Homemade Churro Cupcakes with Salted Dulce De Leche Sauce

Today, in America, it’s Cinco de Mayo. Well, technically, it’s cinco de mayo everywhere (*ba dum bum!*), but here, and in certain parts of Mexico, it’s a holiday. Most people are surprised to learn that Cinco de Mayo is mostly celebrated in America, in honor of Mexican heritage and pride. And what better way to celebrate the amazing Mexican culture in our country than by honoring their incredible food? Today is a wonderful reason to chill some tasty margaritas, serve up some spicy tacos, and dish out rich desserts.

Last year, I made some fantastic margarita lime cookies that are still a favorite in my house (especially with me), and I decided to stick with what I know and make another dessert this year. This past summer, my family and I took a Disney vacation, and while touring through the World Showcase I got to have my first churro. Although the one I had was only “meh,” sorry Disney, I instantly saw the potential.

Churros aren’t exclusive to Mexico, but they are a treat that you can often find sold there on the cheap. It’s a long stick of fried dough that’s coated in cinnamon-sugar and served with either a chocolate or a dulce de leche dipping sauce. Sounds pretty irresistible, huh? Can imagine a cupcake version?

No need…because I made some. And all I can say is W-O-W. I decided to keep things pretty basic with a simple cinnamon cupcake and vanilla frosting, but then I thought that was boring. They definitely needed a more interesting frosting (I settled on cinnamon cream cheese), and why was I skipping a dash of one of the dipping sauces? But which one: chocolate or dulce de leche?

To be honest, I seriously wanted chocolate, but that’s always my first choice. I’d never made dulce de leche from scratch before, and I couldn’t really say with any honesty that I’d ever actually had it either. All for trying something new, I skipped the chocolate. Then I really lost my head and decided to make real churros toppers too. I regret none of these decisions. Not. a. single. one.

These cupcakes presented more firsts for me: the first time I made churros, the first time I made dulce de leche, and the first time I actually liked cream cheese frosting. People always think I’m crazy when I say I don’t like cream cheese frosting, but I just never have. I don’t like plain cream cheese, so having it in my frosting isn’t really my favorite thing. This frosting is different, though. You’ll see. I couldn’t stop dipping the churros in it…so wonderful together!

For the cupcakes, you can really use any white or yellow cupcake recipe that you like and just add cinnamon to taste, but the recipe I used requires sugar, unsalted butter, milk, eggs, vanilla extract, cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. I’ve included my recipe and instructions below, but it’s pretty basic and can work with just about any recipe.

When you remove your cupcakes from the oven, allow them to cool for two to three minutes, then dip the top of each one in a bowl of cinnamon-sugar (1/2 cup sugar, combined with 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon). Be sure to press down and move it around a bit to be sure that the sugar sticks.

These are really good at this point without any frosting on them, but the frosting is sooooo good, you just can’t skip it.

It’s a really simple recipe that only calls for unsalted butter, confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, a dash of heavy cream, cinnamon, and vanilla. I rarely need the heavy cream, but occasionally, if the frosting is too stiff, I’ll whip in a little cream to loosen it up. I. love. this. frosting. With or without the cinnamon, this is one mouthwatering frosting.

Now, for the dulce de leche. When I first decided to make this, I had to settle two things:

1. Isn’t it just caramel?

2. Is it really hard to make? Cause, really, I have enough going on here.

Turns out the answer to both questions is ‘no.’

No dulce de leche is not just caramel. Well, actually yes it is, but it’s a type of caramel, so you can’t just make plain old caramel sauce and call it dulce de leche (which was honestly what I intended). In the most basic of definitions, caramel is cooked sugar, while dulce de leche is cooked milk and sugar. Both products are sugar, with dairy, and vanilla, but it’s the way they’re cooked that makes them different, so I knew I had to make this to see for myself.

As for the degree of difficulty, it’s very easy, it just takes a long time…two and a half hours in my case (I made mine completely from scratch, rather cooking sweetened condensed milk, because I wanted to see how hard it was to make the real thing).

The ingredients are very few and very common: milk, sugar, baking soda, and vanilla. I made mine salted, so there’s an addition of salt. That’s it. The directions are very few and common too: combine the milk, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan, bring to s soft boil and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Reduce heat to a low simmer and stir in the baking soda. Now…this is a cool, but admittedly kind of scary part because the mixture foams.

Like, really foams. This is how it foams. Not what I was expecting…at all. It just puffed up and looked like something the Stay Puft marshmallow man left behind after he exploded. What you don’t want to do here is stir the foam in.

Instead, allow the mixture to continue simmering for another 30 seconds to a minute, then skim all of the foam away. Leaving it in forms these kind of chunks and they completely ruin the texture of the finished product.

