Domestic Goddessing Pt. 2: Burnt-Butter Brown Sugar Cupcakes


What I like best about this recipe is the process of burning the butter. Perhaps because it feels like intentional rule breaking. I recall that when I was younger and making my first attempts at baking, my mother would caution me to take care not to burn the butter lest I waste expensive ingredients (which I did quite often, usually resulting in temporary banishment from her kitchen).

I’m still quite clumsy when it comes to measuring out sugar, butter and flour. Andrew refers to my state while cooking as my “kitchen zen,” but when I’m baking I’m just as bumbling and awkward as I was the first time I made “cookies” and they emerged from the oven, globs of mess rather than disks of delight, stuck solidly to a cookie sheet that eventually was just pitched because it was too hard to clean.

But I’m trying, really trying, to lose the baking woes and morph into Nigella’s notion of “a domestic goddess, trailing nutmeggy fumes of baking pie in [my] languorous wake,” a “cross between Sophia Loren and Debbie Reynolds in pink cashmere cardigan and fetching gingham apron, a weekend alter ego winning adoring glances and endless approbation from anyone who has the good fortune to eat in her kitchen.”

Here is my latest attempt. My thoughts on how the cupcakes turned out follow the recipe.

cupcakesBurnt-Butter Brown Sugar Cupcakes
from How to Be a Domestic Goddess
Makes 12 cupcakes


for the cupcakes:
1/2 c plus 2 T unsalted butter
3/4 c self-rising cake flour
3 T sugar
5 T light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
2-3 T milk

for the icing:
1/2 c plus 2 T unsalted butter
1 2/3 to 2 c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 T milk

Preheat the oven to 400 F and then get on with burning your butter (I love the way Nigella writes out her recipes!). Put it in a small saucepan on medium heat, stirring all the time until it turns a dark golden color. This will take about 10 or so minutes. Because I’m a dork, I really enjoy this process, watching the butter go through all these weird states as it cooks. Take the pan off the heat and strain the butter into a bowl or cup, as it will have made a sediment.Line a sieve with a coffee filter or two unfolded paper napkins. In other words, this is like clarified butter, but with a smoky note. Let the butter solidify again but don’t put it in the refrigerator; you need it to remain soft for the cupcakes. Guilty! As the night wore on, I needed to speed up the process some. Just be mindful to keep checking on the butter that it doesn’t become hard.

When the butter is solid but still soft, put all the cake ingredients except the milk in a food processor and blitz into a smooth batter. As normal, add the milk down the funnel, pulsing sparingly to form a soft, dropping mixture. OR, cream the butter and sugar, add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time, adding a spoonful of flour between each. Fold in the rest of the flour, adding no baking powder, and when all’s incorporated, add a little milk as you need.

Divide among a 12-cup muffin pan lined with paper baking cups, and cook for 15-20 minutes. While the cupcakes are baking, get on with the icing. It’s the same procedure for the butter––burn, strain, solidify––then beat it with half the sugar or enough to make it stiff. Add tablespoons of milk and the remaining sugar alternatively to reach a good consistency, and finally the vanilla.

frosting cupcakesWhile the icing is still soft, smear messily over the cooled and waiting cupcakes.

My cupcakes tasted a touch eggy to me, but I find this to be true with most baked goods. The eggs always stand out to me. Also, while I loved the flavor of the burnt butter, the icing is really really sweet to me. Like eggy-ness, this is most often the case. I’m certain that a more seasoned baker would have the finesse to turn these into perfect mouthfuls of sweetness.

December 31, 2007. Tags: , , . cupcakes, Desserts, Food, Food and Cooking, Sweets.

One Comment

  1. michelle replied:

    this is why the internet is great… fellow bakers can celebrate in their successes and commiserate their less-than-successes. i definitely feel (as you read in my post about them) that there were some issues with this recipe. it’s such a gorgeous cookbook though, i’m sure other recipes in there are wonderful. let me know what other Nigella goodies you bake!!


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