According to Wikipedia, a butter tart is “a type of small pastry tart highly regarded in Canadian cuisine and considered one of Canada’s quintessential treats.” I believe this definition to be the truest most accurate depiction of the dearly loved ooey-gooey pastry perfection known as the butter tart.
And seeing as this nationally proclaimed sweet treat is my husband’s favorite pastry, it clearly needed to be “caked.” I’ve done just that with this epically delicious Butter Tart Cake and I think it’s safe to say that it’s a must-bake for each and every Canadian and non-Canadian alike.
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Butter Tart Cake
Tender layers of brown sugar cake baked right on top of buttery flaky pie crust and stacked high with the most delicious whipped rum buttercream frosting. Filled with iconic butter tart filling and topped with even more raisin butter tart yum, this cake is everything decadent and delicious! A true Christmas treat in every single forkful.
What Makes Up A Butter Tart Cake
With a warm, sweet, and rich flavor profile, this butter tart cake is made up of 3 different components:
- Brown Sugar Pie Crust Cake Layers – super soft and super tender these brown sugar cake layers are baked right on top of a buttery pie crust.
- Raisin Butter Tart Filling – ooey gooey and extra delicious this raisin butter tart filling is the star of the show. Not a raisin fan, no sweat! I’ve included substitution or omission swaps in the recipe.
- Rum Frosting – warm, fluffy, and so darn yummy. Whipped rum frosting is a crowd-pleaser and pairs beautifully with the sweet raisin butter tart filling.
Brown Sugar Pie Crust Cake Layers
Prepare each cake pan with non-stick baking spray and a piece of parchment paper and roll/set out the store-bought pie crust. Place a cake pan on top of the pie pastry and with a sharp knife, cut around the base of the cake pan. Put each cut pie dough into the prepared cake pan, prick with fork tines, and bake according to the package instructions. It’s typically around 375ºF for 10-12 minutes. Once the crust has baked and is a beautiful light golden brown, remove it from the oven and, while still in the cake pans, place them directly on a cooling rack to cool.
Begin to prepare the cake batter as the pie crusts cool. Once the cake batter is complete, divide and pour the batter evenly onto the cooling pie crusts, note that’s okay if the crusts are still a bit warm, and bake again at 350ºF for approximately 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes on a cooling rack. After 10 minutes run a butter knife around the edges and invert on the cooling rack to fully cool.
Butter Tart Cake Ingredients
(Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Ingredient Swaps)
This recipe was originally written and made with regular ingredients. Since then, I have transitioned the blog into gluten-free and dairy-free in accordance with our lifestyle. The recipe card below will be shown with the original regular ingredients but I’ll include the gluten-free and/or dairy-free swaps here below that I’ve tested it with.
Here are a few key ingredients for this cake but make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom recipe card for the complete ingredient list.
- Cake Flour: Cake flour is a lower protein flour than all-purpose and will create lighter fluffier cake layers. If you are gluten-free, use the same cup measurement in a gluten-free baking blend. If the blend does not contain xanthan gum you will need to add ½ teaspoon of xanthan gum to the dry ingredients.
- Pie Crust: I used store-bought pie crust simply for ease of it. If you have a preferred pie crust recipe, you can absolutely use that. To make it gluten-free, use a gluten-free pie crust.
- Salted Butter: This recipe was tested with salted butter. Unsalted butter will work the same but you will need to add a pinch more salt. If you are dairy-free, replace the butter with a solid dairy-free baking substitute. Make sure it’s not a spread as that will not produce the same results. I highly recommend Becel plant-based baking bricks.
- Milk: You can use whatever type of milk you have in the fridge. The higher the fat content the richer the cake will taste. For dairy-free, swap with a dairy-free milk alternative like almond, coconut, or oat milk.
- Oil: Use canola or vegetable oil for best results.
- Raisins: Any type of raisin will work for this recipe so use whatever you prefer or have on hand. That said, I know raisins are quite controversial. If you are not a raisin fan you can simply omit or swap them with nuts like pecans or walnuts.
- Vanilla Extract: I will always encourage pure vanilla extract. It’s truly the best but with that said, artificial extract works as well in a pinch or on a budget.
- Rum Extract: This recipe calls for rum extract. It will give you the most flavor bang for your buck so to speak. Most grocery stores will carry it and you can also find it online here. You can absolutely use real rum if you would like though. I recommend a tablespoon of rum in the frosting.
How To Make Raisin Butter Tart Filling
First things first, raisins are optional. While I’m a huge raisin butter tart fan, I know they are very controversial. If you would like to omit the raisins completely, go ahead. Simply follow the recipe and leave them out. Or, if you enjoy nut like pecans or walnuts, you can swap those instead.
Start by combining the raisins (see the note above), water, brown sugar, and cornstarch in a medium heavy-bottomed pot and begin to cook over medium heat. Continually stir until this mixture begins to thicken. You want the filling thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This should take approximately 5-10 minutes. Remove it from the heat once the butter tart filling is thick enough and stir in the butter first and then the white vinegar.
