The Best Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting is a unique take on traditional buttercream frosting featuring Brown Sugar – it is rich, creamy, and delicious.

Closeup on three cupcakes topped with The Best Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting next to a glass bowl filled with Brown Sugar.

Buttercream with Brown Sugar?  When we started working on this recipe we were skeptical.  We love brown sugar but we hate to deviate from our tried and true Best Buttercream Frosting.  Oh my goodness, we are so glad we deviated. Our The Best Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting is simply delicious.  The brown sugar makes this unique homemade frosting taste just like chocolate chip cookie dough with just a hint of caramel. It is extremely yummy and would be great on so many types of baked goods:  Chocolate, Apple, any kind of Spice Cake, Pumpkin … let your imagination be your guide. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

How to Make

Collage image showing the steps for combining the butter, brown sugar and vanilla.

Step 1: The main ingredient of this frosting is Brown Sugar.  We usually use Light Brown sugar but if you are looking for a deeper, richer taste you can try Dark Brown Sugar.  One important trick, make sure you sift out all the tiny brown sugar stones before you add the brown sugar to the mixing bowl. They will clog a decorating tip and are unappetizing to eat.  Lightly pack the brown sugar and add it to the mixing bowl.
Step 2: Add the butter and the vanilla extract to brown sugar in the mixing bowl. The butter needs to be what we call “slightly softened” which is somewhere between straight out of the refrigerator and room temperature.  Mix the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla together on medium speed until thoroughly combined (at least 2 minutes.)  You really want the brown sugar to dissolve and meld with the butter to enhance the flavor of the frosting and get rid of any graininess in the frosting. 
Step 3: Use a spatula to scrape the butter mixture down from the sides of the bowl before moving on to the next step.  

Collage image showing how to add the powdered sugar to the frosting.

Step 4: Measure 1 Pound of Powdered Sugar.  If you don’t have a food scale, the equivalent would be 4 cups. We normally do not sift the powdered sugar and instead rely on the mixer to break up any clumps. Add the powdered sugar to the butter/brown sugar mixture in the mixing bowl.
Step 5: We’ve got a Two Sisters Tip for mixing the butter and the powdered sugar – cover the mixer with a towel to keep the powdered sugar from flying out of the mixer.
Step 6: Start your mixer (or electric beater) on the lowest setting and keep it on low until the butter and sugar are incorporated (about 30 seconds). Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and then increase the speed to medium-high and mix for another 30-45 seconds so the frosting gets light and fluffy. If the frosting is dry, add 1 teaspoon of milk and mix again.

Closeup on a white mixing bowl filled with Brown Sugar Icing  and a white wooden spatula.

Step 7: This is the fun part of the recipe where you get to taste your frosting. You are trying to determine if the consistency is correct or if it needs more milk or maybe a little more vanilla extract. If it tastes great, test the consistency.  Too thick? Add some milk and mix again to check to see if it is now the right consistency.  The amount of milk to use depends on the state of your frosting and sometimes the time of year (if it is a hot humid day, you might not need to add any milk.) A good rule of thumb is to add the milk a teaspoon at a time. You can check out our FAQ section below to see some other advice on making the perfect batch of frosting.

How to Serve

Closeup on a decorating bag filled with Brown Sugar Frosting sitting in front of a batch of unfrosted chocolate cupcakes.

How much frosting will you need?  That always depends on how thick or thin you apply the frosting or how much decorating you do but here are a couple of guidelines. Our recipe should make enough Brown Sugar Frosting to cover a 9″ x 13″ sheet cake or a two-layer 8″ cake.  If you are making cupcakes, you should be able to frost 24 cupcakes if you apply the frosting with a knife.  If you swirl on the frosting with a pastry bag as we have done here, you should be able to frost 15-18 cupcakes depending on the size of the swirl.

Expert Tips and FAQ’s

How do I store any leftover frosting?

Frosting stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator should be good for up to a week. If you carefully wrap the frosting in order to avoid freezer burn, the frosting should be fine in the freezer for 3-4 months.

Does the frosting need to be refrigerated?

