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A simple and gooey single layer brown sugar cake soaked with dulce de leche syrup and topped with a creamy dulce de leche frosting.
Do you dream of cake? No? Just me? Come onnn, I know that you have to have some dreams about fluffy, sweet layers of goodness? Yes? Ok, that’s just what I thought!
Well this easy dulce de leche cake is the stuff dreams are made of. Decadent, caramel-y, sweet, and surprisingly easy to make. Thanks to the addition of magical dulce de leche, it’s a flavorful and rich cake that doesn’t require stacking of multiple layers or complicated fillings.
This single layer dulce de leche cake recipe is perfect for enjoying with your favorite hot beverage, and can be served year round. It’s simple to make, infused with dulce de leche flavor, and definitely a new favorite around here!
Are you all aboard the dulce de leche train? Can’t get enough of this caramelized sweetened milk? Well then you have to try a few of my favorite dulce de leche desserts: homemade dulce de leche (talk about next level!), dulce de leche cupcakes, or this luscious banoffee pie.
This cake is so simple to make, and actually needs way fewer ingredients than you might assume. Good quality ingredients are so important, and really make the difference when it comes to make delicious homemade cakes!
Using a good quality dulce de leche and following the instructions carefully (ahem, room temperature ingredients, please!) will give you delicious results every single time.
Also, please don’t skimp on the full fat dairy. This adds much-needed moisture to the cake and is absolutely essential.
BROWN SUGAR CAKE
In order to make the brown sugar cake, you’ll need the same ingredients I used in my dulce de leche cupcakes recipe. It’s a pretty standard cake recipe (in fact, it’s the same one I use in my vanilla bean cupcakes, but with some sugar swaps), other than featuring deeply flavored brown sugar instead of the typical white sugar.
You’ll need basic cake ingredients like all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, unsalted butter, egg, milk, and vanilla. You’ll also need some light brown sugar and some full fat yogurt (or sour cream).
The most important thing to remember is to use full fat milk (or cream) and yogurt (or sour cream). The melted state of the butter results in less overall moisture in the cake, so using those full fat ingredients will add the perfect amount of moisture back in.
It’s also super important to use room temperature ingredients. This will give you the smoothest batter, and therefore the best textured cake with the perfect crumb!
So make sure to allow your melted butter to cool to room temperature, and take your egg, milk, and yogurt out about an hour beforehand to warm up a bit.
DULCE DE LECHE
When it comes to the dulce de leche portion of this recipe, you definitely have some options. Whether you go the homemade route (try my homemade dulce de leche) or the store bought route, you can tailor your cake to your preferences.
Some brands of dulce de leche have a thick viscosity, making for a firmer syrup and buttercream. Other brands are thinner, and will give you a messier result, which can definitely be a good thing if you like that ooey gooey goodness!
Whichever you choose (homemade, store bought, runny, or thick), just keep your preferences in mind when selecting the dulce de leche you want to use to make this recipe.
As a side note, if your dulce de leche is super thick you can easily thin it out to the texture you like with just a little milk or cream.
DULCE DE LECHE BUTTERCREAM
The dulce de leche buttercream that we use to top this luscious cake is the exact same recipe that I used for my dulce de leche cupcakes. The only difference is that the whole batch is spread onto the cake, rather than portioned onto individual cupcakes. So easy.
I’m ALL about that buttercream (ahem, I did write an entire book on the subject), and adding dulce de leche into the mix is just a whole new level!
For this recipe, I use vegetable shortening that has been softened to room temperature. This is because the dulce de leche thins out the buttercream quite a bit, and vegetable shortening holds its shape and thickness just a bit better than butter.
If your dulce de leche is super thick, you can use room temperature unsalted butter in place of the shortening.
In addition to the shortening, you’ll need some powdered sugar, dulce de leche (of course!), vanilla, milk (or cream), and just a pinch of salt.
If your dulce de leche is really firm, you may not need the milk or cream to thin the buttercream. So leave that out just until the end, and add a few drops at a time until you get the consistency you like.
HOW TO MAKE DULCE DE LECHE CAKE
Since this is a single layer cake, there is significantly less time waiting around for layers to cool and prepping a station for trimming and stacking and all that fun stuff. Don’t get me wrong– I love me a gorgeous stacked cake— but sometimes just a single layer does the trick!
