Cake
Brown Butter Frosting

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The nuttiness of brown butter pairs with the sweetness of powdered sugar in this decadent brown butter frosting. It’s amazing any time of year, but especially when used to top your favorite fall cakes and cupcakes.

Close up of a spiced cupcake covered in brown butter frosting.Close up of a spiced cupcake covered in brown butter frosting.

I’m a firm believer in taking my recipes and making them your own.

This is especially true for my cakes and cupcakes. I often suggest cake and frosting pairings, but you should consider them only as suggestions or starting points.

It’s why I have so many different frosting recipes for you, from buttercream and cream cheese frosting to strawberry frosting and whipped cream frosting.

And today I’m sharing my new favorite: brown butter frosting. Later in this post I’ll suggest some ways to use it, but I really hope you get creative. Feel free to use it however you like and create something completely new – that’s what baking is for, after all!

Top view of a white bowl filled with brown buttercream frosting.Top view of a white bowl filled with brown buttercream frosting.

HAZELNUT BROWN BUTTER ICING

I have some really good news for you, friends. If you like my homemade buttercream frosting, I’ve found a way to make it even better.

Right. My buttercream frosting has hundreds and hundreds of 5-star reviews, so you know it’s a big hit. So what could make it even better?

Brown the butter.

If you’ve never browned butter before, the process caramelizes the milk solids in the butter and gives it a deep golden color and nutty flavor. It’s absolute liquid gold.

When you pair the nuttiness of the brown butter with the sweetness of the powdered sugar in this frosting, you get something truly special. I personally think that browned butter helps balance out the sweetness, so this could be a great option if you typically find buttercream to be a little too sweet for your tastes.

I love the flavor of browned butter any time of year, but especially in the fall. I mean, it pairs so well with apples, pumpkin (as in Brown Butter Pumpkin Bread), maple (as in Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats), and more.

That means this brown butter frosting is amazing any time, but especially in the fall. I think it needs to make an appearance on your Thanksgiving dessert table this year!

A piping bag filled with brown butter frosting next to a frosted spiced cupcake.A piping bag filled with brown butter frosting next to a frosted spiced cupcake.

HOW TO MAKE BROWN BUTTER ICING

If you know how to make buttercream frosting, then you already know how to make this brown butter frosting. It’s so easy, I know it will become a popular recipe at your house!

Ingredients you will need

The ingredient list for making brown butter frosting is the same as my standard buttercream. It’s the method that will make the difference in this recipe.

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
  • A pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 ½ pounds powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons of cream or milk

Since we’ll be browning the butter, you don’t have to worry about letting it come to room temperature. Which is always nice for me, as I often forget to make the butter ahead of time!

If you run out of powdered sugar, learn how to make it so you can still enjoy this frosting anytime.

When I make buttercream, I often use clear vanilla extract to keep the color bright white. Since we use browned butter in this recipe, we don’t have to worry about that. So feel free to use your favorite vanilla extract or even vanilla bean paste.

Both cream and milk work equally well in this recipe, so use whatever you have on hand or prefer.

Brown butter frosting ingredients arranged on a work surface.Brown butter frosting ingredients arranged on a work surface.

I make this frosting

Before you get started, make sure you know how to brown butter. Add butter to a saucepan over medium heat; once golden, pour it into a bowl and let it cool completely to room temperature.

Cooling the brown butter will take at least an hour. The butter will solidify but not harden.

Once the brown butter is solid again (but still soft), add it to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl paired with an electric mixer.

Add the salt and powdered sugar to the bowl and mix on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The mixture will come together as you stir it.

Brown butter and powdered sugar mixed in a white bowl.Brown butter and powdered sugar mixed in a white bowl.

Add vanilla and milk or cream. Mix on low speed until incorporated, then increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat frosting for 5 minutes. You want it to be light and fluffy.

If the frosting is thicker than you’d like, simply add a little more milk a teaspoon at a time until it reaches your desired consistency.

Now you can use your delicious brown butter frosting however you like!

Brown butter frosting beaten in a white bowl next to a hand mixer.Brown butter frosting beaten in a white bowl next to a hand mixer.

Halve this brown butter frosting recipe

This recipe makes enough frosting for 24 cupcakes or a 9-inch layer cake. It can also densely frost a 13×9-inch sheet cake.

If you don’t need that much frosting, you can freeze the rest for later (see below in the “storing and freezing” section) or just make half.

For half a serving of brown butter frosting, you will need:

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • A pinch of fine sea salt
  • ¾ pound powdered sugar
  • ½ tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons of cream or milk

Simply follow the same instructions as above, using half the ingredient quantities.

The piping bag ends with brown butter frosting on a spice cupcake.The piping bag ends with brown butter frosting on a spice cupcake.

USES

So how should you use brown butter frosting?

You can pair it with any cake or cupcake recipe you like, but I think it pairs very well with spiced cakes or any cake that pairs well with walnuts or pecans. (Remember, brown butter has a nutty flavor!)

It would be delicious on top of zucchini cake, banana cake or banana cupcakes.

I think it’s great with apples and would be amazing on caramel apple pie too.

I know cream cheese frosting is the traditional choice for carrot cake, but this brown butter frosting would be a nice change of pace!

And we can’t forget the pumpkin. Pumpkin spice cupcakes, pumpkin donut, pumpkin bars, and even my grandmother’s pumpkin roll would all be really delicious with brown butter frosting.

Two cupcakes covered in brown buttercream frosting next to a piping bag filled with frosting.Two cupcakes covered in brown buttercream frosting next to a piping bag filled with frosting.

STORAGE AND FREEZING

If you want to make this brown butter frosting ahead of time or have leftovers you want to save, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Before using it, bring the icing to room temperature and beat it with an electric whisk for 1-2 minutes. This will help revive the texture and make it perfect for use again!

You can also freeze the frosting. Place in an airtight container and press a layer of plastic wrap against the frosting for extra protection. Freeze for up to one month.

Let the frosting thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Let it reach room temperature, then beat with an electric whisk for a few minutes. If necessary, add a drop of milk to make it nice and smooth.

If you are freezing a cake already covered in brown butter frosting, follow my directions on how to freeze the cake.

  • In a saucepan over medium heat, brown the butter following the instructions for how to brown butter. Once golden, pour the butter into a bowl and let it cool completely at room temperature for at least an hour. The butter will solidify but not harden.
  • Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or to a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the salt and powdered sugar and mix on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The mixture will come together as you stir.

  • Add vanilla and milk or cream; mix on low speed until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 5 minutes, until the frosting is light and fluffy.

  • If the icing is too thick, add a little milk, a teaspoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency.

It’s enough to frost 24 cupcakes or a 9-inch layer cake, or generously frost a 9×13-inch sheet cake.
For a half dose, use the following quantities of ingredients and follow the instructions above:

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • A pinch of fine sea salt
  • ¾ pound powdered sugar
  • ½ tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons of cream or milk

If you run out of powdered sugar, learn how to make it so you can still enjoy this frosting anytime.
Store frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for 1 month (let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator). Before using, let it return to room temperature and beat with an electric whisk to mix.

Calories: 218kcal, Carbohydrates: 28G, Protein: 0.2G, Fat: 12G, Saturated fats: 8G, Polyunsaturated fats: 0.5G, Monounsaturated fat: 3G, Trans fats: 0.5G, Cholesterol: 32mg, Sodium: 3mg, Potassium: 6mg, Sugar: 28G, Vitamin A: 373UI, C vitamin: 0.01mg, Soccer: 5mg, Iron: 0.02mg

Nutrition information is calculated automatically, so should only be used as an approximation.

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