A Little Something Different: Spiced Muffins with Brown-Butter Frosting

Spice Muffins with Gum Drops

Hello All:

Have you ever come across a recipe that intrigued you because it had a slight variation on the usual way you do things?  These Spiced Muffins with Brown-Butter Frosting captivated me. I came across them in The Blackberry Farm Cookbook by Sam Beall, when I was searching for something special to make for guests. These light confections intrigued me because their frosting calls for browning the butter before adding it to the remaining ingredients. Made with  Chinese five-spice-powder,  the cakes themselves are light and flavorful. The frosting elevates them to new heights. The melted browned-butter creates caramel-like texture, full of crunch and  smoky flavor. With their kid-like appeal, these Spiced Muffins with Brown-Butter Frosting are worth the extra steps to prepare--steps that make them enjoyable to adults and kids alike! You will want to make them very soon!

I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors and munching on cupcakes, very soon.

Happy Valentine's Day!



Yield: 12 Muffins


For the cupcakes:

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (one half stick), softened to room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tablespoons whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (16 tablespoons), softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Fine sea salt (to sprinkle on after cupcakes are frosted)
  • spiced gum-drop candies


  1. To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven ton 375 degrees F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, Chinese five-spice powder,  and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg yolk and egg and beat until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk and beating until well mixed after each addition. Gently beat in the vanilla.
  4. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cupcake centers comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the tin on a wire rack for ten minutes before turning them out on a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. To make the frosting, place 12 tablespoons of butter in a small sauce pan. Place the pan over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, for about 7 minutes, until the butter turns a nutty brown. Immediately pour the browned butter into a small heat-proof bowl. Allow it to come to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate it until the butter begins to solidify, about 20 minutes. (It should be the consistency of soft caramel.)
  6. Transfer the solidified browned butter to the bowl of an electric mixture, taking care to include the browned bits that will have settled at the bottom of the bowl while it was cooling.  Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, the confectioners’ sugar, cream and vanilla extract. Beat the frosting until it is light and fluffy, then spread on the cooled cupcakes.  
  7. Sprinkle each cupcake with a pinch or two of fine sea salt. Garnish with gum-drop candies
  8. NOTE: This recipe originally appeared in The Blackberry Farm Cookbook by Sam Beall. I made a few changes to adapt it to my tastes. 


Dena Testa Bray has been writing Gathering Flavors, a culinary blog, since 2011. She is a trained chef & ran a home based cooking school. Dena now designs websites, focusing on work with creative people. You can see her website work at www.denatestabray.net. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and family.