With a moist, tender butterscotch cake and a creamy, silky smooth icing studded with zillions of vanilla beans, this Butterscotch Sheet Cake is the stuff sweet lovers' dreams are made from!
If you love a moist cake with a super tender crumb and a blanket of sweet creamy icing, raise your hand. And if you also enjoy a cake recipe that comes together quickly with just one bowl and no mixer, raise the other hand. I feel a little silly with both hands raised high, but this delicious Ridiculously Easy Butterscotch Sheet Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing has my name written all over it. I think you're going to love it too!
If you've been following The Café for a while, you've probably realized that we love sheet pan cakes. We've probably got enough in our archives to fill a small bakery and they're all super delicious cakes that come together in minutes. And although they're all based on the same simple recipe, each one is distinctly different. Check out some of the variations below and you'll see just what I mean:
This super delicious, Ridiculously Easy Applesauce Cake comes together in minutes. Make the vanilla bean icing while the cake bakes (and creates amazing aromas) and wait for everyone to come running!
With just one bowl and a whisk, you can put together this FABULOUS Caramel Buttermilk Sheet Cake. The melt-in-your-mouth caramel icing is as easy as the cake!
This delicious, one-bowl, no-mixer Peanut Butter Texas Sheet Cake is one of our favorite desserts EVER! It's also one of the quickest and easiest cakes you'll ever make!
Besides being ridiculously easy (one bowl, no mixer), this Funfetti Sheet Cake is also moist, tender, ridiculously delicious and so FUN with a magical kaleidoscope of multi-hued polka dots!
Are you getting the picture? Do you think that I could win a Miss Sheet Cake title? There actually are lots more you can check out here. In fact we probably have a sheet pan cake for just about any occasion you want to celebrate. Or any ordinary day that you'd like to turn into a celebration!
Okay, back to the Butterscotch Sheet Cake!
What makes this cake butterscotch?
That's a great question. What makes this cake butterscotch? Is butterscotch the same as caramel? Nope, although they have similar flavors there is a big difference:
- Caramel is made from white sugar that is cooked until it melts and... well, caramelizes! For a caramel sauce, heavy cream or half and half is added at this point.
- Butterscotch, on the other hand, is a combination of brown sugar, butter and cream.
To create a delicious butterscotch flavor, this recipe starts with browning butter in a pot on the stovetop. Brown sugar is added to the brown butter followed by the classic sheet cake ingredients, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda and salt. The entire recipe is mixed up in the original pot, so I guess that makes it a one-pot recipe rather than one-bowl.
Vanilla Bean Icing
The creamy vanilla bean icing is the perfect pairing and truly the crowning glory. The icing is easily stirred up with just one bowl and a whisk. The tiny seeds from one large (or two small) vanilla beans are added for lots of fabulous vanilla flavor.
You can also use vanilla bean paste which is a wonderful convenience product consisting of zillions of little vanilla bean seeds suspended in vanilla extract. The little flecks of vanilla give the cake a subtle but pretty presentation!
If you've got a party, potluck, picnic, work get-together coming up, this Butterscotch Sheet cake is perfect as it feeds a crowd. Because it comes together so quickly it's also a wodnerful way to make an ordinary day quite special. And it freezes well so leftovers (if there are any!) can be enjoyed on those days when someone needs a sweet treat!
Café Tips for making this Butterscotch Sheet Cake
- Be sure to grease the pan well. I like to use baking spray which is a combination of oil and flour when baking a cake. You could also grease the pan with shortening and then coat the shortening with a layer of flour.
- I like to use dark brown sugar for this recipe as it gives a nice depth of butterscotch flavor but light brown will also work.
- This cake recipe calls for buttermilk. If you don't want to purchase buttermilk, just for this recipe, you could substitute an equal amount of yogurt or sour cream.
- You can also make your own buttermilk. Just add 2 teaspoons of white vinegar to a measuring cup and fill the cup to the one-half mark with milk. Stir well, then wait 5 minutes and stir again. Use this in place of the buttermilk.
- The frosting recipe for this Butterscotch Sheet Cake calls for half and half. If you don't live in the United States, you might not be familiar with half and half. It's an American convenience product that's half milk and half cream. You can also use milk for the frosting.
- I use salted butter to make this cake. If you only have unsalted butter, add an extra ¼ teaspoon of salt.
- Although you can use any type of stirring implement for this recipe, a whisk works really well. If you don't have a whisk in your cooking collection, it's a really handy kitchen tool to add. A good whisk is not expensive and can be used for quickly stirring lots of things and getting lumps out with minimal effort. It would make a great gift for someone who's just starting to cook.
- What size pan should you use to make this Butterscotch Sheet Cake? There are actually two answers to this question.
- You can use a regular half sheet pan which is 18x13 inches and will yield a thinner cake and icing.
- You can also use a jelly roll pan which is a little smaller, measuring 15x10 inches, yields a thicker cake with a thicker icing. My preference? I really like making sheet cakes like this in the smaller, jelly roll pan for a thicker cake, but either will work.
- Don't need such a large cake? No problem, as this cake freezes beautifully; so when you need a dessert in a hurry, it will be just a thaw away!
- If you like a less sweet cake, you can halve the icing recipe and use a little extra half and half to make a thin glaze rather than a thick icing.
Thought for the day:
There is none like You, O Lord;
You are great, and great is Your name in might.
What we're listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoy this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear your results, adaptations and ideas for variations.
With a moist, tender butterscotch cake and a delicious, creamy icing studded with vanilla beans, this Butterscotch Sheet Cake is the stuff dreams are made from!
- 1 cup butter (I use salted butter)
- 2 cups brown sugar I like to use dark brown sugar but light brown sugar will also work.
- ½ cup buttermillk (or sour cream or yogurt)
- 1 cup water
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanila extract
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- ¼ cup half & half
- 1 large or 2 small vanilla beans, seeds scraped out (or two teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract optional but delicious!
Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Spray a 10x15 jelly roll pan or an 18x13 sheet pan generously with baking spray and rub with a paper towel to coat all surfaces. Set aside.
In a medium-large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once the butter is melted reduce the heat a bit and continue to cook and stir for about 5 minutes until the butter changes color and gets golden brown. The butter will sizzle a bit at first then it will subside. Remove from the heat to a heat-safe work surface (I just use a hot pan on my kitchen counter.)
Allow the butter to cool for 5 minutes, then add the brown sugar, buttermilk water and vanilla. Whisk until well combined then add the eggs and whisk again.
Sprinkle the baking powder, baking soda and salt over the batter. Whisk until well combined and no lumps remain.
Lastly, add the flour and whisk until smooth. It will seem lumpy at first but keep stirring. It will get nice and smooth. A whisk works great for this.
Transfer to the prepared pan. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 18-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes while you make the icing.
While the cake is cooling, make the icing by combining the powdered sugar, half and half and vanilla seeds or vanilla bean paste in a medium-large bowl.
Whisk until smooth and fluffy. The icing should be a nice spreadable consistency. If it seems too thin, add a little more powdered sugar. If it’s too thick, add some half and half or milk, 1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
Spread icing on the slightly warm or room temperature cake. The icing will swirl nicer if you allow the cake to come to room temperature. I use the back of a soup spoon to swirl the icing
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips to ensure success.
If you prefer to use Metric measurements there is a button in each of our recipes, right above the word “Instructions”. Just click that button to toggle to grams, milliliters, etc. If you ever come across one of our recipes that doesn’t have the Metric conversion (some of the older recipes may not), feel free to leave a comment and I will add it.