Unfortunately, dulce de leche isn't available in most stores, but you can make it yourself at home quite easily with a can of sweetened condensed milk. There are many methods to do this - you can boil the can, opened or unopened for a few hours; you can use an oven; you can use a double boiler; you can use a microwave; you can even make dulce de leche from scratch. Whatever method you choose to make your dulce de leche, you'll be rewarded with a thick, caramelly goo that you can use in your coffee, ice cream, brownies, cupcakes, cookies, and lots more.
My second batch of Halloween cupcakes, baked especially for October's Cupcake Hero, uses dulce de leche, which I chose to make in the oven. Mine took about 1 hour, 15 minutes at 425°F. It didn't turn very dark before the top of the dulce de leche started to turn a little hard and dark brown around the edges, even though I had it tightly covered with foil. I used an electric mixer to smooth out the lumps, but little tiny bits of the burnt edges remained. It didn't affect the taste, though; it tastes great!
These are delicious and super moist pumpkin cupcakes, filled with dulce de leche and frosted with dulce de leche buttercream. The web is made from melted semisweet chocolate and an awesome, creepy spider from Bake It Pretty adorns each cupcake.
The chocolate web is very easy to make. I melted 2-3 tablespoons of semisweet chocolate chips, with about ¼ teaspoon of shortening to make the chocolate a little looser, and spooned it into a Ziploc bag. I then cut off a very tiny sliver of the bottom corner of the bag and piped four circles on top of each cupcake. I would have used a toothpick to draw through the circles, but I didn't have any, so I used an uncooked stick of spaghetti that I had broken down to the length of a toothpick! But I just simply pulled the spaghetti stick through the circles, starting from the center for each line. Easy spiderweb decoration!
These cupcakes are quite rich, and I knew they would be before I even made them, but they are absolutely delicious. The pumpkin and caramel go very well together. If you're not after so rich of a cupcake, skip the dulce de leche filling and just use the dulce de leche buttercream on top.
Dulce De Leche Pumpkin Cupcakes
- Pumpkin cupcakes:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon allspice
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 7.5 ounces pureed pumpkin
- Dulce de leche:
- 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- boiling water
- Dulce de leche buttercream:
- ¾ cup 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1 ½ tablespoons heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- pinch of salt
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons prepared dulce de leche
- For the pumpkin cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.
- Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.
- Once cooled, using the cone method, fill each cupcake with a dollop of dulce de leche and frost with dulce de leche buttercream. If desired, decorate cupcake with spiderweb design using 3 tablespoons chocolate chips melted together with ¼ teaspoon shortening.
- For the dulce de leche: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Open up the can and pour the sweetened-condensed milk into a pie pan. Cover tightly with foil. Place into a larger pan and pour boiling water in larger pan & around pie plate (level of water should be about halfway up the pie plate). Don’t let any water seep up and into the pie plate.
- Place in oven and bake for 1 hour. At the one hour point, peel off foil and check for progress. If the mixture has thickened and turned a caramelly color, it’s done. If it doesn’t quite look thick enough or dark enough, cover it up and bake it a little longer (mine took 75 minutes).
- When the mixture appears to have turned into a nice, thick caramel, remove from the oven. Let sit for a few minutes, and then beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
- Dulce de leche buttercream: Cream together softened butter and powdered sugar on low using an electric mixer. Add cream and vanilla and beat on medium speed until smooth and no lumps appear. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the prepared dulce de leche and beat to incorporate.