My mother's birthday was last week, so I set out to make her the perfect birthday cake. I suggested a layer cake filled with dulce de leche and she delightfully obliged. When searching for a specific recipe, I couldn't find one that matched the cake in my mind, so naturally it ended up being my own creation. The end result was better than I could have imagined!
The melt in your mouth vanilla-almond cake layers were light and fluffy. The caramel colored dulce de leche filling was thick and rich. The buttery caramel frosting was smooth and creamy. The three parts came together perfectly to create a divine birthday cake that even impressed the pastry chef of the restaurant where we dined! To see the recipe,
For the dulce de leche filling:
1 quart whole milk
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half and seeds scraped
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tbsp. water
For the cake:
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
12 tbsp. (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1 cup milk
5 egg whites, at room temperature
For the frosting:
12 tbsp. (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 package (16 oz.) confectioners sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more if needed
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
sliced almonds, optional for garnish
Make the Dulce De Leche Filling
- In a large heavy saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, vanilla bean, and seeds and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the milk begins to get foamy on top, stir to incorporate the foam.
- In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the water, and add to the milk mixture.
- Reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered at a bare simmer. Let cook, stirring occasionally without working the foam into the milk. After 1 hour remove the vanilla bean.
- Continue cooking, skimming occasionally, until tan, very thick, and reduced to about 1 cup, 1-1/2 to 3 hours depending on the heat of your stove. The milk will continue to darken as it cooks. Strain into a clean container and let cool. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The dulce de leche will thicken as it cools, and will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
Make the Cake:
- Position a rack in the middle of an oven and preheat to 350ºF. Butter and flour two round cake pans each 9 inches in diameter and 1-1/2 inches deep.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the butter until light.
- Gradually add the sugar, beating until well blended. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.
- Reduce the speed to low and, dividing the flour mixture into three batches, beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternately with the milk just until combined.
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with clean, dry beaters and set on high speed, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the beaten whites into the batter just until incorporated. Divide the batter between the prepared pans; smooth with the spatula.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer to racks and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the pan sides to loosen the cakes. Invert onto racks and let cool completely.
Make the Frosting:
- In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat until nut-brown in color, about 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour butter into a bowl, leaving any burned sediment behind; let cool.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add confectioners sugar, vanilla, salt, and butter. With the mixer on low, slowly add cream; beat until smooth. If frosting seems too thick, stir another tablespoon cream into the mixture.
Assemble the cake:
- Carefully slice each of the two cooled cakes in half to make four layers. Set one layer on the cake plate. Generously spread about 1/3 cup of the dulce de leche on top. Top with another cake layer and spread with another 1/3 cup of the dulce de leche. Repeat with another cake layer and top with the final forth cake layer. Set dulce de leche aside.
- Frost the top and sides of the cake with the frosting. If using the sliced almonds, press into the sides of the cake. Drizzle with remaining dulce de leche. Refrigerate until serving.
Note: The cakes and dulce de leche may be made in advance.