brown butter

butter pecan layer cake

I can’t even believe it friends.

Brooklyn Homemaker turns three years old this weekend!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

They grow up so fast!
Sniff.

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

This year has been sort of crazy with the whole Maxwell’s thing and all the time I’ve had to spend away from Brooklyn Homemaker, and I’m so thrilled to finally be getting back into the swing of things just in time to celebrate my anniversary!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I probably said this last year too, but I never would have believed you if you’d told me three years ago that I would have started doing this and kept with it for three whole years.
When I first started I didn’t even have a real camera, and for the first few months I shot all of my photos on my iPhone in my dimly lit kitchen at weird, unflattering angles. If you’d told me three years ago that I would not only get a real camera, but also get pretty good at figuring out how to use it, I definitely would have had my doubts.
If you’d have told me that some of my photos would be even half as good as the ones I spent hours drooling over on Pinterest, or that people would actually want to pin my photos and recipes for themselves, I probably would have laughed in your face!
If you’d have told me that people would actually want to cook my recipes, and would enjoy them enough to share with their friends and families, I’d have been absolutely floored!
Naaahhhhhh! No friggin’ way!!!

I still wake up sometimes and want to pinch myself.

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

It seems like I start having these thoughts around the same time every year, as my blog anniversary approaches, about all the things I’ve accomplished and how far I’ve come. The friendships and bonds I’ve built, the skills I’ve gained, and how my goals and priorities have changed over these past few years.

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

This is definitely a time to for reflection, a time for appreciation, and a time to be grateful. Perhaps most importantly though, it’s a time for cake!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

The idea of this cake was a bit of a throw back to the very first cake that inspired this whole blogging adventure, the Aunt Sassy Cake from Baked.

I knew I wanted to make another big ass fancy celebration cake filled with nuts and covered in a velvety icing, but I didn’t want to just make the same cake all over again.
I did that already! haha!

I thought that a play on the Aunt Sassy Cake with a fun, autumnal twist would be a great way to pay homage to the cake that started it all, while also making it feel little more seasonally appropriate this time of year.

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I played with a few ideas in my head, but the inspiration really came when I was flipping through the channels one day and happened to catch a few minutes of Jeopardy.

When my sister and I were little, we used to spend a lot of time at our grandmother’s house. If we’d stay after dinner, we’d sit next to grandma on the couch and watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, and if we were good, grandma would fix us a bowl of ice cream.

Thing is, at the time I hated the ice cream flavors she tended to keep in the house. All I wanted was chocolate, or maybe mint chocolate chip, but grandma usually only had maple walnut or butter pecan. Garbage ice creams in the eyes of a child, and ones that i lovingly referred to as old lady flavors in my teen years.
As I got a little older I finally learned to appreciate those “old lady” flavors, and eventually I even learned to love them.
These days I can’t get enough of them, and even get into trouble with Russell when I come home from the store with a pint of butter pecan, when he’d have preferred chocolate, or maybe mint chocolate chip!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

With butter pecan in mind, I decided to go for a tender pecan layer cake, and I opted to brown the butter to amp up the nutty flavor. Browning butter only takes about 10 minutes with some stirring and a watchful eye, and it adds an incredibly rich, earthy, nutty flavor to regular everyday unsalted butter. It has such an amazing flavor that I decided to brown a little extra to mix into some silky Swiss Meringue Buttercream I wanted to use to ice the cake.

To make things even richer, and fancier, and prettier, I went ahead and drizzled the whole kit and kaboodle in some heavenly homemade caramel with a splash of (optional) bourbon.

This cake is the freakin bomb. Perfect for fall. It could even work as an elegant alternative to pecan pie at Thanksgiving!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

It’s been a wild ride so far, and hopefully this is just the beginning.

I’m so honored and grateful for all of you guys out there. I’m so so luck to have so many amazing friends out there in the world who have been so encouraging and engaging through everything that I’ve done so far. I’m looking forward to many more recipes and posts and years ahead, and I hope you’ll all be along for the ride too!

Love you guys! Thanks for everything!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Butter Pecan Layer Cake with Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Brown Butter
(Make ahead if possible)

4 sticks of unsalted butter

Melt butter in a large stainless steel (or light colored) sauce pan over low to medium heat. As the water cooks out, the butter will sizzle a lot. Stir frequently with a silicone spatula.

