Churro cupcakes, you guys. Churro cupcakes. That’s all I could think about as Cinco de Mayo approached. Let’s be honest – a tiny part of me wanted to celebrate the holiday just so I could make these cupcakes and have a reason to share them.
I don’t mean to brag, but these cupcakes are good. I mean damn good. If you have even the slightest handle on baking, you can make these. The dulce de leche sauce is a tad time-consuming, but the process turned out to be surprisingly simple…
When you google how to make dulce de leche from scratch, you’ll find a variety of different techniques – most involving boiling an unopened can of condensed milk. Though this seems pretty straightforward, visions of exploding hot condensed milk cans danced through my mind. I’m fairly accident-prone, and if anyone were to accidentally burn their skin off with a failed dulce de leche experiment, it would be me.
So I continued my search until I found a more labor-intensive, but “classic” recipe, borrowed from the lovely Bakingdom. Instead of condensed milk, this recipe uses whole milk and sugar… and works a little magic with a surprising ingredient – baking soda.
Dulce de Leche Sauce
yields about 1 cup
4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Bring milk, sugar and salt to a soft boil over medium heat. Add in the baking soda and watch as the mixture puffs up and expands! Let the mixture cook for about 30 seconds and then turn the heat down to low. Skim the foam off the top with a slotted spoon and let the whole thing simmer for 2 – 2 1/2 hours, stirring frequently.
Once the milk has turned into a dulce de leche sauce, it should be a deep caramel color. Don’t over cook it or you’ll end up with chewy caramel instead. Once you’re satisfied with the dulce de leche, take it off the heat and stir in vanilla. Let it cool for a few minutes before you pour it into a mason jar, for storage. In theory, this will keep for up to a month in your fridge – if you have the willpower.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp cinnamon, plus more for dusting
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar, plus more for dusting
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk
This recipe from Martha Stewart Living never steers me wrong. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin tins with cupcake liners. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.
Cream butter and sugar together with a hand mixer on high until pale and fluffy. (Am I the only gross one who loves to taste this part? Just sugar and butter? Moving on…) Add eggs in one at a time, beating until each is mixed in. Mix in vanilla.
Reduce mixer to low and add in flour and milk, alternating between each one until you have a thick, creamy batter. Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 full.
Bake for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. Wait for cupcakes to cool completely before moving them, or the cupcake liners will look a little wonky.
Combine equal parts sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and dip your cupcakes so they’re covered evenly. Carve out a small hole in the center of each cupcake. if you have a cupcake corer, good on you. I used the back of a spoon.
Fill the holes with dulce de leche and set aside. I noticed that the sauce seeped into the cupcakes a little bit – not that that’s a bad thing!
I used my go-to Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting recipe and frosted each cupcake individually. I had hoped to use a pastry bag to decorate these, but there were a few snags. First off, using pastry bags requires a TON of frosting. I started out trying to pipe adorable dollops of frosting onto the cupcakes but in my rush to complete everything, I quickly gave up on that pipe (ha) dream.
I also generally prefer cooking to baking because I’m a bit of a mess in the kitchen. When you’re cooking, it’s ok to throw a dash of this and that in to get exactly what you want, but baking leaves very little room for error. Instead of bakery quality decorations, I used a small spoon to swirl frosting on. Even if they weren’t as gorgeous as I’d hoped, they made up for presentation in addicting, delicious taste. (After all, isn’t that really what it’s all about?)
Look at that dulce de leche nestled in there! The sauce, even salted, was pretty sweet – but with fluffy cinnamon cupcakes and cream cheese frosting it all came together in a churro-inspired, decadent delight. These cupcakes are so rich, one is enough to tide you over for quite a while. For a sweet addict, that’s quite a feat.
These make excellent party treats. Seriously, everyone will love you for them. They were so popular that after I made a second batch to photograph, I had friends coming out of the woodworks asking for a taste. Make them ahead and save yourself a world of stress – these will last for about a week in the fridge.