A Jam-Swirled Brown Butter (Perfect) Cake for Spring

As someone who liked to draw outside the lines from a young age, I like projects that require you to get a little messy. This cake is just one of those projects.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Instead of requiring precise construction (like a pie crust) or intricate attention to detail (like cake frosting), this recipe actually encourages you to splatter and smudge. The surface of this cake should look like a sugared Jackson Pollock painting. Streaks of berry jam swirled across the surface serve two purposes: They give the cake a stunning appearance and they make every bite jammy and sweet.

Photo by Posie Harwood

This is an old Eagle Brand recipe, but I’ve adapted it significantly: The original recipe has a thin layer of sugar cookie dough pressed into the base of the cake pan; I’ve skipped that part. (Don’t get me wrong, pouring cake batter over cookie dough is a brilliant idea, and I’ll be bringing you a recipe for exactly that in the coming weeks. How’s that for something to look forward to?)

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This week, however, called for a quieter sort of indulgence. With a slew of busy days ahead of me, I wanted a simple—but no less special—cake waiting for me after dinner. Instead of full-fledged decadence, I’ve opted for something a little less flashy.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Restraint doesn’t equal less flavor. Condensed milk and brown butter give the cake a very moist crumb, and each tender, buttery bite has a modest, nuanced sweetness (thanks, brown butter) that helps to emphasis the fruit. On that note, I suggest using the best jam or preserves you can find. If you make your own, so much the better. I’ve used a mix of strawberry and raspberry, but any variety will work nicely.

Photo by Posie Harwood

If your jam is on the thicker side, heat it up just slightly so it loosens a little before dolloping it over the cake batter. It will be easier to swirl. And then just have at it with the swirls, make a mess with the jam—it'll look cool regardless of how haphazardly you do it.

What's your favorite straightforwardly delicious cake? Tell us in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Zan73
  • Schweetie Belly
    Schweetie Belly
  • thalia ho
    thalia ho
  • Asta Caplan
    Asta Caplan
  • Annie stader
    Annie stader
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


Zan73 August 22, 2021
Is it possible to provide a metric version of the recipe? The cake looks divine and I have tried two of your recipes and they were great.
Posie (. August 22, 2021
140g butter at room temperature, divided
99g sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
135g all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
113g berry jam
Schweetie B. June 28, 2016
I just made this cake today and it is absolutely to-die-for delicious. Very moist and flavorful and extremely easy to throw together last minute if you have the ingredients on hand (which I did!)
thalia H. May 1, 2016
holy this looks like heaven
Asta C. May 1, 2016
Beautiful cake! Will try this asap. But I guess the name of the painter was meant to be Jackson Pollock.
Annie S. May 1, 2016
Beautiful cake! Does it keep well? I would like to take it to a wedding rehearsal dinner. It will need to stay fresh for at least 2 days. Thanks?