Once the butter starts to foam, usually about 5 minutes in, you want to watch it very carefully so it doesn’t burn. You’ll also want to use your spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan often. This will promote even browning and help prevent the milk solids from sticking to the pan as they brown. They’re delicious so you want them in your finished butter, and if they do stick they’ll be a pain in the butt to clean.

The foam may make it hard to see, but as you stir you’ll begin to see the milk solids in the butter begin to turn brown. Once the milk solids are brown and the butter smells toasty and nutty, you’re done! Immediately pour the butter, milk solids & all, into a heatproof dish to prevent it from further cooking. The milk solids can go from nutty and golden to black and burnt in less than a minute!

For the recipes below, you want the butter to be soft, but you don’t want to use the butter while it’s still hot and melted. Refrigerate the butter until solid, then let it soften at room temperature. If you want to make it ahead, it’ll keep for a long time if stored in an airtight container.
Butter contains a good amount of water which cooks off when you brown it, so after browning your 4 sticks of butter won’t measure 2 cups. Since the cake and the icing require the same amount of butter, I just say 1/2 the brown butter in each recipe for simplicities sake.


Brown Butter Pecan Cake
Adapted from Cooking Classy

3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup whole pecan pieces for decorating (optional)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 of the brown butter (will be a bit shy of 1 cup), softened
1/4 cup peanut oil (or canola or vegetable oil)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks (reserve whites for icing)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt 3 Tbsp butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add pecans, toss to coat, and cook until slightly browned and fragrant, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl or dish to stop cooking and set aside to cool. If using whole pieces for decorating, separate them from the chopped pecans and reserve for later.

Butter 3 8-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper, butter parchment paper and then lightly dust pans with flour shaking out excess. Set pans aside.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, oil, and sugars together until very pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, adding in vanilla with the last egg.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed just until combined, then add in 1/2 of the buttermilk and mix just until combined. Repeat alternating flour and buttermilk, ending with the final 1/3 of the flour. Remove the bowl from your mixer and fold in pecans until they’re evenly distributed. Divide batter evenly among the 3 prepared baking pans, using a kitchen scale for accuracy if desired.
Bake in preheated oven 25 – 30 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
Remove from oven and cool for 10 to 15 minutes on a wire rack, then run a knife around edges of the pans to ensure the cakes are loosened, and invert them onto the racks to cool completely.


Bourbon Caramel Sauce
Adapted from Minimalist Baker

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup unsalted butter (4 tablespoons, or 1/2 stick)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp bourbon (optional)
pinch of salt

Place sugar and water in a large saucepan over medium heat, gently swirling the pan (not stirring) to combine. Simmer (not stirring) for about 15 minutes or until a rich amber color is reached. It should look almost a reddish-brown, and have a slightly toasty aroma. Once the sugar starts to go from clear to golden, watch it very closely as it can go from perfect to burnt in under a minute. If you want to use a thermometer, cook until the sugar reaches 350 degrees.
Remove the pan from heat and slowly stir or whisk in the butter. It will bubble up a lot so be careful. Once the butter is combined, repeat the process with the cream. Then add the bourbon and salt stir or whisk to combine.
Place the pan back over the heat and simmer for another minute or two while stirring continuously.
Remove from heat and let it cool for about 15 minutes before pouring into a heat-safe dish or jar to cool to the touch. Then close or cover the container and transfer it to the refrigerator to cool completely before use. Any leftover caramel (I didn’t have much) can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for several weeks.


Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Martha Stewart 

6 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
remaining 1/2 of the brown butter (will be a bit shy of 1 cup), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and a small amount lemon juice or vinegar to remove any trace of fat or grease. Make a double boiler by placing the mixer bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

Place egg whites, sugars, and salt into the bowl and whisk gently but continuously until the sugar is completely dissolved and the egg whites reach between 150 and 160 degrees F.
Attach the bowl to your mixer and use the whisk attachment to whip the egg whites on high speed until thick, glossy peaks form and the bowl no longer feels warm to the touch, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment and reduce speed to medium-low. Add butter, about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition. The meringue will deflate slightly as butter is added, don’t worry. Once all the butter is added, beat until the icing is smooth and silky, usually about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the vanilla and beat on low just until combined.

