I’d like to think that the topic of “butter cakes” is one of my areas of specialty. As a young girl, I requested the classic “Kentucky Butter Cake” every year on my birthday. I didn’t need birthday cake frosting, colorful frosting flowers or decor. I simply needed a rich cake with a touch of sweetness.
When my first son started becoming aware of “birthday cakes” I tried to introduce this cake classic to him, with a twist: I tried to make it healthier.
You CAN make it “healthier” but the classic Kentucky Butter Cake experience has its limits when it comes to the department of whole grains and whole sugars. I will tell you what those limits are. 🙂
We reached our limit on Frederick’s 4th birthday when I took a whole grain butter cake to his preschool to celebrate. It was made with 100% spelt flour (a wheat-like flour that bakes up a little more lightly than regular wheat). I used a slightly-refined sugar — not quite white, not quite the molasses-heavy sucanat. For the syrup topping, I used honey in place of the traditional sugar syrup. I topped the cake with “raw sugar,” you know, for texture.
I have never seen so many kids complain about a cake. The teachers liked it (or so it appeared). My son liked it. I liked it.
I remember one kid saying, “This tastes like sand!” as he tasted some of the raw sugar in one of his bites. He threw the plate in the trashcan.
I expect we reached the limit that day of health “Kentucky Butter Cakes.” It is important on a child’s birthday that other party-goers actually like the birthday cake and, in this particular case, I did push it too far.
Here are your options for your own butter cake:
- Use a traditional butter cake recipe and don’t worry about it. This is not a pantry staple after all.
- Be guided by some of the limits below.
Classic Kentucky Butter Cake (with Optional Variations)
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups white sugar (I wouldn’t mess with this one)
- 3 cups of white flour (or: 1 1/2 cup whole grain spelt plus 1 1/2 cups white flour)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
For the syrup:
- 3/4 cup white sugar (or 1/2 cup honey)
- 1/3 cup butter
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
Classic Kentucky Butter Cake Steps
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt/tube pan.
- In a mixing bowl, cream the softened butter and add buttermilk, vanilla, eggs, and sugar. Mix well.
- In a large bowl mix together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add to the batter. Mix well.
- Pour the batter into the cake pan. Bake for about 60 minutes or until done.
- Check for donness by gently piercing the top of the cake with a fork or toothpick. The cake is done when the fork comes out clean.
- While baking, make your syrup: Combine sugar or honey, butter, water, and vanilla in a saucepan. Warm it gently, taking care not to burn the butter.
- When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and drizzle the warm (and well-mixed) syrup over the top. When cake is slightly cooled, turn it upside down on a serving plate to remove it from the pan.