Browned Butter Kitchen Sink Cupcakes

Hey there! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving and ate your weight in stuffing! Whoever you are reader…if there is someone reading this other than my mom and dad. (Hi mom!)

Not that you need any more tempting sweets around with the Holidays in full force, but I have created a sinfully addictive cupcake that encompasses both sweet and salty. The inspiration? HBO’s Girls and more specifically its creator, producer, and star Lena Dunham.


If you have never heard of Lena Dunham or Girls, shame on you. The show has been compared to Sex and the City with a supremely more realistic and modern take. The actors are not shy often showing awkward sexcapades and complicated emotional and mental issues. Lena Dunham, who plays main character Hannah, struggles with love, stress, career growth, body image, friends, and money. Girls is hilarious while still incredibly heartfelt and at times crushingly sad. I have watched the entire show (3 seasons) twice in the past year. It is one of my favorite shows partly because there is no Hollywood curtain being pulled over your eyes. You see rolls, cellulite, the whole shebang. In fact, when Lena was on the cover of Vogue, her and her fans were supremely disappointed when she was heavily retouched.

Another notable part of the show is the wardrobe. Each character’s fashion choices directly reflect his/her personality. The clothes also reflect the emotional state of each person as well. I found this to be unique to Girls. A lot of television shows pick outfits based on sponsors with the character’s personality playing second fiddle for the choice.

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Lena Dunham has become a feminist voice in today’s generation. As a quirky writer and actor who struggled to be accepted for years, she doesn’t fit the mold of the average celebrity. She very openly describes her experiences while still vocally expressing how a woman in her late 20s has so much to learn and accomplish. She recently released her first (of what I’m assuming will be many) memoirs, Not That Kind of Girl. I finally got the chance to read it last week and loved it. Lena is a witty voice who is not afraid to put it all out there. I think it takes extreme courage to recount her life events like she does. Girls features a lot of Lena’s experiences as well, so viewers and readers have both read and seen the embarrassing accounts.

In celebration of Lena’s amazing book and the season four premiere of Girls in less than six weeks (January 11), I decided to pay homage with the humble cupcake. In the pilot episode of Girls, Lena’s character, Hannah, eats a vanilla cupcake for breakfast, naked, while watching her roommate, Marnie, shave. I fell in love. Hannah is constantly stress eating in the show with anything and everything in sight. It is easy for anyone to relate to this behavior, but Hannah takes it to another level. Whatever is available in her fridge, gets snacked on; olives, cake, salad, Pringles, etc. While on the phone with her mom on the streets of New York City, Hannah begins stress eating the only thing available, a salad she got for lunch, after being told her grandmother was dying.

In tribute to that first cupcake and all of her snacks since, I threw everything but the kitchen sink at these cupcakes. I started with a browned butter cupcake (because what’s better than nutty brown butter), added a vanilla buttercream frosting, sweet and salty butterscotch, salt and vinegar chips, chocolate, and pink edible pearls. The cupcakes are a great twist on the sweet and salty balance and look so cute too!

I have mentioned browned butter multiple times on this blog. It’s magical. In just a few seconds, melted butter turns brown with warm aromas that make me drool. It transforms mundane recipes into scrumptious treats. Browning butter reflects a chemical reaction mentioned a few times before—Maillard browning.

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Butter is made up of primarily butterfat, water (usually about 20%), milk proteins, and lactose sugars. When you heat butter, the fats melt. The fat serves as the structure of butter, so when the temperature reaches the melting point, the fats loosen and the butter separates into two fractions—butterfat and milk solids. The milk solids settle to the bottom of your pan and get a more direct heat.

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As I explained before in previous posts, in the presence of heat, water, and protein, reducing sugars (such as lactose) begin to brown creating a nutty flavor. You can smell it as you heat your butter actually. Be sure to take your butter off before the milk solids turn a dark brown. The sugars continue to brown even after you take the butter off of the heat because the pan and butter is still really hot. Burnt butter is not nearly as appealing as browned butter.

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Now that you know the secret to browned butter, kick back and binge on some Girls with these crazy cupcakes.


Browned Butter Kitchen Sink Cupcakes

Makes about 8 cupcakes

Browned butter cake

Adapted from raspberri cupcakes

5 tablespoons butter (75 g)

¾ cup all-purpose flour (90 g)

1 teaspoon baking powder

A pinch salt (unless you are using salted butter)

¼ cup milk (preferably 2%) (60 g)

½ teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar (82.5 g)

1 egg

1. Brown your butter (usually takes about 5 minutes) and cool it to room temperature.

2. Preheat oven to 350⁰F and prep your cupcake tin with liners. Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl and milk, syrup, and vanilla in another bowl. Set aside.

3. Beat the sugar and browned butter until pale and creamy (at least 5 minutes). Reduce speed to low and add the egg. Beat well. Scrape down the sides before your next addition. Add the dry mixture and wet mixture a little at a time interchangeably until the batter is smooth.

4. Fill cupcake cups about 2/3 of the way full and bake in your preheated oven until golden and a toothpick comes out cleanly (about 20 minutes). Be careful not to over-bake! They dry out easily.

5. Cool cupcakes before frosting.

Vanilla buttercream

Adapted from raspberri cupcakes

1 cup + 3 tablespoons powdered sugar (150 g)

7 tablespoons butter (100 g), softened

A pinch of salt (unless you are using salted butter)

½ vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped (or about ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste)

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon milk

1. Beat the butter with an electric mixer on high. Gradually add the powdered sugar until it is fully incorporated. Add the vanilla bean seeds/paste, salt, and milk until light and fluffy.

Butterscotch sauce

From Smitten Kitchen

I didn’t change a thing for this recipe, and I stored what was leftover in the fridge for myself!

For assembly

Frost the browned butter cupcakes followed by a drizzle of butterscotch sauce. Crush up salt and vinegar chips and sprinkle over the top of the cupcakes. For garnish, cover a salt and vinegar chip in bittersweet chocolate and stick in the top of each cupcake. Place edible pink pearls or sprinkles on the top of the cupcakes to finish, and enjoy!


All pictures from Girls from HBO




  1. Allyson
    December 6

    *mouth waters* Between the browned butter, salt and vinegar, butterscotch, and chocolate, I think you’ve covered all my bases here. These need to be made during break. :) Also, I’m pretty sure these are the true definition of what my chef would call “slutty food” so kudos!

    • Kelsey
      December 7

      Yes haha definitely slutty food :)

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