If the buttercream curdles, don’t worry! Just keep mixing and it will come back to smooth.
If the buttercream is too thin and runny, refrigerate the bowl for about 15 or 20 minutes before mixing again with the paddle attachment until it comes together.


Assemble cake:

Remove parchment from each layer, and trim the domed tops off with a cake leveler or sharp bread knife if necessary. Flat layers will definitely result in a much prettier & more professional looking finished cake. My cakes didn’t dome much, so you may not need to do this step. Make sure the layers are completely cool (or cold) before you proceed.

If you’re not serving the cake the same day it’s baked, I recommend you brush each layer of cake with two or three tablespoons of simple syrup before assembly to keep it nice and moist for days. Just heat 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water together until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Place first layer on a cake stand, serving platter, or cardboard cake round. Top with roughly 1/4 of your icing (about one generous cup), and spread the icing out with an offset icing spatula, in as even and level a layer as possible. Place the next layer on top and check from above and from multiple angles to make sure it’s stacked perfectly centered with the layer below, and that it’s flat and level. Adjust if necessary.
Add another 1/4 of the icing, smooth it out, add the top layer, and check and adjust if necessary.

Using another 1/4 of your icing, spread a thin layer of icing over top and sides of cake with an icing spatula. I like to start at the top and slowly work my way down the sides. Be sure to fill in any gaps between layers and make the sides and top is as smooth and flat as possible. This thin layer of icing is referred to as the “crumb coat” and is meant to seal in any crumbs so they’re not seen in your final layer of icing. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to an hour to set the icing before you proceed.
Spread the remaining icing evenly over top and sides of cake, trying to get as smooth a surface as possible.

Top the cake with about 3/4 to 1 cup of the cooled caramel sauce, carefully and evenly drizzling some down the sides.
If desired, top the finished cake with the optional 1/3 cup of toasted whole pecans from above.

This cake is best the day it’s baked, but will keep well in a cake saver at room temperature for up to 2 days, if the weather is not too hot or humid. Otherwise, wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If refrigerated, you’ll need to let it come up to room temperature for at least an hour before serving.

pistachio and dark chocolate chunk cookies with brown butter and fleur de sel

I realize that a lot of you are probably all cookie’d out right about now, but I just had to squeeze one more cookie recipe in before the end of the year.

I’d say that I’m sorry, but no one should every apologize for making cookies.

pistachio and dark chocolate chunk cookies with brown butter and fleur de sel | Brooklyn Homemaker

I gathered the makings of this recipe with the intention of making them on Christmas day, but it didn’t really work out that way.

pistachio and dark chocolate chunk cookies with brown butter and fleur de sel | Brooklyn Homemaker

The days leading up to Christmas tend to be pretty stressful in my world, so when it comes to the actual holiday itself I try to take it pretty easy. Russell and I spent the day at home with the dogs, opening presents, calling friends and family, watching Murder, She Wrote, and eating everything in sight. Since it’s just the two of us, I thought that making some cookies would be a fun activity we could do together during the day. I didn’t want to do anything too fussy or involved like cutouts, but thought a fancied up chocolate chip cookie could be the perfect holiday treat.

pistachio and dark chocolate chunk cookies with brown butter and fleur de sel | Brooklyn Homemaker

The ham I was making for dinner, along with some roasted broccoli and sweet potato gratin, had other plans though. I was not thinking ahead at all and didn’t take the fact that the ham would be cooking at a low temperature for several hours into consideration.

We weren’t yet ready for cookie time when the ham went into the oven, and when it came out we feasted and immediately fell deep into a food coma, so our cookie plans were (temporarily) abandoned.

pistachio and dark chocolate chunk cookies with brown butter and fleur de sel | Brooklyn Homemaker

Later that evening we aaaaaalmost rallied and went for it, but opted instead for another glass of wine and mouthful of chocolate from our stockings.

pistachio and dark chocolate chunk cookies with brown butter and fleur de sel | Brooklyn Homemaker

In the end it may have been a good thing that we didn’t make these on Christmas day. For one thing, we had plenty of chocolate in our stockings. For another, making them a few days later also meant that I was able to photograph the process and share them with you. These babies are so delicious and perfect that I’m actually pretty thrilled to get to share them.

