Brown Sugar Swirl Birthday Cake With Brown Sugar Frosting

Last week, even though it was a bit early for my August 26th birthday, I made a cake.

You see, I was in New Jersey for a few days with my parents, and I would be leaving before the big day, so I decided we should all have a little party. Any excuse for more cake, right?

I was writing a post for Craftsy about brown sugar buttercream, and I decided to make a cake to go with it (although, for the record, I have nothing against eating it by the spoonful). I hit up my mom's old cookbook collection and found an old treasure: silver white cake, AKA my birthday cake growing up. Birthday cake with brown sugar Birthday cake with brown sugar I doctored it up a bit, making it richer by including the entire eggs and by adding a swirl of brown sugar. The "swirl" came out more like little lumps of brown sugar here and there...but DELICIOUS lumps. Oh, and I also doubled the salt. Because if I've learned anything in my baking years, it is that brown sugar loves salt.

This cake came out tremendously, if I do say so myself. Everyone took seconds, which is always a good sign. Maybe it can add some joy to your non-birthday day, too!

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Brown Sugar Swirl Birthday Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

For the cake

Makes one 2 layer 8-inch cake

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated (white) sugar
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 8-inch round cake pans. Set to the side.
  2. Beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter, milk, and vanilla in a stand mixer on low speed, scraping the bowl occasionally, for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs, and increase the speed to high, scraping the bowl occasionally, for 2 more minutes, or until the mixture is pretty much smooth and lump free. 
  4. In a small bowl combine the brown sugar and melted butter. It should be pretty thick yet smooth. Fold into the cake mixture, trying to incorporate little bits of the mixture throughout the batter.
  5. Pour into the prepared pans. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden on top and a cake tester comes out mostly clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and immediately run a sharp knife around the perimeter of the pans to loosen the cakes. After a few minutes, invert them on to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. While the cakes cool, make the frosting. When ready to assemble, start by generously frosting the top of one of the cakes; layer the second on top of that, and then frost the whole thing all over. I found this cake did not require a crumb coat.

Brown sugar buttercream


  • 2 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4-6 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup of half and half, plus more if needed

Note: This recipe yields a perfect amount of buttercream to ice a two-layer 9-inch cake or a 9x13-inch oblong cake. This recipe can be doubled.

  1. Cream the butter until fluffy. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon; beat until it has become smooth in texture yet whipped.
  2. Add three cups of the confectioners' sugar, and mix on low speed so that you don't have a snowstorm. Stir in the vanilla extract, salt, and cream. Stir until incorporated.
  3. Add the remaining confectioners sugar to your taste. If it becomes too stiff, add a bit more cream. Store unused portions of the buttercream in the refrigerator for up to a week.

What kind of cake will you have for your birthday this year?