Browned Butter Frosting

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Browned butter frosting may be the best icing I've ever tasted!  Turn basic American buttercream into a frosting with incredible depth of flavor with this browned butter frosting recipe.

Browned butter frosting piped out of an icing bag  on a marble surface, with a text overlay reading "browned butter frosting."

I created this browned butter icing recipe to go with some banana cupcakes I was baking, but it would be absolutely incredible on pretty much anything.  The browned butter adds an incredible complexity of flavor, but it's not really a distinct flavor on its own.  It would be spectacular with chocolate cake, or vanilla cake, or spice cake, or pumpkin cookies (ooh, with brown butter cream cheese frosting!), or carrot cake, or...  you get the idea.  

Browned Butter Frosting swirled on three banana cupcakes on a white marble surface.

Anywhere you could use vanilla icing, you can use brown butter buttercream frosting.  It's incredibly versatile.  The little brown bits in the frosting make little flecks that look a lot like vanilla bean paste, and the recipe makes a light golden brown buttercream, so if you need a pure white icing, go with classic American buttercream.   I think the natural look of the browned butter icing looks amazing, especially for fall desserts.

Ingredients for Browned Butter Frosting on a white marble surface.

Brown Butter Frosting Recipe:

  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons, or 1/2 a cup, or 113 grams) of unsalted butter, browned and cooled to room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 pound powdered sugar (454 grams)
  • 1-4 Tablespoons milk (enough to thin to the texture you need)

Brown butter icing takes a little more time and planning to make than your standard American buttercream icing (which just uses regular butter), because you need to brown the butter and let it cool completely to room temperature before making the frosting.  I browned my butter the night before I needed to make the icing, and let it just cool in the small saucepan overnight.  If you make this recipe with warm browned butter (even only slightly warm), you will have a very difficult time getting the icing to the right texture and consistency.

But trust me, the fabulous toasty flavor that the browned butter adds to the buttercream is definitely worth the little bit of extra time and effort.

Browned butter for making Browned Butter Frosting in a small saucepan sitting on a grey potholder.

The first step is to brown the butter in a small saucepan.

How to Brown Butter:

Heat butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.

Stir the butter constantly as it heats.  The butter foams and bubbles during the cooking process, and the foam often obscures what's happening to the butter at the bottom of the pan, but if you stir quickly with a rubber spatula, you can see what's happening beneath the foam.  Continue to cook butter for a few minutes, until the butter turns a beautiful golden brown color, like in the picture above.

The brown color of the butter comes from the Maillard reaction.  You can read more about the science of it here, but in practical terms, it makes things way more delicious!

Let the melted butter cool completely.  It doesn't harden back up completely (like a stick of butter in the fridge), but it does thicken considerably.  It looks like Grey Poupon mustard when it's completely cool, but it's delicious, I promise.

Browned Butter Frosting on a KitchenAid mixer beater.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, cooled brown butter, and salt.  Mix to combine well using the paddle attachment.  I absolutely LOVE my beater blade, a paddle that has a rubber spatula built right in, so it scrapes the sides of the bowl for you as you mix.  Start mixing at a low speed to incorporate the powdered sugar without sending it flying all over the kitchen, and then once the ingredients are combined, increase to medium-high speed to whip in more air and make the frosting fluffy.

The mixture will be too thick at this point, so add milk, one Tablespoon at a time, mixing after each addition, until the browned butter icing is the right consistency you need for your project.  You can also use heavy cream to thin the frosting.

Browned Butter Frosting in a silver mixing bowl.

The flecks you see in the browned butter frosting are from the milk solids that turn brown when making browned butter.  There's no way to get rid of these flecks without getting rid of the amazing flavor we're after, so this recipe isn't one you'd want to use if you need a snowy-white icing.

Icing bag of Browned Butter Frosting on a white marble surface, surrounded by three banana cupcakes.

I made this recipe to be the right volume to go with my banana cupcakes recipe (makes 18 cupcakes), but you can easily double the recipe if you're making a cake or more cupcakes than I did.

Browned Butter Frosting swirled on three cupcakes sitting in a row.

The browned butter frosting tasted AMAZING on my banana cupcakes.  But it's so darn good that I think it would taste amazing on just about anything.  Including just a spoon.  I'm not much of a frosting person, actually, but the depth and complexity of flavor in this browned butter buttercream icing is so incredible that it makes me a convert.

Printable Browned Butter Frosting Recipe:

Want a one page, printable, PDF version of this brown butter frosting recipe?  Click on the image below to download the PDF or save it to your device.

Navigational image leading reader to printable Browned Butter Frosting recipe.

Other Frosting Recipes You Might Like:

Navigational image leading reader to cream cheese icing recipe.

Navigational image leading reader to salted caramel buttercream recipe.

Navigational image leading reader to pumpkin pie frosting recipe.

Navigational image leading reader to American Buttercream Frosting Recipe.

Navigational image leading reader to chocolate American buttercream recipe.

Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido

Links on this page may be affiliate links. We may receive a small commission for something you buy through those links, at no additional cost to you.