This post was brought to you by a salty little Christmas ham and a holiday food coma.

pistachio and dark chocolate chunk cookies with brown butter and fleur de sel | Brooklyn Homemaker

Browning the butter for this recipe requires some extra time since it needs to firm back up after it’s melted and browned, but I promise you it’s worth it. Browning butter deepens and intensifies everything that’s already great about butter, and then adds a toasty nuttiness. Taking the time to toast the pistachios before adding them to the cookies also helps to intensify the nutty goodness. It’s all about building layers of flavor here.

pistachio and dark chocolate chunk cookies with brown butter and fleur de sel | Brooklyn Homemaker

When it comes to chocolate chip cookies, I’m definitely of the “go big or go home” school of thought. I usually like to use a #24 portion scoop, which works out to 1.5 oz (or 3 tablespoons) of dough. I love portion scoops for drop cookies because it makes it really quick and easy to get all of your cookies the same size and shape. If you don’t have a portion scoop, you can certainly measure out 3 tablespoons of dough to see how it should look and then try to make the rest of your cookies match that size.

You can easily use a smaller portion scoop, or make smaller cookies if you want, you’ll just need to adjust your baking time accordingly to avoid over-baking.

pistachio and dark chocolate chunk cookies with brown butter and fleur de sel | Brooklyn Homemaker

I know there are a jillion chocolate chip cookies out there on the internets, but I beg you to give these a try. You can thank me later.

I brought some to work with me and two of my coworkers separately came to tell me that these cookies have the perfect texture for chocolate chip cookies. They’re soft and chewy in the center, with perfect crispy crusty golden edges.
The brown butter and toasted pistachios are the perfect rich nutty compliment to the sweet and bitter dark chocolate, and the briny minerally crunchy fleur de sel is the perfect finish to every bite. They’re buttery, chocolatey, sweet, salty, and completely wonderful. I could go on, but you’re just going to have to make them and see for yourself.

pistachio and dark chocolate chunk cookies with brown butter and fleur de sel | Brooklyn Homemaker

Pistachio and Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Brown Butter and Fleur de Sel

  • Servings: about 2 1/2 dozen cookies, depending on size
  • Print
adapted from Martha Stewart

18 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks + 2 tablespoons)
1 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (about 10 to 12 ounces) roughly chopped good dark chocolate, or good quality dark chocolate chips or chunks
1 tablespoon (ish) fleur de sel or other crunchy finishing salt

In a small heavy-bottom saucepan, brown the butter over medium high heat until golden to deep brown, should take about 10 or 15 minutes. Watch carefully once it starts to brown to avoid burning. Pour out into a heat-proof dish, trying to leave the burnt solids behind, and refrigerate until soft but beginning to firm. If it solidifies, you can remove and leave out until soft.
If you want to skip this step, you can simply use 2 sticks of softened unsalted butter.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange pistachios on a baking sheet in a single layer, and toast for about 5 or 6 minutes, or until they smell toasty and nutty. Cool and roughly chop.

Whisk together the flour and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the cooled brown butter with both sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate and toasted pistachio.

Scoop dough out using a portion scoop and place about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. I used a #24 scoop, which works out to about 3 tablespoons of dough per cookie. If you make smaller cookies you’ll need to reduce the baking time by a few minutes, but you’ll have more cookies in the end. Sprinkle each cookie with a small pinch of fleur de sel.

Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, around 11 to 13 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

Fettuccine with Roasted Mushrooms, Brown Butter & Sage

When I first met my husband he was a really picky eater. This was very difficult for me to deal with, being a relatively adventurous eater and lover of variety, but I tried to handle it as best I could. He even used to insist that he was “allergic” to a few certain foods, but over time I began to suspect that it was all in his head. He claimed to be allergic to eggs, but had no reaction if they were mixed into a cake or custard. For some reason his “allergy” was only an issue if the eggs were on their own, and when I pressed him on his symptoms he couldn’t really come up with any. Finally I was able convince him that he just didn’t like these foods, and didn’t actually have any real food allergies. He still won’t eat eggs, but at least now he admits that he just doesn’t like them.

fettuccine with roasted mushrooms, brown butter & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

One of the foods I was most upset about his being “allergic” to was mushrooms. I love mushrooms so much that when I considered a long term relationship with Russell, I mourned losing them. Once I was able to convince him he wasn’t allergic to them, and I got him to try them, surprise! He loved them! We eat mushrooms all the time, and as weird as this may sound, I couldn’t be more thrilled about it.

