Recipe Review

I Tried Reese Witherspoon’s Favorite Southern Cake from Her Grandma, and I’ll Definitely Be Making It for Thanksgiving

published Nov 6, 2023
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Slice of sour cream cake on plate.
Credit: Molly Allen

Reese Witherspoon is well-known for her famous movie performances like Legally Blonde, Wild, and Walk the Line, as well as her incredibly popular clothing and accessories company, Draper James, named after her grandmother Dorothea Draper. But that’s not the only inspiration she has drawn from her grandmother. In her cookbook, Whiskey in a Teacup, Witherspoon also shares her love for her grandmother’s sour cream cake recipe, one of her Southern dessert staples.

The ingredient list for this cake is simple (my favorite type of dessert to make). I knew I had to put this Southern staple to the test, and at first bite I was certainly glad I did. But even as tasty as this cake turned out to be, I do have a few notes on how to make it that much better.

Get the recipe: Reese Witherspoon’s Sour Cream Cake

Credit: Molly Allen

How to Make Reese Witherspoon’s Sour Cream Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans and place a round piece of parchment paper at the bottom of each.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream and vanilla.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs one at a time.
  4. Mix in the dry ingredients, alternating with the sour cream mixture, about three times. Mix the batter until just combined.
  5. Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans and bake the cakes for 30 to 35 minutes. Once baked, cool the cakes completely.
  6. To make the frosting, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and cream and bring to a boil. Transfer the mixture to a heat-safe bowl on a stand mixer and beat on low with the paddle attachment. Gradually mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla until the frosting comes together.
  7. Place the bottom cake layer on a cake stand. Top with 3/4 cup of frosting and spread until smooth. Top with the second cake layer. Frost the entire cake.
Credit: Molly Allen

My Honest Review of Reese Witherspoon’s Sour Cream Cake

This cake called for simple, easy-to-find ingredients and the process wasn’t difficult. It produces two very tall cake layers, ideal for a showstopping layer cake. Unfortunately, I was wishing for just a bit more from the praline frosting.

Don’t get me wrong — the flavor of this cake was spot-on. It was moist, with strong notes of vanilla. The flavor of the frosting was sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. Boiling the mixture of butter, cream, and brown sugar brought a slight nuttiness to the frosting. However, the recipe didn’t seem to produce enough frosting for my liking. I used a 3/4 cup scoop of frosting for the filling, and then went on to frost the cake. The frosting doesn’t have a fluffy consistency, so it made for a very thin filling in between the layers. Frosting the exterior of the cake was also pretty difficult because of the consistency, and I barely had enough to cover the whole cake. It definitely didn’t result in the showstopping finished dessert I was excited for when I first saw those beautiful, tall layers come out of the oven.

This is still a solid choice for dessert. It’s a great pairing of flavors and textures. However, if I made it again, I would consider increasing the amount of frosting I made by half to get a nice, beautiful pop of praline frosting in between the layers.

Credit: Molly Allen

Three Tips for Making Reese Witherspoon’s Sour Cream Cake

  1. Level the cake: While baking, this cake domes just a bit on top. To stack an even cake, it’s best to trim off the excess on the top of each layer. Once the cakes have cooled, use a serrated bread knife to slice across horizontally to level the tops.
  2. Time the frosting: This cake is topped with a delicious brown sugar praline frosting, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s a cooked frosting. Cooked frostings tend to harden much faster than a typical buttercream frosting. Be sure to wait until the cakes have fully cooled before making the frosting so you can immediately stack and frost the cake. 
  3. Store leftovers: Store any leftovers on the cake stand with a lid on top, or in an airtight container, at room temperature for up to three days. You can also keep the cake in an airtight container or covered in plastic wrap in the fridge for up to four days.