No, the frosting does not need to be refrigerated. For example, brownies frosted with this Brown Sugar Frosting would be fine left out on the counter for 2-3 days if the pan was tightly covered with aluminum foil. That said, we usually refrigerate our frosted desserts to keep the baked good from going stale even if the frosting would be fine. We think frosting tastes best at room temperature so we will then remove the item from the refrigerator a couple of hours before we will serve them.

What should I do if my frosting is too sweet?

Buttercream is a sweet frosting. One thing you can do if it seems too sweet for your palette is to add a pinch of salt to the frosting. But please note that a little salt goes a long way. We cannot stress enough that a pinch (10-15 granules of regular table salt) is all you usually need. Even 1/4 a teaspoon of salt would probably ruin the frosting. Add the salt and mix again and see if that has cut down on the sweetness level.

What should I do if my frosting turned out too thick?

Add another teaspoon of milk and mix again. Continue to add the milk, a teaspoon at a time, until the frosting is the consistency that you like it

What should I do if my frosting turned out too thin?

Temperature plays a big part in the consistency of frosting. A thin frosting could mean that the butter has gotten overworked and is too melted. The first thing to do is refrigerate the frosting for an hour and then check to see if the frosting has set back up again. If not, the next step is to add more powdered sugar or cornstarch. Start with either 1/2 cup of Powdered Sugar or 1 tablespoon of Cornstarch. Mix again and see if the consistency is better.

Is there a substitute for milk?

Yes. You can use Half n’ Half or Whipping Cream or even almond milk or another milk substitute.

Closeup on a chocolate cupcake topped with The Best Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting sitting on a cutting board next to a glass bowl filled with Brown Sugar.

Other Frosting Recipes You Will Love

The Best Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting

The Best Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting

Yield 2 1/2 cups
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes

The Best Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting is a unique take on a traditional buttercream frosting - it is rich, creamy and delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Butter, slightly softened (We use Salted Sweet Cream Butter)
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar (Light or Dark)
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 pound Powdered Sugar (or 4 cups)
  • 1-2 tablespoons Milk (if needed)

Instructions

  1. Measure the Brown Sugar.  We usually use Light Brown sugar but if you are looking for a deeper, richer taste you can try Dark Brown Sugar.  One important trick, make sure you sift out all the tiny brown sugar stones before you add the brown sugar to the mixing bowl. They will clog a decorating tip and are unappetizing to eat.  Lightly pack the brown sugar and add it to the mixing bowl.
  2. Add the butter and the vanilla extract to brown sugar in the mixing bowl. The butter needs to be what we call “slightly softened” which is somewhere between straight out of the refrigerator and room temperature.
  3. Mix the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla together on medium speed until thoroughly combined (at least 2 minutes.)  You really want the brown sugar to dissolve and meld with the butter to enhance the flavor of the frosting and get rid of any graininess in the frosting. 
  4. Use a spatula to scrape the butter mixture down from the sides of the bowl before moving on to the next step.  
  5. Measure 1 pound of Powdered Sugar.  If you don’t have a food scale, the equivalent would be 4 cups. 
  6. Add the powdered sugar to the butter/brown sugar mixture in the mixing bowl.
  7. Start your mixer (or electric beater) on the lowest setting and keep it on low until the butter and sugar are incorporated (about 30 seconds). Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and then increase the speed to medium-high and mix for another 30-45 seconds so the frosting gets light and fluffy.
  8. If the frosting is dry, add 1 teaspoon of milk and mix again.
  9. Taste your frosting! You are trying to determine if the consistency is correct or if it needs more milk or maybe a little more vanilla extract. If it tastes great, test the consistency.  Too thick? Add some milk and mix again to check to see if it is now the right consistency.  The amount of milk to use depends on the state of your frosting and sometimes the time of year (if it is a hot humid day, you might not need to add any milk.) A good rule of thumb is to add the milk a teaspoon at a time.

Did you Make this Recipe? Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @twosisterscrafting on Instagram so we can see it!

If you are looking for more tips and tricks for making that perfect batch of homemade frosting we have a few other posts you might want to check out: