Brown Butter Toffee Pumpkin Cupcakes
Soft pumpkin cupcakes infused with nutty brown butter, filled with cinnamon toffee sauce, topped with brown butter cream cheese frosting and shards of pumpkin spice toffee.
There are pumpkin cupcakes…
and then there are Brown Butter. Toffee. Pumpkin Cupcakes.
Granted the world (and the internet) has room for both.
But Brown Butter Toffee Cupcakes, needs not a room…It belongs high up there in a posh presidential suite of its own.
It is the more sophisticated, upgraded, all dressed up version of it’s classic sibling.
Rich in brown butter, cozy spices, and toffee…this is the creme de la creme of the pumpkin patch and the subject of envy for autumnal cupcakes.
It is the cupcake version of The Ultimate Pumpkin Cake that I posted 4 years ago as my second ever blog post.
Though time (and the ugly photographs) have caused it to rust in the archives, it still stands up to its title.
So here I am, bringing it back to life, dusting off its shoulders and reviving it in a new, cute outfit!
Because who can resist a cupcake oozing with a cinnamon toffee sauce?
The cupcake itself, is an impossibly soft and moist pumpkin cake with a tender crumb, that is warm with fall spices and rich with the nutty aroma of browned butter.
Brown butter is the true star of the show here!
A couple of extra minutes on the stove, transforms good ol’ butter, into something far more outstanding. As if regular butter wasn’t already great as is, try to imagine brown butter. It adds incomparable deep tones of caramel and nuttiness to baked goods, that wouldn’t be as special without it.
I’m obsessed with brown butter, and try to sneak it in whenever melted butter is called for in a recipe. It works magic into this chocolate chip cookie, as well as in this caramel snickerdoodle and that cinnamon roll one too. It takes that sweet potato cake to another level, and adds an exceptional touch to those banana cupcakes. It also made its way into this heavenly apple pandowdy. The LOVE is real you guys.
These cupcakes are bathed in brown butter. Not only is it infused in the cake base, but it’s also the secret ingredient that sets the cream cheese frosting apart.
Go ahead, look closer…closer. Yes, stick that laptop to your nose. Can you smell it? Oh I wish you could! But can you see those tiny golden specs in the frosting? That’s brown butter baby!
Regular cream cheese frosting pales in comparison to its browned butter version. Like everything that brown butter touches, this frosting has aromatic caramel and nuttiness undertones.
I’m not particularly a cream cheese frosting fan, but I love this one so much that I’ve dedicated a special blog post about it…also 4 years ago. It is perfect in every way…just sweet enough and pipes like a dream. And if you’ve made cream cheese frosting before, you’ll know that stability and cream cheese frosting don’t usually go hand in hand, unless you pile it with powdered sugar.
Not here though! Instead of relying on an obscene amount of sugar to stabilize the frosting, I use a technique where I beat COLD cream cheese pieces into whipped butter and sugar. This mixing method and cream cheese temperature, guarantees that the frosting won’t let you down (pun intended).
Now for the toffee aspect of the cupcakes!
Because caramel/toffee/butterscotch and everything in this family go so well with pumpkin, it doesn’t only show up once here…but twice!
Yes that’s right! This cupcake is bursting with toffee flavor in every bite. Toffee element number 1 comes in the form of:
- Cinnamon Toffee Sauce which fills the center of the cupcakes to the brim, so that when you take a bite, it pools in your mouth and sends your tastebuds to heaven. It is almost the same sauce used in my all-time favorite, sticky toffee pudding, but since this one has added cinnamon, it for some reason reminds me of the gooey center of a cinnamon roll. Can I get a ‘yum!’?
As for toffee element number 2, its comes is one of the most delicious things that have every entered my mouth:
- Pumpkin Spice Toffee. Sweet and salty toffee brittle, kissed with pumpkin pie spices, toasted pecans, and covered with a thin layer of white chocolate. It melts in the mouth to the bite and doesn’t break a tooth with it. It is adapted from everyone’s favorite blogger, Sally Baking Addiction, and like everything on her site, she outdid her self with this one. I linked the recipe to her site, because I couldn’t have instructed better…plus she has a video in there!
These shards of toffee are both a blessing and curse. So so good, yet dangerously addictive. I made only half a batch for the cupcakes, but regretted it as my whole family was fighting over them. They are completely optional though, because to be honest, they do take some time to make and require a candy thermometer, which a lot of people don’t have.
But c’mon…don’t they make the nicest toppers that double up as a bonus treat?!
How to make Brown Butter Toffee Pumpkin Cupcakes?
Well…we start with pumpkin!
Canned pumpkins are great here and super convenient, but God only knows how many supermarkets in the Greater Cairo I’ve searched for it without prevail. Giving up on the canned stuff, I made my own using fresh pumpkin and it worked beautifully. Please find instructions on how to make your own in the ‘notes’ section of the recipe.
In my Ultimate Pumpkin Cake, I use the creaming method (beating room temperature brown butter with sugar) for the cake batter to produce a light and fluffy crumb. This posed a delay in the process, since we had to chill the melted browned butter, for it to re-solidify to room temperature. This time, I wanted to get around the chilling step, to save time. So what I did is use the whisk attachment of the mixer to whip the eggs and sugars (brown & white) until voluminous and full of air bubbles. I then drizzled the melted (but slightly cooled) brown butter down the bowl as the mixer whipped away.
I was so happy to find that this technique gave me the same fluffy results as the creaming method, while cutting on time!
Now after whipping the eggs, sugars, brown butter into a cloud-like, foamy batter, we alternate between the dry and wet ingredients.
The dry ingredients include your typical pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon (obvi), ginger and nutmeg. You can add cloves or all spice in there too if you want!