Pour the raisin butter tart filling into a shallow dish and cover the surface directly with plastic wrap. Allow it to fully cool before using it in the cake. You can put it in the fridge to cool faster if desired and can also be frozen.
Cake Assembly Tips
Stacking a cake with a soft filling like this butter tart cake can feel daunting. But, as they say, slow and steady wins the race. Let’s set you up for cake success with some tips and tricks.
Here are a few assembly tips:
- Fully Cooled Cake Layers: even if a tiny bit warm, layers will slip when warm. Ensure that each cake layer is fully cooled if not even a bit chilled. I will even work with semi-frozen cake layers if I had to bake them a few days before stacking.
- Leveled Cake Layers: flat and level cake layers will sit far easier than crooked ones. I use this super easy cake tool to ensure each cake layer is perfectly level.
- Create a Frosting Border: this piped frosting border between the cake layers acts as a dam to keep that delicious butter tart filling in.
- Keep the Cake Chilled: if at any point you begin to feel the cake slip or the frosting is too soft to work with, pop the cake and the frosting back into the fridge to chill. Remember, don’t rush it. Take your time.
How To Decorate A Butter Tart Cake
“As you desire” is often how I refer to cake decoration. It’s not that I don’t want you to make the exact same cake as I did, it’s simply that I don’t want you to feel like you *have* to make the exact same cake. We all have an inner cake artist and I always want to encourage you to let it shine. That said, I break down this amazing butter cake decor for you real quick.
Step 1: Crumb coat the cake and allow it to chill for 20 minutes. See the above section for stacking tips and tricks.
Step 2: Put a final “beauty” coat of frosting on the cake and smooth the sides and top edge with a cake smoother.
Step 3: Place mini butter tarts around the top edge of the cake approximately 1 inch apart from each other. Pipe a Wilton 1M swirl between each tart.
Step 4: Chill the cake until ready to serve.
Storing and Freezing Instructions
This cake can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days. It can also be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.
If you want to bake these layers a few days in advance, you most certainly can. Allow the cake layers to cool, wrap them in plastic wrap, and freeze until you a ready to stack and decorate the cake. When you are ready to stack and decorate the butter tart cake, thaw the frozen cake layers on a counter at room temperature for approximately an hour.
The Yummiest Butter Tart Cake
A piece of classic Canadian deliciousness, this fantastic butter tart cake is a delicious combo of buttery, warm, rich, and sweet in every single bite. Tender moist brown sugar cake layers with ooey gooey raisin butter tart filling and covered in a smooth whipped rum buttercream frosting. This holiday butter tart cake is pure warm and cozy comfort in every scrumptious bite.
Make sure you tag me on social media @cakedbykatie and leave me a rating and review below if you make it. Can’t wait to see it!
Canadian-Inspired Baking Ideas
Here are a few other iconic Canadian treats:
- Nanaimo Bars
- Sprinkle Confetti Squares
- Nanaimo Bar Cake
- Strawberry Trifle by Baked by Blair
- Strawberry Shortcake Kabobs from Clean and Scentsible
- Salted Caramel Nanaimo Bars from Ai Made It For You
Butter Tart Cake
- Total Time: 2 Hours 35 Minutes
- Yield: 14 Slices 1x
- Diet: Low Lactose
Inspired by the iconic Canadian Butter Tart, this cake is made up of tender layers of brown sugar cake baked right on top of a flaky buttery pie crust. Filled with raisin butter tart filling and covered in whipped rum buttercream frosting, it’s the perfect holiday dessert!
Brown Sugar Cake
- 1 package (2 x 9 inch) pie shells/crusts *
- 1 ¾ cup (162g) cake flour, sifted
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ cup (114g) salted butter, room temperature
- 1 ½ cups (320g) brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup (180ml) milk, room temperature
Butter Tart Filling
- 1 ½ cups (240g) raisins
- 2 cups (500ml) water, room temperature
- ⅔ cup (128g) brown sugar, firmly packed
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon salted butter, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
- 2 cups (454 g) salted butter, room temperature
- 6 cups (720 g) icing sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoon rum extract **
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- optional: mini butter tarts for decor
Brown Sugar Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 8-inch round cake pans with non-stick baking spray and parchment paper.
Remove pie shells from the package and with a sharp knife cut around the bottom edge of an 8-inch pan on each shell.
Place each pie shell in a prepared cake pan and bake according to package instructions.
Let each pie crust cool in the cake pan while preparing the cake batter.
In a small mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl with electric beaters cream butter, brown sugar, and oil on high for 5 minutes.
Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix on high for 2 minutes.
Into the mixer, add in the dry ingredients from step 5 and begin to mix on low.
While the mixer is on low slowly pour in the milk and mix until just combined. Be careful not to overmix the batter.
Divide batter evenly between the cake pans on top of the baked pie crust and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
Cool in pans for 10 minutes and then invert on a cooling rack to fully cool.
