We Tried Reese Witherspoon’s Sour Cream Cake with Praline Frosting. Here’s the Verdict.

Reese Witherspoon loves her Grandma Draper's recipe for Sour Cream Cake—but the praline frosting sure can be finicky. Here's how it came out for us.

Reese Witherspoon is one of those women who seems to do everything well. She’s an actress, producer and entrepreneur who happens to love Southern staples. I assume she spends any time she has left in the kitchen! That’s where I would hang out if my grandma handed down this recipe for Sour Cream Cake.

Reese’s grandmother, Dorothea Draper, used to spoil her with rich desserts and taught her about baking and Southern living. This recipe was first featured in Candace Nelson’s cookbook. (She’s the founder of Sprinkles bakery and a good friend of Reese’s.) Now Reese has her own cookbook: Whiskey in a Teacup. And if those new recipes are anything like this one, I’ll be ordering mine later today.

Like Reese says, “Y’all, this cake is so good!”

What you need

For the cake:

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened, plus more for greasing
  • 3 cups cake flour, plus more for flouring the pans
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups full-fat sour cream
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more if necessary
  • 3 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Getting started

As anxious as I was to get this cake baked, I’m glad I followed the recipe’s advice and took the time to properly prepare my pans. (Following the directions is one of grandma’s baking secrets.) This moist, fluffy cake can very easily stick to the pan, so start by buttering your two 9-inch cake pans, then cutting parchment paper circles to line the bottoms, buttering again and finally flouring both pans.

Mixing the batter

Then per the instructions, I sifted together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. For a light, sweet cake, it’s important to measure the dry ingredients the right way. In a separate small bowl, I stirred together the vanilla and sour cream.

I then pulled out my trusty stand mixer (I use this KitchenAid) with the paddle attachment and beat the butter and sugar together until light and smooth. This part felt a little slow, but I went with it. I slowly added each egg, then one-third of the flour mixture, half the sour cream mixture, half the remaining flour mixture, the remaining sour cream mixture and finally the remaining flour mixture. Normally I’d ignore that and dump it all together, but the results were too good to cut corners.

Baking your cake

Once the batter was smooth with no streaks, I divided it among my two prepared pans and baked them for about 30 to 40 minutes. The recipe called for 30 minutes, but that wasn’t quite long enough for my oven. Make sure a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean before removing them. It was hard with that heavenly smell in my kitchen, but I let the cakes cool completely before turning them upside down over my cake stand. They came right out with no problem.

The best part

Witherspoon cakeTaste of Home

This frosting is out of this world, but a little tricky. It hardens quickly, so make sure your cakes are cooled and ready-to-go before assembling. I started by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then stirred in the brown sugar and cream. As soon as it reached a boil, I poured the mixture into a mixing bowl and started beating it at medium speed. I slowly added the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla until it reached the right consistency.

The frosting might look a little thin, but it will harden quickly. If it feels too thick to spread, try adding a tablespoon or two of extra cream. As soon as it’s ready, scoop about ¾ cup of frosting onto one cake layer and stack the other cake on top. Then, using a knife or spatula, quickly frost the top and sides.

Slice of cakeTaste of Home

While my cake wasn’t exactly as beautiful as the cookbook picture—that frosting sets fast!—the taste more than made up for my slightly lopsided creation. Will I make it again? Oh, yes.

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Carrie Madormo, RN
Now a freelance health and food writer, Carrie worked as a nurse for over a decade. When she isn't hunched over her laptop with a baby in hand, you will find her cooking her grandmother’s recipes, lacing up her running shoes or sipping coffee in the bathroom to hide from her three young children.