Brown Butter Harvest Cake

*This Brown Butter Harvest Cake with Vanilla Nut Creme is gluten-free, grain-free, lactose-free, refined sugar-free.*

My one-year maternity leave is now over. Sob, sob, sob! I’m going to miss staying home with the kids, but I am also glad to be going back to work. With adults around me. Whom I can talk to. About normal stuff.

So, in honour of my return to work, I baked myself a cake! But of course, I’m still on my low-carb diet (call it Paleo or call it SCD), so the cake must embody that principle. Also, I wanted something pretty - to celebrate my weight loss, my family, my job, my blog, my friends – everything that is good in life!

And this is what happens when I let loose in the kitchen with my beater and spatula! So OK, I went a little overboard decorating the cake with fresh flowers – ranunculi, hydrangeas, and roses. One thing about me though, I like girly stuff. Even if our home is “decorated” (or really, anti-decorated) in a rather cold, gray, Minimalist style, I like to give the place a touch of femininity by bringing flowers in. Lots of whites, pinks, mint greens, yellows, or any other pastel-coloured blooms…Sigh…In any case, my Brown Butter Harvest Cake got the full floral treatment.

I think the cake turned out fine; however, if you like “regular” cakes like I do, this one might fall short in the sense that it is not as sweet nor as fine-crumbed you are used to. But – there is a but – you can easily replace my “health-specific” ingredients with regular wheat flour and regular sugar, etc. Don’t worry, I won’t judge. After all, I am still a sweet-lover at heart (French pastries are my downfall)! Only now, I have a deep interest in alternative baking.

4.9 from 13 reviews
Brown Butter Harvest Cake with Vanilla Nut Creme
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This cake is gluten-free, grain-free, lactose-free, and refined sugar-free.
Recipe Type: Desserts
Serves: one 6" layer cake
  • ~~ For the Harvest Cake ~~
  • 2 sticks (225 g) unsalted butter
  • 3-1/2 cups (400 g) blanched almond flour
  • ½ cup coconut flour (60 g) coconut flour
  • 2 teaspoon (7 g) baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon (3 g) sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons (7s g) cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon (4 g) nutmeg
  • ¾ cup (165 g) raw honey
  • 2 teaspoons (6 g) vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup (235 ml / 8 oz) unsweetened coconut milk
  • ¾ cup (175 ml / 6 oz) fresh pressed apple cider or juice
  • 1 cup (130 g) grated carrot
  • 1 cup (130 g) grated zucchini
  • ~~ For the Nutty Vanilla Creme ~~
  • 1-1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked
  • ¾ cup fresh apple cider or juice
  • 3 Medjool dates, pit removed
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons raw honey
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • fresh flowers for decorating (I used ranunculi, hydrangeas, and roses)
  1. To make the cake, first make the brown butter. Put your butter in a saucepan over medium heat and melt until golden brown or dark amber, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Grease two 6-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom with parchment paper.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, combine the dry ingredients (almond and coconut flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg). Mix on low speed for 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together butter, honey, vanilla extract, eggs, coconut milk, and apple cider or juice.
  5. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix on medium-low to combine. You can also mix this by hand.
  6. Fold in grated carrot and zucchini.
  7. Pour the batter in the cake pans and cook 35 to 40 minutes, or until a tester inserted comes out clean.
  8. To make the nutty vanilla creme "icing", combine all the ingredients in a blender or a food processor.
  9. Blend until smooth.
  10. This can be made ahead of time, stored in an airtight container for 1 week in the refrigerator.
  11. To assemble the cake, after the cakes are done, let cool in the pans for 15 minutes.
  12. Very gently turn over to a cooling rack and remove parchment paper, letting it sit for another 20 minutes or until cakes are cool.
  13. When they are cool enough, place the bottom layer of the cake on a plate or stand, with the flat bottom on facing up.
  14. Using an offset spatula, spread the vanilla creme on the cake. This will be your middle filling.
  15. Gently place the second cake on top and spread more vanilla creme.
  16. Decorate with fresh flowers.



54 Responses to “Brown Butter Harvest Cake”

  1. Wow, could those photos be any more gorgeous!!?? I have to completely applaud you at your ability to bake using alternate ingredients. I would love to do it but I can’t seem to experiment without screwing stuff up. I guess I’ll just stick to cooking and use your recipes to bake healthier :) Can’t wait to try this!

  2. Valerie says:

    Oh hello, spring- so lovely to see you! Jen, words escape me- this cake, the flowers, the simple white cutlery and cake stand…everything is exquisite. Sometimes it’s okay to go all-out girly. :)

    Welcome back to work, I didn’t know you were in the psychology field! Let me know if you have a few hours/days! :D

  3. Patty says:

    Beautiful cake Jen! Your recipes have been so inspired in keeping with your new regime;-) I would love to frame one of these pictures for my office- just gorgeous!
    You are going to be one busy lady-my best wishes on going back to your job;-)

  4. That cake is definitely celebration worthy! And there’s no such thing as going overboard with decorating with flowers ;) This is really beautiful.

