Butterscotch Layer Cake

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

This is the sort of cake that people label “very rich” but then go on to have three slices with languorous ease. Yes, it is rich, but the gorgeousness is never palate cluttering or cloying. It makes a comforting dessert after a wintry kitchen supper of something like meatballs or roast chicken and leeks. To make a coffee-butterscotch cake—as heavenly as it sounds—add a tablespoonful of instant espresso powder to the flour. And it occurs to me as I write this that, for fruit lovers, this cake, in its regular, uncoffeed state, would be even more seductive with a few sliced, perfectly ripe bananas in with the filling. But I have to say it does it for me as it is.


Cooking Methodbaking


Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Cooking for a date, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursedessert

Equipmentfood processor

Mealdinner, lunch, snack, tea


Taste and Texturecreamy, rich, sweet

Type of Dishcake, dessert, sponge cake


  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • 14 ounces (1¾ cups) cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, very soft
  • 7 tablespoons softened brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1½ cups self-rising cake flour
  • 2-4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 8x2-inch cake pans, greased and lined with parchment or wax paper


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and then get on with the icing. I do this first, since you need to make some caramel and then let it cool. Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat, remembering not to stir at all as it will crystallize if you do. When it seems dissolved, turn up the heat and boil until it turns a dark golden color. This will probably take 10–15 minutes. And try not to be faint-hearted: caramel has to be near burning; it wouldn’t be caramel otherwise.

  2. When you’ve reached that exciting stage, take the pan off the heat and slowly whisk in the cream. It may go a little lumpy but don’t panic, it will smooth out. When all the cream’s in, put the pan back on the heat for a further minute, whisking until smooth and combined. I find one of those little curly wire whisks the best tool for the job. Cool, and then refrigerate until you need it.

  3. The easiest way to make the cake is to put all the ingredients except the cream into the bowl of the food processor and blitz till smooth. (It’s for this reason the butter must be very soft before you start.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process again, adding a couple of tablespoons of cream down the funnel with the motor running. Stop and check the consistency of the batter: if it’s on the runny (though not liquid) side then stop here; otherwise, add another 1–2 tablespoons of cream to achieve this dropping consistency. If you want to make it by hand, follow the method for the Victoria sponge (page 14).

  4. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for about 25 minutes; the cake layers are ready when they’re beginning to shrink away from the sides of the pan and when a cake tester or skewer comes out clean. Leave on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out and leave on the rack until completely cooled.

  5. Now for the assembly. Pour the thoroughly cooled caramel into a glass cup measure with a spout. (You’ll be using some if not all of the rest to dribble over the iced cake later.) Beat the cream cheese until softened and smooth, then add the cupful of caramel and beat gently to combine.

  6. Put one cake layer on a plate. Using a rubber spatula or an ordinary blunt knife, roughly spread just under half of the icing over the top of the waiting cake. Place the other cake on top and then roughly ice the top of that cake with what remains in the bowl. Don’t feel constrained to use up every last scrap of icing: it tastes almost at its best straight out of a finger-wiped bowl. Using a teaspoon, drizzle some of the reserved caramel over the cake: think Jackson Pollock.


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I could't resist the temptation to stir the sugar while melting it for the butterscotch, but that didnt seem to effect the texture at all. The huge quantity of sugar and water to make the butterscotch means that it takes ages to disolve the sugar and then get it to brown off. So be patient. The cream cheese in the icing is a clever trick, and makes the cake really interesting. I would have prefered a lighter cake (this one comes out quite dense probably because it is made in a food processer and has double cream added). Very nice cake, well appreciated, perfect for a birthday celebration. Thanks for adding nutitional values - Slightly shocking but best to know these things!


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