Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

By Maria Lichty

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We got home yesterday from a ten day trip with Travel Oregon. We loved every second of our vacation (stay tuned-I will be doing a few posts about our trip), but it is always nice to come home.

I have a travel hangover and was tempted to not write this blog post for today, but I made these Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting before we left on vacation and have been dying to share them with you. They are the BEST pumpkin cupcakes I have ever tasted…and I am not saying that because I made them:) They really are life changing.

I fell in love with salted caramel sauce when I made Apple Crumb Bars with Salted Caramel. I actually had leftover caramel sauce from the bars and that is what inspired these cupcakes. Making homemade caramel sauce is SO worth the extra effort…and see, you can get two fabulous desserts out of one batch of caramel sauce. Bonus! And the salted caramel sauce is good enough to drink by the gallon, but try to save some to make the frosting:)

The brown butter, pumpkin, and salted caramel frosting come together to create the most heavenly cupcake in the history of cupcakes. I am usually a cookie person and can pass on cupcakes, but if you put one of these Brown Butter Cupcakes with Salted Caramel in front of me I would devour it in a heartbeat. And if you tried to take a bite, I would fight you for it:) There really are no words to describe these cupcakes. They really are pumpkin perfection!

It is officially fall now, so get out the pumpkin and make these Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting. This is the perfect pumpkin recipe to kick-off pumpkin season! And if you are a pumpkin fan, like me, make sure you check out these 50 Pumpkin Recipes for Fall!

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Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

The best pumpkin cupcakes you will ever eat!
4.80 from 5 votes


For the Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes:

For the Salted Caramel Frosting:

Salted Caramel Sauce:



  • To make the brown butter pumpkin cupcakes: preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line muffin cups with paper liners and set aside.
  • In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat and continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until butter turns golden brown, Skim foam from top, and remove from heat. Pour into a bowl to stop the cooking, leaving any burned sediment behind; let cool.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, sugars, eggs, vanilla extract, and brown butter. Add the flour mixture, and whisk until just combined.
  • Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire cooling rack and cool completely before removing cupcakes.
  • While the cupcakes are cooling, make the salted caramel frosting. First, make the salted caramel sauce. Make sure you have all of the ingredients ready. Once you start the caramel sauce you have to pay close attention so you don't burn it. To begin, heat the sugar over medium high-heat in the bottom of a heavy 2-3 quart saucepan. When the sugar starts to melt, start whisking the sugar. The sugar will clump up, but keep whisking. It will continue to melt. When the sugar is melted, stop whisking. You can swirl the pan to move the sugar around.
  • Continue cooking the sugar until it reaches a deep amber color. Make sure you watch the pan very closely. This is where it is easy to burn the caramel. You want the caramel to reach 350 degrees F. If you are new to making caramel, I suggest using a thermometer.
  • As soon as the sugar reaches the dark amber color, carefully add the butter. Whisk until butter is melted.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour in the heavy cream. Whisk until cream is incorporated and caramel is smooth. Whisk in the fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt flakes.
  • Let the caramel sauce cool for about 10 minutes in the pan. Pour the caramel into a large mason jar and cool to room temperature.
  • To make the frosting: beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add powdered sugar, and mix until completely incorporated. Turn off the mixer, and then add the salted caramel sauce. Beat frosting on low to combine, and then increase to medium-high and beat until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes.
  • Frost the cooled pumpkin cupcakes with the salted caramel frosting and and drizzle cupcakes with extra salted caramel sauce, if desired.
  • Note-you can use store bought salted caramel sauce, but I highly recommend homemade salted caramel sauce. It is the best. The salted caramel recipe will make about 2 cups so you will have extra. Store the cupcakes in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Have you tried this recipe?

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I'm Maria and my husband is Josh. We share a love of cooking, baking, and entertaining. We enjoy creating recipes that are simple, fresh, and family friendly. We love sitting around the table with good food, good conversation, and good friends and family! Our kitchen is always open!
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4.80 from 5 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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  1. The cupcakes look awesome and then with that frosting added – doesn’t get much better than pumpkin and caramel!

  2. I don’t even really like pumpkin things but this frosting and that caramel sauce have me thinking otherwise! They are gorgeous, Maria!!

  3. I’m so glad you had such a wonderful time! And now I want cupcakes… at 10AM. Ugh. I think I need to go to the gym first. And then I can devour a whole plate of these.

  4. Wow! These are going to be a “must-bake” this season. If you say something is life-changing, I take your word for it! Thanks for another great recipe! 🙂

  5. This looks fantastic! I can’t wait to try these. I did actually laugh out loud at your typo though, “1/8 teaspoon ground gloves” 🙂 I love your blog and your recipes help me break out of my comfort zone and try amazing new things!

