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Brown Butter Buttercream

This brown butter buttercream frosting is packed with toasty, decadent flavor and is the perfect way to step up your frosting game.

This recipe uses my American buttercream recipe as a base and browns half of the butter to give this frosting an incredible flavor.

image of brown butter frosting

What Does Brown Butter Frosting Taste Like?

Brown butter frosting has a nutty, deep flavor.

Milk solids separate and caramelize as the butter is heated thanks to the Maillard reaction. This is also what gives this buttercream that gorgeous speckled look.

It creates a complex, toasty flavor that is absolutely delicious and pairs well with just about any dessert.

How to Make Brown Butter Buttercream

To make sure your brown butter frosting turns out as amazing as possible, let’s walk through each step together.

I’ve also included a video tutorial of the process below.

Step 1: Brown Half of the Butter & Let It Cool

Place 1 cup (or 2 sticks) of unsalted butter into a large skillet and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally. It helps to cut the butter into Tbsp size pieces to help it melt down more quickly and evenly.

Once the butter has fully melted, stir frequently to prevent the butter solids at the bottom of the pan from burning. It should begin to bubble up a bit and look foamy on top.

Let the butter continue to cook until it becomes an amber color and begins to smell nutty.

Once it reaches this stage, remove from heat, and pour into a heat proof bowl.

Set aside to allow the butter to come to room temperature and solidify.

This usually takes 1-2 hours. You can accelerate the process by popping the brown butter in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Step 2: Mix in the Other Ingredients

Beat 1 cup or 2 sticks of room temperature butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment or hand mixer, until smooth.

Mix in the cooled brown butter, vanilla extract, and salt on a low speed.

Slowly mix in 7 cups of powdered sugar on a low speed.

Halfway through mixing, add in the heavy cream to make the frosting easier to mix.

Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. 

image of brown butter buttercream made in a stand mixer

Substitutions & Swaps: Brown Butter Buttercream

Some swaps and substitutions that can be made in this frosting recipe include:

  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. Just be sure to omit the salt that this frosting recipe calls for.
  • Heavy Cream – Whole milk or alternative milk (soy, almond, oat) can also be used to make the frosting. However, I would recommend using less (2 Tbsp) as it has a tendency to thin out the frosting a lot more than cream.
image of ingredients laid out to make brown butter buttercream frosting

How Much Frosting Does this Recipe Make?

This recipe makes about 6 cups of frosting. If needed, this recipe can be doubled or tripled. A double batch will fit and can be made in a 5 qt Kitchen Aid Mixing bowl.

I usually make 1 batch of frosting to stack and frost a seven- or eight-inch layer cake.

What Can I Frost with this Brown Butter Buttercream Frosting?

The sky’s the limit when it comes to using this frosting. Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, macarons, you name it!!

I’ve used it to frost my vanilla layer cake, vanilla cupcakes, vanilla macarons, and even my buttercream cookies!

image of vanilla cake being frosted with brown butter buttercream frosting

Brown Butter Frosting Troubleshooting

While this recipe is pretty straight forward, sometimes people do run into issues making it. One of the hardest part is getting the consistency of your buttercream just right.

There are few different factors that influence the consistency of your frosting.

It’s a delicate balance between the temperature of your kitchen, the brand of butter you use, the temperature of your butter, and the amount of heavy cream you use.

The easiest way to see if your frosting is the right consistency is the spatula test! I check the consistency of every batch of frosting I make using this test.

It confirms that your frosting is stiff enough to hold its shape, but spreadable enough for you to easily frost your cake or pipe onto cupcakes. 

To test your frosting, firmly press a rubber spatula into your frosting and pull directly up. Turn the spatula right side up and look at the frosting on the tip.

The frosting should form a somewhat soft peak that has a little curl on the end. It’s stiff enough to hold up that curl, but soft enough to create that little curl.

image of vanilla bean buttercream frosting being tested for the right consistency
Testing the consistency of a batch of my buttercream frosting using the spatula test.

That little curl is a great visual cue to know that your frosting is just the right consistency. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of this test with my brown butter buttercream, but hopefully the picture above using my vanilla buttercream helps you visualize what we’re looking for.

If the frosting is too stiff and sticks straight up, I suggest adding in more heavy cream (1 Tbsp at a time).

If it’s too thin and doesn’t form a little peak at all, try adding a bit more powdered sugar (1/4 cup at a time). You can also chill it in the fridge in 10-minute intervals if you think your butter was too warm.

After each adjustment, be sure to retest the frosting with your spatula before making any additional changes.

