How to: Delectable dulce de leche cupcakes

I was introduced to the wonder of dulce de leche…. when was it? A few years ago, while travelling in South America. The specifics of time and location pale in comparison to my memory of my first experience of this sweet, creamy, melting caramel. Man, it’s delicious.

For the past year, I’ve been baking whenever someone on my training course celebrates their birthday. One of the ladies is a Columbiana, and so the question of what to make became blindingly obvious. Unfortunately, the recipe I based these on wildly underestimated the amount of icing sugar required to get piping consistency, so the presentation isn’t quite there. Fortunately, I have a second batch biding its time in my freezer, so hopefully I’ll have some more beautiful pictures to post in a few weeks.

You will need:

Cupcakes:

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1/4 cup cornflour
  • 1 1/2 tsps baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsps baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup dulce de leche, plus more for drizzling (if making dulce de leche, you will need a tin of condensed -NOT evaporated- milk)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 6 cups icing sugar
  • A little rock salt, for sprinkling

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180deg C
  2. Line 2 12-hole muffin pans with paper liners
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy and pale brown (about 3 minutes).
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for one minute between each addition.
  6. Beat in vanilla extract.
  7. Add half of the flour mixture to the egg and butter mixture.
  8. Slowly add the buttermilk. Beat until just incorporated.
  9. Add the rest of the dry ingredients. Beat until just incorporated.  Try not to over mix. The mixture will be very thick.
  10. Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake pans, filling each liner about two thirds full.
  11. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center of one of the cakes comes out clean.
  12. Let rest in the cupcake pans before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Cupcakes must be completely cooled before frosting.

If you want to make your own dulce de leche, the easiest way is to boil unopened tins of condensed milk. Apparently there is a risk of the tins exploding, so you must ensure that they are completely submerged throughout. I boiled two tins for about three hours and ended up with this

Half an hour less would have been fine, but this was still more than usable and delicious. In some supermarkets, you can buy pre-boiled tins, which I would recommend. Saves time, gas and stress.

For the frosting:

  1. Beat cream cheese with a hand mixer for about 30 seconds, until very soft and pliable
  2. Add the butter and dulce de leche.  Beat until well incorporated.
  3. Add the salt and icing sugar. Beat for about 3 minutes, until fluffy and lighter in color. I would start with 3 cups and keep adding half a cup at a time until frosting is piping consistency.
  4. Generously spoon frosting on top of cupcakes, or use a large frosting tip to pipe on frosting. I think it would be a good idea to marble some dulce de leche into the piping bag with the frosting like so. Mine didn’t quite work as I ran out of icing sugar before my frosting was ready.
  5. Alternarively, heat a few spoonfuls of dulce de leche of a low flame until just pourable. Drizzled over the cupcakes.
  6. Add a few sprinkles of fine sea salt

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How to: Popcorn and white chocolate cupcakes

More cupcakes today! I’m dreading going back to work and not being able to spend hours decorating foodstuffs. Popcorn and white chocolate is my favourite Shakeaway and a winning combination if you have a sweet tooth. And I just can’t resist cakes that look like other things. I bought the stripy baking cups on eBay. This recipe makes 12 normal-sized cupcakes.

Image

Ingredients…

…for the cupcakes

  • 125g butter, chopped
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 self-raising flour
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

…for the decoration

  • 1 large bag toffee popcorn
  • 200g white chocolate
  • 1/2 cup double cream

Method

  1. If you want a little more popcorn flavour to the cupcakes, infuse your milk with a handful of popcorn overnight. Then either blend or strain it before adding to the cake mix.
  2. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. If you are using the striped baking cups, you can bake straight into them. But they’ll look a bit better if you put them into the cups afterwards.
  3. Add the chocolate, butter, milk and sugar to a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the chocolate melts and the mixture becomes smooth.Image
  4. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and leave to cool for a couple of minutes.
  5. Stir or whisk in the egg and vanilla until combined.
  6. Sift the flour into the mixture, then stir until just combined.Image
  7. Divide among the liners and bake for 20-30 minutes, until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean.Image
  8. Once the cakes are cool, make the ganache. Heat the cream and chocolate over a bain marie (or a saucepan will do in a pinch) and stir until smooth. I added a couple of tablespoons of dulce de leche as well.Image
  9. Spread over the cakes.
  10. Image
  11. Either carefully place or pile on the popcorn topping. If you want a taller pile, glue the pieces down with some ganache to stop them going everywhere.Image

How to: Snow cone cupcakes

I’ve been itching to bake these for a while as well, ever since I got the idea for the decoration from the wonderful Bakerella. Here is how they turned out.

