sweet Life, the Chanterelle dessert cookbook, and honestly is the only white cake that I will ever make.  It is moist, light and fluffy.

I then found a recipe for Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting.  The frosting gets its lemon flavor from lemon curd, which I had never made.  The curd is essentially egg yolks,  lemon zest, juice and sugar and has a bit of a tart, tangy taste with a pudding-like consistency.

So, we baked the cake, slathered the lemon curd between the layers and then finished it off with the lemon swiss meringue frosting.

Each bite of this cake is a taste sensation…a wonderful combination of moist cake, tangy lemon flavor and decadent rich frosting.

Happy Birthday, our dear treasured friend, and we can’t wait until next year.

Whipped Brown Butter & Vanilla Birthday Cake

adapted from The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman

makes (2) 9-inch round layers


1 vanilla bean

12 ounces unsalted butter

1 2/3 cups sugar

2 whole eggs plus 4 egg yolks, room temperature

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups milk, room temperature


1. Split open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds.

2. Place bean and seeds in a medium saucepan and add in the butter. Cook on medium-high heat until the butter begins to turn brown and smell nutty. Swirl the pan so the butter cooks evenly.

3. When butter is rich brown (you can leave it lighter for a more subtle flavor, but don’t let it get too dark and burn), remove from heat. Take out vanilla bean and place melted butter in a container. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours until butter has resolidified.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

5. Place solid browned butter in a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed for about 1 minute until it softens and becomes creamy.

6. Add sugar and beat on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes fluffy and almost beige in color, about 8 to 12 minutes.

7. Add in eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating between each addition until fully incorporated and the mixture looks smooth and glossy, about 1 to 2 minutes.

8. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

9. With mixer set on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the butter in 3 parts, alternating with the milk.  Beat the batter on medium speed until just incorporated, about 20 seconds.

10. Divide batter among the two pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

11. Remove and place on wire racks. Allow to cool for 20 minutes.  Run a paring knife around the edges and invert pans onto a cooling rack.  Allow cakes to cool to remove temperature before decorating.

Lemon Curd

adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

makes 2 cups


8 large egg yolks

finely grated zest of 2 lemons

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)

1 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter (10 tablespoons), cut into 1/2-inch pieces


1. Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan.  Whisk to combine.

2. Cook over medium-high. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (be sure to scrape the sides of the pan), until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 8 to 10 minutes, and registers 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.

3. Remove saucepan from heat.  Add salt and butter, one piece at a time, stirring until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl.

4. Press plastic wrap against the surface of curd and refrigerate until chilled and set, at least one hour or up to 1 day.

Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream

adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

makes 4 cups


4 large egg whites

1 1/4 cups  sugar

3 sticks ( 1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into tablespoons

3/4 cup lemon curd (take out of the refrigerator 1/2 hour before incorporating, to bring to room temperature)


1. In a heatproof bowl of a stand mixer set over a pan of simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch the water), combine the egg whites and sugar, whisking constantly until the mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees F).

2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg white mixture on high speed until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue beating until mixture is fluffy and glossy and completely cool, about 6 minutes.

3. Switch to the paddle attachment.  With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat on lowest speed to eliminate any air bubbles, about 2 minutes.

4. Stir in lemon curd with a rubber spatula.



Filed under Cakes

23 responses to “Whipped Brown Butter & Vanilla Birthday Cake with Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

  1. Marica

    To all who read this amazing blog…
    This cake was divine! You will never taste anything better, especially if it’s created by mr. mixbakestir himself.

    I say, delicious! Justin, the chocolate fan, appreciates the mention. I think. xx

  2. Marica, I’ll take your word for it! It looks amazing!


    Delicious – I’ll put in my order for one now.

  4. Looks absolutely amazing! Beautifully done! My birthday is in April, can I put my order in now? 😉

  5. Pingback: Alana’s first birthday cake

  6. Looks incredible! I’d love to have a slice right now. The lemon filling looks so refreshing.

  7. now THAT’S a birthday cake! you have lucky friends indeed.



  8. Can we be friends? We have a whole year to work on our new friendship; working towards that cake for my July birthday! 🙂

    Sounds good and looks even better!

  9. I want to make this cake!

  10. This cake looks amazing, I think I’m going to make it this week!!

  11. the cake looks fabulous – love the brown butter and vanilla – lemon anything is so luscious!

  12. Hi, Larry. You created a beautiful and tasty-sounding cake! It certainly deserves the FoodBuzz top spot. Good for you.



  13. i love browned butter. this looks beautiful!

  14. I make a cup cake with lemon curd inside, and love the sweet and tart combination. Your cake looks great and I’ll be it tastes that way too.

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  16. Sarah

    Hello there,

    This cake looks so wonderfully delicious that I’ve decided that I’ve got to taste it. I have a few questions, if I may. What type of flour should I use, cake flour or AP-Flour? As for assembling the cake, how much lemon curd do I use for the filling, about 1/3 cup perhaps? Thanks a lot for sharing this recipe! And I hope this inquiry isn’t too forward.


    • I used AP flour. As far as the curd goes, I would make sure that you have a layer that is between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. 1/3 cup sounds about right for a standard 8″ cake. I used slightly less but I used my 5″ mini cake pans. Thanks for commenting and i hope you enjoy it!

  17. Nice, very nice. I’ve never tried a swiss meringue buttercream – I will now. Great flavour combination.

  18. Bobbi Gangi

    Is this the recipe that was served at Glady’s birthday party given by Phillis and Nancy? If it is it was the best lemon dessert that I have ever tasted.

  19. Sarah

    Hello again,

    So I made it! And it came out perfect. The smallest pan I got is an 8″ so I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to split the cake into four layers, but I was! I had a four layer cake just like your picture. The brown butter cake batter is truly amazing, I’m going to use it all the time now. And this is in fact the best lemon dessert I’ve ever had. I would suggest leaving it in the fridge for the cake to settle in itself an hour or so after frosting. By the way the frosting was a little hard for me to handle and spread nicely (like you did) because it was kinda too soft, but I guess that’s my lack of frosting-spreading experience!
    Thank you, Larry! We loved it.

  20. Pingback: Saturday Surfing « Chit-Chat «

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