Cake Decorating Blog

A Cozy Comfort: How to Make Brown Sugar Buttercream

Go beyond chocolate and vanilla — get out your buttercream rut with a delightful brown sugar buttercream recipe you’ll come back to time and time again.

Check out a brown sugar buttercream recipe so good, it’ll be lucky to make it from bowl to cake without getting “lost” somewhere in the middle…

Brown Sugar Buttercream spread on cake

It’s difficult to say what’s the absolute best part of this brown sugar buttercream recipe.

After all, it’s fantastic in so many ways.

Is it the fact that it kind of tastes like chocolate chip cookies without the chips? Or is it the delightful little crunch that the granules of caramel-y brown sugar lends the otherwise velvety buttercream? Or is it the fact that works so beautifully with just about any type of cake?

Likely, it’s a little bit of all of the above. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that this recipe comes together in mere minutes, and tastes good with not only layer cakes but as a filling for whoopie pies or cookie sandwiches, or as a topping for brownies or blondies.

Before we get started, let’s address some of the buttercream questions you might have:

Can I use dark or light brown sugar?

Yes. The taste of the buttercream with the dark brown sugar will be more assertive, so consider this when deciding what type of cake you’d like to pair it with. Use stronger cake flavors that can “stand up” to the flavor.

Can I use homemade brown sugar?

Yes. In fact, I would highly suggest it. Here’s a tutorial for how to make brown sugar at home.

How can I spice it up?

Brown sugar loves spices. This recipe includes cinnamon, which amps up the comforting flavor of the brown sugar. You can add more if you like: Up to 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon and/or 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg tastes wonderful.

What types of cakes or sweets does this work with?

It’s perfect with earthy cakes such as banana or carrot. Brown sugar buttercream also works quite well with spice cookies, sugar cookies, snickerdoodles or gingerbread. A plain vanilla cake is a nice canvas, too. We wouldn’t turn you away if you put it on top of brownies, either.

Brown sugar buttercream recipe

[Want to save or print this recipe? Click here to download the PDF version, PLUS enjoy bonus buttercream decorating tutorials — absolutely FREE!]


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4-6 cups (powdered) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup of milk or half and half, plus more if needed

This recipe yields a perfect amount of buttercream to ice a two-layer 9″ cake or a 9″ x 13″ cake. This recipe can be doubled.

Step 1:

Cream the butter until fluffy. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon; beat until it has become smooth in texture, yet fairly light and fluffy.

Step 2:

Add 3 cups of the powdered sugar, and mix on low speed so that you don’t have a snowstorm. Stir in the vanilla extract, salt and milk or half and half. Stir until incorporated; scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally to make sure there aren’t any unmixed portions on the bottom or sides of the bowl.

Mixing the buttercream with a hand mixer

Step 3:

Add the remaining powdered sugar to taste. If it becomes too stiff, add a bit more cream.

 Store unused portions of the buttercream in the refrigerator for up to a week.

buttercream cake

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2014 and was updated in March 2018.


Angela Diaz

Love these great cake baking tips! Thanks!


I rarely comment online, but this frosting was so delicious I had to. Thank you for sharing the recipe – perfect!


Love the frosting


I love the cake decorations tips


Can you use this frosting under fondant?

anne laurel

Can you please tell me what 2 sticks of butter is, or what is the weight, thank you


1 Stick of butter is 1/2 cup


Can someone please tell me what a stick of butter is please. What weight is it!!


A stick of butter is 125gm 🙂


This frosting was amazing!! I paired it with a pumpkin spice cupcake and it was delicious! However, my frosting came out gritty. Is that normal? and if not what can I do to remedy that? Thank you for sharing!

Jessie Oleson Moore

Brooke – the coarser granules of brown sugar can do this – they are coarser than confectioners’ sugar. You could put the brown sugar in the blender and whiz for 20 seconds or so to make it finer, which would help that texture issue. Different brands of brown sugar can have different textures, too, I have noticed.


People on the west coast of US would say “2 cubes” which is the same as “2 sticks”. Either way, it is a total of 1 cup, or 8 ounces.


I love cake decorating!


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