Now it’s just a matter of cooking it down. You can see above the changes in color as everything simmer and cooks away. As the mixture cooks, you may need to skim more stuff from the surface on occasion, but the most important thing is to make sure you stir it. After adding the baking soda, you want to simmer the mixture on the lowest possible setting you can for at least two hours. Now, my stove’s lowest setting is still quite a high simmer, so I set my oven timer for two hours, and my portable timer for 10 minutes. I then proceeded to stir the mixture every ten minutes for what ended up being two and a half hours. You can probably get away with stirring every 20 minutes or so, if you have a good low simmer, but either way, I don’t advise ignoring this while it cooks, unless you want to scorch it to the bottom of the pan. The good new is that this is it. This is all you have to do…very, very easy, huh?

Once the mixture reaches a deep caramel color, and is the consistency of maple syrup (this will thicken as it cools, so be sure not to cook it too long or you’ll end up with chewy candy, rather than a sauce), remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture through a fine mesh stainer into a clean bowl (be very careful here…remember, this is hot, sticky, dangerous candy and will cause severe burns on your skin). Stir in the vanilla until thoroughly combined, then allow to cool for at least 30 to 45 minutes before serving.

This can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for at least a month (not that it’ll last that long…it’s too yummy). Between this and regular caramel, I personally prefer caramel. However, the hubster and our boy both prefer this. For me, it was all about mouthfeel, rather than flavor. They taste so very similar that I enjoy both, but I like the slightly lighter texture of plain caramel over the barely thicker feel of dulce de leche. Both are incredible, though, and you can’t go wrong with either one. Cooking-wise, They’re also both quite easy, but caramel only takes 10 to 15 minutes…so  if you’re pressed for time, you should go with that.

Now, last but not least, the churros.

They are shockingly easy to make. Really. Just boil some water, sugar, and oil together, add it to a flour and baking powder mixture and form a dough.

Put the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. I used a small tip because I wanted these to be petite for the tops of my cupcakes, but normally, you’d use a large tip.

Then just pipe strips of dough into hot oil.

Fry them until they’re deep golden brown. The ones above are about half done. Drain the hot churros on paper towels, then toss them in cinnamon-sugar to coat.

I love the little baby churros that I put on my cupcakes! They’re so cute, and they add a great texture to the cupcakes. If you’re wondering if this is cinnamon overload, it really isn’t. Everything balances so nicely, with the salted caramel holding back the sweetness from being overpowering, and the fried dough complementing the spice. My favorite thing is the churros with the frosting…holy yum. But these are fantastic as a whole.

I know what you’re probably thinking…this is waaaaayyyy too much work. But really, I mixed and baked the cupcakes and made the frosting, and decorated the cupcakes while the dulce de leche was cooking. Then, while it was cooling, I made the churros with the hubster. You can expect for everything to take a minimum of three hours out of your day, but that isn’t constant working, that’s just because you have to keep an eye on the dulce. If you want to cut this time waaaay down (to about an hour), you can make salted caramel sauce instead of dulce de leche. Either way, these are a fantastic treat, and they certainly take some of the best flavors of Mexico and make something wonderful with them! Enjoy!

Homemade Churros (vegan/dairy-free)

Ingredients

FOR THE CINNAMON-SUGAR
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

FOR THE CHURROS
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat about 4 quarts of canola oil to 375 degrees in a large pan set over medium high heat.

Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl or brown paper bag; set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, oil, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Once dissolved, remove the pan from heat. Stir in the flour and baking powder until the mixture forms a dough. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer the mixture to a pastry bag. Pipe strips of dough into the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on several layers of paper towel before coating in cinnamon-sugar.

Churros Cupcakes
with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 18 standard cupcakes
Ingredients

FOR THE CUPCAKES
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 (1 stick) cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature

FOR THE FROSTING
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon

To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until just combined then stir in the vanilla. Sprinkle 1/3 of the flour mixture over the butter mixture and gently stir in until barely combined. Add half of the milk, mixing until just combined. Repeat these steps with the remaining flour mixture and milk, ending with the flour. Do not over mix.

Fill each muffin cup with 2 tablespoons of batter. Bake the cupcakes for 14 to 16 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with one or two crumbs clinging to it. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 2 to 3 minutes, then dip the top of each cupcake into the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture from the churros to coat it. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: Cream the butter and cream cheese together in a large bowl. Add the sugar, one cup at a time, beating well between each addition. Stir int he cinnamon until thoroughly combined. then stir in the vanilla. Beat the mixture well, until light and fluffy, adding heavy cream, if needed.

