Soft, ultra moist and full of warm spice, these brown butter-pumpkin cupcakes are filled with gooey, rich bourbon caramel for an extra decadent treat. We then use that sweet sauce to make a creamy, fluffy bourbon caramel frosting for the ultimate pumpkin cupcake. These show-stopping, gourmet brown butter-pumpkin cupcakes with bourbon caramel frosting and filling will become your new go-to fall dessert.
I'm a sucker for any kind of pumpkin spice treat, so when Martha Stewart published a brown butter-pumpkin cupcake recipe that made the rounds on Pinterest via other food bloggers several years ago, I rushed to my kitchen to whip up a batch. Brown butter and pumpkin? I had to try these cupcakes.
The base recipe was good, but I felt it needed a few tweaks to meet my expectations. First, I significantly increased the spices and added ground ginger to the mixture. Pumpkin itself doesn’t add a ton of flavor in baked goods. That pumpkin spice mixture is really what we love about pumpkin desserts, so I needed more of that spicy goodness.
I also swapped light brown sugar for dark brown sugar. As I’ve said many times, I’m a huge fan of dark brown sugar over the light variety. The flavor is much richer with the prominent molasses. Honestly, we should cancel light brown sugar and only use dark brown sugar. I feel strongly about this.
On top of those changes, I added a good dose of vanilla extract as well as maple extract. Boom! I now had the perfect pumpkin cupcake base, but I wasn’t ready to stop.
To make these pumpkin cupcakes over-the-top delicious, I filled them with my favorite bourbon caramel and used that same sauce to create an incredible frosting. Ever since then, I've made these brown butter-pumpkin cupcakes with bourbon caramel frosting and filling every fall, and they always receive rave reviews.
And how could they not? A pumpkin cupcake is great, but then you add bourbon caramel frosting and filling? That's some serious fall baking perfection, friends.
Let’s prepare for our fun fall baking project. Here’s everything we need to make these brown butter-pumpkin cupcakes.
- Baking powder
- Pumpkin puree
- Dark brown and white sugars
- Vanilla and maple extracts
We also need some bourbon caramel, which calls for water, white sugar, bourbon, butter and heavy cream. And, of course, we can’t forget the bourbon caramel frosting. For that, we'll need more butter, powdered sugar, bourbon caramel, vanilla extract and salt.
How to Make the Cupcakes
Not only will these pumpkin cupcakes put your drool glands into overdrive, they're also simple to make. Unlike some cake recipes, we don't need to whip in tons of air --- just some whisking here and there. Honestly, I can't think of a more fool-proof recipe. Let's get started with our cupcakes.
I like to begin by browning our butter. Brown butter takes a little time on the stove, and then we let it cool for a few minutes, so it's helpful to give the butter a head start.
While the butter browns, we mix together our flour, baking powder, salt and spices in a small bowl and set it aside. In a large mixing bowl, we whisk together pumpkin puree, white sugar, dark brown sugar, eggs, brown butter, vanilla extract and maple extract and then add our dry ingredients. The batter will be thick, so don't worry if it doesn't look like your typical cupcake batter. See?
Now we fill a muffin tin pan with our batter and bake. Bonus points for using cute fall-themed cupcake liners.
Couldn't be any easier, huh?
How to Make Bourbon Caramel Frosting
For the bourbon caramel, I use a recipe featured here on Burrata and Bubbles. I actually recommend making the caramel first to give it time to thicken. When the caramel comes off the stove, it's more of a drizzling consistency, and we want it to thicken for the filling.
To see details on how to make the bourbon caramel, you can check it out here. I included some step-by-step photos that show how the caramel progresses during the cooking process, so I hope that's helpful.
And now for the bourbon caramel frosting. We start by beating softened butter until it's nice and fluffy.
From here, we start beating in our powdered sugar in increments. Every so often, we pause to scrape the side of the bowl to make sure we incorporate all the ingredients. At the end, we beat in our bourbon caramel, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt.
Usually, I add a little cream or milk to my buttercream recipes, but with the viscosity of the caramel, I don't find it necessary. These proportions always give me a frosting that's still soft but firm enough to pipe.
How to Assemble Filled Cupcakes
With our ingredients ready, we can start assembling! Get excited. You're just minutes away from the best pumpkin cupcake of your life.
To fill our cupcakes, we take a butter knife and cut a hole in the center. Don't cut all the way to the bottom. A hole about halfway through should do it. Remove the top and spoon in some caramel. Place the top back on the cupcake and we're ready to frost.
Piping is my preferred frosting method because of its fun and oh-so pretty presentation, but you can always spread the frosting on the cupcakes with a butter knife. If you use a knife to spread the bourbon caramel frosting, it might be a little messy because some of the caramel will likely seep from the top but don't sweat it. A little gooey, ooey overflow of delicious caramel never hurt anyone.
What Frosting Goes With Pumpkin Cupcakes?
