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, sauteed…it’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.