  6. Oh my gosh- if these don’t scream Fall- I don’t know what does! Your trip looked totally amazing (especially all the desserts). And your little man makes my heart melt.

  7. I’m a little delayed this year but finally think it’s time to bust out the pumpkin. These sound phenomenal. I tried to make caramel sauce for caramel apples once and it was a fail. I’ll have to give it another go…. 🙂

  8. I shall make. Love that the recipe for Salted Caramel Sauce is enough for both. It’s all about Fall baking!

  9. So wish these were on the menu at my favorite coffee shop – grabbed a pumpkin scone with glee that Fall is here last week and was soooo disappointed at the lack of real pumpkin taste. I am absolutely making these 🙂

  10. Oh man…these are trouble. The only reason I don’t want to make them…is becuase I might eat them all myself! These look simply delicious! 🙂

  11. Oh, wow! I need to make these for a tailgate party this weekend. One question though. How much of the salted caramel sauce do you put in the frosting?

  12. Just made these. I don’t normally like caramel at all. But this homemade salted caramel is quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Does it need to be stored in the fridge or is it safe at room temp?

    1. Yay! So glad you like the caramel. Store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Ours never lasts that long:)

  13. I loved seeing pics of your trip on Instagram-it looked great! And these cupcakes look almost as good as the trip did….

  14. Maria, thanks so much for linking to my pumpkin cupcakes! I’m looking forward to trying yours – they look and sound amazing! xo

  15. These look absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to bake these and satisfy my “pumpkin tooth!” 🙂

  16. I didn’t think i was ready for pumpkin just yet, but these cupcakes have totally changed my mind. Gorgeous!

  17. I already commented about how yummy the caramel is… but the finished product is a whole new kind of delicious. Oh. My. Goodness. Worth every minute of prep. Possibly my new favorite cupcake recipe. They are a huge hit with my whole family! Thanks for sharing this!

  18. The flavor combo on these, holy ding dang, incredible! If these are your new favorite, I KNOW I’ll DIE when I make them. And I will be making them, STAT. pregnancy craving = pumpkin anything!

  19. Wow, this recipe is blowing my mind! So many of my favourite flavour combinations together… I wonder how a salted caramel cream cheese frosting would turn out? I may just have to try and find out!

  20. I’ve made Martha’s pumpkin cupcakes before, absolutely delicious! Great idea with brown butter and salted caramel!

  21. My word! These look delectable! I adore the cup cake wrappers…….they look pretty enough to eat. What a fab post. Yummmmmmm…..

  22. Deliciously drool-worthy! Especially the swirly frosting. Oh yum! You’ve got to teach us how you did the swirls, Maria 🙂

  23. i made these yesterday and they are heavenly! so delicious! best cupcakes i’ve ever made! ever tasted, for that matter! i had to deliver a plate of them to three different families today because i would have eaten all of them within a few hours. thank you so much for sharing this! and for loving pumpkin flavored anything as much as i do 🙂 your blog is my favorite!

  24. I made pumpkin cupcakes (David Leite’s recipe) with caramel buttercream a few years back and agree that it is a completely heavenly combination! I could see how the salted caramel would be outstanding in the frosting as well.

  25. Hi there, I live in small town with only two different grocery stores, and neither of which carry sea salt flakes, can I substitute with sea salt or regular salt, and if so how much?? Thanks so much!

  26. These were great! The perfect start to kick off fall. I couldn’t get the frosting to really set… this is a recurring issue for me – I think it is my very muggy florida kitchen. I might try to revamp the icing with a cooked butter cream version just to have a reason to make them again 🙂

  27. Made these this weekend. The only change I made was that I used the salted caramel in a Swiss meringue buttercream (b/c I love meringue frostings). Truly divine! One of the best recipes I’ve EVER used…and I’ve made a whole lotta cake 🙂 This is going to be a staple recipe for me. THANK YOU!

  28. I made these for my husbands birthday because he is obsessed with pumpkin. And, maybe a little because I am obsessed with salted caramel. 😉 These are divine! He was very happy. And, my son’s eyes rolled up in his head as he said, “It’s like a bite of heaven.” So, thanks for the recipe!

    I’ll be making these again soon. And, I have plenty of caramel left over for other yummy treats.

  29. These are the best pumpkin cupcakes ever,and the salted caramel frosting is to die for worth making the caramel sauce from scratch.

