Bizarro Burnt Butter Brown Sugar Cupcakes

&uotMy pantry, on a surface level, would appear well stocked. There’s pasta, there’s rice, there’s beans, there’s flour, there’s sugar, there’s oil, there’s baking soda. You can look in my pantry and think to yourself: “My! Imagine all the glorious things he can make with this!”

But when put to the test, my pantry failed me. This happened Monday night. I have a new Monday night ritual. Because I’ve spoiled my Tuesday playwriting workshop week after week with home cooked treats, I now feel obligated to bake something for them on a regular basis. They expect it. “What are you bringing, tomorrow?” my workshop classmates ask me. “I DON’T KNOW! LEAVE ME ALONE!” I scream and run into the bathroom crying. (I’m very dramatic in the Dramatic Writing program).

So this past Monday, at 11 pm, after directing a scene for directing class and writing a 10 page paper comparing “Uncle Vanya” to “The Wood Demon” I set upon making a baked good. I flipped through my many baked goods cookbooks and found, to my dismay, that I didn’t have the ingredients for 99% of the recipes. I needed coconut, I needed cream, I needed marzipan, I needed lemons. I just didn’t have those things.

What I do have plenty of is butter. And so when I stumbled upon Nigella Lawson’s ;Burnt Butter Brown Sugar Cupcakes” I was intrigued. The ingredients were incredibly basic and the end result sounded so exotic.

Now I must tell you here that my brother is sleeping in the living room right now so I can’t turn the light on to take the book off the shelf to tell you the recipe beat by beat. I can do that for you in the comments for it at a later date if you BEG ME and reveal DEEP PERSONAL SECRETS ABOUT YOURSELF.

What I will do is give you a very basic narrative. First, you burn the butter. It’s this much butter in a saucepan at medium heat:


You let it cook until it turns dark golden brown. This is a fun process. You stir stir stir and wait wait wait. This is what you end up with:


But here’s the part that angers me. Nigella then says: “Wait for the butter to resolidfy. Do not put in the fridge though! You need the butter soft. It really won’t take that long.”

Oh, Nigella. How long it took. It took so long that I almost put the butter in the freezer, but I settled upon the fridge. Even that took a while. So I’m not sure what was happening (I’m sure my foodie friends can chime in) but if I were you, if you ever make this recipe, just stick it in the fridge and check every few minutes. That’s what I’d do.

Once that happens, it’s so straight forward you could die from overexposure to straightforwardness. You just blitz that brown butter with brown sugar and flour and other things in the food processor. Add milk. Pour into muffin tins. You’re done.

But wait. Then there’s the frosting. For the frosting you have to do the SAME BROWN BUTTER PROCESS. So it takes that same crazy amount of time. But this time I used the fridge method and I was happy. The frosting is wonderful. Here’s the resulting cupcake:


I actually love this cupcake because the ingredients are so simple and yet it tastes so exotic. When people talk about browned butter they often use the word “nuttiness” to describe the taste (at least Nigella does). I think that’s true but it’s a comforting nuttiness–there’s a warmth to it that’s hard to describe.

Was it a hit in class?

Well Dan, sitting next to me, bit into it while someone was reading a poem and said: “OH MY GOD! Adam, this is AMAZING.”

On the other hand, a certain classmate who shall remain nameless took one bite and pushed it away. She didn’t know I noticed this but I DID. Burnt Butter Brown Sugar Cupcakes aren’t for anyone. Are they for you? Only one way to find out. All you need is butter, fire and time.

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