Dulce de Leche Cake

Pastry Affair recently turned six years old. I can hardly believe it. Six years. Even though this space has transformed significantly since the beginning, the real evolution was within myself. Looking back now, I have a new perspective of where I've been, the recipes acting as a timeline of life's many changes, as well as my own ambitions and emotions. The blog originally started as a lifeline—a place of stability in a life in transition—but grew into a space of passion and community, where we can share our love of butter and sugar together. 

Cheers to another year, my friends. Thank you for your love and endless support—you make this place feel like home. 

Dulce de leche is a sauce with Latin American roots. The name itself translates to "sweet milk." Although the flavor profile is similar to caramel, dulce de leche is created with different ingredients and techniques. Traditional caramel is made by heating sugar until it reaches the firm ball stage, or has the appearance of caramel, before adding heavy whipping cream to create a sauce. Dulce de leche, on the other hand, starts with a sweetened milk which is cooked down until it caramelizes. For a quick, semi-homemade version of dulce de leche, a can of sweetened condensed milk can be submerged in water over low heat for several hours to achieve a similar effect.

This cake blends dulce de leche in both the batter and frosting to give it a strong caramel flavor. To create the two-toned appearance, I frosted the cake traditionally and dotted small amounts of dulce de leche against the top half of the cake. When smoothed out, the light brown shade of the frosting blends with the golden sauce, creating a layered, ombré presentation.

Dulce de Leche Cake is an anchor for sweet celebrations. The cake is made with brown sugar and swirled with dulce de leche to provide a defined caramel profile. A dulce de leche Swiss meringue buttercream covers the cake, lending a soft texture and buttery flavor without becoming too sweet. Though I may be celebrating Pastry Affair's big day, I hope you'll make this cake to celebrate your own special day, big or small. 

Dulce de leche can be purchased in some grocery stores (call ahead or check the ice cream topping aisle) and online, or made at home.

One Year Ago: Strawberry Layer Cake
Two Years Ago: Berry Topped Angel Food Cake & Mango Margarita
Three Years Ago: White Chocolate Espresso Cake, Pineapple Jam, Vanilla Chia Pudding, & Rhubarb Cake
Four Years Ago: Blueberry Lemon Crumble, Vanilla Cupcakes, Toffee Chocolate Cookies, Coconut Nutmeg Pudding, Lavendar Lemonade, & Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
Five Years Ago: Citrus Roasted Rhubarb, Roasted Cherry Brownies, Honey Peach Boba Tea, Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies, & Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Bread
Six Years Ago: Chocolate Coconut Granola, Sour Cream Sugar Cookies, & Lemon Tarts

Dulce de Leche Cake

Yields 2 9-inch cakes

Dulce de Leche Cake
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (120 grams) sour cream (or plain, non-fat yogurt)
1/3 cup (75 grams) vegetable oil
3/4 cup (325 grams) dulce de leche sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups (320 grams) cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (180 mL) milk of choice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease two 9-inch cake pans and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream, vegetable oil, dulce de leche, and vanilla extract. Gradually add baking powder, baking soda, salt, and half of the cake flour. Stir in the milk, and add the remaining cake flour, mixing until batter is uniform and smooth.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared baking pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven, transfer cakes to a cooling rack, and allow to cool to room temperature before frosting or serving.

Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream
5 large egg whites (150 grams)
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups (340 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (215 grams) dulce de leche sauce, divided

Wipe a large bowl with a paper towel soaked in a small amount of lemon juice or vinegar to remove traces of grease. Add egg whites and sugar and, over a double boiler, whisk constantly over hot water until the sugar dissolves. When rubbed between your fingers, the egg whites should feel hot and smooth (approximately a temperature of 140 degrees F/60 degrees C). This will generally take 3-5 minutes.

Using a mixer, whip the egg whites until thick, glossy peaks form. This may take anywhere from 8-10 minutes. The bottom of the bowl should feel neutral to the touch before moving on to the next step.

Place the mixer on low speed and add the butter in small pieces, one at a time, mixing until smooth. The frosting should reach a silky texture. Beat in the vanilla. If the butter is too warm and the frosting is too runny, place in the refrigerator for approximately 15 minutes to firm up the butter before mixing again. If the mixture curdles, continue mixing and it will come back together. Stir in 1/3 cup of the dulce de leche sauce.

Place the bottom cake layer on a serving plate. Place approximately 2 cups of frosting on the cake and smooth evenly. Place the second layer on top and smooth frosting onto the top and sides of the cake. Using a spoon, dot the remaining dulce de leche sauce on the outside of the cake and  smooth to create the ombré look.

Chocolate Banana Baked French Toast

The pace of life has been speeding up over the last few weeksfoot on the accelerator, engine revving, scenery blurred. As the intensity increases, the rare, fleeting moments of quiet are gone, replaced with packed weekends and busier weeknights. For now, I need to keep my eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, preserving whatever control I can over this runaway ride.

I'll be back soon, with stories and sweets. I promise.

I wish I could tell you that I served this Chocolate Banana Baked French Toast on a warm Sunday morning for friends and family, but real life is not always so picturesque. The reality is that I ate this dish for dinner while sitting cross-legged on the living room floor, digging into the pan with a single spoon. Though the moment was a brief pause between running from here to there, it was delicious. I wished I had someone to share it with, just so we could ooh and ahh over the dish together.

Make this to sharedecadence is enjoyed best with a friend.

