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Buttermilk and brown butter cupcakes

Updated: Oct 3, 2021

I have finally transitioned into the last section of my class led by Christina Tosi (you can read a little more about the class in this Oreo Crunch Birthday Cookie recipe, or follow along on Instagram), and we're now focusing on all things cake!

We started out by making Milk Bar's classic birthday cake, and now we're working on our own recipes. I had not worked much with buttermilk before this, but I loved the texture of the actual cake and I wanted to explore a less sweet version in cupcake form. I love cakes for their looks, but I am typically much more of a cupcake person. I think they are easier to portion out, they stay fresher in the wrapper, and they also are pretty adorable.

Before I moved on to my final class cake project, I wanted to play around with the idea of buttermilk and cupcakes, and I knew brown butter would be the perfect companion. As someone living with Type 1 Diabetes, I know I can eat all of the things, but cake and cupcakes aren't typically my go to when I want a sweet treat and if I'm going to dose for dessert it better be something that I love! This cupcake has such an incredible texture, and the frosting has both a sweet and slightly savory twist to it that brings you to a deeper place than a typical slice of cake.

There are four elements to a Milk Bar cake, and I was so excited to use those four elements to make the perfect cupcake. Cake, soak, frosting, and crumb - it may seem extreme, but each element comes together easily and it creates such an amazing cupcake experience that makes it all so worth it!


Soak ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 tablespoons milk (I used 2%)

Cake ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour

Crumb ingredients:

  • 3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoon all purpose flour

  • Pinch of salt

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting ingredients:

  • 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

  • 2 tablespoons milk (I used 2%)

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cooking time: About two hours all in, including cool time before frosting (allow for an additional hour to chill assembled cupcakes in the fridge)

Cooking instructions:

First, brown your butter. Place all of the butter you'll use for this recipe, two sticks (note that you may have a tablespoon or two leftover at the end), into a pot or pan on the stovetop on a low to medium heat. I recommend using a nonstick heavy bottomed pot. After it melts, you'll hear it begin to crackle. Stir the melted butter and watch it carefully as it can burn easily. You'll start to smell a nutty aroma (you'll know it when it happens). Once you see the color turn to a light brown or amber, remove your pan from the heat and transfer your butter and all of the brown bits at the bottom into a large, heat proof bowl. Place in the fridge to cool. You don't need it to solidify, but you'll want it to be room temperature to add to your cake batter.

Make your soak. Combine your milk (two tablespoons) and vanilla extract (1/2 teaspoon) into a small, covered container. Place in the fridge for later.

Make your cupcake batter. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Remove your browned butter from the fridge, it should be room temperature but should not be solid. Leave your butter out of the fridge so that it can solidify a bit more at room temperature for your frosting. In your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add your brown butter (6 tablespoons), granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Turn your stand mixer on at a medium speed and leave on to combine for about 2 minutes.

Crack your eggs into a small container, add them into your sugar and butter mixture one at a time with your mixer on at a medium speed, adding your next egg in once your mixture is fully combined. Once all three are combined, scrape down the sides of your bowl and the paddle.

With your mixer paused, pour in your vegetable oil, and then stir to combine at a medium speed. Add in your buttermilk and vanilla extract, and turn your mixer back on at a low to medium speed for about a minute to fully combine.

Add in your dry ingredients, all purpose flour, salt, and baking powder. Turn your mixer on at the lowest speed, and gradually increase the speed for about 30 seconds. Pause and scrape down the sides of your bowl. Turn your mixer back on for another 30 seconds until just combined.

Grab your cupcake tin, and add in liners if you're going to use them. Add your batter in, it should make 12 cupcakes, and they will fill just below the brim. Place your cupcakes into the oven for 24-26 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. Clean your stand mixer bowl and paddle as you'll use it to make your frosting.

Make your crumb. Lower your oven temperature to 300 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine your dry ingredients, both sugars, flour, and salt. Add in your vegetable oil and vanilla extract, and use a spoon to stir and combine. You'll want some chunks to form, and some will be more of a small crumble - the variation is great!

Transfer your crumble to a lined baking sheet, and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Make your frosting. Into your stand mixer with your paddle attachment, add in 8 tablespoons of browned butter (at this point it should be room temperature) and powdered sugar. Turn your mixer on at the lowest speed, and then slowly increase to combine your butter and sugar. Allow your mixer to continue at a high speed for about 2 minutes.

Scrape down the sides of your bowl and paddle attachment, then add in your milk and vanilla extract. Turn your mixer back on slowly to a high speed, and allow it to whip your frosting for about two minutes. Scrape down the sides of your bowl and paddle once more, and allow your mixer to run at a high speed for another two minutes.

Assemble your cupcakes. Using a butter knife, cut an X into the tops of your cupcakes - you should go about an inch into your cake but no further than half way. Remove your soak from the fridge, and using a half teaspoon drop your soak into the center of each cupcake.

When it comes to decorating your cupcakes, you can do this however you'd like! My favorite option is to spread the frosting evenly across the cupcakes, and then decorate each cupcake with your crumb and lightly press down the crumb to ensure they are secured. You can also stir some of the crumb into the frosting, and use the rest of the crumb for decoration.

However you decorate your cupcakes, once they're set, place them into the fridge for about an hour to set and then enjoy! You can store your cupcakes in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, and allow them to come down to room temperature (about 30 minutes - an hour) before enjoying.

Carb and serving info:

Servings: 12

Carbs per serving: 42

Carbs for full recipe: 506

Carbs in frosting only: 108

Carbs in crumb only: 25

Carbs in cake only: 372

Note: Carb information is calculated based on the specific ingredients I used to cook with to help guide my own insulin to carb ratio when dosing before I eat my home cooked recipes.


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