buerre noisette | cayenne | cinnamon | cupcake related | cupcakes | desserts | frosting | recipe | seasonal | spices | thanksgiving | traditional with a twist | treats | vanilla

Cupcakes made with brown butter & spice & everything nice.

November 18, 2011

Before I start in, I want to congratulate Polly for winning my giveaway & getting a copy of The Cookiepedia! Enjoy it! It’s an awesome book, and I’m sure you’ll get a lot of use out of it this baking season. Speaking of baking…

So, I bought these really cute fall leaf sugar decorations & I wanted to use them desperately, and what else would I use them on but cupcakes!? Cute little fall cupcakes that are dark chocolate cupcakes, spiced with cinnamon & cayenne pepper topped with brown butter frosting. Simple, but let’s be honest, I just made them to use the little leaves. Yes, I made cupcakes just to use decorations I bought.

But in all fairness, it’s fall! I was so inspired by the fall colors in the table runner & the icing leaves, not to mention the gorgeous fall leaves outside my window.


So I had to. I really did. Despite the fact that I’ve been baking so much lately (& cooking) that I think by December 1st, Jay will have to roll me down the stairs & into the car… or possibly just roll me down the street like a not-as-blue-but-just-as-round-Violet Beauregarde. Yeah. Despite that, I had to make them. And of course, I had to do the brown butter thing. Jay’s leaving tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. for San Antonio, Texas. He doesn’t get any cupcakes as punishment for leaving me & going off to do cool stuff without me. Alas, someone has to do the dirty work around here- baking, cooking, etc. We can’t all be rock stars; some of us have to rock out the kitchen instead of the stage. At least he’ll be home by Thursday!

What was I saying? Brown butter, that’s right. Brown butter is so amazing. If you’ve never had it, you need to make it immediately. I’m not kidding. It’s a game changer; a sweet, caramel-y, soft, kind of burnt taste that is sublime in frosting. You’ll want to frost every cupcake you make with it. Great with caramel, vanilla, chocolate, spice cake, malted milk cake, apple cake, just about anything/everything. It’s basically perfect. I’ve used it before on cream soda cupcakes & that was heavenly.


Makes 12 cupcakes

Get these ingredients:

  • ¼ cup Hershey’s® Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder (or another dark cocoa powder of your choice)
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Then you should:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º degrees F. Line a 12-count cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
  2. Sift together cocoa powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, flour, salt and baking powder. In another bowl whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk and vegetable oil. Gradually whisk flour mixture into sugar mixture. Mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  3. Fill cupcake liners ⅔ full. Bake in preheated oven for 12 – 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  4. Allow to cool for several minutes in the cupcake pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Frost only when completely cool.



  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 cups powdered or confectioner’s sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • dash of salt


  1. For brown butter, in saucepan heat ½ cup butter over medium-low heat until lightly browned, about 8 minutes; cool thoroughly. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the butter so that any large burned fat solids aren’t included in the frosting. Fine specks are expected & totally fine, though.
  2. In bowl, beat the other ½ cup softened butter with mixer on medium 30 seconds. Add cooled brown butter; beat until combined.
  3. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and dash salt. Beat in 1 to 2 tablespoons half-and-half, use more if needed until spreadable. Use frosting immediately. If frosting begins to set up, stir in a small amount of boiling water.
Probably wasn’t a good idea to use black liners & take the pictures on a black runner, but I did like how they matched

The ‘use immediately’ thing is 100% true. The nature of this frosting is that it sets up fairly quick. That can be a pain in the ass at times, but it’s well worth it.

I absolutely love brown butter frosting, I can’t say enough about it & I’d love it on just about any cake or cupcake or cookie. But on these it’s especially delicious. The cupcakes are like a Mexican hot chocolate-type of flavor, which I love, not to mention incredibly moist. Combine all that with the brown butter flavor & it’s just amazing… it’s so warming & fall-like. A great Thanksgiving cupcake. And don’t be scared of the cayenne! I promise you, it adds a slight warmth (or heat) but it won’t make you run for the hills. So many people are afraid of using cayenne or chili powder in their baked goods, but I’m telling you, when mixed with chocolate & cinnamon- it’s mind blowing.

And in true holiday form, as per usual, here’s the Thanksgiving tree in all her glory!

For those of you who are unaware, my mom puts up a tree for every holiday. I post pictures of them with one of my holiday posts; it starts after Christmas with her white winter tree, then Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, etc. Most recently I posted the Halloween tree. They’re usually the same though, year to year, with just a few changes- new ornaments, perhaps some new lights or ribbon, etc. It’s a fun tradition I always look forward to.

One thing that will be different is I won’t be hosting Thanksgiving this year, so for once I won’t be doing all the cooking! I will, however, be doing the baking. I do look forward to sharing those baked goods with you next week, but in the meantime, go make these cupcakes. Seriously.

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  1. LOVE THESE! the leaves are so cute.

    i’m making sweet potato cupcakes for thanksgiving, and i’m going back and forth between a brown butter cream cheese frosting and a torched marshmallow frosting. what do you think?

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