Vanilla Cupcakes with Brown Butter Buttercream

Sarah Kieffer is an absolute GENIUS. Incorporating brown butter in buttercream!?!? I’m upset that I have never thought of trying it.

These were quite possibly the best cupcakes I’ve ever made. The cake portion was delicious- moist and tender, but the icing really put the cupcakes over the top. It was incredibly light and flavorful. I may have to make them again for Valentine’s Day. ❤

The recipe was adapted from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book: Recipes for Irresistible Everyday Favorites and Reinvented Classics by Sarah Kieffer. I halved the recipe and made 12 cupcakes. (I now regret not making 24!) I also used fine sea salt. Amazing.

Yield: 12 frosted cupcakes (with about 2 cups buttercream)

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 large eggs (I used a scale to measure 1/2 an egg)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 T pure vanilla extract
  • 6 T sour cream
  • 2 T buttermilk
  • 1 cup (142g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (149g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick, 114g) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces

Note: If doubling the recipe for 24 cupcakes or 2 8-inch round cakes, use 297g sugar and 227g butter.

For the Brown Butter Buttercream:

  • 1/4 pound (1 stick, 114g) unsalted butter for browning
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick, 114g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 oz (27g) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 T heavy cream
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 cups (226g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

To Make the Cupcakes:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Line a standard cupcake/muffin pan with 12 liners. Set aside. (If making a round cake, butter and flour the pans and then line them with parchment paper.)
  3. In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, sour cream, and buttermilk.
  4. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low until combined.
  5. With the mixer running on low, add the butter one piece at a time, beating until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
  6. With the mixer still running on low, slowly add half the wet ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
  7. With the mixer running on low, add the rest of the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.
  8. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 20 seconds. (The batter may still look a little bumpy.)
  9. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and use a spatula to mix the batter a few more times.
  10. Using a large cookie scoop (mine is 3T), divide the batter between the cupcake wells. Each well should be a little more than halfway full.
  11. Using an offset spatula, smooth the tops. Tap the pan gently on the counter 2 times to help get rid of any bubbles.
  12. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (I baked mine for 17 minutes on convection.) (If baking cake in an 8-inch pan, bake for 17 to 22 minutes.)
  13. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. (If using a round cake pan, let cake cool in the pan set on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Then, remove to let cool completely.)

To Make the Brown Butter Buttercream:

  1. Have a small, heatproof, freezer-safe bowl set next to the range.
  2. Melt one stick of butter in a light-colored, heavy bottomed skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat. Swirl the butter around with a rubber spatula as it melts and starts to bubble.
  3. When it starts bubbling, increase the heat to medium and keep stirring the butter until it boils and begins to foam, about 3 minutes. It will smell nutty and you’ll start to see little brown bits on the bottom of the pan. *Keep stirring, making sure to genly scrape the bottom of the pan with the spatula as you do so. At this point, the butter will begin to quickly change from light brown to dark to burned, so keep a close eye on the pan.*
  4. Once the butter and browned bits are golden brown, remove from the heat, and immediately pour the brown butter and the toasted bits and flecks from the bottom of the pan into the reserved heatproof, freezer-safe bowl.
  5. Let the brown butter cool in the bowl for 10 to 15 minutes at room temperature. Then, place the bowl in the freezer and let chill until solid, about 30 minutes.
  6. When the butter is solid (but not frozen!), transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle.
  7. Add the remaining 1/4 pound (1 stick) of room temperature butter to the brown butter in the mixer bowl and beat on medium until smooth.
  8. Add the cream cheese and beat on medium until smooth and creamy.
  9. Add the heavy cream, vanilla, and salt and mix on low to combine.
  10. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until combined. (I turn the mixer off in between additions of sugar.)
  11. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary, 6 to 8 minutes.
  12. Using a cookie scoop (I used a 3 T scoop), place a heaping dollop of buttercream on top of each cupcake. (Alternatively, use an offset spatula to ration the icing.) Spread the buttercream over the top decoratively, as desired.

Note: Frosted cupcakes should be refrigerated if not serving right away. Bring to room temperature prior to serving.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting

In the fall, my daughter would love to eat some sort of “pumpkin spice” item every day to celebrate the season. 😉 She loved these cupcakes!

These super moist cupcakes were delicious but it was the maple-cream cheese frosting that really put them over the top. The frosting was fabulously creamy with the perfect amount of sweetness.

The recipe was adapted from David Leite via smittenkitchen.com. I modified the method and used fine sea salt.

Yield: 18 cupcakes (with leftover frosting)

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

For the Frosting:

  • Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 4 T (1/4 cup) pure maple syrup
  • pinch fine sea salt

To Make the Cupcakes:

  1. Heat oven to 350° (175°C), preferably on convection. Line a cupcake pan with 18 liners.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition.
  5. Combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.
  6. Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the mixer, beginning and ending with the flour.
  7. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth.
  8. Scoop the batter among the cupcake liners — you’re looking to get them 3/4 full. (I used a cookie scoop.)
  9. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, rotating halfway through the baking time, about 19 to 20 minutes on convection or up to 20 to 25 minutes in a standard oven.
  10. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely before topping with the frosting.

