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Bourbon Brown Butter Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Frosting

February 7, 2012

My husband and I are currently renting a charming farm house complete with big red barn, open fields enclosed by crumbling stone walls and trees with the occasional cow passing through.  It’s peaceful, park-like, and pretty much perfect for us right now.  The caveat?  There is (or should I say was…) no driveway.  It was fine driving up the grassy hill to our back door during the summer but fall and winter have dealt us quite a bit of rain and our beautiful backyard slowly turned into a mud pit 😦  Our wonderful landlord came to the rescue this past weekend though to “lay a driveway”.  Apparently our dear landlord doesn’t know anyone who frequently wears heels because a large shale path is now center stage of what once was our (ok, fine-his) unadulterated lawn.

I was pondering all these things while tip-toeing over the gravel when naturally my mind wandered to food.  (There is no correlation, just for me, pretty much every thought turns to baking at some point.  I really just needed to whine a little about my poor backyard.)  I wanted caramel.  Specifically I wanted gooey, buttery caramel sauce dripping down the side of my spoon a dessert.  It had to be different though-I didn’t want to go the latte route or the salted caramel route, I really wanted to re-create a caramel flavor in the actual cupcake, so after much tip-toeing and more pondering, these came to mind.

Brown butter with the addition of brown sugar.  The batter tastes like caramel, once it’s baked the flavor lightens significantly but you’re still left with an incredibly moist cupcake with a sophisticated depth of flavor that you can’t quite put your finger on.  I made them in minis and full-size-you can’t go wrong with either but I do prefer the minis because you get enough of all the flavors in one bite.  I added just a touch of bourbon so that it wouldn’t over-power, just add to that depth.  They were then generously frosted with creamy vanilla bean frosting and drizzled thoroughly with caramel sauce.  Heaven. in. a. bite.  I cannot lie, I ate most of them.  Seriously, run, don’t walk, to your kitchen and make these!!

Bourbon Brown Butter Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Frosting
Yields approximately 36 mini cupcakes or 12-15 standard size cupcakes
Cupcakes are a purple spoon original, caramel sauce recipe from The Tasteful Life 


1 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 stick of butter

1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon, optional

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used salted this time for a sweet/salty touch-yumm!)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sugar


1. For the caramel sauce: Heat the heavy cream in the microwave or stovetop just until hot to the touch.  Place the 1 cup sugar in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat.  Whisk and allow it to melt and bubble until it turns an amber color.  Quickly whisk in the 1/2 stick of butter and then whisk in the cream until fully incorporated.  Pour the sauce into a container to cool to room temperature.

2. For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F) and line a cupcake pan with liners.  In a small bowl whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

3. To brown the butter: melt the 1/2 cup of butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Continue cooking, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter stops foaming and browned bits start to form at the bottom and the butter has a nutty smell, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour into a medium size bowl.  Whisk in the brown sugar and then the eggs one at a time and vanilla.  Add half the flour.  Whisk in the milk and then whisk in the rest of the flour.  Whisk in the bourbon if using.  The batter is very thin and it may have a few lumps-whisk the lumps to smooth out a bit but the cupcakes will be just fine.

4. Divide the batter evenly among the liners (I use a half-tablespoon measuring spoon for the mini-cupcakes and a quarter cup measuring cup for the standard size).  Bake mini cupcakes for 10 minutes and standard size for 16-18 minutes or until the tops bounce back by touching them and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes in their pans before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

5. For the frosting: Place the 1 cup whole milk in a small saucepan.  Sprinkle the flour over the milk, 1/4 cup at a time and whisk until smooth.  Place the saucepan over low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture becomes thick and pulls into a ball.  Remove from the heat and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mixture and tuck around it to make sure there are no exposed parts.  Refrigerate until cooled to room temperature or colder (at least 30 minutes).

In a large bowl, cream the butter.  Add the cooled flour milk mixture and beat until well blended.  Mix in the vanilla.  With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the sugar and then continue to beat the icing for an additional 10-12 minutes until noticeably whiter and creamy.  Pipe onto the the cupcakes, and then drizzle with the caramel sauce.  Store covered at room temperature for up to 2 days.

42 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2012 1:45 am

    Looks delicious, thanks for sharing!!

  2. February 7, 2012 2:38 am

    soooo beautiful! i wish i could frost cupcakes like you! frost envy! 🙂

  3. February 7, 2012 5:25 am

    What a cool sounding place to live! These cupcakes sound awesome and look extremely pretty! Great post.

  4. February 7, 2012 9:42 am

    Your description of “brown butter with the addition if sugar” makes my mouth water. Congrats on making it onto Foodbuzz’s top 9 this morning with your Giants Cookies!!!

