Brown Butter Cake with Dulce de Leche, Toasted Hazelnuts, and Figs

In the past I have been forbidden from baking my own Birthday cakes, something about not laboring on your special day and letting others do all the work in preparation for your birthday celebration.  Generally I would agree with the sentiment. It’s the one day out of the year where you should automatically get a free pass on chores (like doing dishes!), but for me baking a cake isn’t necessarily a chore, and being able to concoct my own sugary creation, without having to take into account the desires of others, is a rare and treasured opportunity.  This year I was finally given the go ahead to bake my own birthday cake, and the cake below is what I came up with.  Pretty tame, right?


A triple layer brown butter cake.  Each layer is filled with dulce de leche, cognac spiked whipped cream, and a sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts.  The cake is topped off with a crown of whipped cream, fresh figs, and a few more hazelnuts.

f.y.i. my birthday was actually a couple of weeks ago… it’s just taken me that long to post this…

Brown Butter Cake


  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) Butter
  • 4 1/2 cups Cake Flour
  • 4 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 3/4 Salt
  • 2 2/3 cups Sugar
  • 10 Egg Whites
  • 5 Egg Yokes
  • 1 1/2 cups Milk
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tsp Almond Extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (~177 C).
  2. Brown the butter by melting it in a sauce pan and bringing it to a slight boil.  You want to wait for the milk solids to separate out and the butter to achieve a light nut-brown color.
  3. Meanwhile shift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
  4. Whip up your egg whites into soft peaks. Set Aside.
  5. Beat together the sugar, egg yokes, and brown butter until frothy.
  6. Beat in the extracts.
  7. Beat in half of the dry ingredients.
  8. Beat in the milk.
  9. Beat in the remaining dry ingredients.
  10. Fold in a third of the egg whites.
  11. Fold in the remaining egg whites.
  12. Evenly distribute the cake batter into 3 greased 9″ cake pans (I only had two cake pans to work with, and found a baking dish that seemed to fit the bill.  As luck would have it it was about a 1/4″ short.  Hence my uneven cake layers.  Save yourself the trouble, and if you have only 2 cake pans, just plan on slicing the layers with a knife later.  Hindsight.  You’re better off with a four layer even cake then a three layer lopsided one.)
  13. Gently tap your cake pans against the counter to release any large air bubbles, but don’t be too vigorous in your tapping since you do not want to remove all of the smaller air bubbles you obtained through whipping up your egg whites.
  14. Bake the cakes for 25 – 30 minutes.

Assemble the Cake


  • 3 layers of Cake
  • 1 cup Dulce de Leche (you can make dulce de leche by simmering a closed can of sweetened condensed milk for 2-3 hours)
  • Whipped Cream
    • 1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
    • 4 – 6 tbsp Powdered Sugar
    • 1 – 3 tbsp Cognac
  • 1 cup Cream Cheese Frosting (in a piping bag fitted with a medium sized nozzle)
  • 1/2 cup Toasted Hazelnut pieces
  • 9 fresh Figs (or other fruit of choice)


  1. Trim off the tops of your cakes so that you have flat even layers.
  2. Place your first layer of cake down onto your cake plate.
  3. Spread a thin even layer of dulce de leche (1/2 of a cup worth) across the top of the cake.
  4.  Pipe a line of cream-cheese frosting around the outside edges of the cake.  This is done to keep the whipped cream from oozing out and gives the cake some additional structural support.
  5. Scoop 1/3 of the whipped cream onto the dulce de leche, and gently spoon it over to fill the circle created by the frosting.
  6. Sprinkle the whipped cream with 1/8 of a cup of hazelnuts.
  7. Gently place the next layer of cake over the first layer of fillings.
  8. Proceed to complete the next layer of fillings repeating the same set of steps used for the first layer.
  9. Gently place the last layer of cake over the second layer of fillings.
  10. Scoop a crown of whipped cream over the top of the cake, and decorate it with the remaining hazelnuts and fresh fruit, in this case figs.


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