Brown Sugar Cupcakes. Sacred Soothers of My Profanity.

Cake, Desserts, Mardi Gras / Monday, March 2nd, 2009


“You have to blog about the King Cakes. Everyone loves a disaster.” – Mama

So, last week was not a good baking week. It was the Week of Five Exploding King Cakes.

It started when a few friends asked if I’d make them some King Cakes for Mardi Gras. Sure! No problem! I mixed the brioche dough, let it rise and beat it down for a few hours and tucked it gently into the fridge for a lovely night’s sleep. The next morning, I rolled out the dough, let it rest, filled it, shaped it, rested it again and baked it.


Cake No. 1 exploded. Detonated. Went Ka-Blamo.

OK, that was my first attempt. No problems, my babies! I shook it off and started the brioche for the next batch of cakes. This batch would work.

Cake No. 2 rose so high, it burned onto the roof of the oven. Then Cake No. 3 cracked open,  like a turtle that had just gotten run over.

Time to switch recipes.

I found an authentic-looking one on a Mardi Gras website, and I was ready to start over.

After the dough had sat overnight, and I had filled and shaped it, I noticed the recipe said to cut “deep vents” into the cake. THAT was the secret! I cut the vents, let the cake rest and slid it into the oven. Thirty minutes later, I had cream cheese and strawberry jam EVERYWHERE BUT INSIDE the cake.

And Cake No. 5? It looked like an oversized Cheerio drenched in lemony radioactive snot. To make matters worse, I was trying to slide it from the Silpat into the trash bag, and I DROPPED IT.


I had FAILED. Failed like a failing failure. And now it was time to call my friends and ADMIT THE FAILURE.

On the bright side, I realized I didn’t have to make another freaking King Cake. Not then. Not ever. And Henry the Wonderdog was TOTALLY taking care of that radioactive lemon problem. Go, Dog, Go!

To celebrate, I made myself some Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting. The cupcakes are Martha’s (I just subbed cake flour for all-purpose); the frosting is Joy’s (perfect just the way it is). And, let’s cut the fancy talk, they are YUMMY. Perfect for rebooting your baking mojo. Laissez les bons temps rouler.

Brown Sugar Cupcakes

Adapted from

Makes 29

  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.
  3. Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk and ending with dry. Scrape sides of bowl. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full.
  4. Bake cupcakes until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks. Cupcakes will keep, covered, for up to 3 days.

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4-6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons milk
  1. Cream the cream cheese in an electric mixer on medium for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and add the butter, beating for 1-2 minutes, or until incorporated. (Be sure that the two are at room temperature. Cold cream cheese or butter can make your frosting lumpy.)
  2. Add the brown sugar, vanilla extract, and salt, and beat until incorporated.
  3. Reduce the mixer’s speed to low, and add 2 cups of powdered sugar. Slowly add more sugar alternately with the milk until you reach your desired consistency.

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25 thoughts on “Brown Sugar Cupcakes. Sacred Soothers of My Profanity.

  1. These cupcakes sound much better than any stupid ole King’s Cake anyway. Sorry about your exploding cakes! Your mom was right: it does make for a great story. Buuut, a great story with a happy ending: these cupcakes look like a sweet ending, for sure!

  2. Rebecca,

    Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about the filling excursions that my king cakes suffered! One question: where did you get the babies for the king cakes? I wanted a baby for my cake, but couldn’t find them around here, and want to stock up for next year, just in case.

  3. Wow! That was a bad baking day. Your cupcakes were a perfect save though. I would also love to know where you got the little babies for the cupcakes. Also, I have a King Cake recipe in my blog from Southern Living. I made it with no issues.

  4. kudos for your efforts! in case you ever get the urge to try again, as a new orleanian, i can tell you that a well-respected local cheater king cake involves a can of crescent rolls filled and shaped into the “O”…no one ever complains and it takes no time :)

  5. Yikes!!! Somedays are good with baking – some are bad! Shake it off and move on!!!

    I am sure you will have better luck – next year!

