Simple Sundays | Creamy Brown Sugar Frosting

It is a perfect morning for flying, and I suspect the pilot knows it. As the airplane climbed, he circled over the glittering bay, the city below just waking up under the break of dawn. He took the scenic route, my beloved hills undulating in…

Simple Sundays | Creamy Brown Sugar Frosting

It is a perfect morning for flying, and I suspect the pilot knows it. As the airplane climbed, he circled over the glittering bay, the city below just waking up under the break of dawn. He took the scenic route, my beloved hills undulating in shades of green below, the modest San Francisco skyline crystal clear. The iconic Golden Gate bridge spanned proudly and we seemed to brush the coast as we passed over the charming coastal towns of Marin, finally settling into an eastward course.

I am headed home again. Back to the Big Apple, and this time, my husband is by my side. This is a rarity – we each return to New York, but often separately and for more serious matters; the last time we in NYC together for pleasure was our wedding over ten years ago. We have ventured together, without the children, and are headed back to attend the very esteemed James Beard Foundation Awards. To say that we are thrilled to experience the Oscars of the food world is a true understatement.

I know I have gushed about my husband before, but I wish you all knew how supportive he is of my love for food. He has embraced it to a point I could have never imagined, so giving and enthusiastic. He is my harshest editor but my fiercest champion, and I am ever grateful to him. Last Sunday was his birthday, and in many ways, this trip is part of his celebration. We didn’t do anything extravagant a week ago, but it would not have been a birthday without cupcakes.

There was a time long ago when baking cupcakes meant opening a box of cake mix, whirring together some eggs and oil and slathering on canned frosting. I shudder when I think of it, mostly the canned frosting part, and it has been years since I bought a box of cake mix. But I know my husband still loves those cupcakes best, so I figured for his birthday, he should have his wish…as long as I could frost it with homemade frosting.

This Creamy Brown Sugar Frosting comes together just as quickly as popping open a can of store bought frosting, and tastes worlds better, in my opinion. I know I like to fuss over pretty frosting when it comes to photographs, but I thought I would show you the way I like to frost best, with a good old fashioned spatula. I do believe I can slather these puppies up faster with a spatula than with a piping bag. Fancy? Not really, but definitely delicious.

Creamy Brown Sugar Frosting

About 3 1/2 cups


12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add brown sugar and beat until well blended. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, and beat well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Chill until firm enough to spread, about 30 minutes.

Minimally adapted from Creamy Brown Sugar Frosting, Bon Appétit, October 1999 via Epicurious.


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  1. Magic of Spice

    Your husband sounds wonderful, and I hope he had a great birthday :)
    This frosting looks delightful, and hope you had an amazing time on your trip!

  2. Suzanne

    yum who wouldn’t love these cupcake and homemade frosting, thanks for sharing. And have a great trip!

  3. Brian

    Who needs the cupcake when you have a big bowl of frosting (I should really call it magical frosting, since that’s what it looks like ;-))

  4. myfudo

    The frosting’s brown sugar taste and color is what makes this really special. I love using brown sugar. The golden variety of course is the best option. Has that rustic appeal and really flavorful. =) A must try!

  5. Simone

    Cool that you’re going to the JB awards in Ny! Love New York!! And love the look of those cupcakes too. Beautiful frosting..;)

  6. Nami | Just One Cookbook

    I always love seeing how you take pictures of your food and I love the way these cupcakes look – simple just like how frosting is made. Looks very delicious. Have a wonderful time in NY!

  7. Jennifer (Delicieux)

    Beautiful post Liren, I loved the memories you shared. I hope you and your husband have a wonderful time in New York. I so can’t wait to go back there myself. It’s such an amazing city. Have fun!

    I love the sound of this frosting too. Especially the use of brown sugar. Simple and gorgeous :D

  8. angela@spinachtiger

    I’ve never liked brown sugar frosting before seeing your recipe. The idea of putting cream cheese will cut the super sweetness and I love your simple cupcakes. I too have a very supportive husband in this food venture, which makes it all the more fun.

  9. Sandra's Easy Cooking

    I am really happy that your hubby is supportive of you, and this is very thoughtful post! Love how your cupcakes look, and frosting is must try! Have fun in NYC…


    Liren, I love this post for several reasons – the beautiful sentiments you shared about Tom; the simplicity of the cupcakes; and the recipe for the frosting. These are exactly like the cupcakes I grew up eating. As much as my Dad baked cakes, they were always from a box, but always with homemade frosting. I recently tasted a Pineapple Upside Down Cupcake at a famous L.A. bakery. It was so delicious and I knew immediately I wanted to create my own version. This frosting recipe is exactly what I imagine the recipe to be on the cupcake I had eaten. So – icing recipe – check! Now all I have left is creating the cake component of my creation. Have a fabulous time in NY!

  11. Mdivani

    Love this post!! Have fun in NYC! Wish I was there to meet up with you, but in CA for another month :) Love the frosting recipe too!

  12. Ambika

    Sounds so simple and yet so delicious! I love the flavor of brown sugar, I am sure this frosting will be a hit in my house!

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