Chocolate Banana Baked French Toast is a sweet addition to your brunch menu. Bananas are pureed into the milk and soaked up by the bread. The bread is drizzled with chocolate hazelnut spread in the middle and over the top to add sweetness and a rich chocolate flavor to each bite. There's no need to add maple syrup as the dish is served best plain and hot from the oven. The French toast can be made the evening before or the morning of serving. 

One Year Ago: PB Chocolate Chunk Cookies (GF), Perfect Pie Crust, & Berry Balsamic Pie
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Blackberry Cupcakes & Strawberry Red Wine Popsicles
Three Years Ago: Strawberry Charlotte, Fresh Strawberry Cake, Whole Wheat Almond Waffles, Sparkling Pineapple Rum Cocktail, Nutella Swirled Banana Bread, & Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Four Years Ago: Honey Cake, Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream, Chocolate Salted Almond Ice Cream, Rhubarb Ginger Muffins, Coconut Waffles, Mocha Granola, & Multigrain Bread
Five Years Ago: Cornmeal Parmesan Crackers, Pina Colada Cupcakes, Strawberry Smoothie, & Strawberry Rhubarb Lemonade

Chocolate Banana Baked French Toast
Inspired by Top with Cinnamon

Yields 6 to 8 servings

3 ripe, medium bananas, divided
1/3 cup (70 grams) brown sugar, packed
6 large eggs
2 cups (475 mL) milk of choice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 loaf stale French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8-10 cups)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (185 grams) chocolate hazelnut spread, warmed gently until liquid in consistency
2 tablespoons demerara sugar (or brown sugar)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a blender, blend together two bananas, brown sugar, eggs, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.

In a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, place 1/2 of the cubed bread and drizzle 1/2 of the chocolate hazelnut spread over the top. Layer the remaining bread and drizzle the remaining chocolate hazelnut spread. Pour the milk mixture evenly over the bread, making sure each piece is coated.* Slice the remaining banana and place slices on the top. Sprinkle with demerara sugar.

Bake uncovered for 40-50 minutes, or until lightly browned and souffle-like in appearance. Serve immediately.

* For overnight baked French toast, wrap the pan tightly and refrigerate until the next morning. Add sliced banana and demerara sugar just before baking.

Chocolate Hazelnut Rolls

These last few weeks have been a blur of exhaustion and responsibilities. Time is lost in the small necessities of lifedays pass quickly, but each week drags on in a disorienting march. As the school year nears a close, I find myself in my classroom hours after the last bell rings, lesson planning and grading assignments while the nice weather mocks me through the windows. I swing by the gym on the way home, not because I want to, but because guilt delivers me to the door. Exhaustion claims me in the first few minutes of group classes, and I wonder if sitting on my couch to recharge would have been the better choice. I come home to a messy apartment, an empty refrigerator, and three days of dishes sitting in the sink. I look through bills, health benefit packages, and lease renewal forms in the evenings, too tired to make useful decisions.

Even though its foolish, I sometimes wish adulthood came with accolades. You made the responsible decision and went to the gym? You get to watch Fixer Upper on the couch for two consecutive hours without moving! You did all the dishes in the sink? You get a phone call from your mother telling you she's proud of you!

Some days are easy and some days are hard. I keep telling myself these waves of overwhelming responsibilities will fade and calmer waters will soon arrive.

This weekend I am carving out time to relax. A quiet morning of coffee drinking and pastry making sounds healing. This recipe for chocolate hazelnut rolls uses Quick Puff Pastry as the base. By removing the need for yeast and rising time, the rolls come together quickly. The puffy pastry can be made several days in advance or, if you are like me, you already have a batch stored in the freezer for pastry emergencies.

With a generous amount of chocolate hazelnut spread, a sprinkling of demerara sugar and cinnamon in the filling, and a topping of chopped hazelnuts, these flaky rolls will brighten any weekend morning. 

Chocolate Hazelnut Rolls are a celebration of butter and chocolate in pastry form. With puff pastry as the base, the rolls become golden and flaky in the oven. The inside features a smooth layer of chocolate hazelnut and cinnamon, and the top emphasizes texture with toasted hazelnuts. These are rolls for special occasions, certainly, but should be served on the average weekend after a hard week of being an adult. Your own adult accolade, if you will.

One Year Ago: Blueberry Oat Bars (GF) 
Two Years Ago: Blueberry Pie 
Three Years Ago: Sunflower Seed Bread, Blackberry Fool, Lime Curd Tart, & Honey Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Four Years Ago: Homemade Mascarpone, Ladyfingers, Tiramisu Cake, & PB Cornmeal Cookies
Five Years Ago: Strawberry Milk, Vanilla Pear Muffins, Chocolate Filled Buns, & Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Hazelnut Rolls
Inspired by Joy the Baker

Yields 12 rolls

1 recipe Quick Puff Pastry, chilled (or thawed, if previously frozen)
1 cup (300 grams) chocolate hazelnut spread
1/4 cup (50 grams) demerara or brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces (55 grams) hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled puffed pastry into a 12 by 16 inch rectangle. Spread the dough evenly with the chocolate hazelnut spread, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges.

In a small bowl, stir together the demerara sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the chocolate hazelnut spread. From the longer end, roll the dough tightly until it forms a log. Cut off the ends of the dough and cut the log into 1 1/4-inch thick segments. Place the rolls individually into a muffin tin and sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts over the top.

Bake for 28-35 minutes, or until the rolls are bubbling and golden. Serve warm.