Salted Dulce De Leche Sauce (gluten-free)
Makes about 1 cup
Ingredients

1 quart (4 cups) milk
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the milk, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan set over medium high heat. Bring to a soft boil, reduce heat, and stir in the baking soda. When the mixture foams, allow it to continue simmering for about a minute, then skim away the foam with a slotted spoon. Continue simmering the mixture on the lowest setting for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring regularly, and skimming the top as needed. Once the mixture is a deep caramel color and reaches the consistency of maple syrup, remove from heat and carefully pour through a mesh sieve into a clean, dry bowl. Stir in the vanilla until thoroughly combined, and allow to cool for 30 to 40 minutes before serving.

Recipes by Darla

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Comments

  1. rachel says

    love the post and love, love churros! there is a chain store called ‘San Churro’ in Australia that has just started up and they are faaantastic! im definatly going to try and make them myself they seem rather easy! love the jar you put the dulce de leche in too, its gorgeous.

  2. says

    Yum, Yum, Yum! I feel not only have I learnt also a new recipe but a new holiday to celebrate which we dont have here in the UK! These beauties look perfect to go with your cocktails-cheers!

  3. Meghan says

    Well, I wasn’t going to leave a comment, because I really felt like I had nothing interesting to say. Until I just spent the last 3 hours looking over your site (no joke!), then I felt I had to say something! hah

    This recipe looks absolutely amazing, and I’m going to try it tonight or tomorrow. Everytime I look at a picture of something you make I think “MAN that looks hard!” but then I go on to read the instructions, and it seems so easy! I really can not wait to get started, I’ve already found probably 6 or 7 recipes from your website that I have to make. (And I haven’t even gotten through the whole site yet!) I really, really love the fact that all your recipes seem to have your own touch added, and because you do that, when I look at a recipe now and see something I don’t like, I just think “hmm, what can I do with this?” LOL, so thank you so much!

    Please don’t stop what your doing! This website is probably one of the best for desserts I have found yet, and I would be greatly disappointed if you stopped making posts!
    And one more thing, your dog is the cutest little thing EVER! I can NOT wait to try and make your homemade dog treats, my dog is very picky, but I think your pumpkin inspired treats might just do the trick!

    LOVE your website, keep up the good work!!

  4. says

    I love your cupcakes, they are perfect! I love churros, they are tipical from here, i am used to eat them often, especially for breakfast. I’ve never thought of doing what you did, i think that’s amazing! The photos are wonderful, and i am sure the people just got impressed by what you did, or not, because everything you make is just incredible!

  5. Camila says

    You NEED to make Dulce de Leche (or Manjar in Chile :P) from condensed milk!!!! it’s SO good!!! all you have to do is boil an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk for 2 to 3 hours (or 30 to 45 minutes in a pressure cooker) and then let it cool :)

    but seriously!! it’s amazing! you can also boil the can for an hour longer and you’ll get a thicker dulce de leche!

    if you try it let me know!!!

    and i love your blog!! it’s amazing :)

  6. Debra says

    Your creativity is unparalleled! I love these…and they would definitely be a hit in my house. I would have to get up some courage to try–I mostly follow your beautiful exploits out of sheer admiration, and less with an eye to try my own hand. Maybe someday!!

  7. Laura says

    Completely fabulous cupcakes! I’m curious… How long do the churros last? I’d love to try making them to share with my co-workers, but would have to whip them up the day before.

  8. Anjeanette says

    Thank you for sharing this great recipe. I ran out of time after making the churros, but will make the whole recipe soon hopefully!

  9. Jenn says

    ohmygoodness. I made these tonight for our Cinco de Mayo festivities and they are AH-MA-ZING! I had no idea that churros are so easy to make :) Major kudos for these & I’m so glad that Cupcakes Take the Cake featured this recipe today, bc they were a HUGE hit in my house!!

  10. Jill says

    I just made the cupcakes and the batter was so thin and I checked all of the ingredients and they definitely didn’t come out right. :( also, for the cupcakes and the churros it says salt but not the amount. Can you double check and let me know what I’m doing wrong? The frosting is great! Thanks. I love your website.

    • says

      Hi Jill, I’m sorry about the salt in the churros. The recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon. I’ve fixed it in the post and I appreciate you pointing that out for me so I could fix it. Thank you. :)

      As for your cupcakes, the batter is naturally on the runny side, but it shouldn’t be terribly runny and they should have turned out ok. :( I’m sorry that they didn’t. Can you describe how they turned out so that maybe I can identify what might have gone wrong? I hate to think that yours went to waste, but hopefully we can solve the problem so that it doesn’t happen again.

      Without any description, I can say that perhaps next time you could try a little less milk, maybe 3/4 of a cup. Or add a little more flour (1/4 to 1/2 cup). Sometimes, the humidity and environment can really cause changes in the batter. Since I live somewhere especially humid, recipes have to be tweaked a bit for others.

      Again, I’m sorry they didn’t work out for you.

