Satisfy your sweet tooth with these decadent dulce de leche pumpkin cupcakes. They’re the perfect dessert to indulge in during the fall season.
These moist cupcakes are filled with homemade dulce de leche and topped with a luscious dulce de leche buttercream frosting (yes, double dulce de leche!).
Then the finishing touch is an easy-to-make chocolate spiderweb decoration that adds a touch of Halloween spirit to these scrumptious treats.
New to cupcake making? Don’t worry, they might look fancy but I’ve got loads of tips and tricks to ensure your cupcakes turn out wonderful.
Why I love these cupcakes
And why you will too…
- They’re super moist and fluffy because of the pumpkin
- They have a surprise filling you don’t need to tell anyone about
- You can easily customise the filling and the toppings to make them perfect for you.
- All purpose flour: I’ve made a lot of cupcakes in my time, and I always come back to using all purpose flour. Cake flour is nearly as good, but I found the cupcakes go staler every so slightly quicker. Avoid self raising flour, and don’t sub gluten free flour.
- Eggs: room temperature eggs are best because they aerate better when you whisk them.
- Pumpkin puree: this essential ingredient adds a rich, seasonal flavor and moistness to the cupcakes. Do NOT confuse this with pumpkin pie mix… it’s not the same! If all you can find is pumpkin pie mix, then skip the spices in the recipe. Need a sub? Here are som tried and tested pumpkin puree substitutes.
- Homemade dulce de leche: made from sweetened condensed milk, this thick caramel-like sauce is used as both the cupcake filling and a key component in the buttercream frosting. It’s super rich, creamy, and totally delicious.
- Spices: a warming blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice gives these cupcakes an inviting taste. Ideally you should include all the spices, but it’s no biggie if you’re missing one.
- Semisweet chocolate chips: melted and combined with shortening, these are used create the spiderweb decoration on top of each cupcake. I always use semi sweet chocolate in baking, but you can use any type you like.
Step 1: Make the dulce de leche
In the oven, pour sweetened condensed milk into an oven-safe dish, cover with foil, and bake at 425°F (220°C) for 1.5 to 2 hours.
This method is easy and yields smooth dulce de leche, which is why it’s my favorite!
To boil the can, remove the label, place the unopened can in a pot, cover with water, and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. This way is simple, but you need to keep an eye on the water level. And make sure you let the can cool before opening it!
Lastly, the microwave method. Pour condensed milk into a microwave-safe bowl, cook on medium power in 2-minute intervals for 8 to 12 minutes. This is the fastest method, but getting the right consistency can be tricky. And it might get messy.
You can also make dulce de leche from scratch.
Step 2: Make the cupcake batter and bake
Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk sugar, butter, and eggs (stop whisking when the mixture has tripled in volume).
Gradually fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, then the pumpkin puree.
I like using a hand held mixed for smaller batches of cupcake mix because I find less goes up the sides.
Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 of the way before baking them for 20-25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on a wire rack while you move onto step 3.
Hint: To ensure even baking, avoid overfilling the cupcake liners and consider using an ice cream scoop to portion the batter. This will help keep the cupcakes uniform in size and make it easier to create the spiderweb decoration later.
Step 3: Make the buttercream
Prepare buttercream by creaming butter, powdered sugar, heavy cream, vanilla, and dulce de leche.
To get the perfect buttercream, start with room temperature butter.
Soft butter makes it easy to whip up light and fluffy buttercream. Just don’t to let it get too warm or melty.
Sift your powdered sugar to get rid of any lumps. This will make sure your buttercream is extra smooth and silky. Then add the sugar in slowly to help it blend better with the butter.
And lastly, use an electric whisker. Hand-whisked buttercream won’t be anywhere near as airy.
Step 4: Fill and decorate the cupcakes
Fill cooled cupcakes with dulce de leche. I used the cone method, where you cut a small cone out of the cake and filled that.
Frost the filled cupcakes with buttercream, and optionally decorate with spiderwebs.
To make the spider webs, I melted chocolate with a few drops of shortening to help loosen it. Then I poured it into a zip loc bag and cut off a VERY tiny bit of the corner and piped the lines of the web.
If you don’t have a ziploc bag, you can try using a toothpick or even a bit of spaghetti!
Psst… If you’d prefer a lighter cupcake, skip the dulce de leche filling and just use the dulce de leche buttercream on top.
Tips to get the perfect cupcakes
Making cupcakes can be super fun, and with these awesome tips, you’ll be a cupcake wizard in no time.
