No-Fuss Brown Butter Icing (Microwave Method)

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Brown Butter Icing takes these Flaky Cinnamon Biscuits to the sweet side.

Remember these Flaky Cinnamon Biscuits I posted a few weeks ago? They are especially memorable drenched with Brown Butter Icing. Until now, I made this icing the old-fashioned way. Perhaps it’s the way you so it too. Heat butter very slowly in a skillet or small pan. Watch and wait until the butter finally turns brown (and sometimes burns). Z-z-z-z-z-z.

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Use a container large enough to contain bubbling butter and COVER while cooking.

Then I tried making it in my microwave oven. I put 4 tablespoons butter in a 4-cup Pyrex glass measuring dish and covered it with a cheap paper plate so it would be easy to scrape off butter splatters. Exactly 3 minutes and 50 seconds later, the butter was browned to perfection. No stirring or babysitting necessary.

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Please forgive my preaching. . . . but I don't care what anybody says, cooking with a microwave oven, INTELLIGENTLY, can save precious time with no compromise in flavor or texture.

Some people might turn up their nose at the idea of using a microwave, but I don’t care.  In my kitchen, where I usually cook in small quantities, the microwave is a superhero.

A couple of notes about the process:

  1. Like everything you make in the microwave, the time for your oven may vary from the times called for in my oven.  Although similar, all ovens are not equal. The temperature and amount of food being cooked will also influence the time required.  Keep this in mind if you decide to double the recipe.
  2. Don’t forget to COVER THE BOWL CONTAINING THE BUTTER BECAUSE IT WILL POP AND SPLATTER VIOLENTLY AS IT BEGINS TO BROWN. But that’s OK; it will turn out fine unless you cook it too long.

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Microwave 4 tablespoons butter for 3 minutes and 50 seconds on HIGH. (Times may vary with different microwave ovens.) Cover. Butter will pop and splatter.

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Butter has cooked long enough when it starts to turn golden brown. Check out the sides of the bowl for evidence of popping and splattering.

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Add milk and/or cream to hot butter.

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Add all of powdered sugar to butter.

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Beat until smooth adding more milk as necessary.


No-Fuss Brown Butter Icing (Microwave Method)
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 1 cup
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
A tasty icing perfect for cookies, cinnamon rolls, and my flaky cinnamon biscuits.
  • 4 tablespoons butter (no substitutes)
  • 1 tablespoon nonfat milk + additional drops to reach consistency you need
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  1. Microwave butter on HIGH in a COVERED Pyrex glass container. 3 minutes and 50 seconds works perfectly for me, but your microwave may be different and your butter may be a different temperature. Watch it closely the first few times you make it to determine what is perfect for your situation. Butter should be turning golden brown when done. It will continue to turn slightly browner after the oven stops so make allowance. If it burns, you must throw it out and start over.
  2. Add milk and stir.
  3. Add sugar all at once and stir vigorously with a spatula until smooth. If you want a glaze, add milk a few drops at a time and continue to stir until pourable.
I like half nonfat milk and half heavy cream. Use whatever milk you have on hand. If you prefer less richness, make this frosting with only 2 tablespoons of butter for s slightly lighter taste and color. Add a little more milk to make up for the loss of liquid. Nice for cookies that are already rich on their own. If you don't like the dark specks in your icing, let browned butter sit for awhile and most of the darker particles will stick to the bottom of the bowl. I personally love them, in the same way I adore vanilla bean specks. Don't need icing? Brown butter is fantastic poured over roasted veggies i.e. asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, etc.

I also use this icing on my Soft Cinnamon Cookies, Cinnamon Rolls, and Soft Pumpkin Cookies. The flavor of browned butter plays well with almost any cookies or sweets spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or cloves.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Jocelyn April 14, 2014 at 10:53 am

I made browned butter yesterday using your technique, and it works like a charm. Thank you for sharing this brilliant idea.

One question I have is, when a cooking larger volume of butter (say, 1/2 cup) do I need to use a larger container?


Paula April 14, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Yes, I would. It’s a mess to clean up if it boils over.


Donna Vee December 5, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Hello my dear, LOVE your blog and have adapted many of your amazing time-saving tips. My only comment about the micro is…. that I’ve recently read an article that set out to prove that microwave is evil…lol. What they did prove through an experiment is that the mice does kill everything in it’s path. They watered two sets of plants, one with tap and the other with cooled micro waved water…. not surprising, the micro waved water group… died quickly in spite of being watered exactly the same… just made me think that’s all.


Robin December 2, 2011 at 6:54 pm

I love browned butter iceing. We’ve made it for years in my family. Its especially good on banana cake or spice cake. When I checked your blog, I saw the picture first and thought, “Is she putting pan gravy on raisin bisquits?” Then I saw the title and said, “Ohhh, now I see it!”


Megan's Cookin' November 15, 2011 at 10:45 am

Luv it! Why didnt I think to use the microwave to brown butter. Very smart. Those flaky biscuits are still on the must make list and now, so it the frosting. Hopefully I’ll have company to share with over the holiday, or I know I would eat them all.


sherri lynn November 14, 2011 at 9:11 am

I love anything with brown butter! I should have made this icing for my pumpkin scones this weekend – that would’ve been a fun addition instead of regular glaze!


Yudith @ Blissfully Delicious November 12, 2011 at 9:50 pm

In a microwave? Oh yeaaa!! I love everything browned butter 😉 Thanks for sharing.


Piper @ gotitcookit November 12, 2011 at 9:53 am

Looks easy enough…. Now to find something scrumptious to eat it on besides my finger!


` November 11, 2011 at 9:34 am

Paula, I made a cobbler the other day and the topping had cinnamon in it which made me think of your cinnamon biscuits that I have yet to try, I know I will love them 🙂 I agree with you why not use the microwave oven if it makes life easier.


TheKitchenWitch November 10, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Paula, you are awesome. I love how you make my life easier! This is genius!


Sandy November 10, 2011 at 12:24 pm

I melt butter in the Microwave all the time but have never tried to brown it that way. The determination of this little guy is enough to make anyone want to try it. Adorable post. Thanks for making my day!!!


Paula November 10, 2011 at 9:20 am

I’ve never made brown butter icing so this microwave method is a keeper for future reference.


The Café Sucré Farine November 10, 2011 at 5:58 am

I’m totally with you Paula! Since I’m usually doing life on the run, I LOVE my microwave for many things! I have done browned butter in the mw and it certainly beats the old fashioned way! Oh, and your frosting looks “to die for”!


Lorraine November 9, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Sounds like a great technique and delicious result. Very versatile frosting.


Betty @ scrambled hen fruit November 9, 2011 at 8:33 pm

I’m always trying to do at least one thing too many in the kitchen, and invariably end up with burned butter instead of browned butter. This is a great shortcut. 🙂


Paula November 9, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Betty, Me too–re: doing too many things at once in the kitchen.


SallyBR November 9, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Love this post! Having burned my own share of butter attempting to get it “just a little darker”, I will try your method next time. Brilliant!

I use the microwave to melt chocolate for ganaches and stuff all the time – it is gentle, and works.

(I had never heard of brown butter icing, but it sounds like something I should make sometime too)


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