Butter Pecan Pound Cake

published Feb 5, 2023
Butter Pecan Pound Cake Recipe

Strewn with hunks of nutty, toasted pecans, and graced with added warmth from brown salted butter and a hint of bourbon, this pound cake gives off butter pecan ice cream vibes.

Serves8 to 10

Prep20 minutes

Cook1 hour 45 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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butter pecan pound cake loaf with slices out
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

What’s more Southern than butter pecan? I didn’t appreciate this classic flavor pairing until I was in my late teens. Once I did, I couldn’t be stopped. 

I often wondered why there weren’t more butter pecan-flavored desserts. It could work in pancakes, waffles, a pudding- or mousse-filled trifle, or, even better, pound cake! Talk about bringing the South to your mouth.

What Is Butter Pecan?

Butter pecan flavor is typically found in ice cream — creamy, buttery ice cream strewn with hunks of nutty, toasted pecans. There’s also a hint of vanilla to bring some warmth. Plus, the richness of the butter adds the perfect amount of savoriness to this sweet treat.

Why a Butter Pecan Pound Cake?

I really wanted to bring these flavors to a baked good. A pound cake made the most sense to me, as it calls for an ample amount of butter — much like butter pecan ice cream. I like to boost the flavor of the cake by browning the butter, which serves as a perfect complement to the toasted pecans. The pound cake is also great with a hint of booze. Brown liquors like dark rum, brandy, bourbon, and whiskey all stand up to the warm flavors and spices.

If You Make Butter Pecan Pound Cake, a Few Tips

  • Use salted butter: I call for salted butter because it deepens the flavor of the cake.  
  • Add warm spices: The recipe calls for a half teaspoon of ground nutmeg, but I recommend bumping the amount up to a full teaspoon. You can add a teaspoon of cinnamon as well.  
  • Play around with the alcohol: If you like, use dark rum, brandy, bourbon, or whiskey, or omit altogether.  
  • Let your pound cake hang out: Even though it tastes great on the day it’s made, pound cake always tastes better the longer it sits.
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Butter Pecan Pound Cake Recipe

Strewn with hunks of nutty, toasted pecans, and graced with added warmth from brown salted butter and a hint of bourbon, this pound cake gives off butter pecan ice cream vibes.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 45 minutes

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 4

    large eggs

  • 3/4 cup

    sour cream

  • 2 sticks

    (8 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons salted butter, divided

  • Cooking spray or butter, for coating the pan

  • 1 1/2 cups

    pecans (6 ounces)

  • 2 cups

    plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for the pan

  • 1 1/3 cups

    plus 1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground nutmeg

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the glaze and topping:

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) salted butter

  • 3 tablespoons

    packed dark brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon

    water

  • 1/4 cup

    powdered sugar

  • 1 tablespoon

    milk or cream

  • 1 tablespoon

    bourbon

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup

    pecans (2 ounces)

  • Flaky salt, for sprinkling (optional)

Instructions

Make the cake:

  1. Place 4 large eggs and 3/4 cup sour cream on the counter and let sit until room temperature.

  2. Melt 2 sticks of the salted butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to foam and bubble, swirling the pan occasionally, about 5 minutes. Continue to swirl the pan or stir with a heatproof spatula until brown bits form at the bottom and turn amber in color, the liquid butter is light golden brown, and it smells nutty, about 5 minutes more.

  3. Immediately scrape into the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer. Let cool until room temperature, about 10 minutes.

  4. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325ºF. Coat a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray or butter, and coat the pan with flour; tap out the excess flour.

  5. Coarsely chop 1 1/2 cups pecans. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons salted butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the pecans and cook until lightly toasted, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

  6. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the all-purpose flour, 1 packed teaspoon of the dark brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Stir until the pecans are evenly coated.

  7. Place the remaining 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

  8. Add the remaining 1 1/3 cups packed dark brown sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher to the bowl of browned butter. Beat with the paddle attachment on high speed until pale and thick, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, about 8 minutes.

  9. Beat in the eggs on medium speed one at a time, waiting until each egg is incorporated before adding the next, and beat until the batter is thickened. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

  10. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on the lowest speed until mostly incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sour cream and beat on the lowest speed until just combined, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat on the lowest speed until just combined and smooth.

  11. Add the pecan mixture and fold by hand with a flexible spatula until just combined. Transfer into the loaf pan and spread into an even layer. Pick up the pan and bang the bottom on the counter 2 to 4 times to release any air pockets.

  12. Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out with moist but separate crumbs, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Flip the cake out of the pan and place right-side up on the rack. Let cool until room temperature, about 40 minutes more.

Make the glaze and topping:

  1. Melt 4 tablespoons salted butter, 3 tablespoons packed brown dark sugar, and 1 tablespoon water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the sugar and butter are melted and the mixture is smooth, about 1 1/2 minutes.

  2. Add 1/4 cup powdered sugar and stir to combine. The mixture may be lumpy. Add 1 tablespoon milk or cream, 1 tablespoon bourbon, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Stir until smooth. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let sit until slightly thickened but still pourable, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, coarsely chop 1/2 cup pecans.

  3. Pour the glaze over the pound cake. Sprinkle with the pecans and flaky salt if desired. Let sit until the glaze is set, about 15 minutes, before slicing and serving.

Recipe Notes

Vanilla extract substitution: Almond extract can be substituted for the vanilla extract.

Make ahead: The cake can be made completely, including the glaze, up to 1 day ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Storage: Store leftovers at room temperature in an airtight container. Alternatively, freeze whole or sliced: Wrap each piece individually in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then place and in a zip top bag. Let thaw at room temperature before serving.