Butter Tart Filling
- In a medium pot combine the raisins, water, brown sugar, and cornstarch and mix until combined. Begin to cook over medium heat while continually stirring.
Once the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon remove it from the heat and stir in the salt and butter and mix until melted and smooth.
Add in the white vinegar and again, mix until combined.
Place the butter tart filling in a heat-proof container and cover the surface directly with a piece of plastic wrap. Allow to fully cool before using it in the cake. Can be stored in the fridge for up to 7 days or frozen up to 6 months.
Brown Sugar Spiced Rum Buttercream
In the bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter on high speed with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. This should take approximately 5-10 minutes.
Add the icing sugar, salt, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and rum extract and mix on low until combined.
Turn the mixer up to high and let mix for 5 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl when necessary.
Place one leveled layer of brown sugar cake on a cake board or plate. Top with approximately 2 cups of rum buttercream.
Pipe a buttercream border around the edge and fill with approximately 1 cup of butter tart filling. Top with the remaining layer and apply a thin coat of buttercream all over the cake. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Cover the cake with another layer of buttercream and smooth sides and top with a cake smoother and offset spatula.
Decorate as you please. I used a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 1M tip to pipe swirls around the top border and placed a mini butter tart between each swirl. Enjoy!
Store any leftover cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
* You can use store-bought or homemade pie shells/crusts.
** You can use real rum instead of rum extract. I suggest upping the quantity to 1 tablespoon.
- Prep Time: 2 Hours
- Cook Time: 35 Minutes
- Category: Cakes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1 Slice
- Calories: 946
- Sugar: 124 Grams
- Sodium: 863 Miligrams
- Fat: 38 Grams
- Saturated Fat: 18 Grams
- Unsaturated Fat: 17 Grams
- Trans Fat: 2 Grams
- Carbohydrates: 149 Grams
- Fiber: 1 Gram
- Protein: 5 Grams
- Cholesterol: 85 Miligrams
Keywords: butter tart cake, butter tart cake recipe, raisin butter tart cake, dairy free butter tart cake, gluten-free butter tart cake
I cannot tell you how much I love butter tarts. I’m so excited to make this one!
We are a butter tart-loving family here! I hope you adore this cake.
The raisin filling was delicious. I’ve made it several times now.
Yay! I’m totally team raisin too and glad to hear you are as well. Thanks for sharing Masa.
Oh wow! That cake looks amazing! I love butter tarts but would never have thought to incorporate them into a cake!
Thanks Jenn! I’m a butter tart anything and everything kind of gal!
What a beautiful cake! And that butter tart filling.. mm mm mmm!
I could quite happily eat butter tart filling by the bowlful!
I don’t know why I’ve never baked cake on pie crust before but game-changer!!!
Right?! It’s so good! A little bit of added texture and flavor. I’m so glad you like it Kelli-Ann.
Found this recipe on a whim and knew I had to try it. My family LOVES butter tarts and this cake was every bit a yummy butter tart.
My husband is a butter tart lover too. He’s the reason I created this one. I am so glad you all enjoyed it.
Cooking the filling this way just turns the eggs into scrambled eggs. Did you cool the mixture first?
Oh no, how frustrating! Here are a few tips: make sure the eggs are whisked together first. Slowly pour the hot mixture into the eggs whisking together as you pour. Once the mixture has been combined, then return it to the heat. This should temper the eggs so they don’t end up scrambled. I hope this helps!
Hi there, I can’t wait to make this cake, but I need some clarification regarding step 2 in the cake process: Remove pie shells from the package and with a sharp knife trace around the bottom edge of an 8-inch pan on each shell. What is happening in this step? Are you removing the crust sides and just keeping the bottom? Any help would be appreciated.
Hi Ness, this step is going to make sure the pie crust is the same size as your cake pan so it fits perfectly in the bottom. Hope that helps!
Hi!! I had a question. I noticed everything was dairy free in this recipe. Is that for a reason? If I use regular dairy butter and milk will this still work?
Yes, this is a dairy-free baking blog! That said, I do test everything with regular ingredients and it will work great with good ol butter and milk!
This cake was a delight to make. I had so much fun and the instructions were so easy to follow. I made this for my husband’s birthday as his favourite treat are butter tarts! He was so happy and really loved the surprise crispy pie shell! Tastes amazing! Thank you so much!
I am so glad you made and enjoyed this one Vanessa. It’s a personal favorite of mine!
Wondering how much milk should be added to the buttercream?
Hi Katie. It’s a typo. No milk is needed in this buttercream. I appreciate you pointing that out to me.
Hi Katie. NO raisins for us. So…will the filling be thick enough without them?
I would let it cook a little bit longer and allow it to thicken a tad more.
Size of cake pans?
2 8-inch round cake pans.
This was amazing crispy, soft moist cake, gooey filling wrapped in a delicious creamy rum buttercream. I would so make this again ..only next time I would add pecans.
Thanks for giving the recipe a go Jamie. I’m thrilled you enjoyed it.