Fluffy Vanilla Cupcakes w/ Salted Dulce de Leche-Cinnamon Buttercream

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If you use the term “dulce de leche” with a non-foodie, they’ll probably think you’re exceptionally fancy and cultured. Look at you, using foreign words! But in all reality, dulce de leche is just a pretty name for thick caramel-like sauce. If you like caramel at all, there’s a good chance you will love the socks off of dulce de leche, caramel’s richer, more viscous cousin.

Every time I take my periodical trips to Wegmans, I make it a point stock up on jars of dulce de leche. You can make this stuff at home too, but I’m lazy, and the dulce de leche I buy is top-quality and tastes like a caramely dream. I keep a few on hand because it’s so wonderful to bake with (or eat with a spoon like the glutton I am). And when I found myself looking for a new frosting recipe idea, I couldn’t have been happier to see this sweet edible gold awaiting me in the pantry.DSC_3710-2

When I someday release my very scientific study on how dulce de leche makes everything better, these Fluffy Vanilla Cupcakes with Salted Dulce de Leche-Cinnamon Buttercream will be an influential piece of evidence. This buttercream is some of the creamiest, smoothest stuff you will ever try. Even after being refrigerated, it stays soft and velvety. Thank the silky dulce de leche for that.

What I love is that, even with the rich dulce de leche, this frosting isn’t too sweet. The inclusion of salt balances the sweetness out, while cinnamon adds dimension and a touch of warmth. The flavors are just perfect, pairing beautifully with the simple but delicious vanilla cupcakes.

I’ve tried multiple vanilla cake recipes, and this one is my favorite to-date. It is the fluffiest I’ve ever encountered, reminiscent of angel food. Plus, they stay nice and moist, just melting in your mouth with that frosting. What really distinguishes the cupcakes is a kiss of almond extract, providing an extra little something that will make taste-testers ask, “What is that?”

Go and impressive you friends and family with your fancy-shmancy Salted Dulce de Leche-Cinnamon Buttercream, served in swirling peaks atop cloud-like vanilla cupcakes. They’ll never know how easy they actually were to make. That impressive frosting will only take you 5 minutes!DSC_3747-2

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Not over-baking is the key to a soft, moist cupcake. You’re usually better off pulling them from the oven just before you think they’re done. Most recipes say to take them out after a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, but the toothpick should actually have a few crumbs on it.
  2. You don’t have to pipe the frosting like I did in the picture. But if you’d like to, and you don’t have a piping bag, you can make one. Take a large ziplock bag and put the frosting in, pushing it down to one corner. Twist off the top and snip off the bottom corner that you pushed the frosting towards. Pipe away!
  3. You can leave the cinnamon out if you’d just like a straight-up dulce de leche frosting.
  4. Get your dulce de leche fix with my Dulce de Leche Filled Cupcakes too.
  5. I baked this same vanilla cake recipe as a whole cake too, and it came out just as fantastic. It’s a wonderful basic vanilla cake recipe to have on hand.
  6. Having the milk and eggs at room temperature may not sound imperative, but it is. It makes a big difference in the cake’s texture.

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Salted Dulce de Leche-Cinnamon Buttercream
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

For the Fluffy Vanilla Cupcakes
Cupcakes & cake directions adapted from Epicurious

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened but still cool

For the Salted Dulce de Leche-Cinnamon Buttercream
Frosting & frosting directions by The Smart Cookie Cook

  • 1 cups (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 16-oz. jar ducle de leche
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. coarse salt
  • 1 tbsp. milk or cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcakes tins with liners.
  2. Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into a medium bowl and mix with fork until blended.
  3. Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer at low speed. Add butter; continue beating at low speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.
  4. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer. It should be good and fluffy.
  5. Use an ice cream scoop to drop batter into the tins, filling them 2/3-full (just use a ladle if you don’t have an ice cream scoop). Bake 15-20 minutes or until puffed and set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs. They will not brown like you might expect; in fact, if they get too golden, you probably overcooked them. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
  6. Make the frosting: place butter, dulce de leche, and 2 cups of the sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat on LOW speed until incorporated then beat on medium speed until thoroughly blended (if you don’t start on a low speed, you’ll have powdered sugar everywhere). Add the rest of the sugar in 2 cups at a time, starting slow then increasing the speed until well-combined. Scrape down sides between each addition. Finally, add the milk, salt, and cinnamon and beat on medium speed until incorporated.
  7. Frost cooled cupcakes and enjoy. Store in an air-tight container.

