I still can’t believe our little girl turned one this year. To help celebrate this joyous occasion and to mark us successfully surviving our first year of parenthood, we held a first birthday party for our daughter back in April. We had about 25 friends and family join us at a local, authentic Chinese restaurant and had a delicious 10-course meal. To finish off the feast, I made vanilla cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, cake pops and decorated sugar cookies for our guests to enjoy. I settled on a heart-shaped theme, so many items were in the shapes of hearts, including the cake pops and balloons.
I wanted to mix things up a bit in case some people weren’t into the vanilla/vanilla or chocolate/chocolate combo for the cupcakes. So, I decided to add some chocolate frosting to a few of the vanilla cupcakes, and some of the vanilla frosting to the chocolate cupcakes (I know, I’m such a rebel!). I think they turned out pretty cute-don’t you? Oh, and as a super special treat, I made some dulce de leche and filled the vanilla cupcakes with it.
Finally, to top things off, I made heart-themed royal icing decorations that you can see in the photo above. These were quite time-consuming, but they added a nice touch to the cupcakes!
One important thing to note is that even though I made these cupcakes a day in advance and stored them in an air-tight container, they dried out pretty quickly. If you can, I’d recommend making this recipe the day that you’re going to eat them. I’m on the hunt for a vanilla cupcake recipe that doesn’t dry out as much overnight–let me know if you have suggestions!
Vanilla cupcakes with dulce de leche filling
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest of 1 lemon optional
- 1 and ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 and ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup milk
- 1-1 ½ recipes vanilla buttercream or chocolate frosting see below
- 20 Tablespoons (2 and ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 and ½ cups confectioners’ sugar sifted
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
- 2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dulce de leche
- 2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
Make the cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners. Set pan aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides and beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest, if using.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in pan 5 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
- Prepare frosting. Fill cupcakes with dulce de leche and decorate cooled cupcakes as desired.
Make the vanilla frosting
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.
- Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds.
- Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds.
- Scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds.
- Then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.
Make the chocolate frosting
- Melt butter and stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.
Make the dulce de leche
- Carefully peel labels off cans. Place a saucer at the bottom of the crockpot and set the cans on top (this is to prevent the crockpot from getting burnt).
- Add water - enough to cover the cans. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
- Cool completely before you open the cans and use.