dulce de leche cupcakes

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This was not my first attempt at dulce de leche cupcakes. My first attempt resulted in cupcakes that rose out of their wells, spread over the top of the pan, and baked into one solid mass. And they tasted like pancakes.

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They weren’t even really dulce de leche cupcakes. They were brown sugar cupcakes with cream cheese dulce de leche frosting. I’m sure that combination is wonderful, but it wasn’t what I wanted, which was cake that was flavored with dulce de leche. Also cake that didn’t explode in the oven.

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This is the cake that I wanted. It’s based on a yellow cake recipe (similar to Martha Stewart’s, which did well in this comparison), with dulce de leche replacing a portion of the milk. I had my doubts that the caramel flavor would be evident after baking, but I was very pleasantly surprised.

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And then there’s the buttercream, which might be the best thing I’ve eaten in weeks. It’s so smooth and creamy, and so dulce de leche-y. With a drizzle of pure dulce de leche on top, these cupcakes were perfect, and a very far cry from my first attempt.

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One year ago: Beer-Marinated Flank Steak
Two years ago: Zucchini Bread
Three years ago: Crawfish (or Shrimp), Roasted Tomato, and Farmer’s Cheese Pizza

Printer Friendly Recipe
Dulce de Leche Cupcakes (adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride)

I made these twice; the first time, they seemed dry, so I replaced a portion of the butter with canola oil and increased the buttermilk.

1½ cups (7.2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1½ cups (6 ounces) cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1⅓ cup (9.33 ounces) granulated sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup dulce de leche
4 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup canola oil
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature
Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue buttercream, recipe below

1. Adjust an oven rack to the idle position; heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin wells with paper cups. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and baking soda.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl if using a hand-held mixer), beat the butter, sugar, and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. With the mixer running, gradually add the dulce de leche; beat another minute, until thoroughly incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then mix in the oil and vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low; add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat each addition just until incorporated.

3. Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups, filling each cup about two-thirds full. Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool. Remove the cupcakes from the pan after 5 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream

4 egg whites
1¼ cups (8.75 ounces) granulated sugar
Pinch salt
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
⅓ cup dulce de leche
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand-held mixer), combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees.

2. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment; beat the egg white mixture on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and it has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the butter 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is thick and smooth, 3-5 minutes. Add the dulce de leche and vanilla; mix until incorporated.

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  1. I’ve never had DDL. This post really makes me want to give it a try.

  2. These look AMAZING. I can’t wait to try them.

  3. These look unbelievably delicious! I love dulce de leche, and I will definitely be making these. Thanks for sharing the fantastic recipe.

  4. Yum yum yum! I can’t wait to make these!

  5. I agree cakes with butter can be a bit dry, what ratio of butter to oil did you use? 1:1? Any thoughts on how much oil you should use if you wanted to make it without any butter?

    BTW love your blog, you have a great approach to food

  6. Okay…I work with Bridget, and she is constantly bringing in fresh-baked goods to share with the office – and they are always amazing. She brought these cupcakes in yesterday…and as usual they were amazing. I particularly loved, loved, loved the icing. I think this is the best icing I have ever tasted, and I will use this recipe on almost everything I make from now on:-) You have outdone yourself, Bridget!! Thanks!!

  7. bridget says:

    Thanks Lisa! I was particularly proud of these – so much so that I considered walking around telling people that if they were going to splurge just once, this was the time!

    Jason – I accidentally left the oil out of the recipe when I wrote it originally, so I’m glad you brought that to my attention. It’s included now, so you can see that I used 1/4 cup oil and 3/4 cup butter. For a cake recipe that uses only oil, check out my favorite red velvet cake.

  8. The frosting is gorgeous! What tip did you use?

  9. bridget says:

    Erin – I used the 1M tip. I started in the middle and swirled around and felt very lucky when it came out pretty!

  10. Yay! I’ve been looking out for recipes to use my homemade DDL, and this will most definitely be one of them! You made them look beautiful this time! (I cracked up at your twitpic of the first attempt. heehee!)

  11. Gorgeous! They look great!

  12. These cupcakes are PERFECT!! I’m glad you decided to try making them again – never give up.

    By the way, I love that you link to posts from one, two, and three years ago – I’ve been reading your blog since the beginning (no exaggeration!) and I love the memories.

  13. i appreciate your comment on a dry cake…sometimes do you find that a large amount of egg, whole as opposed to separated, cause a dry crumb?…but i love the addition of oil and buttermilk…

  14. acatlady2 says:

    OMG, I’m drooling!

  15. Lorena says:

    I was writing down the ingredients because my boyfrined LOVES dulce de leche. But as I was writing it down and reading the directions I noticed that the recipe doesn’t include how much sugar it needs but in the directons it does… =[
    Can you please tell us the secret so I can make these =] they look wonderful and I taste just ass good as they look. hehe=]

  16. bridget says:

    Lorena – I’m on a roll; I also left out the oil from the ingredient list the first time around. I’ve added both ingredients in, and I’m crossing my fingers I finally got it right.

  17. These look incredible! I love that they are so full of dulce de leche flavour – I am now desperately trying to think of an upcoming event I can bake these for so that I don’t eat them all myself.

  18. oh so luscious! ready to lick the buttercream off the computer screen!!

