Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Chocolate + Dulce de Leche = Classic

Ingredients for Chocolate Cupcakes
A few days ago, I happened upon some old college photos on my hard drive. With a return to school on the horizon, it was sweet to revisit the high points of those rarely predictable days. One memory that made me smile right away had to do with my first roommate, Maureen.

Although she and I seemed pretty different at first, we hit it off quickly. And before long we were brewing up genius ideas like "ghetto surround sound." This involved carefully (you wouldn't believe the skill) timing our computers to playing a song at the same instant. Let me just tell ya, it worked like a charm =p. Throw in some light-switch raving, and we had ourselves an instant party at any time of day (or more often night)!

Not all the pictures elicited fond memories though. Even after just a few years, plenty of looks (which of course I thought cool or even sexy at the time) now had me cringing. One from a party early freshman year was a particular eyesore. Picture this: red mesh shirt over a black corset, flared black skirt, rubber flip-flops, and almost an inch of blue eyeshadow. What was I smoking? Happily, I've since learned that less is more...and that mesh is only appropriate on Halloween.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche
I applied a similar lesson in restraint to making these chocolate dulce de leche cupcakes for my friend Mimi's birthday party. A rich chocolate buttercream was just waiting to be piped, but at the last moment I saw with clarity that the dulce de leche topping, despite its humble appearance, was just what these cupcakes needed and not a thing more.

I'm sure you've all had similar experiences. Please do share them with moi. What have you cooked or baked that turned out just right when you chose to deviate from your original plan or recipe?

Chocolate Dulce de Leche Cupcakes
[Printable Recipe]
Cake adapted from Hershey's
Makes 12 to 14 cupcakes

1 cup minus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
6 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 tsp instant coffee powder dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water (or 1/2 cup black coffee)
1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar plus milk to equal 1/2 cup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 - 1 1/2 cups dulce de leche (I make mine in the pressure cooker)
milk or cream, if needed to thin out dulce de leche

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease top of a standard muffin pan, then line with paper liners.

In large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the egg, milk, coffee (or reconstituted coffee mixture), oil, and vanilla extract. Beat by hand or with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined.

Pour the batter, which will be thin, to fill the paper liners about 2/3 full. Tap the pan firmly against the counter 2 times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or just until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack and let them cool completely there before frosting.

While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the dulce de leche topping by stirring to ensure smoothness and adding milk or cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed to thin the dulce de leche to the desired spreading consistency.

Once cupcakes are completely cool, spread the topping on with a spoon or knife, ending by smoothing the stop in a spiral pattern if you like the look.


  1. Your roommate sounds like loads of fun! My college roommate and I used to come up with all sorts of crazy things to do as throw textbooks out of windows. Sigh. Good times.

    I like your segue into this recipe...these cupcakes look amazing! I've been in Xiaolu cupcake withdrawal.

  2. I love the dulce de leche center, looks divine!

  3. This is how I make cupcakes too! And I love making dulce de leche in the pressure cooker!

  4. i guess this is my first time here -- amazing photos for this post. the cupcakes sound like heaven.

  5. Joanne - Throwing textbooks sounds like great fun, as long as you don't hit anyone below 8p. My stories are nowhere as entertaining as yours, but I'm glad you enjoy my randomness hehe.

    Chocolate Shavings - Thanks! I'm convinced dulce de leche improves everything.

    Alice - Great minds hehe. I've made it in the pressure cooker before, but your post reminded me how easy it was.

    Justin - welcome and I'm so glad you came by!

  6. Just on word : Huuuuuuummmmm!!!

  7. Beautiful clicks!I love everything prepared with dulce de leche.

  8. These look heavenly! I wonder how a little chile would be in the cupcake part? I'm on it! Thanks for visiting my blog!

  9. Ghetto surround sound- LOVE IT. That's hilarious! The cupcakes look ohh-so good!

  10. "Ghetto surround sound" made me giggle. These cupcakes are fantastic. You are so right. Chocolate and caramel. So classic.

  11. Oh my goodness!! I am seriously drooling here - your photography is so amazing and the cupcakes look to die for!

  12. Oooh I love that opening photo! It makes me want to reach in and start cooking it! :D Great idea and lol at ghetto surround sound :P

  13. Thanks all for the kind words! I've been trying to learn more about food composition and photography and really welcome input about what works & doesn't work :).

  14. quelle merveille, un pur délice!!!
    bonne journée

  15. Awww your roomie sounds like a blast!!! These cupcakes are amazing!!! loving the combo!

  16. These look wonderful - and how fun is it to reminisce on school days - just pure silliness.

  17. What a fun idea to have the ghetto surround sound! You guys sound like you had loads of fun while studying! Also, your chocolate and dulce de leche cupcakes sound amazing.

    Unfortunately, for me, more often than not, when I deviate from my original recipe it usually fails! hehe...

  18. Ghetto surround sound...hahahaha, how long do you usually cook in the pressure cooker? I've never used one before but I'm thinking about getting one....

  19. Fimère, Jennifer, Chanel11 - Thanks! We had a lot of fun that year and later :)

    Trissa - Mine changes don't always work out. Especially when it comes to something requiring a delicate technique, I've learned to trust the masters 8).

    Jessica - I usually cook it for 20-35 minutes (shorter for lighter and thinner and longer for the opposite) AFTER the cooker comes up to pressure. If you try this, please click on the link in the ingredient list above for detailed directions and the safe procedure. That post also gives instructions for cooking in a normal pot :).

  20. What gorgeous cupcakes! They must taste divine!



  21. I just came across your blog and its wonderful! I am now a follower!
    Your blog is incredible, I adore dulce de leche and your photos are so cute! So happy i found your blog!
    I have my own blog too and would love to know what you think!

  22. Thanks so much Christiana! I'm so glad you're enjoying my site and yours is lovely as well!

  23. Yum.. these little cupcakes look delicious!

  24. I came across this on Justbesplendid (Tumblr) and I just wanted to let you know that these photos are gorgeous! I love the frayed fabric under the cakes.

  25. mycookinghut - thank you much!

    whisk-kid - oOo thx for letting me know. you never know where these things end up.


I love hearing from you all! Please leave me a message if you have questions, advice, or just to let me know you stopped by. Your feedback is always very much appreciated. Thanks! <3 Xiaolu