1-2-3-4 Cake with Butternut Frosting is a classic Southern butter cake recipe paired with a very special “cake batter” flavored icing, topped with pecans.
This blog post is dedicated to my Aunt Emily. She has been making this amazingly good cake for over 30 years. And of course there’s a story behind it. A sweet lady brought this cake to her after her father passed away in 1982. She loved it so much that she figured out how to make it herself and has been making it ever since.
Aunt Emily lives in Alabama, so I don’t get a chance to enjoy her awesome baking skills very often. But last weekend was my cousin Madison’s wedding and there was LOTS of cake! Aunt Emily made two or three cakes and my (also very talented) cousin, Kelly, made several cakes which included a two-tiered wedding cake that had red velvet cake in one tier and carrot cake in the other. Plus, she made some extraordinary cheesecakes (another blog post coming soon)!
Aunt Emily made a classic white wedding cake with Swiss meringue buttercream and of course, a Butternut Cake. She told me that the cake itself was a 1-2-3-4 cake recipe, so I decided to call it a 1-2-3-4 Cake with Butternut Frosting. The 1-2-3-4 Cake is an old fashioned, Southern cake recipe of a basic yellow cake that’s been around for many years. It was my grandmother’s favorite cake recipe and she must have had TEN copies of it in her recipe box! If you’re from the South, I’ll bet your grandmother made it too!
As with any “made from scratch” cake, it takes some tender loving care to accomplish the perfect cake, but if you follow my instructions carefully, I’m pretty sure you can do it too! When the ingredients are measured correctly, mixed correctly and baked at the appropriate time and temperature, then you can achieve an incredible cake that’s moist and delicious!
Why is it called a 1-2-3-4 cake?
1 cup of butter
2 cups of sugar
3 cups of cake flour
4 eggs (plus a few more ingredients).
Note: My grandmother’s recipe included all-purpose flour but I prefer cake flour because it gives the cake a lighter, airier texture.
It’s important to get the right amount of flour. Weighing the flour on a food scale is my preferred method and I’ve included the weight measurement, but not everyone has a scale. If you are using measuring cups, I would say to use a scant 3 cups of cake flour. In other words, you don’t want to have too much flour, because that will make the cake heavy. It’s also important to have all of your ingredients at room temperature.
Another important thing to remember when making a cake from scratch is that you don’t want to over mix it. I used an electric mixture on medium low to mix the ingredients until they were thoroughly combined, plus about 30 seconds more. I’ve provided all of the steps in the recipe which is at the bottom of this post.
CLICK HERE to watch my video, How to make a 1-2-3-4 Cake.
Baking time is very important. I actually baked this batch just a few minutes too long and the result was a slightly dry cake. Oven temperatures tend to vary, so you might have to test the cake a few minutes before it’s done. Bake at 350°F. for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. I would test it at 22 minutes, just to be safe.
The frosting! The star of this show! It’s simply a basic cream cheese frosting but what makes it extra special is the “secret” ingredient which is the flavoring that’s added.
Vanilla & Butter Nut flavoring (by McCormick, now called Cake Batter Flavor) makes this cake over the top good! You should be able to find it in your local grocer, but if you can’t find it there, it is also available on Amazon.
UPDATE: McCormick changed the name of Vanilla & Butter Nut Flavoring to CAKE BATTER FLAVOR!
Plus, toasted pecans between the layers and on top for an added crunch and nutty flavor.
Thank you, Aunt Emily, for introducing us to this fabulous cake!
I hope you all (my readers) will enjoy 1-2-3-4 Cake with Butternut Frosting as much as I do!
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1-2-3-4 Cake with Butternut Frosting
For the cake
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (plus extra to grease pans)
- 2 cups granulated sugar (or 384g)
- 3 cups cake flour (or 336g)
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 cup whole milk at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the frosting
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
- 3 3/4 cup powdered sugar (or 454g)
- 1 ounce McCormick Cake Batter Flavor (or 29mL)
- 1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
For the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Brush 3 (9-inch) round pans with melted butter and line with parchment paper. Brush with more butter. You could also use non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, measure out flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add sugar and mix. Add eggs and mix until combined. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk, plus the vanilla. Mix on medium low until combined. Repeat with remaining flour and milk. Mix until combined, then continue mixing on medium low for 30 seconds. Divide batter between the three prepared pans. Bake on the middle rack of your oven for 20-25 minutes. At 20 minutes, test one of the cakes by inserting a toothpick. If it comes out clean, they are done. If not, continue to bake for just a few minutes more. Let cool completely,
For the frosting:
- In a large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar with the mixer on low. Once it's added, turn mixer up to medium high and beat until smooth. Add flavoring and mix.
Frosting the cake:
- Remove cakes from pans. Cut off a little bit of the top, horizontally, if there is a slight dome shape to your cakes. Place one layer on cake plate. Add frosting and 1/4 cup of nuts. Add another layer. Frost and add 1/4 cup of nuts. Add top layer. Frost top and sides of cake. Create a swirling pattern in icing, if desired, with offset spatula. Add nuts to top. Store cake, covered, at room temperature for one day and in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
This recipe is featured on Christy Jordan’s Southern Plate Meal Plan Monday.
All text and images © Lise Ode for Mom Loves Baking. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe. Disclaimer: Nutrition information shown is not guaranteed to be accurate. This post may contain affiliate links.