  19. These look sinfully good. I love your photos of that beautiful caramel dripping down the sides!!

  20. These look beauuttiffulll. I may just have to make that buttercream and live on it for as long as my body will let me, it sounds AMAZING! Gorgeous little cupcakes indeed 🙂

  21. Gorgeous Bridget, these are going on my to-do list right now!

  22. My husband is going to love you forever for sharing this recipe.

  23. I made these last night and brought them into work today. They turned out beautifully delicious! Thanks for sharing.

  24. Ok my friend asked me to make your recipe for her tonight, soooo awesome! They really are caramel-y tasting! Icing was amaing! Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  25. This frosting recipe is the best thing that’s ever happened to me!

    I made my own dulce de leche the other night, and I was itching to bake with it.
    Lo and behold, this recipe jumped into my life (and thank god for that!).

    I was fresh out of canola oil, and I didn’t have any buttermilk on hand, so I opted to futz my way through a cupcake recipe that incorporated the lucious ddl.
    But when it came time to make that frosting, I was armed with all the ingredients to make my first swiss meringue buttercream.

    It was so smooth.
    So light.
    So creamy.
    So delicious.
    I will NEVER go back to traditional buttercream.

    Thanks for the recipe!
    It was the bommmmbbbbbb.

  26. zachy says:

    Hello, thank you for sharing, this sounds very yummy. One question…How many egg whites for the buttercream? It does not say. Thank you!!

  27. zachy says:

    Got it, sorry, it seems like it was a computer problem.

  28. Heather says:

    I made this into cupcakes and cake (divided it) and I have to say, the flavor was wonderful and the 2hr long prep of the dulce de leche was worth it (Alton Brown’s recipe), the frosting close to one of the most amazing thing’s I’ve had. BUT I still think it was on the dry side. Maybe because it was so dense like a scone that my mouth confused it as dry? I did replace with the oil as you suggested, but I want these to be more on the moist side. Anyone out there suggest anything? I’m game for finding a solution. Thanks!

  29. bridget says:

    Heather – Assuming that you’re not overbaking, which you’d know because the cupcakes would be too brown, more fat is the key to making food seem less dry. I would start with adding 2 tablespoons more fat, probably of oil. Because oil is liquid at room temperature, it’s better at making desserts seem less dry than butter is. Butter, of course, has more flavor, but there’s still plenty of butter in the recipe.

  30. I just finished frosting these cupcakes and they’re great! However, I thought they were a little dry as well, next time I’ll try adding more oil like you suggested above. This was my first Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and I love it. It’s the perfect frosting, light and not too sweet.

  31. Katrina says:

    Very nice make me yummy

  32. These tasted AMAZING, but I must have done something wrong. My batter was really strange. It’s like the dulce de leche separated from the other part of the batter so some of my cupcakes were “normal” and some of them were dense…and some of them oozed all over the pan and made a giant cupcake thingy. Loved the taste, but what happend?

  33. bridget says:

    Julie – I wonder if it’s a factor of dulce de leche with different thicknesses? Was the dulce de leche fully incorporated into the batter before you baked the cupcakes?

  34. Tabitha says:

    This looks fantastic. I am making them this weekend. I’ve also been asked to make a cake. ould I have to make any changes to bake this with two 8 in rounds?

  35. bridget says:

    Tabitha – This should be the right amount of batter for two 8-inch rounds, so you’ll just need to extend the baking time to something around 30 minutes.

  36. sally says:

    I would love to try this recipe out but wanted to ask if you used regular cupcake/muffin liners or the mini ones?

  37. bridget says:

    sally – These were regular-sized. I often make mini-cupcakes too; the recipe stays exactly the same, just the baking time is reduced to about 12 minutes.

  38. These look amazing and I will be making them soon. However I’m wondering about the caramel drizzled over the top…how is the made? I’ve never even used DDL before, this is new to me. 🙂
    Thanks for your time .

  39. Pam – The caramel on top is just straight dulce de leche. There are different ways to make it. The easiest method starts with a can of sweetened condensed milk. I remove the wrapper from the can and put it in the crockpot, covered completely by water, and cook for 12 hours. Then turn the crockpot off and let the water cool completely to room temperature (it’ll take several hours) before removing the can. If you remove it too early, it is possible that the pressure inside the can from being so hot can cause it to explode. When you open the can, it’ll be full of caramelized milk sugar, just what you want.

    You can also pour the sweetened condensed milk out of the can and cook it in a double boiler, stirring occasionally, until it caramelizes. And there are a number of methods that aren’t based on sweetened condensed milk. Or you can buy it, although I have a hard time finding it in stores.

  40. I don’t understand the part regarding the bowl over simmering water. What do I need to simmer? It’s says whisk constantly the mixture until it reaches 160degrees. What mixture is that?

  41. June – What you’re doing in that step is setting up a double boiler. So put enough water in a tall pot to come up about 1-inch from the bottom; bring the water to a simmer. Then put the mixer bowl with the egg whites and sugar on top of the pot. The mixer bowl should not actually touch the water. The idea is for the heat from the steam to warm the eggs whites without cooking them. Here’s a random picture that seems to show the set up. http://propastry.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/img_2847.jpg. I hope that clarifies things.

  42. I have a cupcake blog called My Year of Cupcakes. I featured your Dulce de Leche Cupcake recipe on Day 112. Here’s the link if you wanna take a look: http://myyearofcupcakes.com/2013/11/20/day-112-dulce-de-leche-cupcakes/

    Thanks for the yummy recipe!