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pumpkin brown-butter cupcakes


I had to brown butter. Actually, I really wanted to brown butter. And I really wanted something pumpkin-ish.

And I'm glad I did. 

I love butter, the smell of it, what it does for...everything. Baked, fried,'s all better with butter.

But when that butter started browning, it became another creature altogether. Nutty and golden. I have not made a batter that smelled so...warm.

The brown-butter glaze complements the not-too-sweet cupcakes. In fact, I have to come up with other ways to use the glaze. It's too good.Warmed just enough to create those tiny cracks in the glaze, with a cup of coffee, these made for perfect breakfast cakes.

Pumpkin Brown-Butter Cupcakes

 from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes , makes about 15 cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1  2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 fresh sage leaves, cut into chiffonade (optional -- I skipped this ingredient)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or 1 heaping tsp. kosher salt)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • Brown-Butter Icing (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter muffin tins or line with paper cups.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add sage, if using. Occasionally swirl butter and cook until butter turns golden brown. Skim foam from top and remove from heat. Pour into a bowl to cool and discard dark/burned bits behind.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and spices together. In a separate bowl, whisk the pumpkin puree, both sugars, eggs and brown-butter mixture together. Whisk in flour mixture until just combined.

Using an ice cream scoop or spoons, divide batter among 15 muffin tins, filling about 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean (mine had a few moist crumbs attached). Place tins on wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored at room temperature or frozen up to 2 months in airtight containers.

To finish, dip or frost cupcakes with brown-butter icing. 

Note: My cupcakes kept just fine under a cake dome for two days at room temperature.

Brown-Butter Icing


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until nut-brown in color, about 10 minutes. Pour butter into a bowl, leaving behind any burned sediment.

Stir in sugar, vanilla and 1 tablespoon milk until smooth. If the icing is too thick, add the remaining tablespoon milk until consistency is spreadable (I used both tablespoons of milk). Allow icing to cool 5 minutes. Use immediately.

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