I think they look adorable! As a scientist, I also require objective data about the taste. But this time, subjective data had to do and they taste pretty great as well. Somehow, the incredibly sweet icing cuts down on the sweetness of the cupcakes. No, I don’t understand how it works either.

My cakes underneath were even striped to match the icing.

While I think this looked awesome and I will show you how, I think the decoration alone looks great and I might just have a plain cake underneath next time.

As a note, even though I am English, I mostly bake using American cup measures.

If you have the time on your hands to make this, you will need:

Cupcakes

  • 1 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (or use salted and half the amount of additional salt) at room temperature
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs (medium will do in a pinch) at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup full-fat milk (though I used Kallo coconut milk substitute. I don’t like milk)
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract (or half a vanilla pod if you are rich or, like me, know someone from Madagascar)
  • food colouring. Gel is better, but I use liquid for some colours if that’s all I have.
  • Baking cups. I bought mine on eBay
  • Disposable piping bags

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons milk
  • food coloring
  • sugar crystals. Again, eBay
  • small plastic spoons. I liberated mine from an ice cream kiosk

There’s method in my madness

I’ll start off with the sugar crystals as they’re a bit more unusual. Apparently, they’re more of a big decorating thing in the states but I imagine you could get them in a proper baking shop here. Since I didn’t want to buy three colours, I just bought clear ones and then coloured them like so. 

Here are the plain crystals. Pretty and sparkly. Just as a note, I bought 50g, which was not enough to cover 10 cupcakes, and just about managed 8.

The colouring is very easy, just add a very small amount of either liquid or gel colouring and mix. Go slowly, you can always add more later, but you don’t want oversaturated crystals that clump together and taste of colouring.

And then…

I got a bit paranoid that mine were too damp and dried them out in a ceramic bowl in a low oven, but I think this step was unnecessary.

Once I stopped playing with sugar, it was time to start baking properly.

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
  2. Line up your cups on a baking sheet so that the lips touch. This will help when you are filling them later.
  3. Using a mixer or hand blender, cream the butter in a large bowl until smooth.
  4. Add the sugar in three parts and beat until pale and fluffy (5mins). Start on medium and move up to high speed. This was what I decided ‘pale and fluffy’ meant.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until fully incorporated.
  6. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Sift again.
  7. In another jug, combine mils and vanilla. (I know, a lot of washing up. I cheated and just added the vanilla to my cup measure once I had put some of the liquid into the batter.)
  8. Add the dries to the batter in four parts, alternating with the milk mixture. Beat well after each addition and begin and end with the dries.
  9. Divide your batter into three (or more, if feeling ambitious!) and colour as desired. The blue looks a bit off in this picture, but baked nicely. Now for the tricky bit!
  10. Stand three piping bags up in glasses. Then carefully pour in your batter.
  11. Twist the bags shut and then put the glasses in the order that you want your cakey stripes. I found it helpful to use a large clip to hold the bags both closed and together. Either way, make sure you clamp those tops so the batter doesn’t go everywhere! Also, tape the three bags together near the bottom like so.

Now for the tricky bit. Get yourself next to your tray with the cups on it. Then, snip the ends off all three piping bags. Be conservative and only cut a little bit off. Otherwise, as happened to me, the batter will flow so quickly that it is hard to fill the cups evenly. Fill each cup using a back-and-forth motion and then hop quickly to the next cup up. This should give you nice, even stripes like this

Unfortunately they didn’t all end up looking like this…

Clean up around the edges carefully as these will show once decorated.

Bake cupcakes for 14-16mins, until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean.

You can see that my edges are not perfect. Do as I say, not as I do!

Now, for the frosting.

  • Beat butter and vanilla.
  • Add sugar slowly and beat until combined.
  • Scrape down the sides and add milk a teaspoon at a time. Mix until smooth and creamy.
  • Divide the frosting into three bowls and as a little food colouring so that when you cover it in sugar crystals, there isn’t any white showing through.

This recipe makes enough to frost twelve cupcakes easily.

Now to decorate! I used a mini spatula that I got in some kind of decorating pack.

Start with your middle colour and get a nice, thick, even stripe. These look great with a high dome of frosting but I left mine a bit flat.

Next, roll in your crystals in the matching colour until completely covered.

Choose either of your other colours next. Make sure the frosting lies flush with the middle stripe.

Then dip in crystals again, tilting so the colour stay separate.

Repeat with your final colour and voila!

The little scoops just add the perfect finishing touch.