KENTUCKY BUTTER CAKE is the best cake you can make in a bundt pan!
Kentucky Butter Cake is a rich, buttery, crazy moist vanilla poke cake infused with luscious butter sauce that soaks through the cake AND is smothered on the cake leaving an irresistible sugar crust on the outside. This sweet, tender cake is stand-alone delicious or fabulous with berries and whipped cream. This Kentucky Butter Cake is easy to make and tastes even better the next day – perfect for stress free entertaining or holidays (like Easter!). Tips and tricks, Step-by-Step Photos, How to Make Ahead, How To Freeze all included!
What is Kentucky Butter Cake?
Have you ever had the pleasure of devouring Kentucky Butter Cake? I tragically ate my way through most of my life without tasting this bliss. It wasn’t until my birthday a few years ago that I sunk my teeth into one of life’s culinary delights.
If you aren’t familiar with Kentucky Butter Cake, is it is essentially a vanilla poke pound cake combined with a butter crunch cake. It was originally made by Nell Lewis in 1963 who entered it into a Pillsbury Bake-off contest in Missouri and won. The recipe has since taken the internet world by storm.
What sets Kentucky Butter Cake apart is the sweet butter vanilla sauce. You poke holes in the bottom of the cake while its still warm then the holes get filled with luscious sweet sauce. The sauce seeps into the rest of the cake creating the most wonderfully moist cake you ever did taste – seriously melt-in-your-mouth-mesmerizing. The glaze also creates a crunchy, crackling bottom that is my FAVORITE part of the cake.
The entire exterior of the Kentucky Butter Cake also gets brushed with sugary butter sauce that sets up to create a crispy, sweet crust, much like a donut.
Kentucky Butter Cake is like a velvet pound cake in texture – rich, tender, dense and decadent as opposed to light and airy – which makes it the perfect sponge for the sweet buttery sauce.
So basically, you have a soft, buttery, sugary interior, a buttery, sugar crunchy exterior that tastes of rich vanilla and butter all over without tasting too sweet. Are you drooling yet?
Why This is the Best Kentucky Butter Cake?
I brought this Kentucky Butter Cake to my father-in-law’s 75th birthday this past weekend and everyone was swooning all over it! Which ALWAYS happens. You can’t bring this Kentucky Buttery Cake anywhere without it being an overwhelming crowd pleaser!
There are thousands of Kentucky Butter Cake recipes out there and they are basically all the same recipe with varied techniques – but my recipe is different. It uses a different cake recipe, techniques, and ratios. Here is what makes this Kentucky Butter Cake AMAZING:
GREASED WITH SUGAR: Have you ever buttered and “floured” your pan with sugar? It creates a delightful sugar crust! I’ve included exactly how I do this in the recipe.
BETTER CAKE: This Kentucky Butter Cake begins with my favorite vanilla Bundt cake recipe that is butterier and more tender because it has more butter and one more egg. I did a side by side comparison of my cake and the original recipe ever blogger uses and EVERY taste tester preferred my Kentucky Butter Cake.
TEQNIQUE: this recipe uses room temperature ingredients (more on that below) and creams the butter and sugar which creates a much more tender, fluffy cake instead of just mixing the ingredients all in one bowl like many recipes.
MORE BUTTER SAUCE: The star of this Kentucky Butter Cake is the Butter Sauce. Every pocket of butter sauce is the highlight of the cake – so why not make more Sauce to go around? Now every bite is a highlight! With this additional sauce, it doesn’t need powdered sugar, but you can still add it if you like.
BUTTER GLAZE: The Butter Sauce doubles as the tantalizing Glaze. Half of the sauce gets poured into the poked holes in the cake and the other half is reserved to glaze the baked cake. We wait until the cake is cooled then brush with glaze to create the tantalizing crust.
NO STICK: Kentucky Butter Cake is notorious for sticking because the glaze essentially creates a glue. I have found the key so your cake doesn’t stick is to remove the cake from the pan while it’s still warm, just like you do all Bundt cakes. Now you’re guaranteed a Kentucky Butter Cake that comes out in one piece! So, you can eat piece after piece after piece…
How to Make Kentucky Butter Cake
This Kentucky Buttery Cake takes less than 15 minutes to mix – so please don’t be intimidated by the thorough tips and tricks!
Grease Bundt Cake Pan
You will need a 10-inch, 12 cup nonstick Bundt cake pan for this Kentucky Butter Cake recipe. I usually love using nonstick cooking sprays with four too grease my pans – but please do NOT use a spray for this cake because it is sticky!
Instead, you can use good old’ shortening or butter with flour OR add in a little sugar. I like to butter, sugar and flour my pan for this Kentucky Bundt Cake because it helps create a sugar crust.
Also be aware that older Bundt pans have a tendency to stick, especially if the coating has rubbed off in any area.
To grease and flour your pan:
- Brush an even layer of softened butter all over the inside of the pan (about 1 ½ tablespoons). Make sure you get every nook and cranny!
- Next, sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar – starting with the top edges of the pan so it trickles down the pan – make sure you do the same to the tube too, and tap and turn the pan to evenly coat.
- Repeat with one tablespoon of flour. Tap a few times to remove any excess. You probably don’t need the flour if using sugar, but I always use it for insurance.
You can also follow the same technique and omit the sugar and just use 2 tablespoons flour.
Use Room Temperature Ingredients
You will need room temperature butter, buttermilk and eggs for this Kentucky Butter Cake. Room temperature ingredients mix much easier (so it’s harder to overmix) and whisk to a higher volume which results in a softer Bundt cake with maximum volume. Cold eggs result in a denser cake.