  30. OMG!! These cupcakes are the bomb!! I have made many different cupcake recipes but these are by far the very BEST yet!! The caramel frosting is to die for and the cake part is so moist!! They are so delicious that I had to get them out of the house and give them away pronto before I ate them all!!

  31. I thought about these for a week before I had he time to make them. Absolutely delicious! I took them into work and everyone loved them.

  32. I baked these today. You are right. They are absolutely divine. They just have it all! I linked back to you from my blog post 🙂

  33. Agreed. Best pumpkin cupcake ever. I’ve resisted jumping on the “brown butter” bandwagon, but I can see why everyone is adding it to their desserts. Really adds another dimension to the cupcake and compliments the pumpkin perfectly. I will be making this over and over for sure. Thank you!!

    1. You can, but sea salt is best. Even if you don’t have the flakes, you can chop up sea salt…or even kosher salt.

  34. So the cupcakes are delicious but I did have one minor (ok, maybe major) problem. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve made a lot of caramels in my day and have never tried to make one by starting with dry sugar in the pot. I figured I would just follow the instructions, but after burning the sugar on two attempts (whisking vigorously from inception), as well as having a caramel eruption all over my kitchen, I decided that this method is a hazard lol. It’s much easier to start the caramel with 2 tablespoons of water per 1/2 cup of sugar…so 8 tablespoons total for this recipe. Then you can dissolve the sugar in water on medium heat, crank it to medium-high, and THEN let it go until it turns amber in color. MUCH easier than starting with dry sugar and much less likely to burn, although you still need to keep a stern eye on it while it’s bubbling, just like with all caramels. Anyway, still delicious!

  35. All I can say is wow! Just tried these today and they are absolutely amazing. Followed the recipe exactly with the exception of adding a little extra each of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves (love the extra flavor). The frosting is to die for and I’m so glad I made the caramel rather than going with store bought. Delicious! Thank you so much for this recipe!!!

  36. The best pumpkin cupcakes! My friends loved them. I was a little intimidated by making the caramel (and in a time crunch) so I used the salted caramel from Trader Joes which worked out nicely. I’ll try to make it myself next time though! I’m also not sure if I did the brown butter correctly. Just out of curiousity, why can’t you leave the butter foam? Does it affect the taste/texture? Thanks!

  37. These were by far the best cupcakes i have ever made in my life! I followed the cupcake recipe exactly with the exception of the salted caramel sauce (i used a different recipe that). Thanks for the awesome recipe!!!!

  38. OMG! Seriously these are to die for! Thank you so much for posting this recipe, I just made a batch and died and went to pumpkin cupcake heaven! I am going to post my version on my blog and give you major major props for these! Thank you!

  39. Just made these tonight- AMAZING! I used a different (but similar) salted caramel sauce, and reduced the butter in the frosting. Basically, sugar overload. Well worth making!!

  40. Looks delicious. For the frosting part of the recipe, it calls for 3/4 cups of butter, but this time doesn’t specify whether it should be salted or not. The other two times butter is called for in the recipe it is specified as unsalted. Which should I use for this last part? Thanks so much!

  41. I made these last night for a friend’s birthday party…. Absolutely wonderful! The browned butter compliments the caramel perfectly and the cake is very moist (I like a denser cake over classic sponge/airy versions). Really watch the caramel though (as noted). I heated mine to 350 and it came out very dark, rich -although appropriate for a classic caramel, some may feel it tastes slightly bitter. It depends on your taste. Thank you for the recipe!

  42. I just finished making these to bring to a Thanksgiving dinner. They are absolutely fantastic. I had to try one before I let everyone else try them and they are ridiculously delicious. I will be looking at your website for future ideas whenever I have to make anything. Thank you so much and happy holidays.

  43. “To begin, heat the sugar over medium high-heat in the bottom of a heavy 2-3 quart saucepan. When the sugar starts to melt, start whisking the sugar.”

    Can you clarify this? I wanted to make this, but it’s confusing. Are there two types of sugar?

  44. These are amazing! I additionally filled the cupcakes with a cream cheese buttercream. I used them at thanksgiving with rave reviews. I also love your blog style recipes. But thanks again for this gem!

  45. I have been dreaming about this carmel sauce recipe since I saw it this summer. Finally, got the nerve to try it and I now have an amber clump of sticky toffee, with hot butter swirling around it. What a mess! I don’t know how I am going to salvage my pot ;( Thoughts?

  46. These are SO yummy! Baked them up this afternoon and I have no idea if they’ll make it til Thanksgiving in two days ~ going to take a LOT of willpower!

