Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dulce de Leche Cupcakes

The internet is an amazing source for recipes. I mean, just look at you right now! When I stumbled upon these at Joy the Baker, I knew I'd found treasure. Real. live. gooey. treasure. Aaannnddd... not to brag, but I was right. I gave my friend Holly a dozen full-size cupcakes for her birthday (office hero for the day), and I took a plate of two-bites to my sweet friend Annie who was down for the count with an intense case of pregnancy (yay for bayyybeees!). Both friends enjoyed their super sweet mind-blowingly rich treats. Mission accomplished! This recipe, my friends, is a keeper.

Dulce de Leche Cupcakes

3 cups flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup dulce de leche, plus more for decoration
1/4 tsp. salt
2-3 cups powdered sugar
Sea salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Medium bowl: whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Large bowl: beat butter and sugars together until fluffy and pale brown, about 3 minutes. Add one egg, and beat on medium for one minute. Repeat with remaining two eggs. Beat in vanilla.

Add half the flour mixture to the large bowl, and beat on low speed. Slowly drizzle in buttermilk, and beat just until incorporated. Add remaining dry ingredients. Beat on low just until incorporated. Finish folding together with spatula, being careful not to overmix.

Fill cupcake cups with batter, and bake 18-20 minutes.

For the icing:
Beat cream cheese in a large bowl on medium about 30 seconds until very soft. Add the butter and dulce de leche, beating until well incorporated. Add the salt and powdered sugar, and beat about 3 minutes or until fluffy with a lighter color.

Yield about 2 dozen cupcakes

I looked for dulce de leche at Whole Foods, but the closest I came to finding it was caramel that was reeaaallly expensive. The associate helping me suggested I use it as a substitution since it's basically the same thing. News flash: Not the same thing. Dulce de leche is made using sweetened milk. The sales associate didn't need to know I'd just typed "what's the difference in dulce de leche and caramel?" into Google before my field trip. But don't worry - I didn't get crazy know-it-all on her, just said I had caramel at home if I needed to use it instead. Pampered Chef Caramel, mind you! Anyway, I thought I read somewhere that you could make dulce de leche at home, so I grabbed a couple cans of sweetened condensed milk (one to use and one as a back-up) and went on my merry way. All this to say that what you see in this picture is homemade dulce de leche in action. One can (label removed) is submerged in water in the 3-Qt. Saucepan from the Executive Cookware Collection, and it's going to boil for hours. These cupcakes were a love gift.

Lots of stuff = lots of love = lots of good flavor in the end product. At least that's what you hope when baking from scratch... Seen here: 2-Cup Prep Bowl, Easy Read Measuring Cup, Double-Strength Vanilla, Pinch Bowl, Stainless Mixing Bowl, Measuring Cup, Measuring Spoons, Adjustable Measuring Spoon, Large Cutting Board. I can't stress enough that prep work makes for less hassle when you assemble the recipe. Can't. stress. enough.

So basically you end up making batter. I totally do the "add as directed" thing because I figure if it's worth making something, it's worth doing it correctly. This really affects the density of a batter, so don't shortcut and dump everything in the bowl at the same time. You only save about two seconds that way, anyway. Things are coming together in a Stainless Mixing Bowl, and my dry mixture is in another bowl from the set with a Stainless Whisk sticking out of it.

Cupcakes require the Large Scoop. That's just all there is to it! I've got my Stoneware Muffin Pan, which I can credit for the beautiful results, and the Large Scoop makes for even batter distribution... which means even baking results and pretty looks. Presentation is always better when things are uniform!

The two-bite cupcakes are on the Cookie Sheet where they'll bake up nice and pretty. Don't get me started on the Cookie Sheet because I'm head over heels and therefore don't know when to be quiet.

Remember how I was boiling sweetened condensed milk to make my own dulce de leche? I took it out of the water and let it cool while I prepped my batter. It turned out to be beautiful! I boiled this for three hours, rotating the can every 20-30 minutes to prevent scorched spots. The result was totally worth the effort because, well, it was the best dulce de leche I'd ever had. Seriously. Ok, so this in the Small Batter Bowl, and you can see where I opened the can with the Smooth-Edge Can Opener and scraped it out using the Skinny Scraper.

Time for icing! Dulce de leche is measured into the Measure-All Cup, and butter is in a Dots Pasta Bowl from the Simple Additions Collection. Cream cheese is in a Stainless Mixing Bowl where the magic is really going to happen. This icing is best enjoyed with a spoon and very little shame. Trust me.

Ok, so you can decorate as desired, but I think adding a little sea salt on top is a nice touch. It looks cool, and it gives you a nice salty crunch that compliments the rich cupcake perfectly. Note: I said a little sea salt. What you see in the Pinch Bowl wasn't all on the cupcakes at the end of the day.

These cupcakes are delicious. I promise you won't be disappointed if you make them, and I think you can even substitute caramel if you really have to. If you do that, call them caramel cupcakes because any other name would be a lie. Just Google it if you don't believe me.

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