This brown sugar buttercream frosting is fluffy, smooth, tasty and super easy to make at home. It is made with brown sugar, softened butter, powdered sugar, and a little bit of milk. It has a delicious deep flavor and is perfect to use on cakes, cupcakes, and more!
Brown sugar has such a comforting flavor. It's made by adding molasses to sugar, which gives it the rich, deep caramelized flavor we know and love. Brown sugar frosting is the perfect addition to your cozy Fall and Winter bakes!
This silky smooth frosting pairs perfectly with pumpkin desserts (like a pumpkin snack cake), spice cakes, and apple desserts too (like apple cider cupcakes). It's delicious piped on brownies and cookies too. Because of the brown sugar, the frosting is a light brown color but can easily be dyed with food coloring to decorate Holiday cookies like spritz and classic cutout cookies.
If you love creamy, decadent frostings as much as I do, check out the strawberry buttercream on my prosecco cupcakes. Also this small batch cream cheese frosting, faux Swiss meringue buttercream, chocolate whipped cream buttercream, and lavender buttercream are amazing!
Why You'll Love This Frosting
- Silky smooth- If you blend the brown sugar, the buttercream will be fluffy and super smooth.
- Perfectly spreadable- The consistency can be customized and is perfect to spread, pipe, and even drizzle.
- Easy quick recipe- You can make this frosting in 5 minutes! You don't need to melt the brown sugar or do any other additional, time consuming steps.
Watch How to Make This Recipe
Here are some notes about the ingredients used. For quantities, see the recipe card below.
- Unsalted butter- Make sure it is softened and at room temperature but not melty. Pull it out of the refrigerator about an hour before making the frosting.
- Brown sugar- Light or dark brown sugar work to add sweetness and depth of flavor. Make sure it's fresh and not dry, clumpy, or hard.
- Vanilla extract- Enhances all the flavors.
- Salt- Balances the cloyingly sweet powdered sugar.
- Powdered sugar- Adds structure and sweetness to the buttercream.
- Milk- Add milk or cream to get the frosting to whatever consistency you want. You can add 1 tablespoon or more depending on if you'll be spreading or piping the frosting or using it as more of a glaze/icing.
- Unsalted butter: Use salted butter if you don't have unsalted; leave out the extra salt in the recipe. Vegan buttery sticks can be used to make the frosting dairy free.
- Powdered sugar: Use powdered monk fruit sweetener if needed.
- Milk: Use non-dairy milk if needed, like almond, oat, or soy. Heavy cream and half and half are also suitable substitutes.
Helpful Equipment and Tools
To make the buttercream, you'll need a large mixing bowl and either a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (or flat beater) attachment or an electric hand mixer. A food processor is optional, but blitzing the brown sugar makes the frosting ultra smooth.
How to Make Brown Sugar Frosting
STEP 1: Pulse the brown sugar. This step is OPTIONAL, but will help create a silky smooth frosting. Add your brown sugar to a food processor or blender and pulse it a few times until the texture is more powdery.
NOTE - If you skip this step, the buttercream will be a bit grainy but still delicious. I personally like the little gritty bits of brown sugar!
STEP 2: Cream the butter and brown sugar. Using your stand mixer with the paddle attachment or electric hand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar on high for 8-10 minutes until it is pale and fluffy. We want to cream it for a long time so the brown sugar dissolves and melds into the butter. After that, scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix in the vanilla and salt on low.
STEP 3: Add powdered sugar and milk. Beat in 1 cup powdered sugar on low for 3 minutes and then beat in another cup for 3 more minutes. Then, mix in the milk 1 teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. You can add more milk or powdered sugar if the frosting is too thick or thin.
- Sift the powdered sugar. This isn't a necessary step, but sifting the powdered sugar helps ensure that you won't have any clumps.
- Cover the bowl. If you don't want to make a mess, cover the bowl of your stand mixer with a kitchen towel to keep powdered sugar from flying everywhere.
- You can fix it easily! There's really no way to mess up homemade frosting. If it's too thin, add more powdered sugar ¼ cup at a time. If it's too thick, add more milk or cream 1 teaspoon at a time to loosen it.
- Add chopped pecans. To make a praline frosting, fold in some chopped pecans!
How to Store and Freeze Buttercream Frosting
Storage: Store the frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Before storing, place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the frosting to prevent it from forming a crust.
You can also wrap the frosting tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator that way.
Freezing: You can freeze buttercream for up to 2 months! Wrap the frosting in plastic wrap and seal tightly or place in a ziplock freezer bag and store in the freezer.
Make ahead: You can make buttercream ahead of time for birthdays or other events and celebrations. The frosting can be stored in the fridge if it’s a week out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Mixing on low after adding the milk will help remove air bubbles.
You unfortunately can't make this recipe without powdered sugar. You can make frosting without powdered sugar by boiling ingredients, but that's a little too complicated to dive into here!
If your frosting is too thin, it is possible that the butter melted too much, got overworked, or too much milk was added. Add ¼ cup of powdered sugar at a time to thicken it up. You can also try placing the frosting in the refrigerator to see if it'll thicken up if you don't want to add more sugar.
If the frosting is too thick, mix in 1 additional teaspoon of milk at a time until it reaches the consistency you want.
More Frostings and Fillings to Try
Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting
- 1 food processor optional
- 1 hand mixer or stand mixer
- Add the brown sugar to a food processor or blender and pulse it a few times until the texture is powdery. This step is optional.¼ cup brown sugar
- Using your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or electric hand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar on high for 8-10 minutes until it is pale and fluffy.½ cup unsalted butter, ¼ cup brown sugar
- Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then mix in the vanilla and salt on low.1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Beat in 1 cup powdered sugar on low for 3 minutes and then beat in another cup for 3 more minutes.2 cups powdered sugar
- Mix in the milk 1 teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached.1 tablespoon milk