Paddle Attachment vs. Whisk Attachment

Now that we’ve covered troubleshooting, the last thing to discuss is our equipment.

You can make this frosting with a paddle or whisk attachment and a stand mixer, or a hand mixer.

I like to use my paddle attachment when making frosting for a cake, to minimize the amount of air that is incorporated into the frosting. This makes silky smooth frosting, which is easier to smooth onto cakes.

image of brown butter buttercream made in a stand mixer

I use my whisk attachment when making frosting for cupcakes, which I like to be light and fluffy!

I like to incorporate air into frosting for cupcakes, because I usually pipe massive swirls onto each cupcake.

These are just my personal preferences though, and you can use whatever attachment or mixer you have. They’ll all get the job done!

Tips for Making the Best Brown Butter Buttercream:

  • Make sure both the browned butter and regular butter are at room temperature before making this frosting.
  • If your powdered sugar contains cornstarch (most brands in the US do) there’s no need to sift you powdered sugar.
  • Use heavy cream or heavy whipping cream rather than normal milk. You need the higher fat percentage for the frosting to have the right consistency.
  • If you are making frosting for a cake, mix the buttercream on the lowest speed at the end of the process for a couple minutes. This helps remove any extra air that might have been incorporated during the mixing process.
image of a layered cinnamon coffee cake that's been cut into to remove a slice

Does Brown Butter Buttercream Need to be Refrigerated?

Below are some tips for storing this brown butter frosting in case you make it in advance or have leftovers:

  • Make this frosting ahead of time or save any leftover frosting! Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.
  • This frosting can also be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months! Just be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to make it nice and smooth again.
  • A frosted cake can last in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for a month. The buttercream locks in the moisture and keeps the cake fresh and delicious!

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 6 cups

Brown Butter Buttercream

image of brown butter buttercream made in a stand mixer

This brown butter buttercream frosting is packed with toasty, decadent brown butter flavor and is the perfect way to step up your frosting game.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

Browned Butter Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature, divided (452g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4ml)
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt (3g)
  • 7 cups powdered sugar (875g)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or whipping cream (60ml)

Instructions

Brown Butter Buttercream Frosting

  1. Place 1 cup (or 2 sticks) of unsalted butter into a large skillet and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally. It helps to cut the butter into Tbsp size pieces to help it melt down more quickly and evenly.
  2. Once the butter has fully melted, stir frequently to prevent the butter solids at the bottom of the pan from burning. It should begin to bubble up a bit and look foamy on top. Let the butter continue to cook until it becomes an amber color and begins to smell nutty.
  3. Once it reaches this stage, remove from heat, and pour into a heat proof bowl. Set aside to allow the butter to come to room temperature but firm back up. This usually takes 1-2 hours. You can accelerate the process by popping the brown butter in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  4. Beat 1 cup or 2 sticks of room temperature butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment or hand mixer, until smooth.
  5. Mix in the cooled brown butter, vanilla extract, and salt on a low speed.
  6. Slowly mix in 7 cups of powdered sugar on a low speed. Halfway through mixing, add in the heavy cream to make the frosting easier to mix.
  7. Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the desired consistency is reached. Use on cakes, cookies and cupcakes!!

Notes

Yield

This recipe makes about 6 cups of frosting. If needed, this recipe can be doubled or tripled. A double batch will fit/can be made in a 5 qt Kitchen Aid Mixing bowl.

I usually make 1 batch of frosting to stack and frost a seven- or eight-inch layer cake.

Tips for Making the Best Brown Butter Buttercream

  • Make sure your butter is at room temperature before making your frosting.
  • If your powdered sugar contains cornstarch (most brands in the US do) there's no need to sift you powdered sugar.
  • Use heavy cream or heavy whipping cream and not normal milk! You need the higher fat percentage for the frosting to have the right consistency.
  • If you are making frosting for a cake, mix the buttercream on the lowest speed at the end of the process for a couple minutes to get out any extra air that might have been incorporated during the mixing process.

Making This Brown Butter Buttercream in Advance and Storage Tips

  • Make this frosting ahead of time or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.
  • This frosting can also be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months! Just be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to make it nice and smooth again.
  • A frosted cake can last in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for a month. The buttercream locks in the moisture and keeps the cake fresh and delicious!

Nutrition Information

Yield

6

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 1094Total Fat 67gSaturated Fat 42gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 22gCholesterol 180mgSodium 209mgCarbohydrates 129gFiber 0gSugar 126gProtein 1g

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