  6. Rina: These are great! I’m looking for excuses to make another batch.

    Elyse: I would have laughed about it a lot earlier if I hadn’t had to clean up the MESS! I soooo wanted to drag the outdoor hose into the kitchen.

    Dana: I FEEL liberated. Onward and upward.

    Heidi: My sistah! Go to the baby shower party favor section at somewhere like Michaels or Wal-Mart! They have little baggies of plastic babies. My one success in all this.

    BMK: That was SEVERAL bad days of baking, because every time I started over, the brioche dough had to sit overnight. The insult! You’ll find the babies in the baby shower party favors at places like Michaels.

    caroline: SHUT. UP. I KNEW there had to be an easier way! Seriously?

    Foxyvee: I’m thinking next year is all about pralines. Ha!

    pastrychefbyfire: Oh, it added insult to injury, but it was soooo funny. SPLAT!

  7. So a couple of weeks ago a friend asked if I could make 2 dozen cupcakes for her hubs birthday. No problem right? I made 5 dozen just trying to find enough to salvage. It was like some horrific sudden cupcake curse! I feel your pain. Your cupcakes however look lovely.

  8. Yay, someone else who has kitchen issues! So often I feel like the only dummy (me not you) that can not get things right! Seriously though I’m sorry the king cake didn’t go well for you. Kudos though that you tried FIVE times. I would have stopped at the first one. The cupcakes on the other hand sound awesome. Love anything brown sugary or buttery!

  9. Yet you persevered – that deserves a medal.

    A few years ago I made a king cake from a mix I got in the French Market. Meh. Tasted like a big old cinnamon roll, one from a grocery store bakery. I haven’t tried again and after reading this post from such a seasoned baker, I don’t think I will. That’s what Paul’s Pastry in Picayune is for!

  10. Holly: My sistah! Oh, how it BURNS when something just won’t work.

    ingrid: You are definitely NOT the only one with issues.But these cupcakes are easy and yummy. God bless them.

    Karen: Ha! So true.

    Keetha: The KCs you can order from NOLA always looked overpriced to me, but after almost getting an aneurysm from the whole experience, I’m thinking they’re worth every penny.

  11. Well, personally, I was hoping to see pictures of the exploded cakes, not the beautiful cupcake you ended up with! ;)

  12. You know my thoughts on plastic babies being near/in my baked goods. No biting into baby Jesus for me.

    Did you ever think you would type the phrase “plastic baggie full of plastic babies?”

  13. Oh my. I’m sorry to hear about it! I must admit… last week as you were twittering your bad luck I was quite concerned (in a funny way). Glad you found something to get your mojo back though.

  14. Ellen: I probably should have taken photos! I just wanted the mess gone ASAP.

    pinkstripes: Maybe it had a little something to do with the crazy weather? One day, it took forever to rise. The next day, it rose and I beat it down for over four hours. Craziness.

    Amy: Another thing to cross off the Bucket List. Go, Team!

    Cat: It wasn’t pretty, but it’s pretty funny.

    Hillary: OH! You must be a distant relative.

  15. I just had what I thought was a “bad” day in my commercial kitchen. Wow! Thank you for putting me so delightfully in my place, I will now get over my minor disaster and move on! Thanks for sharing both the good and the bad!

  16. We have all had the inevitable baking disasters, but the whole dough-proofing investment of time with this one is painful! I have had King Cake once and I would choose a cupcake over it in a heartbeat, so it really sounds like it worked out for the best to me!

  17. Oh, this is too funny…I cannot imagine sticking with something to make FIVE of them after the disasters of ONE and TWO and THREE and FOUR. One or possibly two would have been my limit. I am long on patience like that. Your little cupcakes are darling…I love those and that is definitely something I could tackle for next year…and everyone gets a baby! Very cute idea.

  18. How wonderful to find kill 2 birds with one stone:
    1) I'm relieved to find that I'm not the only person acquainted with the horrors of trying to bake a King cake! I had 2 total flops recently that I tried to bake at the request of a friend. NEVER AGAIN! LOL
    2) I've been searching for a brown sugar cake recipe and can't wait to try this one! Thanks for helping me with 2 things. Thanks to you I won't have to join a King Cake's anonymous support group!

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