Can you believe that it took me until I was in my mid-thirties to make brown butter frosting for the first time? Why did I wait so long? The sound of brown butter anything has always been enough to make me want it, but for some reason I thought it would be more complicated to make. Turns out it’s really simple to brown your butter and even simpler to make buttercream with it. And now I want to put it on every Fall cake I make.
If you’ve never browned butter before, let me suggest something right off the bat: an apron. Maybe you don’t need this suggestion because you’re the kind of person who would think that’s a no brainer and don an apron any time you work in the kitchen. I, however, am the kind of person who thinks they’ll be careful and wears a new sweatshirt to brown the butter (sans apron) and ends up with butter splotches all over it. If you love your clothes, wear an apron for this recipe (and all recipes).
What Does Brown Butter Frosting Taste Like?
The process of browning butter involves melting your butter in a skillet and stirring constantly until something called the Maillard reaction happens – it’s where the milk solids in the butter separate and caramelize, which is how you get the little brown bits in the butter. The resulting flavor is deep and nutty with notes of caramel. It’s absolutely delicious!
Once you brown the butter, you’ll place it into a container and let it cool to room temperature. It will still be slightly creamy at that point. You’ll combine it with regular (un-browned) room temperature unsalted butter to create the base for this buttercream.
What to Pair Brown Butter Frosting With
Brown butter frosting goes with pretty much any cake or cupcake recipe, but particularly works well with Fall inspired flavors. My best suggestions would be pumpkin cake, pumpkin chocolate marble cake (pictured below), chai cake, and apple spice cake. If you’d rather have a non-seasonal cake to pair it with, you can’t go wrong with chocolate or vanilla.
Tips for Brown Butter Success
It’s really simple to brown butter but it does require you to keep an eye on it. There may be only a minute difference between brown butter and burnt butter. Here are my best tips for making the brown butter and preparing it for this frosting recipe:
- Read through the recipe first. Since you’ll be preoccupied with stirring, you’ll want to be prepared for what to look for when it comes to the stages that brown butter goes through.
- Key indicators for doneness: after the butter melts and becomes frothy, you’ll start seeing the brown bits forming as the butter itself turns a caramel color and the aroma becomes nutty. This is when you’ll know it’s done. As long as you follow the timing indicated in the recipe you should see this stage right when you’re meant to.
- Remove it from heat as soon as it’s done. Once the brown butter is done, it’s key to remove it from heat and pour it into a container to stop it from cooking any further.
- Make the brown butter ahead. If you want to, you can make this brown butter ahead and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few weeks. Just make sure to bring it to room temperature by placing it on your counter an hour or two before you plan on using it in the recipe.
Once you’ve made this brown butter frosting, you’re going to want to put it on all your bakes! And just a warning: now that you know how to brown butter you might find yourself in a rabbit hole of what else you can do with it. I’m definitely dreaming about brown butter chocolate chip cookies, brown butter rice krispie treats, brown butter ravioli, brown butter everything. I’m so into it!
Here’s a quick video to show you the process of browning the butter, turning it into buttercream, and basically everything you could want to know about this recipe:
PS: If you’re into recipe videos like this one, be sure to check out my YouTube Channel! You’ll find more of my favorite recipes, cake decorating tutorials, and so much more. Click the Subscribe button while you’re there so you never miss a new video!
Brown Butter Frosting
- 1 Cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 Cups (420g) powdered sugar
- 2 Tbsp whole milk, room temperature
- 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
- Brown the Butter: Add 1/2 Cup (1 stick) of the unsalted butter into a large frying pan and cook over medium heat until the butter melts, stirring occasionally. Continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes while stirring constantly. The melted butter will start to foam on top, then will turn light brown in color and smell deliciously nutty. Remove from heat at this point and transfer to a glass container. Allow it to re-solidify for about 2 hours at room temperature or place it into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. It should be completely room temperature and thick (about the consistency of a thick caramel) before continuing on with the buttercream recipe.
- Once the brown butter is room temperature, cream the other 1/2 Cup of unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high until creamy and light in color, about 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle as needed.
- Add the cooled brown butter and vanilla and mix on medium speed until uniform. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the powdered sugar a few cups at a time, scraping down the bowl and paddle after mixing in each addition. Add the milk and salt and continue mixing on low speed until smooth.
- The brown butter can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to use it, bring it back to room temperature. It should be slightly creamy before using in this recipe.
- The brown butter frosting can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to use it, bring it back to room temperature and re-whip with your stand mixer on low for one minute to bring it back to frosting consistency.
- Frost 12-15 cupcakes with a piping bag
- Fill and crumb coat a three-layer 6-inch cake or two-layer 8-inch cake. To have enough for frosting and decorating as well, double the recipe.
This brown butter frosting recipe is so perfect for Fall and pairs perfectly with pretty much any cake flavor. I hope you love it as much as I do! Let me know what you think in the comments below and feel free to tag @sugarandsparrowco on Instagram if you post a pic! I love to see what you create.