Chocolate Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting

Have you seen The Great British Bake Off?  

Chocolate Cupcakes | Sempre Dolce

It’s a funny chain of events. I first laughed at my sister’s addiction to it, but that was before my mom and I saw it and we too, became hooked. Then, my brothers laughed at at the three of us for our addiction… until they saw an episode and needless to say we are now one GBBO addicted family! 

Chocolate Cupcakes | Sempre Dolce

I don’t know if it’s the British accents, the countryside setting, the slower pace, the sunshiny classical style music, or what – but it’s awesome! It’s also terrible, though because I’ve only been able to see the first season! (we can’t get the other seasons here in the U.S. – unless there’s something I don’t know about? *hopeful face*) Argh… 

Dear Someone in the UK,

Please send me every season of The Great British Bake Off ASAP! 

Thank you, 


While I wait for some kind soul somewhere out there to see my cry for help and send me some GBBO, let me ask you: Had any good cupcakes lately? 

Chocolate Cupcakes | Sempre Dolce

Cupcakes are actually a dessert that doesn’t show up around our house too often. I don’t know why, but that’s the case. When I do have them I like my cupcakes moist and chocolaty; not too much frosting and not too little; throw in a s’mores cupcake and you’ve got me!

How do you like your cupcakes? 

These cupcakes were originally supposed to have some Snickers involved, but that didn’t. quite. work. However, I decided that these made for pretty darn good chocolate cupcakes on their own, so here you go!

How the cupcakes work: These cupcakes are adapted from a chocolate buttermilk cake recipe and are super moist (I usually look to buttermilk, or sometimes sour cream, recipes when I want a moist cake). I added some coffee in place of half of the buttermilk, as I like the enhanced chocolate flavor (if you taste any coffee it will only be a slight hint). For the frosting, we are going with a (dark) brown sugar frosting enhanced with brown butter – totally optional – which makes for a great contrast to the chocolate.  

I had a little trouble with runniness in the frosting so here is what I did, in case you have the same problem: If you go through all of the steps and what you have is a runny mess here’s what you can do: Add some powdered sugar (a little at a time, I added 2 1/3 C. total), switch to the whisk attachment on your mixer and whip!

If still a bit runny, pop bowl in the freezer for a good 15 minutes – give a few stirs when you remove from freezer (and maybe one or two during the chilling process).

Please let me know how this recipe turns out for you!

The lowdown: Moist chocolate cupcakes topped with a dark brown sugar (and brown butter!!) frosting make for a delicious twist on your average chocolate cupcake and buttercream frosting – a must try! :) 

Chocolate Cupcakes | Sempre Dolce


Chocolate Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting
Save RecipeSave Recipe


    For the cupcakes1 1/2 C. cake flour
  • 1/2 C. dutch process cocoa powder (Hershey's Dark cocoa powder works as well)
  • 2 tsp. instant espresso powder (or instant coffee powder)
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, but not too soft!
  • 1 1/4 C. granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg white, room tempature
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C. buttermilk (I highly, highly reccomned using full fat buttermilk)
  • 1/2 C. strong coffee see note below
  • For the frosting2 C. dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 C. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 C. heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten lightly


  1. Cupcakes
  2. Preheat oven to 350° f.
  3. Line 2 cupcake pans (this yields 18-19 cupcakes, so it will be more like 1 1/2 cupcake pans :) with cupcake liners and set aside.
  4. In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until light, about 1 minute.
  6. With the mixer on medium-high speed, gradually add sugar; mixing until fluffy and very light in color, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl a few times.
  7. Add eggs, and egg white one at a time, beating until almost completely combined after each addition.
  8. Add in vanilla and beat briefly, about 10 seconds.
  9. Stop mixer and in a liquid measuring cup (or bowl), mix together buttermilk and coffee.
  10. Turn mixer on low speed and add flour mixture to butter/sugar mixture alternately with the buttermilk/coffee in 3 parts. Mix until almost completely combined - do not overmix! Be sure to scrape sides of bowl with a rubber spatula a few times during alternations.
  11. Finish mixing by stirring batter together with rubber spatula until just combined.
  12. Divide batter evenly between cupcake liners (I used about 1/4 C. batter per liner).
  13. Bake for 14-17 minutes (1 pan baked longer than the other) or until cakes spring back when pressed lightly in the center and/or toothpick/cake tester comes out with moist crumbs. Rotate pans halfway through baking.
  14. Transfer pans to wire rack to cool. Cool completely before frosting.
  15. While cupcakes are cooling, start frosting.
  16. Dark Brown Sugar (and brown butter!) FrostingIn a medium-small sized saucepan placed over medium-low heat, melt butter until butter goes from it's lemon-like yellow color to a toasty brown, swirling the pan to ensure even cooking. (if you have never browned butter before, I recommend reading the more detailed how to on The Kitchn)
  17. Once we have some delicious brown butter, maintain the medium-low heat and to the saucepan with the butter, add brown sugar, cream, and salt. Cook until mixture begins to simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  18. Add eggs to mixture, stirring to combine. Return pan to heat and simmer, stirring constantly, for 2-9 minutes, or until mixture is thick and foamy.
  19. Cool completely - this took 1 1/2 hours.
  20. About 30 minutes before continuing, set remaining 1/2 C. butter out to warm to room temperature.
  21. Once brown butter mixture is cool, transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer (a hand mixer can also be used). Cut room temperature butter into pieces and add to brown sugar mixture.
  22. Beat until butter is completely blended and frosting has lightened in color (the texture will also be smooth), about 1-2 minutes, occasionally scraping bottom and sides of bowl.
  23. Pipe or spread onto cupcakes and enjoy immediately or place in fridge until desired serving time!


If you don't wish to add the coffee, just substitute with an additional 1/2 C. of buttermilk.
Chocolate Cupcakes | Sempre Dolce




  1. Reply

    Melanie Long

    February 24, 2016
    Lexi - these look absolutely divine! I have never browned butter before - I better check out that website you mentioned!
    • Reply


      February 24, 2016
      Thanks! Browning butter isn't hard, it just takes careful watching - this is from the voice of experience... ;P
  2. Reply


    February 25, 2016
    These cupcakes look way too delicious specially that frosting!!
    • Reply


      February 26, 2016
      Thanks Amishi!! :)
  3. Reply

    Karen @ The Food Charlatan

    February 26, 2016
    I LOVE THAT SHOW!!!! have you seen the one where they make triple decker pork pies??? omg!! PS brown sugar frosting?? amaaaaazing
    • Reply


      February 26, 2016
      Uh, yes... we were all drooling! :D Thanks, Karen!
  4. Reply


    February 27, 2016
    I've never paired brown sugar frosting with chocolate. What a great idea. Also, now I want to go look for that show.
    • Reply


      February 27, 2016
      It does make for a nice contrast. :) YES, you need to watch some episodes - they're so fun!
  5. Reply


    March 2, 2016
    I've heard SO many awesome things about the Great British Bake Off that I definitely need to watch it! And these cupcakes look like the perfect accompaniment :)
    • Reply


      March 2, 2016
      Thanks, Sues! Yes, definitely check it out - I don't think you'll be disappointed :)


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