- Be a measuring master: To get your cupcakes just right, you’ve got to measure like a pro! For dry stuff like flour and sugar, use the spoon-and-level method. It’s super important for the perfect cupcake texture.
- Mix it, but not too much: Mixing too much can make your cupcakes tough and heavy, and we want them light and fluffy! Gently mix the wet and dry ingredients until they’re combined, and stop when you can’t see any more flour streaks.
- Watch the clock: Keep an eye on the time to make sure your cupcakes are baked to perfection! Start checking a few minutes before the suggested baking time and do the toothpick test by poking a toothpick in the middle of a cupcake. It should come out clean or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it.
- Follow the instructions: Pumpkin can be difficult to work with when it comes to baking because of it’s moist texture. So make sure you follow my tried and tested recipe!
Feeling creative today? Let’s try some cool twists on your cupcakes and make them extra special.
- Chocolate pumpkin magic: Add 1/2 cup cocoa powder to the dry stuff for a yummy chocolate surprise.
- Maple-pecan dream: Swap the dulce de leche buttercream with maple frosting and add some chopped pecans on top.
- Spiced cream cheese delight: Change the buttercream to spiced cream cheese frosting for a perfect pumpkin cupcake match.
- Coconut wonder: Add a few drops of coconut extract to the batter for a tropical twist.
These cupcakes are perfect for fall gatherings or Halloween parties. Some complementary dishes include:
- Butternut squash soup: Warm and creamy, it’s the perfect light meal before enjoying your scrumptious cupcakes!
- Apple cider sangria: Make the grown-ups smile with this refreshing, seasonal drink that goes great with rich cupcakes.
- Caramel apple salad: Want something fresh and healthy before indulging? A fruity salad with a caramel twist will matches the dulce de leche flavor perfectly.
- Pumpkin chili: Go all-in with a fall-themed menu and serve this hearty, pumpkin-packed chili before your cupcakes.
Move your cupcakes into an airtight container as soon as possible. Don’t leave them cooling for longer than needed!
Naked cupcakes: store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. If you live in a hot, humid environment then the fridge is better.
Frosted cupcakes: store leftover cupcakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Bring the cupcakes to room temperature before serving.
Freezing: unfrosted cupcakes can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Stack the cupcakes in a freezer bag with a piece of parchment paper between each layer. Thaw them in the fridge overnight before bringing to room temperature and serving. You can also freeze the buttercream separately for up to 3 months.
Make ahead tips
You can make the dulce de leche and buttercream frosting a day ahead and store them both in the refrigerator (in separate containers).
Allow the frosting to come to room temperature before using it to decorate the cupcakes.
Creative Leftover Ideas
- Cupcake parfait: Repurpose your leftover cupcakes by layering crumbled pieces of cake with whipped cream and fruit to create a delicious parfait.
- Cake pop revival: If you haven’t tried cake pops, you’re missing out. Combine crumbled cupcakes with frosting, then shape the mixture into balls, and dip it in melted chocolate.
- Trifle transformation: Turn your leftover cupcakes into a show-stopping trifle! Layer crumbled cupcakes, custard, whipped cream, and fruit in a glass dish for a visually stunning dessert.
Dulce De Leche Pumpkin Cupcakes
- Pumpkin cupcakes:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 7.5 ounces pureed pumpkin
- Dulce de leche:
- 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- boiling water
- Dulce de leche buttercream:
- 3/4 cup 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons prepared dulce de leche
- For the pumpkin cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.
- Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.
- Once cooled, using the cone method, fill each cupcake with a dollop of dulce de leche and frost with dulce de leche buttercream. If desired, decorate cupcake with spiderweb design using 3 tablespoons chocolate chips melted together with 1/4 teaspoon shortening.
- For the dulce de leche: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Open up the can and pour the sweetened-condensed milk into a pie pan. Cover tightly with foil. Place into a larger pan and pour boiling water in larger pan & around pie plate (level of water should be about halfway up the pie plate). Don’t let any water seep up and into the pie plate.
- Place in oven and bake for 1 hour. At the one hour point, peel off foil and check for progress. If the mixture has thickened and turned a caramelly color, it’s done. If it doesn’t quite look thick enough or dark enough, cover it up and bake it a little longer (mine took 75 minutes).
- When the mixture appears to have turned into a nice, thick caramel, remove from the oven. Let sit for a few minutes, and then beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
- Dulce de leche buttercream: Cream together softened butter and powdered sugar on low using an electric mixer. Add cream and vanilla and beat on medium speed until smooth and no lumps appear. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the prepared dulce de leche and beat to incorporate.