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Red Velvet Whoopie Pies w/ Strawberry Buttercream Filling + How-to Video

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You’re never alone on Valentine’s Day if you have food. Who needs to go out to fancy shmancy restaurants and shell out a gazillion dollars on gifts when you can spend the day in your comfiest clothes, eating mounds of V-Day chocolates, and perhaps enjoying a special dinner of your favorite foods capped by sweet dessert? I’m sure it’s wonderful to have a sweetie to spend the day with, but I am totally alright having a love fest with my food.

In fact, I think it’s time that reveal that I’m in a relationship…with these Red Velvet Whoopie Pies filled with Strawberry Buttercream. They’re everything I look for in a dessert and more. With just one bite, I swooned. I tried to keep it together for the camera, but what you don’t see is me in between takes having an emotional affair with my whoopie pie.

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The Red Velvet Whoopie Pies truly live up to their name; they’re rich and vibrant in and color and so moist, fluffy, and velvety in texture. They’ll melt in your mouth without an ounce of resistance.

Speaking of melt-in-your-mouth, let’s talk creamy, smooth Strawberry Buttercream Filling. That stuff is a whole new world compared to the artificial icing in a can from the store. It’s made with fresh strawberries, so it’s bursting with bright, refreshing flavor that perfectly compliments the subtle hint of cocoa in the red velvet. Talk about a match made in heaven.

Great, so Red Velvet and Strawberry Buttercream have found their soulmates, and I’m the awkward third wheel.

That’s okay; I can’t be upset when these whoopies are so delicious. Plus they’re quick, easy, and customizable: you can choose to make a couple big fat ones for the serious sweet tooth, or cut out little mini heart shaped ones for bite-sized heaven.

I know; you’re in love aren’t you?

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. There a few keys to achieving a perfectly thick, moist, and fluffy whoopie pie: First, don’t over-bake. I’ve found more success pulling things just before I actually think they’re done. Second, mix the batter as little as possible. Over-mixing causes cakes to fall flat or be dry.
  2. A little fact: Some people think red velvet is just chocolate cake batter with red food dye. That ain’t red velvet! Red velvet has a little bit of cocoa powder, but it is NOT a chocolate cake. It’s a fluffy, velvety cake with a unique flavor and mild hints of cocoa.
  3. You can make these bigger or smaller; totally up to you. You could also probably pipe the batter onto the baking sheets in heart shapes. I cut out the the mini ones from finished big whoopie pies with a small heart cookie cutter.
  4. Parchment paper is a MUST when making whoopie pies. Otherwise, they’ll stick to the pan. Cooking spray is not a good bet either because it often makes the bottoms brown too much.
  5. They sell 1-oz. bottles of red food dye in the baking aisle of your grocery store.

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Red Velvet Whoopie Pies with Strawberry Buttercream

Yield: 12 large whoopie pies or 24 mini

Ingredients:

For the Pies
Adapted from Whoopie Pies: Dozens of Mix’ em, Match’em, Eat’em Up Recipes

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tbsp. natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 tbsp. vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp. whole milk
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 oz. red food dye

For the Strawberry Buttercream
By The Smart Cookie Cook

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
  • 6 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp. fresh strawberry puree, from about 3/4 cup fresh whole strawberries*
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. almond extract
  • pink or red food dye, optional

*To puree strawberries, slice off the very top with the leaves and puree in food processor until completely smooth.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt together.  Sift onto a large piece of wax paper.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter, shortening and both sugars on medium speed until light and creamy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs and buttermilk and beat on low speed until combined. Batter will be curdled.
  4. Combine the milk, baking soda, and vinegar in a small measuring bowl.  With the mixer on low, add the milk mixture to the batter along with the flour mixture.  Beat just until everything is combined.  Add the vanilla and food dye and beat on low speed just until completely combined.
  5. Using a small cookie or ice cream scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 1/2 inches of space between cookies. I made larger ones.  Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 10 minutes (start to check at 7 minutes), or until they are puffed and set.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Make the filling: In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the powdered sugar into the butter, 1 cup at a time, until thoroughly combined. Start at low speed and then increase the speed so you don’t have a powdered sugar explosion. Beat in the strawberry puree, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Also add a few drops of food coloring if you’d like it brighter in color.
  7. Spread a generous amount of frosting onto the flat bottom of a cooled cookie. Top with another cookie, flat side down, to make a sandwich. Repeat with remaining cookies. Store in airtight container.