THE CAKE LAYER
To get started on baking this fragrant and moist brown sugar cake, you’re going to want to grease and flour (or use my homemade cake release) one single 8″ round cake pan. Set it aside as you prepare your batter.
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a large bowl and give everything a good whisk. Set aside.
Then add the melted butter, brown sugar, egg, milk (or cream), yogurt (or sour cream), and vanilla extract to the bowl of a stand mixer, OR a large bowl with a handheld mixer. Beat everything together on medium-high speed until completely smooth and free from lumps.
Reduce the mixer speed to low, and slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients just until combined.
Once most of the flour has been absorbed, stop the mixer and fold the batter gently by hand with a large spatula, pressing any larger crumbs of flour against the side of the bowl to break them up. A few smaller lumps are totally fine, so no worries if you can’t get it 100% smooth.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pan and place in the oven. Bake for 26-28 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Once the cake is baked through, remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan before decorating.
MAKE THE DULCE DE LECHE BUTTERCREAM
Before you start on the dulce de leche syrup, it’s a good idea to make your buttercream frosting. That way it’s ready to go as soon as you finish the syrup layer and you don’t have to work super quickly to pull everything together.
To make the buttercream add the room temperature shortening (or unsalted butter) to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment OR a large bowl with a handheld mixer. Beat the shortening on medium speed until fluffy and creamy, which works out to about 2 minutes.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add in the powdered sugar, ⅓ cup dulce de leche, and vanilla extract. Once the ingredients start coming together, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until completely smooth, which should take about 3 minutes.
If your frosting is really thick, you can add a few drops of milk or cream at a time, then mix, until you reach the consistency you prefer.
All sweet foods need a touch of saltiness to balance the flavor (same goes for sweet people!), so add salt to taste. I find that a simple pinch of salt does the trick.
MAKE DULCE DE LECHE SYRUP
Now that you have prepared the dulce de leche buttercream, it’s time to set that aside and prep the syrup.
This is going to infuse the cake with dulce de leche flavor, resulting in the most amazing and gooey cake you’ll ever have the pleasure of trying. It reminds me of a caramel-y, extra delicious tres leche cake.
To prepare the syrup, simply add ⅓ cup of dulce de leche to a small bowl or a glass measuring cup with a spout.
Add ½ of a Tablespoon of cream or milk to the bowl and whisk to combine. Continue until it reaches a consistency that is thick, yet pourable.
Stop adding cream once the mixture resembles the same texture of molasses or caramel.
ASSEMBLE THE CAKE
Once your cake is totally cooled, you’ve prepped the frosting AND the dulce de leche syrup, you’re finally ready to bring it all together!
Remove the cake from the cake pan by running a knife around the edge of the cake pan, inverting it, and patting the bottom gently to remove the cake.
Place the cake on a plate or serving platter that is at least 1″ wider than the cake, but a bit wider is better since you’ll have some gooey goodness running down the sides of the cake and collecting at the bottom.
If your cake isn’t mostly flat, give it a trim with a serrated knife so that it is level on top.
Use a skewer to poke holes evenly throughout the cake, going all the way through to the bottom. Try to poke as many holes as you can without totally destroying the crumb!
Slowly pour your prepared dulce de leche syrup all over the surface of the cake, letting it seep into the holes. You may not use all of the syrup, so just let your heart guide you.
Gently spread the syrup on the sides of the cake, allowing some to drip off the edges, but aiming to have most of it stay on the top of the cake. Set the cake aside and let it soak for about 5 minutes or so.
Once the syrup has had the chance to soak in, add the dulce de leche frosting to the top of the cake, spreading it super gently, aiming not to disturb the syrup layer underneath.
Spread the frosting all over the top of the cake using an offset spatula. Don’t worry about spreading it onto the sides of the cake, but if you want to, go for it! Once the frosting is in place, you’re ready to serve, store, or save for later.
STORING AND FREEZING
Cover your cake tightly with plastic wrap and store in an airtight container. It will store for up to 5 days in the refrigerator, and will tend to store best when you leave it unsliced and cut as needed.