  5. Your cake is such a beauty, Jen! I love the fresh flowers and spring colors!

  6. Tina Ong says:

    The cake looks so beautiful! gluten-free anything has such a bad reputation (wink!) with my kids, but I can just imagine the almond flour making everything taste better.:)

  7. Fabulous, everything about this is fabulous! Hope work goes well, I know it’s hard after a year, best wishes!

  8. Happy happy blog celebration/return to work day, dear Jen! I am envious of pretty much everything I see in your photos in this post: the flowers (esp. ranunculi – one of my faves), the LIGHT (which is lacking in my house this time of year), those wonderful white utensils – where did you find those?, and the cake, which looks incredible!

  9. What an exciting cake! I love how different this is and how you’ve reworked the ingredients.

  10. So gorgeous! Love the flower arrangement! PS: Congrats on Huff’s Fave Bloggers list! :)

  11. Katie says:

    Good luck with your return to work. That cake looks beautiful and delicious! x

  12. CCU says:

    This cake is so scrumptious looking my friend :D
    Good luck with returning, you will be fine :)


  13. Your maternity leave is over…. how are you doing Jen? Are you adjusting back to work life? I haven’t gone to work for years after kids were born, and wonder how it’s like to be in adult world, you know it’s different from staying at home. Best wishes to you!
    Now about this cake. WOW. Just big jaw-dropping wow over this cake (and drool). You are such a talented cook, photographer, and designer. You know how to make it pretty! Even I was given those beautiful flower, cake, and props, I won’t be able to do this perfect job. Brava!

  14. You are seriously one of my top favorite food photographers…I’ve said it before but I really could stare forever, lol. I love that this one’s a healthy keeper…just beautiful!

  15. I’ve told you many times your photos are stunning, but this cake, oh, the bright photos, white cake stand and flowers and blue jar make me dream of sunny summer days away from the busy city life.
    Beautiful and inspiring Jen.
    Hope you have fun at work

  16. You have made this look stunning, Jen. Those flowers are gorgeous. How do you find the nuts on the digestive system? I found after a while that I was overloading on them and so veered towards coconut and tapioca flours. It’s certainly an interesting learning curve.

  17. Tessa says:

    What a beautiful cake and stunning photos! I’m sure that once you get back to work, you’ll quickly get back into the swing of things. You’ll do great. Have a wonderful weekend!

  18. wok with ray says:

    You are going back to work at a “mental health facility?” How come I’ve never seen you there before? I live there. Okay, just joking!!! Happy Friday, Happy Friday!! Peace! :) You picked the most beautiful pastel flowers and really nice contrast with that delicious looking cake. Have a good weekend, Jen!

  19. Jill says:

    I’m sorry, I couldn’t get past the sentence where you said you just finished a ONE YEAR maternity. Man, I should move to Canada :)

  20. Casey says:

    Oh Jen :) You totally read my mind! I myself am gaining interest in alternative baking and making it a bit more healthy. Why oh why do the best foods have to be so darn bad for you? I love how you used the flowers for decoration :)

  21. mjskit says:

    I love the way bakers and cooks celebrate and give themselves gifts by baking and cooking. :) It’s obviously been a fabulous year staying home with your little loved one, but life goes on and you are handling it quite well. You cake is beautiful and your styling – gorgeous!

  22. Jen – this is one STUNNING cake! Your photos are mouthwatering. No one would ever guess that it met all the Paleo requirements. I hope your transition back to work is easy! :-)

  23. Suzanne says:

    This cake is so beautiful and I’m in love with the flowers. Jen I would guess your house would be full of girly things and vintage but I’ve seen the photos of your home and know you have a minimalist style which is so surprising because of your blog here. Congrats or condolences on your return to work, I can hardly believe you get 1 year, when here 9 weeks is max., well back when I had kids it was. I’m so impressed with your vision for baking with alternatives to stick with your diet. Good luck with your diet, work and all the other things you do.

  24. Not only is the cake gorgeous, Jen, but also sounds and looks incredibly delicious! Best of luck back at work…and keep the works of art coming!

  25. What a gorgeous cake! I attempted Paleo last month, didn’t get very far but I need to get on it again. If I can have this cake, then I think I can do it! Beautiful flowers and beautiful photos.


  26. This cake is absolutely gorgeous–adorning a simple cake with these beautiful flowers is genius–love, love, love it! So perfect for celebrating all the good things in life. :)

  27. Mrs Deer says:

    Amazing photos! I love your creations!

  28. Just please do not give up on blogging now that you are back full time working…I would miss you wayyy too much, and your blog, and your recipes…ok and your dreamy pictures that look like from wedding magazine…
    Amazing…stunning and I have no words, just wonderful cake and post too!
    Have fun working…I am looking forward to your next post!