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Soft Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Sugar Frosting

Look familiar? I posted these Soft Pumpkin Cookies last year around this time. Their reincarnation today is due to how absolutely amazing they are. I didn’t have near as many followers when I first posted them, plus my photography skills were even worse than they are now. I figured it was necessary to give them a rebirth, a new chance for you all to experience one of my all-time favorite recipes.

You guys know that I live for the Fall food season, especially pumpkin. Out of my plethora of pumpkin recipes, I think this is the one I love most. It’s also my favorite cookie recipe. When fall rolls in on its chilly breeze, I most look forward to getting to make these Soft Pumpkin Cookies again. They taste like fall, if you could take all the colorful leaves shed by trees, the smell of sweet spices wafting from a warm oven, and the luminosity of a crackling fire and bake it into one treat. This is my fall.

There are many reasons to love these cookies. For one, they are down right delectable. They’ve got just the right amount of sweetness & pumpkin flavor, which is complimented by the warm fall spices spotted throughout. Secondly, GOOD LORD, these are so soft and moist! They’re almost verging on cake, but they still stay in that substantial cookie territory, much like a whoopie pie. They melt away in your mouth effortlessly.

As my co-worker said, “They make me wanna take small bites…You just want to savor it.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. I brought these cookies to school when I was still just a senior in high school, and no one could get enough. I brought them to the Clinton Farmer’s Market, and they disappeared in no time, leaving euphoric expressions on the faces of those who ate them. And just recently, I brought them to work. It was yet another hit.

And now, I’m sharing them with you so you can fall in love too. It just doesn’t get any better than these Soft Pumpkin Cookies…except maybe when you top them with a lusciously creamy and sweet Brown Sugar Frosting. Now that is the icing on the cake…or cookie in this case!

Best part? They’re plain old easy and simple. No complications here; just a basic recipe with amazing results. Oh sweet simplicity, you make my fall delicious.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, you don’t have to frost these guys. They’re great on their own.
  2. You have a lot of options for toppings. This Brown Sugar Frosting is my favorite, very complimentary of the cookies. But I also love a simple Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream, or if you’re looking to spice things up, try this Butterscotch Buttercream. You can even make a Brown Sugar Glaze by using just the brown sugar, 3 tbsp. of butter, the milk, and 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar. It sets up great!
  3. Don’t overbake. You don’t want these browned, just set.
  4. Want to really shake things up? Stuff these cookies with Candy Corn Golden Oreos! Get the recipe here.
  5. These cookies freeze great in an airtight container.
  6. You have to chill the dough, or these will be flat as a pancake.

Soft Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Sugar Frosting

Yield: about 30 cookies

Ingredients:

For the cookies
Cookies adapted from Food.com

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Brown Sugar Frosting
Frosting by The Smart Cookie Cook

  •  1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 5 – 6 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream butter and the sugars together until light and fluffy.
  3. Blend in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla extract. Mix in the flour mixture on low-speed a little bit at a time. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before continuing.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop tablespoonfuls 3 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until puffed and set.
  5. Let cool on trays for 2 minutes then transfer to wire racks. Let cool completely.
  6. Meanwhile, make the frosting. In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tbsp. of the butter, the brown sugar, and the milk. Whisk frequently and break up the sugar. Bring to a boil and let cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat immediately and whisk in vanilla and salt. Let cool to room temperature.
  7. Put the remaining butter in a large mixing bowl and cream on medium speed for 1 minute. Pour in the brown sugar mixture and 1 cup of powdered sugar. Beat on medium speed with a hand mixer until well-mixed. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and beat in the rest of the sugar, 1 cup at a time. If you want the icing thicker, add the full 6 cups.
  8. Frost the cooled cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Turtle Cake + How-to Video

One thing I love about food is its unparallelled ability to make me smile. Keep your alcohol and keep your drugs; I just want a towering slice of cake. Say the word “deep-fried,” and watch me turn into a gleeful five year-old. Offer me some french fries, and see me jump for joy. Give me chocolate, and I’ll be your best friend.

There’s no quicker path to happiness than food. Sure, drugs and alcohol might give you a sense of bliss, but that stuff is going to take some time to set in. Food, on the other hand, will slap a smile on your face in a millisecond.

Case and point: this Turtle Cake. His smile is infectious (and edible). Just about everyone loves turtles, and just about everyone loves cake, which makes this turtle treat a double threat. One of those things is bound to appeal to you. And if you happen to not like turtles and/or cake, then I don’t think you have a soul, and we probably shouldn’t be friends.

