Sometimes, I walk into a place and think, “I could just move in here”. I felt exactly that way at Serena & Lily last week. I had the opportunity to attend their Design Shop that I mentioned last week and it was a blast! Naturally, I couldn’t resist picking up a few treats to bring home. In partnership with Serena & Lily, I am going to share with you a recipe for some of the most amazing cupcakes I’ve ever had (*pats self on back*) and show you how I’m using my fabulous new finds.
The Design Shop event itself was an absolute blast. I had a chance to mix and mingle with other bloggers, nosh on delicious bites, sip champagne, and ogle to beautiful Serena & Lily space. The event was organized by the amazing ladies of Collectively, and it was great to finally meet them in person. Hats off (is there an emoji for that?) to you gals!
I’m absolutely in love with my new cake stand and table runner that you see in these photos. My plan was to create a completely fresh new tablescape for our dining table. Unfortunately, due to some miscommunication with the store that we were going to purchase our table from, we are now table-less. Remind me to tell you that story sometime. Until then, our coffee table will have to double (triple?) as a home office, blog station, and now dining table.
In other news, my SEO plugin is so mad at me right now for using the longest blog post name ever. I couldn’t bring myself to leave out any part of these glorious little cupcakes – chocolate cupcakes with caramelized white chocolate buttercream and homemade dulce de leche it is!
I’m new to the caramelized white chocolate game, but thanks to one of my favorite blogs, Love & Olive Oil, I have seen the light. It is a long process to make but completely worth the extra effort. This buttercream is off.the.chain and a recipe I will go back to over and over again. Combined with a dab of dulce de leche in the center – mind blown. The dulce de leche is also a time suck, but once again completely worth the extra effort. This version is made on the stove and starts with milk instead of the usual sweetened condensed milk. The result is a richer flavor that is complex and gooey and meant to be spread on anything and everything. I encourage you to double the batch and set aside some for use on crepes, toast, fruit or just to enjoy by the spoonful. It keeps well in the fridge for up to a month.
Both the caramelized white chocolate and the dulce de leche require about the same amount of attention (every 10-15 minute stirs for 1-2 hours), so you can do them at the same time to cut down on the amount of time this recipe takes. I pulled up a chair to the kitchen counter, set my timer, and got some work done on the computer during the intervals. It’s also not super labor-intensive, just time-intense, so don’t be scurred!
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Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramelized White Chocolate Buttercream & Homemade Dulce de Leche
Caramelized White Chocolate Buttercream Adapted from Love & Olive Oil
- Yield: 32 1x
For the homemade dulce de leche:
- 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1-quart whole milk
- 1 cup sugar*
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 2 teaspoons water
For the caramelized white chocolate buttercream:
- 8 ounces high-quality white chocolate, finely chopped**
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
- 2 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted, plus more as needed
For the ultimate chocolate cupcakes:
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
- 2 ounces of your favorite chocolate (You can use any plain chocolate that you like except white chocolate or candy melts. The chocolate doesn’t have to be one typically earmarked for baking – any chocolate bar that isn’t flavored and doesn’t contain mix-ins like nuts, Rice Krispies, nougat, etc. will work.)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 fluid ounces) vegetable or canola oil, measured in a liquid measuring cup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup (2 3/4 ounce) full-fat sour cream
- 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) cocoa powder (natural or dutch will both work with this recipe)
- 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) room temperature water, measured in a liquid measuring cup
- Salted caramel sauce (recipe)
Makes the dulce de leche:
- Spilt the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Combine the vanilla seeds, milk, sugar and sea salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Turn off heat and slowly stir in the baking soda-water mixture. Careful, as the mixture will foam.
- Turn heat back on and return to a simmer. This step has a sweet spot, as if it’s too hot the mixture will harden and if it’s too cool it will take forever. For me, it was 4.5 on my 1-8 burner setting. Stir every 15 minutes or so for the first hour and as the mixture starts to turn golden, increase stirring frequency to every 5 minutes and eventually almost continuously. The final mixture will thick like caramel with a deep copper color.
- Remove from stove and stir in the vanilla if you aren’t using a vanilla bean.
- Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to a month in an airtight container. To reheat, zap it in the microwave for 10-15 second intervals until warm or place it in a place in a saucepan of simmering water until it is just right. Makes about 1 cup.
Make the Caramelized White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- Heat oven to 225° F. Spread chopped white chocolate in a baking sheet or dish. Bake for 10-minute intervals, stirring and smoothing out with a spatula each time for 60-90 minutes. The mixture will eventually turn golden in color. Transfer to a heatproof bowl.
- Warm heavy cream in a small saucepan until about 100-120 degrees. Do not let simmer. Add to the caramelized white chocolate and stir until smooth. Let cool to room temp.
- In a bowl, cream butter until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 1 cup powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the remaining 1/2 cup of white chocolate ganache until smooth. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add more cream or powdered sugar as needed to achieve the desired consistency.
Make the ultimate chocolate cupcakes:
- Here are instructions for the best chocolate cupcakes I’ve ever had. The above recipes make enough for a double batch or 32 cupcakes.
Assemble the cupcakes:
- Using a piping bag and a large round piping tip, pipe a ring of the white chocolate buttercream around the perimeter of each cupcake.
- Spoon a dollop of just-warm-enough-to-be-spreadable dulce de leche in the middle of each ring.
- Finish with a drizzle of salted caramel sauce. I used a squeeze bottle to make this step quick and painless. The recipe I used was from my salted caramel ice cream, but you can use your own recipe or even store-bought.
* You can reduce the amount of sugar according to your taste buds. The baking soda may seem strange, but it helps to reduce lumps and make the dulce de leche turn that lovely golden color.
**White baking chips or candy melts will NOT work for this recipe! You need white chocolate that has cocoa butter as one of the main ingredients.