A week or so ago I was making banana bread at home with 2 beautifully over-ripened bananas. While melting the butter for the recipe (and attempting to do 5 other things at once) the butter accidentally browned a little. I thought, “Sweet! More deliciousness for my banana bread! Ooooh, that brown butter will add such a deep nutty flavor. You know what goes great on banana bread, cream cheese frosting. Mmmmm, cream cheese frosting. What goes in cream cheese frosting? Butter. Wait a second…”
See how I got all Nancy Drew there?
Next, magic happened. I grabbed a stick of butter, browned it up, and tossed it back in the fridge to solidify overnight. While that butter was browning, I did a quick google search and soon learned that I had not invented science. But, whatever. No one was going to rain on my brown butter parade.
Truth be told, I’ve tried to brown the butter in just about every recipe I’ve ever made. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. I’m actually a little embarrassed that it hadn’t occurred to me to do this until now.
If browning butter scares you, don’t be scared. You make toast, right? Just imagine you’re toasting butter, it’s pretty much the same thing. When butter melts it separates into water (which evaporates), butterfat, and milk solids. The solids sink to the bottom of the pan and get all warm, toasty, and down right delicious. Add that magic to tangy cream cheese and BOOM, science.
Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter
4 oz cream cheese, room temp. (in the name of good frosting, please use Philly)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Yields appx. 2 cups of frosting
1. Place the stick of butter in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. As the butter becomes completely melted, swirl the pan a bit to keep the milk solids moving on the bottom of the pan. You don’t want to walk away at this point because your butter is going to go from blonde to brown very quickly. You’ll know the butter is done when you see little brown bits on the bottom of the pan, as well as floating around in the butterfat. The smell will also change, going from a light buttery aroma to something similar to the smell of roasting nuts.
3. Once the butter has browned, remove the pan from the heat. Pour your browned butter onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Using a rubber spatula, scrape every last little brown bit of heaven out of that sauce pan. THAT is the magic. If you leave the brown bits behind, it’s over. 20 minutes will have been wasted and frankly we couldn’t be friends at that point. I chill the butter on a sheet pan, rather than in a bowl, because I have no patience and like to cover as much surface area as possible. Place the pan in the fridge and gather the rest of your ingredients while it sets up (about 20 min).
4. Once the butter is firm, scrape it into the bowl of a stand mixer, or into a medium sized mixing bowl if you plan to use a hand mixer. Using the whisk attachment cream the butter until it’s lighter in color and completely smooth, about 5-7 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula from time to time. Cut the cream cheese into cubes and add it to the creamed butter along with the vanilla extract and salt. Mix on medium until the mixture is combined and no cream cheese lumps remain, just about 3-4 min. Stop half way though and scrape down the sides of the bowl, because you will be very upset with yourself if you get to the end of this flavor party and there are lumps in your frosting.
5. With the mixer on low, slowly add the confectioner’s sugar until completely combined. And there you have it, creamy, tangy, nutty, sweet deliciousness. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the fridge. Just eat it straight out of the bowl with a spoon, or actually frost or fill things with it (cake, cupcakes, cookies, whoopie pie filling???!?!?!)