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Frosted Cupcakes with Butterscotch Sauce

Seven frosted cupcakes with butterscotch drizzled on top on a pink plate.


We can’t decide which part of these frosted cupcakes with butterscotch sauce we adore more. The tender, cakey vanilla cupcake, or the salted butterscotch sauce that is scooped inside the cupcake and drizzled atop, or the fluffy frosting. Perhaps it’s the magical combination of all three that makes the perfect cupcake.

Seven frosted cupcakes with butterscotch drizzled on top on a pink plate.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen | The Complete Cookbook for Teen Chefs | America’s Test Kitchen, 2022

A sweet-salty butterscotch sauce takes these filled and frosted cupcakes from plain to next-level—as long as it’s just the right amount of gooey. If it’s too thick, the filling will be chewy and tough, and if it’s too thin, the filling will soak right into the cupcake.

To create the ideal texture in our salted butterscotch, we first add just enough heavy cream to dissolve all of the sugar, but not so much that our sauce winds up watery. As the melted butter in the sauce cools to room temperature, it goes from a liquid to a solid, helping our sauce set into a perfectly-textured filling, ready to be scooped into each cupcake.–America’s Test Kitchen

Frosted Cupcakes with Butterscotch Sauce FAQs

Can I substitute whole or low-fat milk for the heavy cream in this recipe?

We don’t really recommend it if you’re simply looking to lower the fat or calorie content. These are decadent cupcakes, with a butterscotch sauce and frosting that rely on the fat and texture that heavy cream brings to the table.

If you just don’t have heavy cream in the house and just NEED these frosted cupcakes, we can help: if you have butter and milk (whole milk or half-and-half work best), you’re on your way to a good heavy cream substitute. To make 1 cup of heavy cream, melt 1/4 cup of butter and slowly whisk in 3/4 cup milk. While this alternative works well for most baking or cooking recipes that require heavy cream, it won’t whisk into stiff peaks.

What can I do with leftover butterscotch sauce?

Oh, the possibilities. Drizzle it over ice cream. Include it as part of a waffle or pancake bar. Spoon it inside or over the top of crepes.

What’s the difference between butterscotch and caramel?

The main difference is the sugar. While recipes vary somewhat, technically most caramel sauce recipes rely on granulated sugar that’s melted to a golden-brown liquid. Sometimes cream or butter (or both) are stirred into the melted sugar.

Whereas with butterscotch sauce, brown sugar is the basis of the loveliness and is combined with cream to achieve even loftier heights of lusciousness.

Frosted Cupcakes with Butterscotch Sauce

Seven frosted cupcakes with butterscotch drizzled on top on a pink plate.

A sweet-salty easy butterscotch sauce takes these filled and frosted cupcakes from plain to next-level. They’re guaranteed to please adults and kids alike.

America’s Test Kitchen

Prep 1 hr

Cook 40 mins

Total 3 hrs

For the butterscotch sauce

Make the butterscotch sauce

  • In medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, 1/2 cup cream, 4 tablespoons butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often with a rubber spatula, ,until the butter is melted and large foamy bubbles burst across surface of sauce, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat.

  • Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and remaining 4 tablespoons butter to the sauce. Stir until butter is melted and mixture is fully combined, about 2 minutes. Scrape sauce into medium bowl, and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Make the cupcakes

  • Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

  • Line a 12 cup muffin tin with 12 paper liners.

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer), whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Mix on low speed and add the softened butter, 1 piece at a time, and beat until mixture looks like coarse sand, about 2 to 3 minutes.

  • Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until combined. Pour in milk and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla; increase speed to medium; and beat until light and fluffy and no lumps remain, about 2 minutes. Use a clean rubber spatula to scrape down sides of bowl and stir in any remaining dry flour.

  • Divvy the batter evenly among the muffin tin cups, using about 1/3 cup per muffin cup.

  • Bake cupcakes until toothpick inserted in center of 1 cupcake comes out clean, 21 to 24 minutes.

  • Use oven mitts to transfer muffin tin to a cooling rack. Let cupcakes cool in the muffin tin for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from the muffin tin; transfer directly to cooling rack; and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Make the frosting

  • Meanwhile, use a liquid measuring cup to measure out 1/4 cup cooled butterscotch sauce.

  • In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a clean large bowl if using a handheld mixer), combine softened butter, 2 tablespoons cream, 2 teaspoons vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.

  • Use a clean rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add confectioners’ sugar, a little bit at a time, and beat until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes more.

  • Add reserved 1/4 cup butterscotch sauce to bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until fully incorporated, about 2 minutes.

  • To fill the cooled cupcakes, use a paring knife to cut out a cone-shaped wedge from top of each cupcake, about 1-inch from the cupcake edge and 1-inch deep into center of cupcake. Discard cones (or snack on them!).

  • Fill each cupcake with 2 teaspoons of the butterscotch sauce.

  • Use small icing spatula or spoon to spread 2 to 3 tablespoons frosting over each cupcake.

  • Drizzle the frosted cupcakes with extra butterscotch sauce. Sprinkle with flake sea salt. Serve.

Serving: 1cupcakeCalories: 709kcal (35%)Carbohydrates: 75g (25%)Protein: 5g (10%)Fat: 45g (69%)Saturated Fat: 28g (175%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 2gCholesterol: 164mg (55%)Sodium: 305mg (13%)Potassium: 160mg (5%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 60g (67%)Vitamin A: 1451IU (29%)Vitamin C: 0.1mgCalcium: 86mg (9%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Originally published August 29, 2022

© 2022 All rights reserved. All materials used with permission.

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