To Make the Frosting:

  1. In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter to combine.
  2. Add all of the additional ingredients and continue to beat on medium speed until fluffy.
  3. Frost the tops of each cupcake, swirling decoratively. (I used a pastry bag and decorative piping tip.)
  4. Refrigerate cupcakes for 30 minutes to set up frosting prior to serving.

Funfetti Mini Bundt Cakes

My daughter and I made these mini cakes as a birthday surprise for her friend. ❤ Sprinkles=Birthday over here. Using red, white, and blue sprinkles would make these cakes a fun and patriotic Fourth of July treat.

The recipe was adapted from thebittersideofsweet.com. They can be served for breakfast or dessert! 🙂

Yield: 4 mini cakes

For the Mini Bundt Cakes:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt 
  • 1 large egg 
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used whole milk Greek yogurt)
  • 1 tablespoon milk (I used whole milk)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • 1/3 cup rainbow sprinkles 

For the Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup Confectioners’ sugar 
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons milk (I used 1 1/2 T whole milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • rainbow sprinkles
  • gel food coloring, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F, preferably on convection. (My pan has a dark, non-stick interior finish. Set the oven to 350° F if using a pan with a light interior finish.)
  2. Spray 4 wells of a mini bundt cake pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  3. In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking power, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Set aside.
  4. In medium bowl, whisk together milk, yogurt, and eggs. Stir in melted butter and vanilla and whisk until combined.
  5. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Slowly stir until just combined. 
  6. Fold in sprinkles. Avoid over stirring.
  7. Using a cookie scoop, distribute the batter into the 4 prepared wells of a mini bundt pan.
  8. Bake for 17 minutes in a convection oven, or for 20-25 minutes in a standard oven, or until edges are golden. A toothpick inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
  9. Remove from oven, leave cakes to cool in pan for 5 minutes.
  10. Remove cakes from pan and allow to completely cool on wire rack.
  11. Once cool, make the glaze. In a medium bowl add milk, Confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Tint with food coloring, if desired.
  12. Drizzle glaze over cakes. Top with sprinkles.

Magnolia Bakery’s Vanilla Confetti Cupcakes

My daughter and I made these cheerful cupcakes together. She is obsessed with sprinkles! 🙂 She wanted to give them to her friends as a little surprise. We put one in each of their mailboxes with a note. ❤

The cupcake recipe is from The Magnolia Bakery Handbook- A Complete Guide for the Home Baker: Baking Made Easy with 150 Foolproof Recipes & Techniques by Bobbie Lloyd. The recipe is adapted from their recipe for “Everyone’s Favorite Vanilla Cake.”

The vanilla frosting recipe is from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes, via Martha Stewart.com. We used fine sea salt and weighed the ingredients when possible for both the cake and frosting. They were moist and tasty- Fun too!

For the Vanilla Confetti Cupcakes:

Yield: 24 cupcakes

  • 3 cups (345g/12.2oz) cake flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (240g/8.5oz) whole milk (I used 1%)
  • 1/2 cup (115g/4oz) sour cream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks/226g/8oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup (300g/10.6oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (130g/4.6oz) confetti sprinkles, plus more for decoration, if desired (We used rainbow sprinkles)

For the Fluffy Vanilla Frosting:

Yield: frosting for 24 cupcakes (about 4 cups)

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature  
  • 1 pound (16oz/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • gel food coloring, for tinting, optional
  • confetti or rainbow sprinkles, for decoration, optional

To Make the Vanilla Confetti Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325F. (I set my oven to convection.) Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk and sour cream until no lumps remain. Set aside.
  4. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  5. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add the egg whites, a little at a time, beating until incorporated before adding more. Once the egg whites have been incorporated, stop the mixer and scrape down the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  6. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix for about 15 seconds, just until incorporated.
  7. Scrape down the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the sprinkles and mix for 20 to 30 seconds, until smooth and combined.
  8. Using a scoop or a 1/4-cup dry measuring cup, evenly ration the batter into the prepared muffin cups.
  9. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched and a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean.
  10. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.

To Make the Fluffy Vanilla Frosting & To Decorate the Cupcakes:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Reduce speed to medium. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed; after every two additions, raise speed to high and beat 10 seconds to aerate frosting, then return to medium-high. This process should take about 5 minutes. Frosting will be very pale and fluffy.
  3. Add salt and vanilla; beat until frosting is smooth. The frosting can be tinted with food coloring, if desired.
  4. To decorate, fill a piping bag with desired tip and pipe onto cupcakes. Top with additional sprinkles, if desired.

Note: If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 10 days in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

Glazed Chocolate Cake Donuts

My kids haven’t had a snow day in a couple of years, but today we had our second snow day of the season. We were very happy for the break from reality. 🙂 Everyone slept in this morning and then my daughter made this special breakfast. ❤

These baked donuts were quite a treat- I had to post them right away. The recipe was adapted from bunsinmyoven.com. They were very light, tender, and moist. The batter would also be great to bake in mini-bundt pans. Next time!