Cake shaped like a turtle is enough to make anyone grin, but I’ll give you one more reason: you can make this. Yes, you can. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pastry chef or a boxed mix baker; this impressive and adorable cake is easy and on your level. All you need to do is bake the body in an oven-proof bowl, bake the feet & head in cupcake tins, frost, and decorate! There’s no complicated carving or fancy techniques necessary. And if you’re frightened by fondant, never fear. Just use store-bought and roll it out; it’s that easy! But if you’re still shaking in your pants, check out my alternative options in the tips below.

If all else fails and this little turtle isn’t enough to make you smile, then perhaps you’ll get a kick out of my epic fail at the end of my video. Check it out!

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Make sure you catch the video above! The visual makes it much easier to understand how to put this cake together.
  2. You can use a boxed cake mix if you promise to make homemade frosting. Store-bought is disgusting in comparison.
  3. Butter & flour the heck out of your pans to be sure your cake comes out clean.
  4. Don’t try to take your cakes out of the pans before they’re entirely cool or they’ll break into a million pieces. Trust me; I learned the hard way…
  5. Work with the fondant quickly so it doesn’t dry out.
  6. Afraid of fondant? As I mentioned above, you have a couple of alternatives:
    • You can use blue sprinkles on the shell portion to contrast the green.
    • You can frost the feet & head green, then frost the shell with chocolate frosting.
    • You can use food gel to draw on the shell tiles.

Turtle Cake
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch of your favorite cake batter, boxed mix or homemade (I used my Funfetti recipe)
  • 1 batch Vanilla Buttercream, recipe follows
  • Green food dye
  • Red food gel
  • 2 candy eyes OR white + black food gel OR 2 M&M’s (for the eyes)
  • Brown fondant, or alternative (see tips above)

Special equipment: toothpicks, 1 1.5-quart oven-proof bowl like Pyrex, cupcake tin, pizza cutter

Directions:

  1. Butter & flour the 1.5-quart bowl and 5 cupcake tins (or use liners for the cupcake tins). Prepare cake batter according to recipe directions. Fill bowl 2/3 then distribute remaining batter between the 5 cupcake tins, adding a bit more batter to one tin (this will be the head). Bake the bowl for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (the top may overbrown before the center cooks. Don’t worry; you can carve this off). Bake the cupcakes for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool pans on wire racks. Once the cakes are completely cooled, run a knife around the edges of the pans and flip the cakes out. If either the cake or cupcakes have round, domed tops, carve them off so they have a flat surface to sit on.
  2. While the cakes cool, make the frosting:
    Vanilla Buttercream
    Ingredients:

    • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
    • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
    • 1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream

    In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, cream the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar, a little at a time, mixing on low speed. Mix until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another minute. Add vanilla, almond extract, cream, and several drops of green food dye and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more. Add more cream or powdered sugar if necessary to reach desired consistency, and add more green if you would like a more vibrant color.

  3. Place the shell cake on whatever surface you plan to serve it on. Frost the round shell cake, smoothing out the frosting evenly.
  4. Roll out the fondant as thin as possible. Use the pizza cutter to cut out large rectangles, then round the corners. Place the rectangles around the shell, making sure they adhere to the frosting.
  5. Use two toothpicks to attach the head cupcake to the front of the body. Then use two toothpicks per cupcake to attach the feet. Place them evenly around the radius of the shell cake. Frost the head and feet as cleanly as possible, using a small knife like a butter knife. If you like, use a slightly damp paper towel to clean up where you got frosting on the fondant.
  6. Use remaining fondant to cut out toes for the feet. Use a knife or the pizza cutter to cut. They should be shaped like ovals with flat bottoms.
  7. Attach two candy eyes to the front of the head cupcake, or use the white and black food gel to draw eyes on. Use the red food gel to draw on a mouth.
  8. Serve or store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.


Dulce de Leche-Filled Cupcakes w/ 2 Kinds of Frosting + How to Fill a Cupcake Video

Plain cupcakes are sweet and innocent, but filled cupcakes are down-right sinful.

They’re decadent, indulgent, and just a bit naughty. But it’s the kind of naughty you like to have a taste of every now and then. No matter who you are, doing something bad feels good sometimes. These cupcakes will give you that rebellious thrill, followed up by a pleasureful sugar rush.

Even the sweetest cupcakes have a taste of sin.

Allow me to introduce you to these naughty yet nice Dulce de Leche-Filled Cupcakes. They look innocent enough, but when you bite in, you’ll find they’re hiding a delicious little secret: smooth, creamy dulce de leche tucked away inside like liquid gold waiting to be uncovered. Everyone loves surprises, and a filled cupcake is no exception. There’s nothing quite as elating as tearing into a cupcake to find it’s filled with a sweet surprise.

