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Brown Butter Frosting

Brown butter frosting is the perfect homemade frosting for your favorite cupcake or cake recipe. Give your creations a nutty, caramel flavor.

angled view of brown butter frosting swirled over yellow cupcakes

This brown butter frosting recipe is one of my favorites for cakes and cupcakes. It is so smooth and pipeable, which makes it easy to work with.

The ingredients create a rich, creamy frosting with a nutty, toasted butter flavor. This frosting is like the sibling to caramel.

I developed this from my basic vanilla buttercream recipe. You can also add brown butter to my cream cheese frosting. Either will be perfect additions to your creations.


Why this recipe works

  • Browning the butter creates a rich caramel-like flavor.
  • A large amount of powdered sugar compensates for the softness of brown butter, so the frosting is sturdy enough to be piped.
  • Adding a pinch of salt balances the sweetness.

This is a rich and flavorful brown butter frosting recipe to make at home for your cakes and cupcakes.

side view of yellow cupcake topped with a fluffy swirl of brown butter frosting

What you need

Brown butter buttercream frosting is made from basic ingredients in your home. Let’s discuss just a few of the key ingredients:

Ingredients

This is a short overview of the ingredients I used and why I chose them. The full recipe can be found at the bottom of the post!

  • Butter: This is the star of the recipe. It creates a buttery, caramel flavor in the brown butter buttercream.
  • Sugar: This ingredient adds sweetness and flavor.
  • Cream: Heavy cream creates richness and thickens the frosting.
  • Vanilla & salt: Vanilla develops a nutty flavor in the frosting, while salt draws out the other flavors.

Equipment

This is a list of tools I used to make the recipe. Some of the links are affiliate links.

  • Mixer: I would recommend a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for this recipe. However, a handheld electric mixer is fine, as well.
  • Silicone spatula: This works well for scraping the sides of the bowl and pressing the frosting to eliminate tiny air bubbles.
brown butter buttercream being piped in a swirl on top of vanilla cupcake

How to make brown butter frosting

This recipe is a breeze to whip together. It takes three simple steps: browning the butter, cooling the butter and making the frosting.

Step 1. Brown the butter

First, you will heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly. Then, cook until melted.

The butter should foam and then, subside.

Cook until you see brown bits in the bottom of the pan and the butter appears a light golden brown color.

Immediately remove from heat. Then transfer to a heatproof bowl. Leave the brown bits in the pan.

four images showing stages of browning butter

Step 2. Cool the butter

Now, refrigerate the butter. Stir every 10 minutes. Repeat until the butter has cooled and thickened, but do not let it become solid.

This process may take 30-45 minutes. To save time, you may refrigerate overnight and bring to room temperature before using.

melted brown butter in glass bowl next to solidified brown butter in glass bowl

Step 3: Make the frosting

Then, grab your stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a large bowl and handheld electric mixer.

In the bowl, beat the butter on medium-high speed until it appears creamy and pale or about 5 minutes.

Add in half of the confectioners' sugar. Beat on low speed until the sugar appears fully moistened.

Then, turn your speed up to medium-high and beat the mixture until blended or about 3-5 minutes.

Then, add the rest of the confectioners' sugar. Beat on low speed until the sugar has fully moistened again.

After that, turn up the speed to medium-high and beat until blended or 3-5 minutes.

Now, add the vanilla and the salt. Then, turn the mixer on low speed while slowly adding 3 tablespoons of heavy cream.

Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat until cream is well mixed or about 3-5 minutes.

You may need to stop the mixing around 2 minutes and scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl before continuing to mix.

After that, check the consistency of the brown butter frosting. Then, add more cream, ½ tablespoon at a time, if needed.

You want the frosting to appear soft and be spreadable. It should be firm enough to hold its shape.

creamed brown butter in bowl of stand mixer next to creamed brown butter and sugar in bowl of stand mixer
creamy brown butter frosting in glass bowl

Storing & freezing

To store: You can make the brown butter frosting in advance and store in the fridge in an airtight container.

