A smooth milk chocolate buttercream made with browned butter. The two flavors together produce a terrifically tasty and nuanced flavor. This is one of the few chocolate buttercream recipes with which you can really taste the nuttiness of the brown butter.
Brown Butter Baking
Browning butter is essentially browning (or caramelizing) the milk solids in butter. Those are the little brown bits you see at the bottom of the skillet. A couple of things that I think are helpful to know about browning butter:
- The butter will melt slowly, then cook and then brown quickly. Once you hear it begin to sputter, stay close by and keep watch. Remove it when it goes silent and stops sputtering.
- Don’t leave it in the pan even if you have shut off the heat. It will continue to cook and most likely it will burn.
- The butter loses moisture when it is browned. Most of the time you cannot simply take a recipe’s butter measure and brown it to replace it. You’ll have to replace some of the moisture lost.
- Often the nutty taste of brown butter, what makes it so special, is lost when combined with other ingredients and baked; whether it be lost due to the maillard reaction or other ingredients overpowering it (such as a dark cocoa). You can taste it best when it’s given a moderate base.
Brown Butter & Milk Chocolate
Which is why I think milk chocolate and brown butter go together oh SO well. Without a doubt, that brown butter taste comes through in the best way in this buttercream. Nothing is baked and the chocolate is delicate enough that it doesn’t overpower it. This is a rich and fully flavored buttercream.
It’s also incredibly smooth and lovely to work with! You may need to get it to the right consistency, read the next section.
What kind of milk chocolate should I use for the brown butter buttercream?
Every brand makes milk chocolate with different percentages of milk, sugar and cocoa solids. Sometimes a brand will make a few different varieties of milk chocolate. Whichever you choose, will have an impact on the final texture of the buttercream and how you can manage it to get it to the state you want. In my trials I used different kinds of chocolate and got different results. So:
If the buttercream is stiff: add one tablespoon of milk at a time and mix it in until it’s the smooth consistency you are looking for.
If the buttercream is overly soft: You can do a couple of things here, either chill it and see if that helps (it could be that you added the chocolate before it was completely cool). Alternatively, add more powdered sugar or natural cocoa (sift either of these in) to thicken it. To avoid adding too much at once do only 2 tablespoons at a time.
What cakes will taste good with this milk chocolate buttercream?
You’ll want something that is rather neutral in taste, not too dominate because this buttercream has a strong, very flavorful taste. In the photos I paired it with a simple white cake and some other ideas for a complementary cake would be: brown butter vanilla bean yellow cake, peanut butter chocolate swirl cake, or even this basic chocolate cake.
- The brown butter must be completely cool before making the buttercream base. It should be solid.
- Make sure the chocolate is completely cool before you add it to the buttercream base. If it’s not, it can melt the butter and you’ll have a sloppy mess!
- Read the above section ‘milk chocolate matters’ to know what to do if the buttercream is too soft or too thick.
Recipe for Brown Butter Milk Chocolate Buttercream
This recipe makes enough to cover a 13×9” sheet cake, a double layer 8” cake or a triple layer 6” cake.
Brown Butter Chocolate Buttercream
- ¾ cups unsalted butter to be browned (6 oz)
- 12 oz milk chocolate chopped finely
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened (4 oz)
- 1 cup organic powdered sugar sifted (3.5 oz)
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons whole milk if needed* (see above, Milk Chocolate Matters)
- Do ahead: In a small skillet, add the butter and turn the heat to medium. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat to medium high. It will spit and sputter as the milk solids brown. Have a heatproof bowl ready and keep watch, once it goes silent pour the butter into the bowl and make sure to scrape off the brown bits with a spatula to get them into the bowl. Set in the fridge to cool for a few hours or in the freezer if you are in a rush. We want the butter to be quite solid.
- Melt the chocolate: either over a double boiler or in the microwave. The chocolate should be removed from the heat when it’s mostly but not fully melted. Stirring will help it melt completely. Set aside to cool. It should be completely cool when it’s time to add it to the buttercream base, dip your finger in it to check the temperature.
- Make the buttercream base: beat together the cooled brown butter, the softened butter, the powdered sugar, salt and vanilla for at least 5 minutes until you have a smooth consistency. Pour in the melted chocolate slowly, with the mixer on low. Beat until it’s fully incorporated. If it’s stiff, add some milk to thin it out. If it’s melty, add some natural cocoa or powdered sugar.
- For more detailed troubleshooting consistency, see ‘milk chocolate matters’.
- This buttercream cannot be made ahead of time and should be used immediately to frost a cake as it will harden as it sets.