Butterbeer cupcakes


In case you didn’t know, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan – I got the first book from Santa back when I was nine and have been hooked ever since. I re-read the series every year, sometimes going chronologically like a normal person but often working my way through in a bizarre order – favourite to least favourite (in case you’re wondering, that means going 7-6-3-4-1-2-5).

So when we were planning our trip to America, it was a no brainer that we would head down to Florida and spend a bit of time in Orlando. Why? Because it’s the home of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – a section of Universal Studios Orlando that brings the books to life. Literally. As you step through the gates it’s like entering another world – from the cobbled streets and twisted chimneys to the snow covered rooftops dotted with owls, everything looks just as you would imagine.

Kevin and I spent a day trawling through the stores, going on the rides and tasting every wizarding treat the park had to offer. But the best thing? Trying butterbeer for the first time. It was delicious – a kind of buttery tasting creaming soda… but a million times better. It’s rich, sweet and only to be drunk in moderation – as we learned the hard way after throwing back two in quick succession, then having to spend an hour sitting in the courtyard of the Three Broomsticks while the nausea passed! Here’s a glimpse of my first taste of butterbeer, perched on a windowsill outside Honeydukes:


Since returning from our trip, both Kevin and I have been dreaming of having butterbeer again – unfortunately, getting the real deal means another trip to the other side of the world. So this weekend I decided to try and bring a little bit of Harry Potter magic to Auckland by making a batch of rich butterbeer cupcakes, washed down with a homemade version of the wizarding drink itself.

So what’s a butterbeer cupcake? It’s a fluffy brown sugar cake, filled with runny butterscotch mixture that soaks into the cake, followed by a dollop of soft butterscotch ‘cream’, topped with a generous swirl of butterscotch buttercream and finished with a drizzle of runny butterscotch. Yip, it’s a lot of butterscotch!


After a bit of research I managed to piece together a recipe that ticked all the butterbeer boxes, without needing to buy many expensive American ingredients – the only “special” ingredient I used was butterscotch chips, but even these can be substituted if need be. The magic of the cupcakes comes from the ingredients used – creaming soda, clarified butter, buttermilk and dark brown sugar all make appearances in this recipe.

While the finished cupcakes might sound a little overwhelming, they’re actually beautifully balanced. The butterscotch mixture makes the centre of the cake beautifully moist, while there’s just enough filling and icing to round out the flavour of the cupcakes and transform them into something special. Try them – it’s well worth the effort!


Once the cupcakes were finished, it was time to get started on the butterbeer itself! This is actually really simple – as easy as pouring creaming soda into a large glass and topping it with a flavoured whipped cream, kind of like a reverse spider. Click here to find of how to make it!


Warning: these treats are not made to be consumed together. We stupidly tried to munch on a cupcake straight after downing a mug-full of butterbeer and soon realised we couldn’t do it – Kevin gave a valiant effort and managed to get them both in his tummy, while I could only manage a bite of cupcake.

Instead have them one at a time – they’re both absolutely magical.

Recipe inspired by Amy Bites



  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 113g butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar,  packed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp clarified butter (details below)
  • ½ cup buttermilk (½ cup milk + ½ tsp white vinegar)
  • ½ cup creaming soda

Butterscotch filling & topping

  • 310g butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup cream
  • 3 Tbsp icing sugar, sifted

Butterscotch Buttercream

  • 113g butter, softened
  • ¾ cup butterscotch topping
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 4-5 cups icing sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp milk


Clarified butter

  1. Place 50g of butter in a small saucepan and heat slowly
  2. Allow to simmer until butter separates and white mixture comes to the top and sides of the pot
  3. Line a sieve with cheesecloth or gauze and strain butter.
  4. Pour clear yellow mixture (clarified butter) into a heat proof container. Use immediately.


  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius and line cupcake pans with liners
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside
  3. Cream butter, white and dark brown sugars together until light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.
  5. Add vanilla and clarified butter and mix well.
  6. Alternate between adding buttermilk, creaming soda and flour mixture, beating well between each addition.
  7. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake for 18-20 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool completely before icing

Butterscotch Mixture (for filling & topping)

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt together butterscotch chips and cream. Mix until well combined and glossy. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. Core each cupcake and fill with 1 tsp butterscotch mixture. Allow to soak into cake.
  3. Transfer 3 Tbsp butterscotch mixture into a small bowl and add 4 Tbsp icing sugar. Mix well.
  4. Fill each cupcake with 1 Tsp butterscotch ‘cream’ and replace tops.

Butterscotch Buttercream

  1. Cream butter in a large bowl. Add 2 cups icing sugar and mix well.
  2. Add butterscotch mixture and beat well.
  3. Continue adding icing sugar and milk until desired consistency is reached.
  4. Fill a decorating bag with buttercream and pipe onto cupcakes.
  5. Before serving drizzle each cupcake with 1 tsp of butterscotch mixture

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  • Heidi


    These look amazing, I really want to try make them but where do you get butterscotch chips from?

