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Brown Sugar German Buttercream

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Luscious German buttercream built on a brown sugar custard base is a flavorful silky smooth way to top your favorite treats. Make some today and see for yourself!

Swirl of brown sugar buttercream made with a custard base in the style of german frosting.

Super silky smooth brown sugar German buttercream is the perfect way to frost a cake or swirl on top of cupcakes. The brown sugar adds so much flavor and warmth and the custard base makes it so creamy. This not too sweet frosting is quickly going to become a favorite.

You know I am a frosting fanatic, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I was anxious to create a new frosting when I baked up some pumpkin cupcakes. Of course I have plenty of recipes that would have been wonderful, but I needed something new and different.

I immediately knew I wanted something with brown sugar goodness mixed in. I was tempted to do something along the lines of an American buttercream but with some brown sugar mixed in.

brown sugar german buttercream swirls on top of pumpkin cupcakes

(Do you want to know more about the different types of frosting? Check out my Frosting 101 page to help you determine what makes each one unique.)

I was worried that in order to get enough brown sugar into the mix to get the flavor I was after, the texture might be grainy. I am still tempted to work on that a bit, so don’t be surprised if a recipe pops up here one of these days.

In the meantime German buttercream seemed like the perfect way to go. Because you cook the sugar into a custard, you don’t have to worry about a grainy final frosting.

Plus it was a great way to use brown sugar as the exclusive sweetener instead of diluting that molasses goodness with powdered sugar. And to be honest I have been in love with this method ever since I tinkered with my vanilla German buttercream recipe.

The results were every bit as good as I had imagined. The frosting is sweet but not too sweet.

It is warm and inviting and flavorful and silky smooth. It worked perfectly on pumpkin cupcakes but would also be amazing on banana cupcakes or devilishly good chocolate cupcakes.

The process may seem a bit intimidating, but it’s really not hard. Enjoy the journey and bask in the glory of the results!

Tips and Tricks

Make sure you have everything out and ready when you start to make the custard.  It will go quickly once you start.

Don’t let the number of steps scare you off.  I tried to make the instructions detailed to help you along, but the process really isn’t that hard.

Make sure you let your custard get thick.  It should want to stay on your whisk for at least a second or two while it is still warm. If you don’t get it thick enough, your frosting isn’t going to hold its shape later. 

If you find your final frosting is a bit loose you have two options. 1: Chill it before you try to pipe with it. 2: Beat in a little powdered sugar to tighten it up. Then make a note to yourself to let the custard get thicker next time!

More Great Frosting Recipes:

If you like the idea of brown sugar in your frosting, try peanut butter brown sugar buttercream. It is an American style frosting, so it is quick and easy to put together.

For another super smooth, rich frosting try making French maple buttercream. It is so smooth and luscious.

If you like the idea of European buttercreams, but don’t want to have to fuss with cooking anything try mock Swiss meringue buttercream. It uses pasteurized egg whites to make it so much simpler than the classic version.

You can scroll through my Frosting 101 to learn about the different types of frosting, or just check out my full collection of frosting recipes for more inspiration.

Love this recipe? Give it a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ review in the recipe card below!

Swirl of brown sugar buttercream made with a custard base in the style of german frosting.

Brown Sugar German Buttercream

Servings: 18 Servings
Author: Carlee
Luscious German buttercream built on a brown sugar custard base is a flavorful silky smooth way to top your favorite treats. Make some today and see for yourself!
5 from 3 ratings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes



  • ¾ cup light brown sugar divided
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 Tablespoons butter



  • In a small heatproof bowl, whisk together ¼ cup brown sugar and the cornstarch.
    ¼ cup cornstarch
  • Add the eggs and whisk to incorporate. Set egg mixture by stove.
    2 large eggs
  • In a small saucepan, stir together remaining ½ cup of brown sugar and milk.  Heat over medium heat until it starts to steam and come to a low simmer, stirring frequently. Drop heat to medium-low.
    1 cup whole milk
  • Ladle about ⅓ cup of hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking as you add the hot milk mixture.
  • Slowly pour the tempered egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining milk, whisking vigorously as you drizzle the egg mixture in.
  • Cook over medium low heat until it thickens to a tight pudding consistency, stirring constantly.  (Don’t panic if small lumps form as you go.)
  • Turn off heat and whisk vigorously until the mixture is smooth. Add 2 Tablespoons of butter and stir until incorporated.
  • Cover with plastic wrap, placing the plastic wrap on the surface of the custard. Chill for at least an hour but up to a couple of days before proceeding. 
  • Place the remaining butter and chilled custard on the counter at the same time to come to room temperature.
    1 cup butter
  • Once the butter is softened, beat until light and fluffy. With mixer running, add the custard a couple of Tablespoons at a time until it is all incorporated. 
  • Add vanilla and salt and beat until light and fluffy.
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 pinch salt
  • Use immediately or chill until ready to use. 


Serving: 1ServingCalories: 155kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 1gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 53mgSodium: 115mgSugar: 8g

Nutritional Disclaimer

“Cooking With Carlee” is not a dietitian or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories and other nutritional values can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.

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5 from 3 votes (3 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating


Thursday 3rd of October 2019

Oh my, this looks and sounds delightful! Who can resist a buttercream!?!


Thursday 26th of September 2019

That sounds delicious! I am wondering about adding a bit of molasses to regular buttercream to achieve the brown sugar flavor since brown sugar is sugar and molasses. I may give it a try.

Jean |

Thursday 26th of September 2019

Carlee, this sounds wonderful! I limit my sugar intake and so just scrape off American buttercream. Love the flavor of brown sugar and butter, a classic combination! #FullPlateThursday