  11. Maria says

    So excited to make these tomorrow, and just so you know my current limitations, I’m currently baking out of university dorms!
    You are my idol, I hope to achieve your skill in the kitchen one day :)
    xxx

  12. says

    Beautiful website Darla! This is my first (but not last!) visit and I’m arrested by these – I fell in love with churros on a trip to Spain but I never thought of having them in cupcake form – so cute!

  13. Kyle says

    I made these and they were yummy. However, in your description you said the cupcakes had baking soda and baking powder in them, but the recipe only lists baking powder. Could you let me know how much baking soda? Thanks so much.

  14. Abdis says

    DULCE DE LECHE IN LATIN AMERICA IS NOT as complicated to make, Good alternative using your recipe, I will try it for sure, it gives me the option to add other flavors to it ;) but like Camila commented previously! IT’s Just Condensed Milk, in fact you can just pour it in a dish with a tablespoon of lime juice and stick it in the Microwave for a Crumbly Texture ;) …. YUM!!!! =)

  15. K*LaLa says

    I feel completely inept at making the dulce de leche! My first try I managed to burn it in the last 5 minutes and now the second time I just had it explode all over my cooktop. I don’t get it, but now my house smells like charred caramel :o( The rest of this recipe was very easy and tastes AMAZING! I guess my cupcakes will only be 2/3 awesome, but awesome they are!

  16. says

    This. Looks. Awesome.

    Like seriously. Delicious.

    I’m making these. I wanted to make just churros, but now I’ll have to make everything. It’s your fault if I get fat. I’ll blame you. :)

    Check out my blog if you have some times :D

    Also, you might want to edit the post to add in the baking soda/powder for people who don’t read comments :P

    • says

      Hi Ilan, Thank you so much. :) I hope you enjoy the cupcakes…I love these so much (too much!).

      I looked to see what you meant about the baking soda/powder within the post, however I couldn’t find any necessary edits needing to be done. As far as I can tell, the post is updated to match the comments, but I know how easy it is to miss things, so could you please let me know what you’re referring to?

      Thanks,
      Darla

  17. says

    Ok, so I just made the churros.

    The first batch was hard.
    The second batch was pretty good. I think it’s because I switched from medium heat to high heat.

    Also, I think that maybe it would be better to incorporate eggs into the dough, like a real choux pastry (along with butter). It might give them a more airy texture.

    Anyway thanks!

  18. says

    Love love love this recipe/blog/style/you name it.

    I blasted your fried yummy cup of cake this week in the blogosphere and can’t wait to try the recipe myself.

    Happy Cinco de CupCake!

  19. says

    Just found your site and I love it! I made these yummy churro cupcakes and YUM!!!! So good. I didn’t have time to make the churros but I’ll do that tomorrow. Delish recipe. Thank you for sharing.

  20. Chef Guy says

    Not a big fan of the churro recipe (found a different one), but as for the cupcake recipe, well, I’m sold. Possibly my favorite cupcake now.

  21. Christina says

    These taste good but something was off with the amount of baking soda/baking powder. They overflowed the muffin tins. Made it twice with the same results, triple checked each time.

  22. Paula says

    Hi!! In Brasil we make Dulce de Leche all the time… and it’s a LOT easier than how you did it. Here’s the secret… take an unopened can of Condensed Milk, put it inside of a pressure cooker, add water (a lot, but don’t go past the safety line), then top the pressure cooker, and cook about 30-40 minutes. When done, you’ll open the can and have INSTANT DULCE DE LECHE (only we call it Doce de Leite)!!!!

    • says

      Hi! I know of this technique, but for this particular post, I was really interested in making the recipe from scratch, with whole ingredients. As I say in the post, I wanted to see how difficult it would be, by comparison. :)

  23. Tanya says

    I made a variation of these for a BBQ this afternoon– not wanting to break out my stand mixer I admit to doctoring cake mix for the cupcake base, but I made the churros as instructed. Quick question– is the churro dough supposed to be so thick? I had to double-bag my pastry bags to keep them from bursting under pressure as I labored to squeeze the dough out of my star tip, and my hands ached from squeezing. It was a lot thicker than choux dough, more like a stiff tart crust dough, even. The churros tasted great, but I may have to look for another recipe next time just to save my sore hands!

  24. says

    In your picture of the ingredients you used you had the cutest little four section plate and little milk bowl with handles. We’re did you get those?!?!?! I love them. I made these cupcakes for a party and everybody loved the churros. Thank you!!!

  25. Lora says

    Hey! This recipe looks awesome! Can’t wait to try them! But I’m curious? How many cupcakes does one batch make? I have to make 4 dozen for a Cinco De mayo party…. so I want to make sure to plan accordingly…. Thanks!

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