It will keep for no more than 2 weeks. To use, let sit at room temperature until soft.

To freeze: I would not recommend freezing the frosting.


Frequently Asked Questions

Salted or unsalted butter?

I always recommend unsalted butter, especially in frosting. This way if the frosting is too sweet, you can add a pinch of salt to balance it out.

How to use brown butter frosting?

There are a number of ways to use this rich, nutty, caramelly frosting. Use it to top apple spice cupcakes, pumpkin pie cupcakes, or carrot cake. Slather it between two pumpkin oatmeal cookies.

Can I use brown butter in place of butter in other frosting recipes?

Brown butter tends to be softer than regular butter so it won't always be a 1-to-1 swap. Depending on the recipe, you may need to increase the amount of powdered sugar to get a sturdier frosting.

overhead of swirly frosting in a glass

Possible variations

  • Mix in crumbled bacon for a sweet and savory flavor profile.
  • Make it fruity by stirring if fruit preserves or powder.
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of maple syrup in place of vanilla. The frosting may need less cream.

Jen's best tips

  • Sift your sugar prior to making this brown butter frosting recipe. It will dissolve into the butter so much easier if it does not have clumps.
  • All of the mixing can leave tiny air holes in the frosting. Prior to using, mix on low speed or press the frosting into the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
  • Unsalted butter is best in this recipe because it gives you better control of the amount of salt in the frosting.

Watch how to make it

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angled view of brown butter frosting swirled over yellow cupcakes

Brown Butter Frosting

Yield: 6 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Cooling Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 7 minutes

Brown Butter Frosting is made entirely from scratch and it’s positively sensational. This simple recipe will make you want to slather frosting on everything. It’s made with butter that is heated until it turns golden brown. 

This recipe makes enough to generously frost 30 cupcakes or a triple-layer cake.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (226 g) unsalted butter
  • 5 cups (600 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3-5 tablespoons heavy cream, room temperature

Instructions

  1. Heat the butter in a medium frypan over medium heat, stir constantly. Continue to cook until melted. The butter will foam and then subside. Cook until brown bits develop in the bottom of the pan and the butter turns a light golden color. Promptly remove from the heat and transfer to a heatproof bowl, leaving the brown in the pan.
  2. Refrigerate while stirring every 10 minutes until the butter has cooled and thickened but not completely solidified. This may take 30-45 minutes. Optionally, refrigerate overnight and bring to room temperature before using.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl with a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy and pale in color, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add half the confectioners' sugar and beat on low speed just until the sugar has fully moistened, then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add the remaining confectioners' sugar and beat on low speed just until the sugar has fully moistened, then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.
  6. Add the vanilla and salt. Turn the mixer on low speed and slowly add 3 tablespoons of the heavy cream. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat until the cream is well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes. (After 2 minutes stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl then continue mixing.)
  7. Check the consistency of the frosting and add more cream, ½ tablespoon at a time, if needed. The frosting should be soft and spreadable but not so loose that it doesn't hold its shape.

Notes

Butter: Unsalted butter works best so the amount of salt added to the frosting can be controlled.

Powdered sugar: Be sure to sift the sugar before using. It will dissolve into the butter much easier if it is free of clumps.

Whipped frosting: This frosting is light and airy from all the mixing. But all the mixing can leave tiny air holes throughout. Mix on low speed or use a spatula to press the frosting into the sides of the bowl to remove the undesired air pockets.

Make ahead tip

  1. Frosting will keep for up to 2 weeks stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Let stand at room temperature to soften before use.
  2. I don't recommend freezing this frosting.

Recommended Products

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 48 Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 118Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 22mgSodium: 13mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 0gSugar: 11gProtein: 0g

* Nutrition information is provided as a courtesy by an online nutrition calculator and is not guaranteed to be accurate. Always seek advice from a nutritionist or medical professional.

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Sarah @Whole and Heavenly Oven

Friday 14th of April 2017

Oh my gosh, I'd slather this killer frosting over literally EVERYTHING! It looks so so flavorful, Jen! Perfect for any cake!

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