Obviously, I love these brown butter-pumpkin cupcakes with bourbon caramel frosting. That’s my go-to frosting choice for these cupcakes. Bourbon and caramel are perfect complements to pumpkin spice, but other flavors are also tasty.
If you want to go with a classic option, a cream cheese frosting is delicious. The tangy cream cheese nicely counters the warm spices. I made this coconut cream cheese frosting for a carrot cake this year. You could follow this recipe and leave out the coconut or use the coconut for a delicious twist.
A brown sugar frosting is another tasty alternative. I use brown sugar frosting for my apple cupcakes, and you can grab that recipe here.
I’m a sucker for pairing pumpkin treats with a pumpkin ale during the fall months, but not any pumpkin ale will do with these cupcakes. Look for a big imperial pumpkin ale. If it’s barrel aged, that’s even better. An imperial pumpkin ale, like Southern Tier Brewing Pumpking or Saint Arnold Brewing Company Pumpkinator, come with residual sweetness and thick mouthfeel that can hold up to the layers of our cupcake.
If you're in the mood for a little wine, I love a tawny port with these brown butter-pumpkin cupcakes. A tawny port is my favorite pairing with almost any caramel dessert, so it's obviously a beautiful match for our filling and frosting. The nutty, toffee-like notes also complement the pumpkin spice.
And, of course, you may love a cocktail with your dessert. You can't go wrong with these signature Thanksgiving cocktails on the side of your cupcake.
When only the most decadent fall dessert will do, I hope you try these brown butter-pumpkin cupcakes.
Looking for More Fall Treats?
- Pumpkin crullers with caramelized maple glaze
- Bourbon-pumpkin ice cream
- Apple spice cupcakes with praline filling and brown sugar frosting
- Maple-bourbon banana bread
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Brown Butter-Pumpkin Cupcakes With Bourbon Caramel Frosting and Filling
- Stand or hand mixer
- Small skillet
- Muffin pan
Bourbon Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 ½ cups white sugar
- ½ cup water
- 6 tablespoons butter diced into small cubes
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
Brown Butter-Pumpkin Cupcakes
- ¾ cup butter cut into pieces
- 1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg preferably freshly grated
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- ½ cup white sugar
- 2 eggs room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon maple extract
Bourbon Caramel Frosting
- 1 cup butter softened
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup bourbon caramel sauce
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
Bourbon Caramel Sauce
- Make the caramel sauce first to allow it to thicken. Heat the heavy cream in the microwave for one minute. It doesn’t need to be hot — just heated long enough so that it’s not cold from the refrigerator. Set aside.
- Add the white sugar and water to a large skillet. Do not stir. Cook over medium-high heat. About every 20 seconds or so, grab the skillet handle and give it a gentle shake back and forth a couple times. As the mixture cooks, it will begin to boil and start to darken.
- Once the water and sugar mixture turn to an amber color, immediately turn off heat and whisk in heavy cream. The mixture will furiously boil up. When it subsides, whisk in butter, bourbon and vanilla. Pour into a separate container, such as a large measuring cup. To see step-by-step photos of this process, visit my original bourbon caramel post..
Brown Butter-Pumpkin Cupcakes
- Heat oven to 325 degrees and place cupcake liners in a muffin tin.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Give the pan a shake occasionally and continue to cook until butter turns golden brown. Turn off heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and spices in a small bowl. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, sugars, eggs, vanilla extract, maple extract and brown butter. When adding the brown butter, use a spatula to scrape all those leftover brown bits into the batter. Whisk in the flour just until combined. The batter will be thicker than most cupcake batters.
- Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners until about three-quarters full. Bake until a toothpick comes out out cleanly of the center of the cupcake, about 20 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool for a few minutes, and when they're cool enough to handle, remove from the muffin tin to ensure the residual heat doesn't keep baking them. Place on a wire rack to cool.
- Once cool, use a butter knife to cut a well in the cupcake and fill with bourbon caramel sauce. Be sure to leave enough cake at the bottom to hold the caramel, so only cut down about halfway. Top with bourbon caramel frosting.
Bourbon Caramel Frosting
- Using a stand or hand mixer, beat softened butter until light and fluffy.
- Incrementally add the powdered sugar, about a ½ cup to 1 cup at a time. Periodically scrape the side of the bowl to make sure you incorporate everything.
- After adding all the sugar, pour in the bourbon caramel sauce, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Beat until everything mixes together and is nice and fluffy. Pipe or spread onto cupcakes with a butter knife. Enjoy!
- For baking at 5,280 feet, I used 1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder. That was the only adjustment I made for altitude.
- I've made these cupcakes without maple extract, and they're still delicious, but I love the extra warmth the maple extract adds.
- The frosting has always been stiff enough for me to pipe, but if you ever need to tweak the texture, you can add more powdered sugar to add stiffness or a splash of cream or milk if it needs thinning. I'd be surprised if you need to adjust, but just know those options are there if you ever need to troubleshoot this or any other frosting recipe.
- Adapted from Martha Stewart.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.