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.

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Kristin Rosenau

Photographer, writer, and baker of all things sweet.

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