This heavenly cupcake (or magdalena, in Spanish) from Robicelli's: A Love Story, with Cupcakes: With 50 Decidedly Grown-Up Recipes is a combination of two favorite Latin American sweets: tres leches cake and dulce de leche (you mix the latter with buttercream to make a frosting). Top this light and moist dessert with caramel shards—they're easy to make with just water and sugar—for a little bit of crunch.

Makes 24 cupcakes


For the Tres leches soak:
  • One 14-ounce can sweetened, condensed milk (for dulce de leche, if making your own)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
For the brown butter cake:
  • 13 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cups plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
For the Dulce de Leche Buttercream:
  • One recipe French Buttercream or American Frosting
  • One 14-ounce can sweetened, condensed milk (if making your own dulce de leche) or one jar of commercially prepared dulce de leche
  • Pinch sea salt
For the caramel shards:
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar


Preheat oven to 400°.

Empty the sweetened, condensed milk into the smaller pan, then cover with aluminum foil.

Place the small pan in the larger one, then place both in the oven. Carefully fill the space between the two pans with water until it comes up 3/4 of the way.

Close the oven door and walk away for at least 1 hour. Seriously—don't open the oven door! Go watch some Netflix or something.

Once the hour is up, peel off the foil and check your dulce de leche for color. You want it to be a rich, golden brown, like a prizewinning golden retriever. If it's not there yet, put the foil back on and put the pans back in the oven for 15 more minutes. Repeat until the desired color is reached.

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Turn down the oven temp to 350° to bake the cupcakes.

Make the Brown Butter Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line cupcake pans with 24 baking cups.

In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter, stirring occasionally, until the butter becomes a nutty, brown color, about 5 minutes.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs on medium-low speed for 2 minutes until light yellow and lightly foamy.

Increase the mixer speed to medium-high. Pour the hot brown butter into the eggs slowly, so that the mixture tempers and the eggs do not scramble. Once the butter is added, reduce the speed to medium-low.

With the mixer running, add the milk, vanilla and salt. Mix for 1 minute until well combined.

Sift together the flour, sugar and baking powder and add to the butter bowl. Mix on medium until just combined, about 30 seconds. Remove the bowl and paddle from the mixer and, once again, use the paddle to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, ensuring that everything is well mixed.

Place the batter in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to allow the flour to hydrate.

Scoop the batter into the prepared baking cups, filling them 2/3 of the way.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. The cupcakes are done when the centers spring back when you touch them.

Prepare the milk soak while the cupcakes are in the oven. Set up a baking sheet with a wire rack.

Remove the cupcakes from the oven. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Take the cupcakes out of the pans and place face-up on the wire rack. Using a fork, dot each cupcake three times—or stab.

Spoon 1 1/2 tsp. milk mix onto each cupcake. Let cool completely.

Make the Milk Soak:

Combine the condensed milk, cream and whole milk in a glass jar. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 1 minute.

Place a lid on the jar and shake vigorously until well mixed. Remove the lid and set the soak aside.

Make the Dulce De Leche Buttercream:

Prepare the recipe for French Buttercream or American Frosting

Add 1/2 cup dulce de leche and a pinch of salt, and mix well. Taste for flavor.

Add more dulce de leche, 1 tbsp. at a time, until the desired flavor is reached.

Make the Caramel Shards:

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet, allowing it to overhang the edges.

Mix the water and sugar in a small saucepan until it resembles wet sand.

Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to color. Carefully begin to swirl the pan, continuing to cook until the sugar is a rich, amber color.

Immediately pour the molten caramel over the parchment-lined baking sheet. Tilt the sheet back and forth until the caramel cannot spread anymore. Let cool until hardened, about 5 minutes.

Using a pastry brush, give the cupcakes one more quick swipe of the milk mix.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a fluted tip with the dulce de leche buttercream and pipe onto each brown butter cupcake.

Roll up the parchment paper with the poured caramel, pressing firmly to help the caramel break up into small pieces. Push the larger shards into the buttercream and finish by sprinkling smaller shards across the top of each cupcake.

From Robicelli's: A Love Story, with Cupcakes: With 50 Decidedly Grown-Up Recipes (Viking Books Studio) by Allison and Matt Robicelli.

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