Burnt butter cupcake for bakes of random kindness

Random bakes logoVanessa Kimbell, author of Prepped, started a cooking meme: random bakes of kindness. You bake for someone else, ideally someone who isn’t expecting it. I really liked the idea and signed up quickly but it has taken me a while to come up with a good baking idea. I tried making shortbread for my friends in the US but found that I couldn’t pack them safely. We ended up eating them. I made bread for a friend in Edinburgh, but it didn’t turn out quite how I wanted it. So we ate it. Then, I had a brain wave.

Burnt butter cup cakes. Unadorned and still tasty-looking.

Burnt butter cup cakes. Unadorned and still tasty-looking.

It was my birthday recently and two of my friends made a very sweet fuss over me and spoiled me thoroughly. I’d bake something for them and I’d give it to them at book quiz. The other two women in the group also had birthdays recently, so I’d make something for them too. And the team that organises the quiz. Yes! I had a plan. A plan that worked very well with  cupcakes.

I wanted to try Nigella Lawson’s burnt butter cup cakes from How to be a Domestic Goddess. The base is buttery and nutty in taste, the top I wanted to be more toffee than butter. I used her base but made a few changes to the icing. Because butter and sugar isn’t enough. You need dulche de leche too.

I won’t hear from the book quiz organisers until next month but my team mates said they liked their cupcakes a lot. I deem this exercise in random cakeness a success.

Burnt Butter Cupcakes with Toffee Icing

Burnt butter cup cake with toffee icing. And sprinkles...

Burnt butter cup cake with toffee icing. And sprinkles…

I have a sponge cake recipe that I swear buy. The original recipe is all white sugar and fine flour. To make it a little more interesting I made it with nut brown butter and wholemeal flour. Wholemeal flour has a darker, nuttier flavour than white flour. Likewise, nut brown butter has a deeper, more enticing flavour than normal butter. At least, I think so.

The original recipe has brown butter in the cupcakes and in the icing. So does my version but I wanted the icing to have other notes – specifically, toffee. Enter dulce de leche. It comes in a tin, it tastes super and it means you can use a little less sugar and butter in the icing because… well… dulce de leche is basically caramelised lactose and milk fat. I know, when you put it like that it doens’t sound great. But it is. It really is. Just not every day.

Bakes of random kindness - burnt butter cup cakes
Preparation time
Cooking time
Total time
It might not seem like a big thing, but one of the differences with my tweak is that the total butter need is down by 50 grams which means you can make it from one packet of butter. I don't use butter normally - I like it, I just cook with oil most of the time - so not having to get two packets is a benefit.
Recipe type: Cake
Cuisine: British
Serves: 10
  • 150 grms unsalted butter
  • 125 grms self-raising flour
  • 60 grms golden caster sugar
  • 65 grms light muscovado sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk*
  • Ingredients
  • * The cupcake recipe specifies a bit of milk if you need to thin the batter. I didn't have any so used water. It worked fine.
  • 100 grams unsalted butter
  • ½ tin of Carnation dulche the leche
  • 120 grams of icing sugar
  1. Burn the butter. Cut into cubes and melt over a medium to high hob until the butter goes a dark golden colour. The milk solids will be dark brown to black.
  2. Let stand to solidify. Or at least cool down. I left mine in the fridge and got bored with waiting until some of it started to solidify. It took a long time. And my flat's not that warm.
  3. Put the butter and all other ingredients in a food processor and mix until smooth.
  4. If you need to soften it, use milk or water.
  5. Divide between cases (I got nine, you're supposed to get 12).
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
  1. Burn the butter. Let it set.
  2. Mix butter, dulce de leche and icing sugar to a good consistency.


How To Be A Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking

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About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.


  1. Pingback: Butter? | What I Desired To Say…

  2. Those look so good! Well done on decreasing the amount of butter and using wholemeal flour, I guess you could call them ‘skinny burnt butter cupcakes’ (even if they’re not)

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