    I’d never made caramel from scratch before but it really wasn’t hard; the only real issue was that the melting sugar kept getting stuck in the whisk and I could never really get all the lumps out ~ I wound up straining the sauce through a sifter at the end of the process to get all the lumps out. The taste was fanTAStic though.

    The cupcakes are super moist and delicious ~ usually when I try to go the non-boxed-mix route, the cake winds up too dry or dense, but these were perfect. I did have to bake them a bit longer though (almost 30 minutes total). Together with this dreamy frosting, these cupcakes are knock-you-on-your-booty delicious.

  47. I made these back in October for me and my best friends b-day (we have the same b-day!) and they were amazing! Everyone loved them and still talk about them. The only thing I did differently was I added cream cheese to the frosting so delicious!

  48. Whoa, I want to be stuffing my face with these cupcakes NOW! They are made with some of my favorite ingredients! Great recipe, Maria!

  49. I made these today. And lemme just say that they’re amazing!! Not to mention completely adorable. A perfect Fall treat. The only 2 things I’ll do differently next time is to make more icing. I didn’t have enough to ice all of them. And I will also add a tad less salt to the caramel. I know they’re supposed to be salty, but it was a tiny bit much for me. But I haven’t been this happy with a baking recipe in a long time. Yum!

  50. Have you made a cake with this recipe? I really wanted to adapt and make 2 round cakes/frost, but I didn’t want to try and adapt the recipe myself!!

  51. I have made these every year since you posted this recipe. My entire family and all of my friends love them! They request them all the time (even when it’s not fall!). I just wanted to say thank you for becoming such a special part of our holidays!

  52. I just made these and the cupcakes are absolutely delicious. I personally do not care for the frosting, it is too sweet for me. This was my first time making caramel sauce and I’m not sure it turned out 100% but it is pretty sweet. For those how enjoy that super sweet caramel flavor you will love it. The only thing I changed in the recipe is the light brown sugar…I only had about 1/4 cup so I supplemented the rest with dark brown sugar. Thanks for the recipe.

  53. I do hope I can hear back from you before Thanksgiving!! Are there other sea salt brands that can be used? I cannot seem to find the salt I need in stores near me =( and I do not want to use the wrong type of salt.. I’m in CA. Help!! I want to make these for Thanksgiving, thanks!!!

  54. Love love love the salted caramel sauce, I did find it just slightly too salty for my taste buds, however, I made it to use in another recipe that was posted, pumpkin toffee cookies with the salted caramel glaze, so with all that sugar I’m sure it will even out. These cupcakes look like they will be next on the list of things to try! The caramel sauce was perfect on top of a bowl of vanilla ice cream too! 🙂

  55. To Deena, I could not find the salt flakes in any of the local stores either (I’m in PA), you can order them online though…

  56. Omg! seriously love everything about this pumpkin cupcakes Maria! From the brown butter frosting to the pumpkin cupcakes, to the salted caramel Woow! Thanks Maria 🙂

  57. These are amazing!! I’ve made them at least a dozen times now. I made some for a thank you for a client, they have a friend who owns a high end bakery/coffee cafe and he was over and tried them and asked ‘who is this guy’ lol! I step them up a bit and fill them with a cream cheese buttercream. Too much?, never lol!!

  58. Thank for the recipe, these were amazing! I didn’t brown the butter but they came out beautiful! I tried attach a photo but it wouldn’t let me….
    How long can I keep the extra yummy sauce??

  59. I have made these multiple times and they NEVER FAIL! They are my husbands absolute, hands down FAVORITES! Thank you for them!

    I plan on making these for my thanksgiving but IN MY WHOOPIE PIE PAN! Have you experimented using a cupcake recipe as a whoopie pie? (:

    thank you!!


    1. I am so glad you like the cupcakes. They are so good! I haven’t tried them as whoopie pies, let me know if it works! Enjoy!

  60. 5 stars
    Oh my gosh. I saw this on Simple Pin’s TW Tribe and I had to click through to let you know I need this in my life haha. It looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it.

  61. 5 stars
    Wow! These cupcakes are definitely not for the faint of heart, but once you eat one, you will be so glad you put in the effort. After my first attempt at making the caramel sauce failed miserably, I almost gave up, but decided to try again. I’m so glad I did. These are rich and decadent and absolutely delicious! Everyone who tried one loved them. Thanks for this yummy recipe 🙂

  62. 5 stars
    These were the BEST! And the frosting and salted caramel sauce were divine. I must admit, I ate some of the leftover frosting all by itself, and the leftover sauce was wonderful on ice cream. We made them for Thanksgiving, and everyone raved about them. They were sure a hit!