  5. February 7, 2012 11:48 am

    I almost licked the screen..
    I’m in the library..
    That could have been awkward!

    Great post! 😉

  6. February 7, 2012 12:02 pm

    Your pics look amazing. I feel like reaching in to the screen and grab some of those delicious cupcakes of yours!

  7. February 7, 2012 12:17 pm

    Wow I am drooling at my computer right now, this looks amazing!

  8. February 7, 2012 12:17 pm

    This cupcake does have some tasty elements to it. Perhaps I will need to relieve you of these addictive little gems-yum! The caramel is a great way to finalize these. They look fabulous.
    Also, you could always keep the heels in the car and wear flats-than change. However that only works if you are wearing a skirt or dress-definitely not an idea for pants!

  9. Elle of Chellbellz permalink
    February 7, 2012 12:22 pm

    Sweet Jesus…I want to try these so bad! YUMMMMMY!

  10. February 7, 2012 12:49 pm

    Bourbon brown butter sounds AMAZING! 😀

  11. February 7, 2012 1:25 pm

    Oh my, this looks delicious! I can never resist caramel, especially not double caramel, and then bourbon on top? Heaven!

  12. February 7, 2012 2:04 pm

    These sound amazing!

  13. February 7, 2012 6:08 pm

    Oh My Gosh! You have done it again! YUMMY

  14. February 7, 2012 6:49 pm

    There is mno driveway? seriously? Nothing is perfect right? Of course, except for these yummy cupcakes…!!!

  15. February 8, 2012 4:26 am

    Very pretty cupcakes. I know, I when I need to go to my “happy place” I usually end up thinking about food too. Have a great day!!

  16. February 8, 2012 12:27 pm

    Oh my goodness these look delicious, especially the frosting. What a winning combination. I would love to see a photo of the farmhouse too. That seems just like my dream house.

  17. February 8, 2012 4:58 pm

    I am drooling over these – that Caramel, oh yes, that caramel looks so incredibly amazing!

  18. February 8, 2012 7:23 pm

    Yes! I love these.

  19. February 9, 2012 7:33 am

    Oh, these are the most spectacular cupcakes I’ve seen in ages! Pinning these beauties!!!

  20. February 9, 2012 8:02 am

    Liz above me shared these on facebook, which had the affect of drawing me straight here. I can’t stand chocolate, but I’ll push people out of the way to get to good caramel and this looks like GOOD caramel. Wow, I love the recipe. It’s been pinned for later use. Many thanks for sharing.

  21. February 9, 2012 7:56 pm

    Oh my! I’m drooling on the keyboard! Will have to make these soon!

  22. February 9, 2012 8:38 pm

    This is just beautiful. Caramel is my favorite.

  23. February 10, 2012 11:10 pm

    Seriously, I want to eat everything you make. All of it! You have such a lovely blog. I enjoy your blog so much that I have an award for you. Click the link to receive it-

  24. Indra permalink
    March 20, 2012 8:43 am

    i dont know where i did wrong but the frosting turned out to be so clumpy. The cooled milk mixture was lumpy.

    • March 20, 2012 7:53 pm

      Aww that’s the most difficult part-once you master the flour base the rest is easy. Make sure that each addition of flour is whisked in completely until smooth, and cook over very low heat- you can actually continue to whisk it until the flour starts to clump before switching to a wooden spoon. Stir very vigorously until it pulls away into a ball and then make sure the entire surface is covered directly with plastic wrap. You can also cream the cooled flour mixture with the butter for a few minutes as well. Good luck! Once you get it, it is incredible!!

  25. Indra permalink
    March 21, 2012 3:53 am

    I used plain flour. Is that okay?

    • March 22, 2012 10:43 am

      yes thats fine 🙂

      • Melanie Hall permalink
        April 25, 2012 4:47 pm

        I need to know what “pulls into a ball” means before I start! 🙂

      • April 25, 2012 7:24 pm

        The milk and flour mixture will thicken as it cooks, you’ll need to stir it constantly and vigorously until its thick enough where it pulls away from the sides of the pot and into a ball 🙂 good luck!

  26. Joel G permalink
    June 3, 2012 8:12 pm

    What type of brown sugar? Light or Dark?

  27. lizzie permalink
    November 20, 2012 4:50 pm

    I am making these now. They lose a lot of flavor when you bake them, but they look beautiful! I think they need something to jazz them up a bit–instead of tasting like caramel, it just tastes like white cake :/

    • November 28, 2012 9:26 am

      Thank you for trying them out! As I mentioned in the description they do unfortunately lose a lot of that caramel-y flavor when they bake up, the bourbon definitely helps add another layer of flavor and I only make them with that addition now. I’d definitely love to hear any suggestions for “jazz-ing them up” though!


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