Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

A few years ago, I was getting ready to make cupcakes for my son’s first birthday, when I realized I was out of white sugar. (This rarely happens.) It was either use Splenda or brown sugar. I opted for brown sugar.

The result was marvelous. Since then I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit more to get a deliciously moist cupcake that packs a brown sugar punch. (And works well for high altitudes–by the way.)

We decorated these cupcakes for my mother-in-law’s birthday party yesterday. Although I think I’m with my husband–the cupcakes are so good on their own they really don’t need any frosting.

Not even technicolor pink with sprinkles. (And if you don’t frost them, does that mean you can call them “muffins”? Just wondering…)

Brown Sugar Cupcakes
adapted from Martha Stewart Kids
Makes about 24 cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup (12 Tbsp.) pure vegetable shortening (I used butter flavored)**
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk

For buttercream frosting:
2 sticks butter
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract, optional
a little milk, for thinning out the frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (For high altitude–375 degrees F.) Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners. (You will probably have enough batter left for 4 or 5 extra cupcakes.)

Whisk dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the shortening and sugar until very light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl down after each addition. Add the vanilla extract.

Starting and ending with the dry ingredients, add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk. Only beat until combined. Remove bowl from mixer base and scrape the sides and bottom with a large silicone or rubber spatula to make sure all the ingredients are completely incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the paper-lined cups.

Bake only one pan at a time for 15 minutes, checking after 12-13 minutes. Cupcakes should be lightly golden and springy to the touch.

Let cool for a few minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

**EDIT: You can certainly use butter. The cupcakes may be a bit drier, but will have better flavor.**

For buttercream frosting:

Beat the butter at high speed with an electric mixer. Add 1 cup of the powdered sugar and the extracts (if using). Beat until light and fluffy. Add the remaining powdered sugar alternating with a little bit of milk (no more than 1-2 tsp. at a time), until you reach the desired texture.

Tint if desired with gel food coloring.  Frost cupcakes and serve.

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  1. Mmm, I’m partial to brown sugar, bet some cinnamon & toasted nuts would be good in there,too. Guess they would be muffins then!

    Your cupcakes look wonderful. The frosting looks especially good!

  2. JA–

    I know, I know. I usually only use it to grease pans or for pie crusts. Butter actually is much better and has a better flavor. I just didn’t have enough on hand yesterday. :)

    BUT, I do think that’s what made them extra moist.

  3. Lately I have been wanting cupcakes and this sounds perfect. Have you tried that frosting recipe that won on the Ultimate Recipe Showdown on Food Network? Delicious! I can’t wait to try your!!

  4. I want some way bad. Brown sugar rocks my world. i try to use it daily. I like it on hot cereal of course but mostly in root beer cookies! I want to try these cupcakes very bad. I think I’ll employ mom.

  5. I’ll call them muffins if you will. It will help with the bit of guilt I’m going to feel when I make these and then eat them for breakfast. I LOVE LOVE LOVE brown sugar and often substitute it in stuff. These look ah-mazing!

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