To quickly bring eggs to room temperature, add warm (not hot) tap water to a bowl then add eggs (still in their shells) for at least 20 minutes. You can microwave your buttermilk until room temperature (NOT hot).
I never keep buttermilk on hand – but I ALWAYS want to make Kentucky Butter Cake! Buttermilk is crucial for a tender crumb because the lactic acid reacts with the baking soda to leaven the cake.
Fortunately, you can make DIY buttermilk by adding 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar to a measuring glass then adding enough milk to equal one cup. Give it a stir and let sit 10 minutes. The milk will curdle so you know it’s ready.
Cream Until Fluffy
One of the keys to a soft cake is to cream your sugar and butter until light and fluffy. You should beat your butter and sugar at medium – high speed for at least 3-5 minutes. I suggest setting a timer because 3 minutes will seem extra-long but you don’t want to cut it short.
This step is so important because it is the only time you want to whip air into the cake batter to create bubbles. The bubbles will expand as the cake bakes, resulting in a lighter cake. If you don’t cream them enough, your cake will be denser, not as tender, or rise as high.
Once you’re done creaming the butter and sugar, you want to beat the batter as little as possible. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until the yellow disappears after each egg. You never want to overbeat eggs as this will cause the batter to be runny and may cause the batter to overflow when baking.
I know it is going to be hard not to peak at your Kentucky Butter, but please don’t open the door! Opening the doors can cause your cake to cook unevenly and to fall. Only check on your cake at 50 minutes.
One of the main reasons people complain of dry cakes is because they over bake their cake You want to remove your cake when there are just a few crumbs clinging to a toothpick. Check your Kentucky Butter Cake at 50 minutes then continue to cook as needed, setting a timer so you don’t overbake it.
Here comes the fun part! Let the Kentucky Butter Cake rest for 5 minutes then poke holes all over the bottom of the cake, about 45 holes. I have found the thin end of a chopstick to be just the right size. Skewers are too thin and the back of a spoon is too big.
If you don’t have chopsticks, try and find something similar in size such as the back of a utensil. If all else fails, you can use a skewer but wiggle it around a little to create a bigger hole.
You will want to poke the holes about ¾ of the way down. This allows the butter sauce to penetrate the cake without oozing out the top and sticking to the pan.
Make Butter Glaze/Sauce
Immediately after poking holes in the cake, make the Butter Sauce. You don’t want to make the sauce too soon because it will crystallize and harden. Making it when the vanilla cake comes out of the oven is perfect because it also gives the cake a few minutes to cool. If you pour the glaze over the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven, the cake is so hot it will absorb all the glaze and the sugary, crunchy coating won’t form – nooooooooooo!
Pour Sauce into Holes
To use the sauce, reserve 1/4 cup (to glaze the cooled cake later) and pour the rest of the sauce into the holes of the cake. You’ll want to add the sauce slowly so it actually seeps into the holes of the cake and doesn’t pool and drip down the edges of the cake.
Remove Cake from Pan
After you’ve poured the sauce over the Kentucky Butter Cake, let it sit for 30 minutes. You don’ want to let it cool any longer or the glaze can stick and harden like glue.
When you’re ready remove the cake, run a knife around the edges of the cake. Firmly tap the outside of the pan a few times until you feel the cake is loose, then invert the cake onto a plate or cake stand.
I have never had a problem with any of my Kentucky Butter Cakes sticking but if any of your cake is left behind in the pan, simply pick up the pieces and patch them back into the cake. The glaze will act like glue to keep them in place and you can use powdered sugar to hide any imperfections.
Rewarm the Glaze (again, not letting it boil) and brush it evenly over the cake, moving slowly so it has time to seep in. Let the cake sit for at least one hour before serving, but it is much moister and more flavorful if allowed to rest overnight.
This Kentucky Butter Cake is delicious in its simplicity but it is also creates a blank canvas for virtually any extract. You can use almond, orange, lemon, peppermint or rum (the original flavor).
CAN I MAKE CAKE AHEAD OF TIME?
Yes, I highly encourage it! This Kentucky Butter Cake tastes much better if made one day ahead of time – the flavors develop AND the cake becomes moister – so please try and plan accordingly – and you will taste the difference!
- Once cake is cool and the glaze is set, wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap or cover in an overturned bowl or cake carrier. You can also store your cake in the microwave.
- Store at room temperature until ready to serve.
- I like to microwave individual slices for 10 seconds or so.
- This cake keeps well for several days, but is best the second day.
CAN I FREEZE KENTUCKY BUTTER CAKE?
- Let the glaze on the exterior of the cake set completely.
- Double wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap.
- Freeze cake for up to 3 months.
- Allow the cake to thaw overnight in the refrigerator then unwrap and come to room temperature on the counter before serving.
What Should I Serve With Kentucky Bunt Cake?
Kentucky Butter Cake is delicious in its buttery vanilla simplicity, but I also love it with:
- A dusting of powdered sugar
- Fresh berries: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and/or blackberries
- Strawberry syrup or raspberry syrup – insane!
- A dollop of whipped cream (and berries!)
- Vanilla ice cream (and berries!)
- Lemon curd (and berries!)
- Chocolate ganache
- Caramel sauce
Looking for more Easter Cake Recipes?
- Coconut Cake (Triple Coconut!)
- Carrot Cake with Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cream Cheese Stuffed Carrot Cake
- Lemon Poke Cake
- Chocolate Raspberry Cake
- Chocolate Eclair Cake
- Lemon Blueberry Cake
- Strawberry Cream Cheese Pound Cake
- Chocolate Covered Strawberry Pound Cake
- Blueberry Muffin Cake
- Strawberry Shortcakes
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