If you want to freeze this cake, you can also do that!
Cake freezes really well, but you’ll have to leave off the dulce de leche syrup and buttercream until you’ve thawed the cake and are ready to serve.
Just thaw the cake at room temperature, prepare the frosting and syrup, and assemble once the cake has reached room temperature.
We served this cake at Easter and it was enjoyed by folks of all ages. There were a lot of “oooohs” and “ahhhhs” and asking for the recipe on the spot. And my dad, who is a dunk-the-slice-of-cake-into-coffee kind of guy, didn’t even need a fork for his.
That’s how you know its for sure a good one!
Dulce de Leche Cake
- 1 and ⅔ cups (200g) all-purpose flour be sure to measure properly
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter melted and allowed to cool
- 1 cup (200g) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg room temperature1
- ¾ cup (180mL) whole2 milk or cream room temperature1
- ¼ cup (61g) full fat2 yogurt or sour cream room temperature1
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
DULCE DE LECHE SYRUP
- ⅓ cup (114g) dulce de leche3
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons (15-30mL) milk or cream
DULCE DE LECHE FROSTING
- ¼ cup (57g) vegetable shortening4 softened to room temperature
- 2 cups (240g) powdered sugar
- ⅓ cup (114g) dulce de leche3
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 Tablespoons (8mL) milk or cream5
- pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350ºF (177ºC). Grease and flour (or use homemade cake release) an 8" round cake pan. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl with a handheld mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the melted butter, brown sugar, egg, milk/cream, yogurt, and vanilla extract on medium to high speed until completely smooth.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low, then slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients until just combined. Then, fold gently by hand with a large spatula and press out any large lumps of flour that remain by scraping them against the side of the bowl. Small lumps are ok.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 26-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in the pan before decorating.
DULCE DE LECHE FROSTING
- In a large bowl with a handheld mixer, or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the shortening on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes.
- With the mixer on low, add in the powdered sugar, dulce de leche, and vanilla. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until completely smooth, about 3 minutes. Add milk or cream if frosting seems to need to be thinned out. Add salt to taste.
DULCE DE LECHE SYRUP
- Right before you add the frosting to the top of the cake, prepare the dulce de leche syrup. Add the dulce de leche to a small bowl with a spout or a glass measuring cup.
- Add the cream ½ Tablespoon at a time and mix to combine. This will thin out the dulce de leche syrup. You want the syrup to be pourable but not watery. Stop when your mixture resembles the texture of molasses or caramel.
ASSEMBLE THE CAKE
- Remove the cake from the pan and place on a plate at least 1" wider than the cake. Your cake top should be mostly flat, but if it isn't trim it with a large serrated knife to even it out.
- Use a skewer to poke holes all the way through the top of the cake and all over the surface.
- Slowly pour the dulce de leche syrup onto the top of the cake (you may not use all of it– pour to your liking), then gently spread the syrup to the sides of the cake, letting some of it drip over the edge, but keeping the majority of it on the top. Allow it to soak into the cake for about 5 minutes.
- Add the dulce de leche frosting to the top of the cake, taking care not to disturb the dulce de leche syrup layer under it. Spread the frosting evenly over the top of the cake with an offset spatula, then serve. Store leftovers in the refrigerator up to 5 days. Cake freezes well. Do not soak or frost until cake is thawed and you are ready to serve. Thaw cake at room temperature.
- Room temperature ingredients: these are always a good idea when using room temperature butter as it makes for easier incorporation into the batter. To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, place eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5-10 minutes.
- Full fat dairy: it is imperative to use full fat dairy in this recipe for moisture, since we’re using melted butter, therefore removing some natural moisture.
- Dulce de leche: you can use homemade or store bought. Textures/viscosities can vary depending on the method you make it or the brand you purchase. Looser dulce de leche will be messier than a thicker texture. Keep this in mind when making or purchasing your sauce.
- Vegetable shortening: I chose vegetable shortening for this dulce de leche buttercream because the sauce I used was very thin. If your sauce is thicker and sturdier, you can use room temperature butter in place of the shortening.
- Milk or cream: depending on the viscosity of your dulce de leche sauce, you may not need any additional liquid to thin out your buttercream. Add liquid with caution.