Dulce de Leche Cake
This dessert is perfect for anyone who loves the smooth, rich flavor of dulce de leche (the sweet, addictive caramel-like sauce popular in Latin America). It’s a browned butter vanilla sheet cake topped with a generous helping of dulce de leche. While the cake itself is wonderful on its own, it becomes outrageously good once topped with the sauce.
This recipe requires baking basics and one special ingredient – dulce de leche. You can make it yourself, buy it online, or find it at an international grocery store.
Tip: Make sure you read my notes in the FAQ section below so you can pick the right dulce de leche for this cake.
How It’s Made
Start by browning butter by placing it in a skillet on medium heat.
Continue to heat the butter, stirring periodically. It will start to boil with big bubbles.
Then, the bubbles will get smaller.
Raise the heat slightly at this point and keep a close eye on the butter. Once the butter turns more brown, remove it from the heat immediately and transfer to a shock-proof bowl.
Cool the browned butter in the fridge (for an hour) or the freezer (for 10-15 minutes) until it is back to feeling like a slightly softened stick of butter.
Whisk together dry ingredients (sugar, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) in the bowl of a stand mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use an electric hand mixer or even mix by hand.
You can substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour in equal amounts. The cake will be just a little bit more dense. Cake flour is a finely milled delicate flour. It is best for desserts that are more light and airy.
Mix in the browned butter.
Whisk together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. This includes the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla.
Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined.
Tip: It’s very important to not overmix the batter at this point. Overmixing the batter can have a dramatic effect on the end result. An overmixed cake will end up squat and dense; see my post on overmixing cake batter for more details.
Add milk to the batter, again mixing until just combined. Proper cake batter is very thin – almost liquid.
Grease a cake pan with non-stick baking spray and pour the batter into the pan, making sure that it is distributed evenly.
Bake for 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely before topping.
Just before serving, spread dulce de leche evenly over the cake.
Tip: After the caramel sauce sits for a few hours, it will begin to absorb into the cake. This makes the dessert even more delicious, but it doesn’t look as pretty because the dulce de leche is no longer resting on top of the cake. For maximum visual effect, serve immediately after adding the topping.
Expert Tips and FAQs
When you make your own dulce de leche, it can be really thin like a syrup, or more of a spreadable consistency like peanut butter. For this cake, it is important that you use a thicker dulce de leche. I use the one that I make in my Instant Pot and it works perfectly.
Most of the store-bought dulce de leche that you find will be thick and should work just fine.
Whole milk works best, but you can use any milk you have in the house.
Store at room temperature for a few days. If you need it later, freeze without topping it and bring to room temperature before spreading dulce de leche just before serving.
- Homemade dulce de leche (with recipes using the stovetop, a pressure cooker, and a slow cooker)
- Cajeta (goat milk dulce de leche)
- Banana cookies
- Tres leches cake (and tres leches cupcakes)
- Dulce de leche chocolate cake
- Dulce de leche frosting
Dulce de Leche Cake
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1/3 cup full-fat sour cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract use pure, not imitation
- 2/3 cup whole milk
- 14 ounces dulce de leche
- Melt butter over medium heat in a small skillet or heavy-bottomed pot.
- Continue to heat the butter, stirring periodically, until it turns brown (10-15 minutes). The butter will first boil with big bubbles (it’s not done then). Then, the bubbles will get smaller.
- Turn up the heat slightly and monitor closely until the butter looks more brown (that’s when it’s done).
- Remove butter from heat and cool to room temperature. Transfer to a shock-proof container and chill until softened, one hour in the refrigerator or 10-15 minutes in the freezer.
- Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, mix together sugar, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Add browned butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, and vanilla extract until smooth.
- Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined. Be sure to scrape down the side of the bowl as needed to make sure that everything is incorporated into the batter.
- Slowly add milk and mix on low speed until just combined.
- Spread batter evenly in a well-greased 9" square cake pan.
- Bake for 20 minutes and then test to see if the cake is done. It is done when a toothpick comes out without wet batter stuck to it. If it is not done, test again in four minutes. If it is still not done, test again in another two minutes.
- When the cake is done, place it on a cooling rack (or just on your counter if you don't own a cooling rack) to cool to room temperature.
- Spread dulce de leche evenly over cooled cake just before serving.
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