The wet ingredients is a mixture of pumpkin puree and buttermilk. The acidity in buttermilk, helps tenderize the cake crumb and adds sneaky notes of tanginess that balances out the sweetness.
All there’s left to do is scoop in that beautiful orange batter into cupcake liners…
And bake to puffy perfection.
Allow the cupcakes to cool completely then fill ’em up with that cinnamon toffee sauce!
To do so…you’ll need to cut a cone from the top of each cupcake. Insert the tip of a paring knife at a 45-degree angle about 3/4 inch from the edge of the cupcake, making sure not to pierce the bottom. Cut out and remove the cake cone. Cut off all but the top 1/4 inch of the cone, leaving a circular disc of cake, which will be used later to ‘plug’ the filled hole. Discard (better yet, eat!) the bottom of the cone.
Using a small spoon, squeeze bottle or a piping bag with the corner snipped off, pour in the cooled sauce into each cupcake. Be generous and fill almost to the top.
Use the reserved cake ‘plug’ to cover the tops of the cupcakes (not pictured because I was too tired to edit the photo but you get the idea).
Pipe on that splendid brown butter cream cheese frosting. Then remember those insanely delicious pumpkin spice toffee? Now’s the time to anchor them on those cupcakes.
If you didn’t end up drinking toffee sauce leftovers with a straw, go ahead and drizzle them over the frosting. Messier but more tempting I have to say.
Now take a bite…and be ready for a mini lava explosion of toffee sauce in your mouth.
I “lava” so much guys. See you soon!
For the Cupcakes:
- 1¾ cups (210g) all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (142g) unsalted butter
- ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (100g) packed brown sugar, light or dark
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract (1 1/2 teaspoon if using imitation vanilla flavoring)
- 1 cup (227g) pumkpin puree (canned or homemade from fresh)*
- ¼ cup (60ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
For the Cinnamon Toffee Sauce:
- ¼ cup (57g) unsalted butter
- ½ cup (100g) packed brown sugar, light or dark
- ¼ cup (60ml) heavy whipping cream
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
For the frosting:
For garnish (optional):
For the cake:
- Place the butter in a light colored skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat until melted. Continue cooking, swirling the pan constantly or stirring with a heatproof rubber spatula, until the butter is dark golden brown and has a mesmerizing nutty aroma. Transfer to a small bowl, and allow to cool until lukewarm but still liquid. I'd recommend browning the butter called for the frosting immediately after this one, since it needs more time to solidify.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position, and preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Line 2 muffin pans with 14 cupcake liners in total.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and set aside.
- In another medium bowl, combine together the pumpkin puree, buttermilk, vanilla and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or handheld mixer), beat together both sugars and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy, almost doubled in volume and is cappuccino colored, about 5 minutes.
- With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the melted brown butter down the side of the bowl. Continue beating until fully incorporated.
- On low speed, add one third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the pumpkin mixture, then another third of the flour mixture, followed by the remaining pumpkin mixture and ending with the flour mixture, scraping the bowl as needed. Mix just until combined. Do not overbeat the batter.
- Use an ice cream scoop to divide the batter evenly among the 14 cupcake liners.
- Bake until the cupcake's center springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached, about 17 minutes.
- Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before filling and frosting. While the cupcakes bake, make the cinnamon toffee sauce.
To make the Cinnamon Toffee Sauce:
- In a saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar, cream and salt together over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring to boil and simmer for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the cinnamon. Let cool to room temperature before pouring over the cake. While the sauce is cooling, prepare the Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting.
To assemble the cupcakes:
- Cut a cone from the top of each cupcake. Insert the tip of a paring knife at a 45-degree angle about 3/4 inch from the edge of the cupcake, making sure not to pierce the bottom. Cut out and remove the cake cone. An apple corer would also work perfectly here, but it will make less room for sauce. Cut off all but the top 1/4 inch of the cone, leaving a circular disc of cake, which will be used later to 'plug' the filled hole. Discard (better yet, eat!) the bottom of the cone.
- Using a small spoon, squeeze bottle or a piping bag with the corner snipped off, pour in the cooled sauce into each cupcake. Be generous and fill almost to the top.
- Use the reserved cake 'plug' to cover the tops of the cupcakes, where they have been filled.
- Using your favorite piping tip (I used an Ateco 867 tip) or an offset spatula to frost the cupcakes with the Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting. The way it's done here, is by starting to pipe in the center, going around once, then ending with a swift pull.
- If desired, drizzle with leftover toffee sauce, then top with pumpkin spice toffee shards, if using.
- Store cupcakes in an airtight container until serving. Keep leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days, bringing them to room temperature before serving.
- Both canned and homemade pumpkin puree will work here; I used homemade. If using canned, be sure that it is pure, unsweetened pumpkin puree NOT pie filling. You can make your own following this method. Pumpkins labeled 'sugar' or 'pie' pumpkins, are ideal here, but I couldn't find either, so I used large pumpkins similar to those used for jack-o-lanterns. If using large pumpkins, be sure to strain the cooked puree for about 2 hours, as it tends to pack more moisture that other kinds. Any winter squash, like butternut squash will work here too!
Cupcakes adapted from The Ultimate Pumpkin Cake
Frosting adapted from Pipeable Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
Pumpkin Spice Toffee adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction
Measurements Note: All recipes of this site have been developed using weight measurements. Although US volume measurements have been included for your convenience, it is highly encouraged that you weigh your ingredients using a kitchen scale to get the best possible results. Due to the sensitive nature of baking, kitchen scales are proven to yield more accurate and consistent results than measuring cups. Enjoy!
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