Chocolate + Dulce de Leche

Oh my little cupcake you are so delicious! Rich chocolate cake paired with Dulce de Leche frosting, topped with sea salt. Does it get any better than that?

My girlfriend just had a Labor Day BBQ, with tacos and mexican fare on the menu. She was making black bean/quinoa tacos for the vegetarians and marinated steak and carne asada for the non-veggies. I wanted to make a cupcake that would compliment the spicy cuisine. Originally I was thinking of some kind of mexican hot chocolate cake with a touch of chile spice. However it was a daytime party and 100 degrees in Los Angeles...maybe mexican hot chocolate wasn't the right choice. I'll try that in the Fall when its cooler. 

I researched traditional mexican desserts and of course Dulce de Leche stood out as a classic.   

One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes
(adapted from Martha Stewart's cupcakes)
Makes 48 mini cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup warm water

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line mini muffin tins with paper liners. With an electric mixer, whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt on medium speed. Reduce speed to low. Add eggs, buttermilk, oil, extract, and the water, beat until smooth and combined.

Fill lined cups 2/3 full with batter. Rotate tins halfway through baking time. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 10-15 minutes. Since these are mini cupcakes keep an eye on them closely. Every oven is different. When toothpick comes out clean, transfer muffin tins to wire racks for cooling. Cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature.

Now onto the frosting. Generally I like to use a healthy fat, such as coconut oil. However since this was a day party and there would be no air conditioning, I had no choice but to use Crisco shortening. I didn't want my frosting melting all over the place!

This frosting has a delicate balance of Dulce de Leche flavor without being to over the top sweet. I think you will enjoy it.

Dulce de Leche frosting
1 cup Crisco all-vegetable shortening
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used pure bourbon vanilla extract)
2-5 tablespoons plain almond milk
1 can Nestles Dulce de Leche 

Using a mixer beat the shortening until smooth. With the mixer running on low, add the powdered sugar, vanilla and 1-2 tablespoon of milk. Add half of the Dulce de Leche, then another 1-2 tablespoon of milk. Now add the other half of the Dulce de Leche and 1-2 tablespoons of milk as needed. Mix until frosting reaches desired consistency.

I used my Wilton cupcake decorator to swirl the frosting on top.  No need to make the swirls perfect, it gives them character. I sprinkled half of the cupcakes with Alaea Sea Salt, which added a wonderful salty crunch. The other half I sprinkled with some cupcake crumbs. I took one cupcake and broke it in half and crumbled the cake to make crumbs and used them as decoration.  Next time I will put the sea salt on all of them! It was good.

The BBQ was so delicious. Amazing veggie tacos, beans and rice, guacamole, homemade salsa, margaritas on the rocks and Chocolate Dulce de Leche mini cupcakes. Yum! Makes me very happy.

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