Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramelized White Chocolate Buttercream & Homemade Dulce de Leche

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5 from 3 reviews

Caramelized White Chocolate Buttercream Adapted from Love & Olive Oil



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)

Special Materials:


Makes the dulce de leche:

  1. 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.
  2. Turn off heat and slowly stir in the baking soda-water mixture. Careful, as the mixture will foam.
  3. 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.
  4. Remove from stove and stir in the vanilla if you aren’t using a vanilla bean.
  5. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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:

  1. Using a piping bag and a large round piping tip, pipe a ring of the white chocolate buttercream around the perimeter of each cupcake.
  2. Spoon a dollop of just-warm-enough-to-be-spreadable dulce de leche in the middle of each ring.
  3. 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.