I decided to try something a little bit different for my last potluck out here, something besides chocolate or fruit tarts like I normally do. Instead of a Fourth of July themed red, white, and blue dessert, I went a little south of the border and made a dulce de leche cake.
Dulce de leche is basically a very thick caramel that is made by heating sweetened milk until the water evaporates and the sugar caramelizes. It is usually a dark tan color, and can be flavored with vanilla, cinnamon, or other spices. It's a standard sweetening option in South and Central America, as well as Mexico. People put it in their coffee, on muffins, in cakes, etc.
There are a couple of different ways to make dulce de leche. The most common is to heat up a can of sweetened condensed milk. This recipe uses the most time-consuming way: cooking it from scratch on the stove. I'd never tried that method before so I figured I would give it a chance. The results were just about the same as using the "put the can in boiling water" method.
This cake also has homemade buttercream frosting. I wrote about making buttercream frosting at home in the post about checkerboard cakes. The motor in the base of my Cuisinart heated up the frosting as it mixed so I had to put in the refrigerator for an hour or so to solidify properly.
Between the dulce de leche and the frosting, this cake was approximately two-thirds sugar. I'm not kidding - it was so sweet that I didn't like it at all. Ironically, several people told me that it was the best thing I've ever made. I suggest eating a very thin sliver of cake with a nice cup of tea to balance it out.
The cake is a nice, moist vanilla cake and I will probably use the cake recipe for other projects. The dulce de leche was a massive pain to make and took hours but it turned out nice so I may try using it again. The frosting was just too sweet. I dislike buttercream frosting because it's basically just butter and sugar, and there's only so much of that you can eat at one time. If you like buttercream frosting, this recipe is definitely one of the best I've used, easy to make and has a nice consistency.
If you don't want to bother making dulce de leche and you live near a Trader Joe's, the TJ's fleur de sel caramel sauce is a very good dulce de leche substitute.