Butter Pecan Praline Cake

Here’s a cake as southern as the Kentucky Derby itself! Butter Pecan Praline Cake is the perfect sweet treat to make for Derby Day, but it’s a favorite for all occasions.

Butter Pecan Praline Cake

This cake is so nice, I made it twice!

Derby Day is coming up and I wanted to make something special for the occasion. A cake brimming with butter, brown sugar, and pecan flavors seems fitting. It’s a southern favorite that I make year-round. It would be great for Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, or bookmark it for Thanksgiving because those brown sugar flavors taste just right when the leaves turn.

Butter Pecan Praline Cake

I couldn’t resist making a horseshoe-shaped version of this cake loaded with red roses in true derby style. The pageantry – namely the blanket of red roses draped across the winning horse’s back – is truly a sight to behold. This cake pays homage to that.

However, the original 3-layer version is a good no-frills, all-purpose recipe. So I made it, too! And you should make it any time you crave something that tastes like it came from a southern grandma’s kitchen.

This cake is an easy task for home bakers. The buttery layers don’t rise much in the center, so they really don’t need much leveling, if any. The buttercream frosting is loaded with finely ground pecans. It lends itself best to big swirls with an offset spatula, but you can also pipe it! The ground pecans are fine enough to pass through a decorator tip.

Butter Pecan Praline Cake

The only thing more it requires is some chopped pecans pressed into the bottom edge of the cake, and a sprinkle on top.

The horseshoe garland cake.

Bake the batter in a 13×9 pan instead of 3 round layers. Cut a horseshoe-shaped template from a piece of parchment and tack it onto the cooled cake using toothpicks. Give it a trim with a serrated knife and save the cake scraps for breakfast (or a trifle!).

Cover the horseshoe in a thick layer of the butter pecan frosting. In addition, you’ll need a double batch of American buttercream tinted red for the roses. You can find my recipe for that here (or in the Sprinkle Bakes book!).

Also, you can find my buttercream rose tutorial here. The same technique applies for these roses, except you’ll make them slightly smaller and pipe the roses on a #7 flower nail head. Scoot the flower off of the nail head using some flower-lifting scissors, or a spatula, and place on the cake.

Butter Pecan Praline Cake

Place each rose side-by side on the cake. I don’t think any two of my flowers were the same – ha! My advice is to aim for beauty, not perfection. Those are two very different things, in my opinion.

Butter Pecan Praline Cake

So, now I have two Butter Pecan Praline cakes – guess I’d better get to sharing! I don’t think I’ll have a problem finding any takers, do you?

The recipe below gives the instructions for the 9-inch round layer cake, and you’ll find directions for the horseshoe cake in the recipe notes.

Butter Pecan Praline Cake

Heather Baird
This Butter Pecan Praline Cake is a southern favorite. It's perfect for Derby Day, but it's welcome at our table at any time of year!
Be sure to use the spoon and sweep method when measuring the flour, and sift it so the baked cake has a light, fluffy texture.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, Southern United States
Servings 12


  • 3 round cake pans, 9 inches each


Brown sugar cake layers

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk

Buttercream pecan frosting

  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 cup pecans finely ground
  • 1 cup chopped pecans


Brown sugar cake layers

  • Preheat oven to 350 °F. Spray three 9″ round cake pans with flour-based cooking spray.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter until creamy. Add brown sugar and granulated sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Mix well with each addition. Add vanilla extract and beat until well-blended.
  • Add 1/2 of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture. Add in all the milk; mix well. Add remaining flour mixture and combine until just incorporated. Using a large rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl and fold together by hand so that all ingredients are well incorporated.
  • Divide batter evenly into the prepared pans, slightly more than 2 cups of batter per pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pan 7-10 minutes. Turn layers out of pans to rest a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Butter Pecan Frosting

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the butter until creamy. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Drizzle in a little heavy cream. Gradually add remaining powdered sugar alternating with the heavy cream. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the mixing bowl with a spatula so that all ingredients are well incorporated. Add vanilla and salt; beat well. Beat in the 1 cup of finely ground pecans.
  • Fill cakes with the frosting and stack; coat the outside of the cake with a thin crumb coat of frosting. Refrigerate until firm, 15 minutes. Cover the outside of the cake with swirls of frosting. Press chopped pecans onto the bottom edge of the cake. Transfer leftover frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large open star tip. Pipe stars around the top edge of the cake. Immediately sprinkle chopped pecans over the stars.


For the horseshoe cake, bake the cake batter in a 13×9 inch pan for about 50 minutes. Tent the top of the cake if it begins to overbrown.
Lay a piece of parchment paper flat on a work surface. Lay the bottom of a 13×9 inch pan on the parchment and trace around it. Cut out the shape. Draw a horseshoe within the shape and cut it out to use as a template. Lay the template on the baked, cooled cake and tack down onto the cake with toothpicks. Carve around the cake using a serrated knife. Save cake scraps for cake pops, trifles, or snacking.
Make the butter pecan buttercream as directed and frost the entire cake. Tint two batches of American buttercream red (scroll to the bottom of this post for recipe). Pipe roses using #104 petal tip onto #7 flower nails (see this post for buttercream roses tutorial). Transfer to the top of the horseshoe cake using flower lifting scissors or a spatula.
Keyword brown sugar cake, butter pecan frosting
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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Annie Goodman
Annie Goodman
2 years ago

Hi Heather! I’m at it again making your recipes gluten free! I made the Butter Pecan Praline Cake as a sheet cake using gluten free flour & adding a cup of ground pecans to the cake recipe. To cut some of the calories & make the dessert a little less rich — I iced the sheet cake with a thin layer of a simple cream cheese frosting and then covered with more chopped & ground pecans. Yummy!!! Thanks for the great cake recipe!

Annie Goodman
Annie Goodman
2 years ago
Reply to  Heather Baird

Thanks Heather. I love modifying your recipes for us gluten free bakers! I’m also trying to keep the fat and sugar down too without sacrificing taste. It’s a challenge! Your recipes are so good even just making them gluten free!

2 years ago

Thoughts on toasting the pecans?