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brown butter pumpkin cake with brown butter frosting

brown butter pumpkin cake with brown butter frosting


In the fall and winter I love to bake things with browned butter, because its toasty flavor pairs well with pretty much every other fall flavor. Brown butter helps to pack a lot of fall flavor in this delicious but simple to make Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake.

Ingredients for Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake

Brown butter – Brown butter is heated until the milk solids cook, turning it to a golden brown with dark brown flecks in the bottom of the pan. For something so simple, it has amazing flavor-changing capabilities.

I use brown butter in both the cake and frosting in this recipe. It’s poured into the cake batter as a liquid, but allowed to cool until solidified before adding to the frosting. In the cake, it adds a complimentary flavor to the pumpkin, and the browned butter frosting tastes almost like caramel frosting, but is so much easier to make!

Pumpkin Puree – I used Libby’s canned pumpkin puree. If you make your own pumpkin puree, try to make sure it is similar in water content to canned pumpkin. This will keep the solid-to-liquid ratio in the recipe the same.

Spices – I used cinnamon and nutmeg to spice the cake, because I didn’t want to overshadow the browned butter flavor. It’s the main feature of the recipe, so I would avoid overpowering it with stronger spices like cloves or allspice. Just a tiny bit of ground ginger or cardamom would not go amiss though.

Softened butter – While the browned butter for the frosting should be set aside to solidify, the other ½ cup of butter should be taken out of the refrigerator to come up to room temp.


brown butter pumpkin cake with brown butter frosting

brown butter pumpkin cake with brown butter frosting


Notes on Technique

  • I browned all of the butter for the cake and frosting together, then separated it. This just seemed like less hassle to me, and also fewer dishes to clean! Divide the butter using liquid measuring cups immediately after cooling. Set aside ⅓ cup for the cake and ½ cup to solidify for the frosting. 
  • The brown flecks will want to sink to the bottom.  Use a spoon to make sure they are divided as well.
  • Leave the ½ cup of brown butter for the frosting at room temperature until it turns solid or nearly solid.
  • For the cake batter, stir the brown butter and sugars together well before adding the eggs. This will help cool down the butter so it won’t cook the eggs.
  • When making the frosting, beat the softened butter first until it is fluffy. Next, mix in the solidified brown butter until it is fully combined before adding any other ingredients. This will help prevent lumps and separation.

brown butter pumpkin cake with brown butter frosting

brown butter pumpkin cake with brown butter frosting

Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake

Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Cooling Time 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 16 Squares


For the Brown Butter:

  • 14 tablespoons butter (200 g)

For the Pumpkin Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (185 g)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup brown butter (80 ml)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (150 g)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (50 g)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree (6 oz or 170 g)
  • 1/4 cup milk

For the Brown Butter Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (113 g)
  • 1/2 cup brown butter, solidified at room temp (120 ml)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar (420 g)
  • 3-4 tbsp milk


Brown the Butter:

  • Add the butter to a 2- or 3-qt saucepan and cook on low, stirring occasionally, until the butter begins to simmer. Continue to cook and stir, watching carefully until the butter turns a golden color and brown flecks appear on the bottom. Remove the butter from the heat when the flecks are a medium to dark brown.
  • Divide the butter using liquid measuring cups. You will also need to spoon out the brown flecks to ensure they are divided evenly. Use 1/3 cup in the cake batter. Set 1/2 cup aside to cool at room temperature for making the frosting later.

Make the Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C) and line an 8x8-inch (20 cm) pan with parchment paper or spray with baking spray. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  • In a large bowl, add the 1/3 cup brown butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Stir well with a spoon or whisk to cool the butter down, then add the eggs one at a time, stirring until each is well combined. Next, stir in the vanilla, pumpkin, and milk. Finally, add the flour mixture, stirring until just combined, being careful not to overmix.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350° F (180° C) for 30-35 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back to the touch. Allow the cake to cool for about 1 1/2 hours before frosting.

Make the Frosting:

  • In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the softened butter until fluffy. Add the solidified brown butter and mix until fully incorporated. Next, add the salt and 1 cup of the confectioner's sugar and mix until well combined. Mix in 1 tablespoon of milk. Continue alternating between the remaining confectioner's sugar and milk, mixing until the frosting is smooth and of spreadable consistency.
  • Once the cake has cooled, spread on the frosting using a spatula or a butter knife. The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days, or 5-6 days in the refrigerator.
Keyword brown butter, cake, fall, halloween, pumpkin, pumpkin spice, thanksgiving, winter