    Thanks, Heidi :)

    • KirstenM

      Hi Heidi! Thank you :) You buy butterscotch chips at American food stores – if you’re in Auckland there’s one called Martha’s Backyard in Mount Wellington. Alternatively, you can make your own butterscotch using golden granulated sugar (I know they sell this at Countdown) and try this recipe. Good luck!

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  • basketpam

    Greetings Kristen: Since you recently finished a tour of the US you might know what I’m referring to with this question. In this recipe for Butterbeer Cupcakes the instructions for the cupcakes call for a 1/2 cup of creaming soda. Would this be anything similar to a soda beverage we have in the states called Cream Soda? It has a vanilla flavour and during my childhood was one of my two favorites. Believe it or not when I was a kid, quite a while ago, it was clear, like water. Now today you can’t find it clear any longer, it’s always a pale cola-looking color. My other was actually Strawberry pop. Both which I rarely ever indulge in these days. I just sent around an email about 2 days ago to a good many friends on my address list a recipe for a cake which uses white beans in the cake and then it contained a link for black bean brownies. I love finding recipes which use unusual ingredients in baking. I enjoy doing all sorts of cooking and I’m not too shabby at it if I do say so myself but my true love is baking. About 3 years ago I decided to expand my baking into the cake decorating realm. It’s been an interesting adventure so far. And of all times to begin this hobby, just when the cake decorating world has begun to explode with numerous new techniques, ingredients and methods. The Craftsy class instruction website is an amazing asset to the cake world too. I only recently discovered your site and read about your month long trip to the states.

    At first I had been thinking you were from Britain and couldn’t understand why you were going back to the west coast before heading home. THEN, it all made sense. I would absolutely LOVE to see both New Zealand and Australia but that long plane flight, WHEW! I live in the Washington, DC area and I think I’ve heard it’s about a 20 hour flight straight through. That seems insane to me. I get antsy and miserable in the 5 hours to San Diego. I wish I had known you when you were in the DC area. I make a GREAT tour guide. In fact, whenever my parents have friends come from California they always have me play tour guide. I personally LOVE the DC area and would live there if I had it all to do over again. I would actually give ANYTHING to work in the White House. I’m a MAJOR history buff and a special favorite in history is White House history and then also First Lady history. When I say White House no part of that is the political side of things. One of the lingering bad side-effects from 9/11 is that it’s much harder to get into the White House to tour and visit. I’ve been in the public areas several times but I would give almost anything in this world to see the private living quarters and other areas of the house. My dad has been in lots of other place in the White House and even Camp David and other neat places with his job as a civilian contractor over the years. In fact I live only 7 miles from Camp David and about the same from the Underground Pentagon deep inside the mountains around my little town. It’s the facts and events and things that happened there at times.

    My work in medical research I used to do for Johns Hopkins used to have me working and staying in DC quite a bit. That’s the best way to learn to get around. Most of my extended family hate being in DC. My dad always thinks he has to drive everywhere and that’s a big mistake in today’s DC. I use the metro and cabs most of the time although I have driven in. It’s no fun you can be sure. Anyway, when you get a chance if you can let me know about the soda and I’ll see if it’s what I need to bake the cupcakes. We have some very old-fashioned type of root beer beverages that not many drink any longer that usually appear at fairs and other celebrations in the fall that might be good in this recipe. They’re beverages left over from the more colonial days and pioneer times. They’re Sassafras Tea, Birch Beer, along with Sarsaparilla, (the cowboys in the old western movies always called it “sassparillie”. You usually find these things most often in Amish country. I live about 2 hours from Lancaster, PA and the area where the Amish live. In fact, my folks are leaving this Friday to go to a 3-day Amish auction they attend each year which benefits their Haiti mission work. They usually end up raising several hundred thousand dollars. My parents have Amish friends we’ve come to know quite well. It’s a shame you can’t get back for another month long trip. I could certainly keep you busy for that long again just in this area alone. There’s NEVER enough time to do it all!

    • Kirsten

      Thanks for your message! Kevin and I absolutely fell in love with DC while we were in the US – it was certainly one of our favourite places, we found ourselves saying how nice it would be living there a few times. Definitely looking forward to heading back to DC one day, we got through a lot of things but there are so many things we still need to ‘tick off the list’ – can totally understand why you love living there! As for the flight, you’d be surprised how quickly it goes – I get stir crazy on flights to Raro (only 3 hours from here), but found the long haul almost enjoyable (it helps that we flew overnight both ways I think). It’s well worth the flight over, I promise!

      As for creaming soda, I’m 95% sure what we call creaming soda is your cream soda – a vanilla-y fizzy drink that’s a pale amber colour. Good luck – I hope you enjoy the cupcakes! x