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Brown Sugar Icing

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Brown sugar icing is easy to make and is a perfect with butter cake, chocolate cake, banana cake and more! It comes together in just a few minutes and you can spread it while it is warm for the perfect smooth finish.

Smooth brown sugar penuche icing on top of a piece of banana cake.

This butterscotch icing has all the flavor you would want in a butter brown sugar confection. Spread it over a cake or some yummy pumpkin or apple bars for an out of this world treat.

I LOVE frosting.  As far as I am concerned, most of the time cake is mostly just an excuse for frosting.

This penuche icing is no different. It adds that pop of sweetness along with rich brown sugar notes that make it amazing.

The best part is it uses just six simple ingredients. If you are an avid baker, you almost certainly have everything on hand already.

So it likely won’t even require a trip to the grocery store. And you don’t have to wait for your butter to soften, because you are going to melt it anyway.

The Recipe

If first got this recipe back in 2015. One of my coworker’s, Diane, sent it over along with a fun recipe for banana cake.

It instantly became a favorite recipe in my family. And because it was shared only a month into the existence of this website, it quickly became one of the first recipes that other people were making and reporting back.

It is always fun to hear that you enjoyed a recipe that you found here. That is, of course, the reason why I keep on posting them.

In a way, it feels like we are cooking together. And I have the best time cooking with you!

Making the frosting

The beauty of this frosting is how easily it comes together. Just put the milk, brown sugar, and butter in a small saucepan.

Heat it over medium-low heat until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. You don’t want it to boil, this step is just to ensure there is no grainy texture from the brown sugar in the finished icing.

Pour the mixture into a mixer, or just use a hand mixer to stir in the vanilla. Then add the powdered sugar and whip it until it is smooth.

I like to pour it over the cake while it is still a little bit warm. That way it spreads easily and forms a smooth, almost shiny finish.

If you want it to thicken a bit, just keep whipping it until it has come to room temperature. You can even add a little bit more powdered sugar if you want an even thicker consistency.

Just be careful not to make it too sweet. Taste it and add a little more salt to balance it out if you need too.

I mean, really.  Just give me a spoon… and a glass of milk… I’m ready to dive in!

If you like caramel-y frostings, you may also like, soft caramel caramel cream cheese frostingsalted caramel cream cheese frosting or creamy caramel sweetened condensed milk frosting!

If you tried this recipe, or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the comments. Hungry for more?  Be sure to stay in touch on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram for all of the latest updates.

Smooth brown sugar penuche icing on top of a piece of banana cake.

Brown Sugar Penuche Frosting

Servings: 16 Servings
Author: Carlee
Smooth, sweet and creamy, this caramel-y butterscotch frosting is easy to make and is a perfect topper to butter cake, chocolate cake, banana cake and more!
4.67 from 18 ratings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes


  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar packed
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar


  • In a small saucepan, melt butter.
    ½ cup butter
  • Add brown sugar, salt, and milk and cook over medium low heat until the sugar is fully dissolved, about two minutes.
    1 cup light brown sugar, ¼ cup whole milk, ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Remove from heat and add vanilla.
    1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Transfer to your mixer bowl. Beat on medium, adding a little powdered sugar at a time. Adjust by adding more sugar or milk until you reach your desired consistency.
    2 cups powdered sugar



Serving: 1ServingCalories: 166kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 0.2gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 88mgPotassium: 27mgSugar: 28gVitamin A: 183IUCalcium: 18mgIron: 0.1mg

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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Recipe Rating


Thursday 16th of May 2024

I found the icing too sweet. Another recipe used only 1.5 cups of powdered sugar and I think that is the sugar level I enjoy. The flavor was very nice though!


Thursday 16th of May 2024

You can definitely use less powdered sugar, just keep in mind it might not set quite as firm if you reduce it too much. I am glad you liked the flavor.

Reta Shepard

Monday 23rd of October 2023

This recipe for frosting sounds great for 45” cinnamon rolls for my todays sewing group treat! Yum!Reta Mostly cause don’t hafta go to store for ingredients! Will definitely report and send pic if turns out. Thx for simple recipe, appreciate!


Monday 23rd of October 2023

Yay! Not having to go to the store is always a win. Now I want to frost cinnamon rolls with some of this icing!

Jessica Jarrell

Sunday 14th of August 2016

I love cooked frostings, they are so much lighter than normal frostings. I will be trying this one for sure, yum! :-)


Monday 15th of August 2016

I love cooked frosting too! But I love pretty much any kid of frosting, so it's a low bar!

Big Rigs 'n Lil' Cookies

Thursday 11th of August 2016

Is it wrong to be afraid that I will love this recipe to much?!


Thursday 11th of August 2016

Ha! It is a risk!

Andrea Nine

Monday 8th of August 2016

You know I am a frosting girl too, not to mention loving Carmel so I'm sure this will be my favorite frosting of all!


Tuesday 9th of August 2016

It's a good one! I love that the cake I use it on is frozen so I can just pour it on while it is still warm and give it a quick spread and call it a day! I hope you're surviving ok, Andrea! I'm sure he'll do wonderful!