It’s like Christmas morning!

My favorite moist and tender chocolate cake recipe is the perfect cradle for the velvety dulce de leche. I’ve tried many chocolate cake recipes in my years, and this is by far the best I’ve had. I’ve never seen such a perfect texture, or such a beautiful crumb. And the flavor is so delicious, intensely chocolatey with just the right amount of sweetness. You will not find anything better.

We’ve got to make these cupcakes one step more sinful, and the best way to do that is with a fluffy mountain of frosting. I’ve got not one, but two options for you today, both of which are incredible. The first is my favorite Fudge Frosting: rich, decadent, and oh-so fudgy. If you’re a chocolate lover, this is the stuff for you. Secondly, I have a fluffy Dulce de Leche Frosting which compliments the filling. It’s sweet and creamy, so divine I could eat it with a spoon (and I did).

Both frostings are pure, unadulterated bliss. Choose whichever you like, or make both. The crowd favorite at the office was the dulce de leche, but I found both to be delectable paired with the cupcakes.

My boss declared these “the best cupcakes ever.” If that doesn’t entice you to try them, I don’t know what will. Don’t fear the filling. Doing so is super easy. Just check out my quick how-to video if you don’t believe me. You’ve got no excuse not to partake in these indulgent little devils. Go ahead, be bad for a little.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Check out my video to see how easy it is to stuff a cupcake.
  2. Think of all the filling possibilities: chocolate mousse, whipped cream, peanut butter, raspberry jam, the list goes on and on!
  3. To make the frosting pretty, pipe it on using a ziplock bag. You can check out my French Toast Cupcakes video to see how to make a ziplock piping bag.
  4. The cupcakes are less messy to carve after refrigeration.
  5. I cut the original recipe in half and got about 2 dozen cupcakes. Feel free to double it if you need a lot.

Dulce de Leche-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients:
Chocolate cake recipe adapted from The Pastry Queen

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 cups water
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup regular cocoa powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. + 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 16-oz. jar of dulce de leche (or make your own)
  • 1 batch Dulce de Leche Frosting, recipe follows
    OR
  • 1 batch Fudge Frosting, recipe follows

Directions:

  1. Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fill two cupcake tins with cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the butter, water, and oil until butter is melted. Remove from heat and set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together the sugar, cocoa powders, and flour. Whisk in the butter mixture until completely smooth. Then whisk in the eggs one at a time, followed by the buttermilk. Finally, whisk in the baking soda, salt, and vanilla.
  3. Fill the cupcake tins 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a bit of crumb. Let cupcakes cool in tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Meanwhile, make your frosting of choice (see recipes below).
  5. To fill the cupcakes: Angle a thin serrated knife and carve a cone-shaped piece from the center of each completely cooled cupcake, making sure not to cut through to the bottom and leaving a 1/2-inch radius around the sides. Your cut-out should be circular at the top and narrow at the bottom like a cone. As long as you tilt the knife while carving the circle of out the top, you’ll get your cone. You can dig out more with a spoon if you need, but do not scrape away the bottom or edges.
  6. Fill the hole with a spoonful of ducle de leche. Cut off the narrow tip of the cone and place it back on top of the hole. Frost each cupcake once filled. You may do so with a knife or pastry bag. To make a ziplock pastry bag: Fill bag with frosting & work the frosting to the bottom of one corner. Twist off the top like you’re cutting off its circulation and cut off the corner of the bag, making the hole bigger or smaller based on how thick you want the piping to be. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes. Store in air-tight containers. If it is warm, store in the fridge and let come to room temperature before eating.

Fudge Frosting
Adapted from Epicurious

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup half and half or cream
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Combine butter, 3/4 cup sugar,  and the half and half in a large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture simmers. Remove from heat. Add both chocolates; whisk until smooth. Whisk in vanilla. Pour chocolate mixture into large bowl. Sift in powdered sugar; whisk to blend. Press plastic onto surface of frosting. Chill just until firm enough to spread, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours. Don’t over chill, or you won’t be able to spread it!

Dulce de Leche Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Food Network

  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup dulce de leche (you should have enough left from the 16-oz. jar to fill the cupcakes)

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, cream butter until fluffy. Add the sugar a little at a time, mixing on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla, dulce de leche, and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream or powdered sugar if necessary to reach desired consistency.