Manuka honey cupcakes with brown sugar buttercream


New Zealand is a pretty awesome little place. No matter where you live you’re never very far from something amazing – beaches, bush walks, mountains, lakes; the lot! Just look at Auckland; within the confines of a single city you have everything from volcanic cones and sandy beaches to bush walks and predator-free islands.

But it takes a lot to keep these wonderful places looking just that – wonderful. A lot of the work is done by the wonderful people at the Department of Conservation, who work tirelessly to keep everything looking as pristine as possible. No easy feat!

Today marks the start of Conservation Week – the week where we celebrate the unique environments and creatures of this little country, work out how we can help do our part to improve our environment and (of course) get out and enjoy it! To celebrate I decided to make some uniquely New Zealand cupcakes – Manuka Honey cupcakes with brown sugar buttercream.

Not only are they delicious, fluffy and moist, but that have a uniquely Kiwi taste about them – there’s no missing the aromatic taste of Manuka honey in these ones! The brown sugar buttercream complements the cupcake perfectly, with the brown sugar amplifying the honey flavour without making them too sweet.


Rather than using a sugar alone to sweeten these cupcakes, you use a generous helping of Manuka honey – and I mean generous, I got through half a tub! While a small amount of sugar still goes into these cupcakes the bulk of the sweetness comes from the honey, ensuring they don’t become too sweet but still ensuring the cupcakes are exactly what they claim to be – honey cupcakes!

Then all that’s left to do is the icing! The only difference between brown sugar buttercream and regular buttercream is the addition of a small about of brown sugar – basic, right? You simply cream it into the butter before adding any icing sugar, giving you a distinctly brown sugar base to work with without packing the icing with too much sugar (there’s enough of that already!)

I decided to keep these cupcakes basic, letting the flavours speak for themselves rather than flashy decorating. And I’m glad I did – these cupcakes don’t need anything else to make them special, they’re special enough as they are. Just like New Zealand I guess!

Happy Conservation Week everyone!


Makes 12 cupcakes



  • 57g butter, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar (I used Billington’s Golden Granulated)
  • ¾ cup Manuka Honey
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup buttermilk (½ cup milk + ½ Tbsp white vinegar)
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder

Brown sugar buttercream

  • 225g butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2-3 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1-2 Tbsp milk



  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius and line 12 cup pan with cupcake cases
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until pale & fluffy
  3. Add honey, eggs and buttermilk and mix until well combined
  4. In a medium bowl, sift together flour and baking powder. Add to honey mixture and beat until just combined
  5. Fill cupcake cases 2/3 with mixture. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  6. Transfer to cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before icing.

Brown sugar buttercream

  1. Cream together butter and sugar until pale and creamy
  2. Add icing sugar one cup at a time until reach desired consistency. Add milk to thin as required.

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