  29. Raymund says:

    Honestly you made a simple cake like that look like a wedding cake. I am really impressed with your food styling

  30. I don’t think you went overboard in decorating your cake. Honestly, I find it so beautiful! Oh gosh, back to work for you then. After a year, it should take getting used to. I like(d) decorating too but after having kids and a dog, my house became a minimalist too. I used to care about the details but now, I am just waiting for them to grow up a bit so I can decorate a bit better.

  31. [...] If you're not worried about making this cake vegan, you can swap in any simple frosting. Recipe here. [...]

  32. Jessica says:

    This is so beautiful! What a lovely celebratory cake, and nice flower arrangements too. Sorry you have to go back to work!

  33. This cake is gorgeous, and I bet it tastes just as good as it looks!

  34. [...] If you’re not worried about making this cake vegan, you can swap in any simple frosting. Recipe here. [...]

  35. Frederique says:

    Just made this cake, and I’ve gotten so many good comments about the taste and the moistness level.
    My decoration skills can’t compare though!
    Thanks for the recipe!

    • Jen says:

      I’m glad to hear that you gave it a try! Hope you enjoyed it, too :)

      • Joanna says:

        Thank you for actually making the cake and THEN posting a review. All the other “reviews” are only on how the cake looks. I am so extremely leery of making a recipe that uses expensive flours like almond flour when I don’t know if it is going to turn out good, or heavy and dry, etc. The high marks are misleading. I may just try this cake, since you got such rave reviews about it. Did people know it was gluten free? I have a chocolate cake recipe that people cannot tell is gluten free, so I make it all the time. It’s delicious and people rave about it. It’s made with quinoa! Looking to build my dessert arsenal with “never knew it wasn’t gluten” recipes.

  36. Oh my goodness this is beautiful and the idea of a brown butter cake is just singing to me!

  37. zosia says:

    Hi there.
    Is that coconut milk from a can or carton?
    This looks so tasty…can’t wait to make it!

  38. Christine says:

    I want to make this cake for my parents 42nd Anniversary, next week, but I don’t have any 6″ round pans! I was going to use the square pans I have (a 8x8x2, or a 9×9 x2)! Would I have to double the recipe to make this cake work as a tiered cake? I am just a beginner at this stuff, so I am not sure. Please help!

  39. Emily says:

    Hey! I have a bit of an odd question. In addition to being gluten and lactose intolerant I am also apple intolerant (I am aware this is weird). Do you think the apple juice could be switched out for something else? Maybe a different type of juice?

  40. Jeanne says:

    The recipe lists coconut milk as an ingredient but does not indicate using it in the written
    instructions. Rather inconvenient when I’m right in the middle of making my daughter’s
    birthday cake. Would appreciate more feedback in comments from someone who actually
    made the cake.

    • Jen says:

      I apologize – it was my oversight. I updated the recipe now. The coconut milk & apple cider should be mixed into the rest of the wet ingredients.

  41. Eleanor says:

    Are there any reviews from someone that made the cake?? I’d like to make this cake, but I don’t see how it got 5 * out of 13 if only one person made it and she didn’t comment after it was done.

  42. Sylvia V says:

    Just finished making this cake for a co-workers baby shower this Saturday. She’s gluten in-tolerant and when I came across this pic, thought it was perfect. Its was expensive for such a small cake, but if it tastes as good as it looks it will all be worth it. The shower is 3/22/2014 so I will post the results. Wish me luck.

  43. Sylvia V says:

    Made this cake, but it should be called bread, taste like a carrot/zucchini cake, its ok, kinda disappointed, wont make it again

    • Jen says:

      Thanks for your feedback. I understand what you are saying. Sometime, gf and vegetarian/vegan cakes have a tendency to be drier and “plainer” because in the difference in butter , flours, use of eggs, and also the sugar. It takes a bit of experimentation to find the right balance or combination of ingredients for a baked recipe. I hope you can tweak the measurements to your liking and try baking it again :)

  44. Deb says:

    This looks great! What brand of butter did you use that is lactose free? All the real butters I’ve seen are made with cream, which has lactose, and I can’t seem to digest it.

  45. [...] when I ran across this beautiful post, I couldn’t help but pin it and mentally remember that it was something to [...]

  46. [...] mom with this gorgeous Brown Butter Harvest Cake with Vanilla Nut Creme from Tartine and Aprine Strings that is gluten-free, grain-free, lactose-free, refined [...]

  47. Jessica says:

    Jen, thanks so much for sharing this gorgeous cake with us. I’m on a gluten free learning journey of late. It’s hard to find recipes that other loved ones will eat that I can have as well…This one was enjoyed by all. I didn’t mention that it was gluten free, and they had no idea…until they saw me eating it, too! In fact, I ended up writing about it, and the experience, on my blog. I linked back here, so perhaps it’ll bring some new friends to your site! Have a lovely day!

    • Jen says:

      Hi, Sorry for the late response, but from the bottom of my heart, thank you for trying this recipe! Thanks for the link back as well!

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