Spice Cupcakes with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting


(Please excuse the picture quality! My beloved camera’s memory card slot is sadly broken, so in the meantime while I decide to fix/replace it, I’m just using my phone. This pic is from our Instagram account.)

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays! Leah and I are home from school after a busy and productive semester. We are thrilled to be back in the kitchen and are also enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. The Environmental Studies major in me cringes a little, but boy, is it nice! A couple days after we both got home we wanted to bake something both pretty and delicious to usher in the Christmas spirit  (something that tends to be a little lacking after a stressful week of final exams and papers).

These cupcakes were just the thing! A tender spice cake, infused with the pleasant flavor of apple cider, is topped off with a decadent swirl of brown butter cream cheese frosting. We also opted to make the recommended sparkly sugared cranberries as a fun and delicious decoration. The entire family (with the exception of persnickety Henry, who does not enjoy cream cheese frosting) loved these. I think they’d be great to bring to a New Year’s party, particularly because of the wonderfully sparkly berries,  but they’d be undoubtedly welcome at any holiday table.

Spice Cupcakes with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Recipe adapted slightly from Annie’s Eats

Makes 12 cupcakes


For the cupcakes:

2 cups apple cider

3 large eggs, separated

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup all-purpose flour (114 grams)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/3 cup (65 grams) vegetable oil

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons water

For the frosting:

½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 ounces (227 grams) cold cream cheese

1 cup (126 grams) sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon heavy cream

Sugared cranberries


First, reduce the cider (this will take about a half hour, so plan ahead). Pour the cider in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer and let cook down until about 2 tablespoons remain. Stir frequently towards the end so that the syrup does not burn. Set aside to cool while preparing the rest of the batter.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Whip on low speed until the whites get foamy, and then increase the speed to medium/high and whip until medium peaks form. Transfer to a separate bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. Set aside. In the now empty mixer bowl combine the egg yolks, oil and sugar. Mix with the paddle attachment until combined. Pour in the water and cider reduction and beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes. With the mixer running on low speed, stir in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Gently fold in the whipped egg whites a third at a time with a spatula until fully incorporated into the batter.

Divide the batter between the prepared liners, filling each well about 2/3 to ¾ full. Bake until golden brown and set, rotating the pans halfway through baking. They should take 18-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for several minutes before removing the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and aromatic, about 3-5 minutes after the butter is fully melted. Pour the brown butter into a bowl (quickly, because it goes from brown to burnt pretty quickly) and let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the cooled brown butter and the cream cheese on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add in the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and salt and beat for another minute or two. Add in the cream and whip on medium-high speed for about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the frosting is very light and fluffy. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and frost the cooled cupcakes. Top with sugared cranberries as desired. Enjoy!!

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