I’m looking forward to another indulgent breakfast tomorrow morning… We just found out that my kids have another snow day! 🙂

Yield: 12 mini donuts

For the Donuts:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tablespoons sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk (preferably whole milk)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

For the Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk (preferably whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of coarse salt

To Make the Donuts:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection. Coat two mini-donut pans with cooking oil spray.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Whisk in the mini chocolate chips.
  4. In a small bowl, using a hand-held mixer, beat together the vanilla, egg, sour cream, milk, and oil.
  5. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined.
  6. Using a small cookie scoop or spoon, distribute the dough into two greased mini-donut pans.
  7. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until the tops spring back when you touch them and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
  8. Let the donuts cool in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack.
  9. Let the donuts cool completely before glazing.
To Make the Glaze:
  1. Place a piece of plastic wrap, parchment paper, wax paper, or newspaper under a wire rack to catch drips of glaze.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
  3. Dunk the donuts in the glaze to fully coat and place on the wire rack to set, about 5 minutes.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cupcakes

The other day, my husband suggested making cupcakes topped with cookies in some way. I found this recipe the next day! I love the idea and now hope to try other variations.

My daughter and her sidekick (bestie) were baking together over the summer and spent an afternoon on this deliciousness. Everyone was quite pleased with the results. The cupcakes were very moist and tender and the cookies on top were crispy and delicate. Perfect.

The recipe is from Martha Stewart Living; we modified the proportions and method. Next time, I may reduce the size of the cookie on top and chill the cookie dough prior to baking.

Yield: 18 cupcakes

For the Chocolate Chip Cookie Base & Cookie Topping:

  • 1 cup plus 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp plus 1/8 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light-brown sugar, packed
  • 6 T granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (6 oz) semisweet chocolate chips

To Make the Chocolate Chip Cookie Base:

  1. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.
  2. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. On low-speed, beat in the egg.
  4. Add flour mixture in 3 additions.
  5. Beat in vanilla.
  6. Mix in chocolate chips.
  7. Chill dough while preparing the cupcake batter.

For the Cupcakes:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 T granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 T whole milk
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Base (see above), including 18 (1.5-inch) cookies
  • Simple Vanilla Frosting (see below)

To Make the Cupcake Batter:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Line 18 muffin tin wells with baking cups.
  2. Whisk together flours, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low.
  4. Add eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla.
  5. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour.

To Layer & Bake the Cupcakes:

  1. Press 1 tablespoon cookie dough into bottom of each baking cup. (At this point, I used a small cookie scoop (1/2 T) to ration the remaining cookie dough and put it back in the refrigerator.)
  2. Top each with 1.5 to 2 tablespoons batter. (I used a cookie scoop.)
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. (Keep oven on to bake the cookies for the topping.)
  4. Transfer tins to wire racks; let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to racks. Let cool completely.
  5. While the cupcakes cool, prepare the frosting and bake the cookies for the topping.

For the Simple Vanilla Frosting:

  • 2 sticks plus 2 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups plus 6 T confectioners’ sugar, divided
  • pinch coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 T whole milk

To Make The Frosting:

  1. Beat butter and 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Reduce speed to medium-low; gradually add the additional 2 1/2 cups plus 2 T confectioners’ sugar.
  3. Add milk and vanilla; mix to incorporate.
  4. Raise speed to medium-high and continue to beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

To Finish & Decorate:

  1. Place the chilled scoops of cookie dough on 2 parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheets.
  2. Bake in the pre-heated oven until edges are dark gold but centers are pale gold and look a bit underdone (for chewy) or until centers are set (for crisp). (We baked ours for about 7 minutes.)
  3. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks to cool for 5 minutes; then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Transfer frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, or as desired.
  5. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes, and top each with a cookie.

Strawberry Ricotta Muffins

When I saw these strawberry muffins, I knew that they would be a perfect addition to my tried and true strawberry recipes. They were very tender and minimally sweet- a perfect summer breakfast.

This recipe was adapted from Bake from Scratch, via Cooking with Aunt Juju.com. I incorporated whole wheat flour and modified the topping. The recipe also included a ricotta glaze for the topping which would also be a tasty option (see link above). Nice.

Yield: 16 muffins

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice or 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups diced fresh strawberries
  • turbinado sugar, for topping
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Spray 16 regular muffin wells with cooking spray or use liners.
  3. Whisk the flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl; set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl whisk the ricotta cheese until smooth.
  5. Add the eggs, milk and lemon zest or juice; whisk until smooth.
  6. Add the oil and vanilla and stir until combined.
  7. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and fold in with a spatula; gently fold in the strawberries.
  8. Divide the batter among the 16 prepared wells, filling about three-fourths full.
  9. Sprinkle the top of the batter in each well with turbinado sugar.
  10. Bake for 15-25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. (mine were ready in about 17 minutes.)
  11. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes; remove. Finish cooling on the racks.

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