Chocolate Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Icing


I’m kind of waiting to hear back from schools these days, so I’m currently unemployed and kind of a hobo. On the plus side, this gives me a lot of time to bake! I decided to try out a new recipe today for a brown sugar based icing. It’s kind of like a caramel base, but not exactly. I think everything worked out ok, but this recipe definitely caused me a little more grief than normal. 


Sorry about the shoddy picture quality – I cannot seem to find my camera charger!


  • 1 cup flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 225 ml milk
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 160g sugar
  • 100 ml oil
  • 60 ml applesauce
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
    (the measurements on this are sort of shady, so most things are easier by weight)


  1. Preheat the oven to 320F. Line cupcake tins.
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Combine milk, apple cider vinegar, sugar, oil, applesauce, and vanilla.
  4. Pour liquid mixture into dry mixture and stir until combined. I always pour the batter into a measuring cup to disperse, since it’s a pretty runny batter. 
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on size of liner. Rotate pans ~8 minutes into baking. Toothpick should come out clean. 


  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 2-½ cups icing sugar
  • ~4 tbsp. milk


  1. On low-medium heat, melt the butter and brown sugar until dissolved. 
  2. Bring mixture to a boil for 5 minutes and take off heat. Allow to cool to room temperature. ***
  3. Whip the butter and sugar mixture until smooth, and add in vanilla and salt
  4. Beat in icing sugar (1 cup at a time) and milk (1 tbsp. at a time). Add more or less of both as needed to get the desired consistency. *****
  5. Add more salt if the frosting is too sweet. 
  6. Mix thoroughly until smooth. 

*** OK, so this gave me a LOT of grief. Since it’s not caramel, I wasn’t exactly sure what consistency this boiled mixture was supposed to be. I took my best guess and it seemed/smelled pretty good. Once I started whipping it, the butter and sugar started separating intensely! Pro Tip: Do NOT put this separated mixture back onto the heat. It will burn, and you will have to go back to the grocery store to buy more butter for attempt number two. Whoops. ANYWAYS, the second time I tried, it still separated, but I just went with it.

***** Maybe because everything was all sketchy and separated, the icing started balling up when I added the icing sugar. I have changed the icing sugar and milk amounts quite a bit from the original recipe, but I basically just kept adding them until they looked right. When I added some milk to the balled up mixture, it smoothed out pretty nicely. 

In summary, this icing was pretty disconcerting to work with, but it turned out alright. Be warned: it is SUPER sweet. They were a hit since the chocolate cupcake recipe is not terribly sweet and they balanced pretty well, but you definitely want to ice sparingly. 

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