Sour Cream Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Buttercream and Pecan Brittle

So, I’m writing this post.

I think we can all agree that writing this post is not studying for Wills and Estates.

Which means that I am doing pretty much the opposite of what I should be doing right now.

What has me in such a rebellious, study-schedule-defying mood?

It’s my roommate, my second of two friends, my hip attachment’s 24th birthday today. So she gets a blog post. And it’s gonna be all Roomz all the way.

So, The Roommate and I met in high school. Just like Hannah and I did. We all went to high school together. It was awesome.

Then we went to college at not the same place. Then we went to law school at the same place. And then we went to living at the same place. Also pretty awesome.

The Roommate is one of my very best friends. She is, like, super smart and nice and funny. And she’s really pretty.

She will quote movies with me. Never stand me up for our Monday night TV dates (unless it’s for a very good reason, like winning some mock trial competition). Will not judge me when I literally only eat queso for dinner. Totally gets the beauty of a good grilled cheese sandwich.

She is a BritneySpears scholar. She is giving. She understands my intense love of pancakes and will never turn down an opportunity to go to IHOP. She is a half-marathoner.

The Roommate let me get my cat, Kirby, and she puts up with her even though she doesn’t have to love her psychotic tendencies like I do. She remembers to run the dishwasher. She’s also really pretty.

The Roommate is the Marissa Cooper to my I-really-wish-I-was Summer Roberts. In sum: She’s pretty much the best.

So, today, I took and am taking a few hours out of my day to wish her the very happiest birthday ever. I made her these cupcakes. And wrote her this blogpost. Happy birthday, Friend #2!

Sour Cream Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Buttercream and Pecan Brittle

Makes about 18 cupcakes 



3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cup pecan halves, toasted and coarsely chopped


1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups cake flour (or all-purpose plus 4 tablespoons cornstarch)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sour cream

2 oz coarsely grated bittersweet or semisweet chocolate


1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed

3 tablespoons water

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

6 cups(ish) powdered sugar


For Brittle

  1. Lightly oil a cookie sheet.
  2. Mix water, sugar, and cream of tartar in a small saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves, about three minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and let boil until it becomes a deep amber color. This can be a bit tricky. I always take it off the heat a little before it gets to that color and then swirl it around the pan. The pan will retain heat and will deepen the color. If you keep it on the heat until you see the right color, you could end up with burnt caramel. Which would be a bummer.
  3. As that is boiling, toast your pecan halves in an ungreased skillet over medium heat. It should only take a few minutes. Just until they start to brown and your kitchen smells a little bit like pecans. Take them off the heat and coarsely chop them.
  4. Add the pecans to the caramel. Swirl to incorporate. Quickly transfer the mixture to the cookie sheet and spread it so that the pecans are pretty much evenly distributed. Leave to cool completely.
  5. Once cool, break into pieces. Cutting it with a knife can make it into more manageable pieces, but you don’t need to have perfect squares or anything.

For Cupcakes

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake tray with cupcake liners.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Cream together the butter, vegetable oil, and sugar in a large bowl. Mix until it is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Fully incorporate each egg before you add the next. Next, add the extracts. Mix til combined.
  4. Add half of the flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Mix in the sour cream. Now, add the remaining flour and mix until combined. The batter might seem a little thick. That’s okay. If you’re totally weirded out about it, try adding more oil or more sour cream. Or even some whipping cream if you want.
  5. Fold in the coarsely grated chocolate.
  6. Drop batter into the cupcake pan, filling them about 2/3 full.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  8. Let them cool for a few minutes in the pan. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For Frosting

  1. Mix brown sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves, a few minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, and let it boil until it slightly thickens. This one is a little trickier since you can’t see the color change (stupid brown sugar…). Just go off of time. Give it about 3 minutes boiling before you take it off the heat. Remove from heat and cool for about 5 minutes. Then add the whipping cream.
  2. Cream together the butter and 3 cups of powdered sugar. Add the brown sugar mixture. Add remaining powdered sugar a cup at a time until you have a frosting that is thick enough to spread. I went all the way to six cups, but that may have been a little too much in my case. Beware: this frosting is sweet. So keep that in mind.

To assemble

  1. Once the cupcakes have cooled, pipe or spread some frosting on your cupcakes. You will likely have some leftover. That’s probably for the best. Like I said, it’s pretty sweet so don’t feel like you have to use it all.
  2. Top each cupcake with a piece of pecan brittle.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts.

These are pretty delicious. But also kinda intense. The cake is tangy and somewhat dense. And the frosting is light and sweet. And the pecan brittle brings some nuttiness. They play off each other really well. Yumz.


I have yet to hear the verdict on these from The Birthday Girl, but I give my approval in the meantime. Happy birthday to one of my very favorite humans on the planet.

Now back to learning about how to avoid federal estate taxes!! Bake with love!!



  1. I’m with you, Kate. Your Roommate’s birthday is soooo much more important than rules against perpetuities, exclusions and credits, and no contest clauses. Will Stanley J. let you cry on his shoulder, or be the Mr. Darcy to your Elizabeth during moments of inebriated fancy — “you must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you”?
    Surely not.
    Sweet Beautiful Smart M deserves every moment of your baking attention. You are so lucky to have each other, and my Sweet Beautiful Smart H is lucky to have you both.
    Happy Birthday to M! Happy Finals to K!!
    Love, FDL’s Mom

  2. Finally getting around to publicly thanking you and offering my commentary on these birthday cupcakes! P just said “dee-licious” and “this icing is delicious!” Followed by, “to me it’s gourmet quality, like what you would get at a baker.”
    So she’s a fan. And so am I! Sweet and intense are fair warnings, but they go perfectly with a cup of coffee consumed while studying for finals. And the pecan brittle is obsession-worthy. I LOVE YOU! Thank you!

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