The other night we went out with friends for dinner to celebrate Russell’s birthday. After a few minutes looking at the menu, Russell ordered a dish that wasn’t much more than sautéed mushrooms with fresh pappardelle pasta and butter. Of course, I had to try a bite, and I thought the sauce was perfectly simple and light, but was just a bit one-note to me. I decided, after my third Manhattan, that I could improve on this dish. I loved that it wasn’t overdone with cream and wine and cheese and stock, but thought it could just use a little boost. I started thinking that the best way to bring out the fresh lightness of the sauce would be just a bit of fresh herbs and maybe a hint of lemon to brighten it up.

fettuccine with roasted mushrooms, brown butter & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

A few days later I decided to go for it and see what I could do. I started with store-bought fresh pasta, going for fettuccine instead of pappardelle. If you have a pasta maker and want to go crazy, by all means. Homemade pasta would elevate this dish even more, but part of what I like about this recipe is how quick and easy it is to prepare. I think store-bought fresh pasta is a great way to get that homemade taste without the work, but I’m sure dried pasta would be fine too. For the sauce I used about a pound of mushrooms, opting for a mix of trumpet and Portobello for a nice varied earthy flavor. If all you can find is Portobellos they’ll work great on their own, but I wouldn’t use white button mushrooms because they’d probably be a bit bland.

The restaurant used butter for the base of their sauce, and I decided a nice way to make the flavor richer would be to brown the butter. When you brown butter, you’re essentially cooking the milk solids that are present in your butter, giving it a wonderful nuttiness and complexity. Brown butter is also great for baking.  Try it with cookies sometime, you’ll thank me. After the butter browned I added some finely chopped shallots and let them saute a bit to add some caramelized sweetness. Right before finishing the dish I added some fresh sage and lemon zest and tossed everything together.

fettuccine with roasted mushrooms, brown butter & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

I have a tendency to overdo meals a lot. I can take a meal that should take 45 minutes to prepare and spend the better part of an evening making it. This meal however, is anything but overdone. I am so proud of myself for letting this meal remain simple and easy. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a new era for me. An era where I can start dinner after work and have it on the table before bed time! If you work efficiently, from start to finish this meal can be ready to go in 30 minutes. Brown the butter while the mushrooms roast, saute the shallots while the pasta water comes to a boil, chiffonade the sage while the pasta is cooking. Use your time wisely. If you aren’t familiar with the term chiffonade, you basically take your sage leaves, roll them all up like a cigar, and slice them into super thin strips. This technique works really well for basil too.

fettuccine with roasted mushrooms, brown butter & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

There are not a million different things going on in this pasta dish, but every ingredient gets special treatment to make sure it imparts as much flavor as possible. Roasting the mushrooms concentrates their earthy flavor and makes them taste almost meaty. Browning the butter adds a nutty richness, and sauteing the shallots in the brown butter gives the sauce a caramelized sweetness. Fresh sage and lemon zest brighten the dish without overpowering it, adding a summery freshness that’s much-needed in this cold weather. Overall the simplicity of this dish is what makes it so tasty. So simple, so elegant, SOO delicious.

fettuccine with roasted mushrooms, brown butter & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

Fettuccine with Roasted Mushrooms, Brown Butter & Sage

1 lb fresh mushrooms (I used a mix of Portobello and trumpet)
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium shallot, diced
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
5-6 sage leaves
zest of one lemon
16 oz fresh or 12 oz dry fettuccine

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Fill a large stockpot with water and a tablespoon of salt, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. While oven is preheating and water is coming to a boil, roughly chop your mushrooms. Toss in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, spread in an even layer on a parchment lined sheet pan and roast for 10-15 minutes or until most moisture has cooked off. While mushrooms are roasting, heat butter in a large skillet until it begins to brown and smell slightly nutty, this should take about 5 minutes. Add shallots, season with salt and pepper, and saute until they begin to caramelize. While pasta is cooking, add roasted mushrooms to sauce and saute for 5 minutes or until pasta is cooked. While pasta cooks, chiffonade your sage and stir it into the sauce with the lemon zest. Add cooked pasta to sauce and toss with tongs until well coated with an even distribution of mushrooms.