The Kentucky Butter Cake That Won A 1960s Pillsbury Baking Contest

For a cake recipe that was first introduced to the world in 1963, Kentucky butter cake has demonstrated some serious staying power. Since the recipe first claimed the winning title at a Pillsbury Bake-Off competition, the sugary, buttery treat has captured the hearts and stomachs of bakers and diners for decades. 

The winning baker knew that topping the moist cake with a generous glaze of sugary, butter syrup would not only bring an added level of moisture, but also provide a toothy bite to the cake's exterior. The result is something like a warm, glazed donut served fresh out of the oven. Pieces of this butter cake offer a lighter bite than denser pound cakes, and the recipe is considered high ratio since the weight of the sugar is at least equal (if not more) to the weight of the added flour. When making delicately-textured cakes, it is best to mix dry ingredients with butter and a bit of liquid first, before adding the rest of the listed ingredients. If the tender cake isn't eaten in a day, some food bloggers insist the taste improves overnight. And, if you're looking for different serving options to keep guests guessing, consider topping slices with whipped cream and seasonal fruit.

A recipe withstanding time

Though the bundt cake recipe may look like the usual formula to make a pound cake, the inclusion of vanilla and sugary, buttery glaze helps set this cake apart. To make Kentucky butter cake, you'll need butter — and lots of it. One cup is used for the cake itself, while another third of a cup is reserved to make the butter sauce. The cake itself is fairly straightforward, with flour, sugar, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla mixed with baking powder, sea salt, and a touch of baking soda. To make the butter sauce, nearly a full cup of sugar is mixed with butter and vanilla. After the sweet buttery glaze is poured on top of the cake, the creation is left to rest for hours, and powdery confectioner's sugar can be used to garnish the cake prior to serving.

While the original version has seen several adaptations — some bakers add bourbon and sherry to the mix — the recipe has provided a foundation for food lovers to experiment with. Try adding Martha Stewart's boozy bundt cake addition or spritz in your favorite citrus or floral essence to bring out light, summery-tasting notes to serve to guests.