Okay. Miss Fats will admit this is a bit of a weird combination. On paper. However, in practice, these flavors (cinnamon, peanut butter and dulce de leche) come together in a the form of a moist cupcake filled with oozing peanut butter and topped with a rich caramel-y frosting. This is a flavor punch. One that shouldn’t really work, but like that ugly/pretty girl you keep staring at, becomes something you can resist paying attention to. What is it about the sticky sweet weight of peanut butter and dulce de leche that makes you both hate and love yourself? Miss Fats likes to think that even as the thick peanut butter filling coats your mouth hole, all you want to do is linger in cupcake weirdness because the sugar-salt-spice rush breaks your brain a little.
This combo has emerged as Miss Fats’ go-to cake to pair with tacos. It last made the appearance as a decadent layer cake for an epic taco birthday bash last fall. However for this taco housewarming, she felt the cake should be able to be consumed with a drink in the other hand. (Or even better: double fist those cupcakes.) What emerged is a mixed baby of mexican flavors and salty peanut goodness. This cupcake features a cinnamon and cayenne spiced chocolate cupcake stuffed with peanut butter filling and topped with a dulce de leche frosting: a whole delightful spectrum of brown. The odd addition of peanut butter creates that salt-sweet balance with the candy-sweet dulce de leche, and the cake brings a little spicy to the mix: salt-sweet-heat.
The taco menu was not the only reason Miss Fats decided on this bizarre cupcake. The dessert was in celebration of an incredible housewarming hosted by the coolest couple she’s ever known, in the craziest apartment known to man. Team Miss Fats likes to refer to their magical game nights with them as stepping into the “hottest club in Chicago.” She’s talking craft cocktails, multi-course meals and a space that Miss Fats is convinced isn’t real. They used to attend game nights in the most outrageous studio/loft apartment that featured floor to ceiling windows, an amazing collection of handmade art that literally scaled the entire space, beautiful hand-built furniture, and proper entertaining dishware (oh hey, salad plate and dessert fork). This list completely fails to capture the experience of Club A & D, which is probably akin to drinking from Willy Wonka’s chocolate river in magical candy land. Miss Fats wants to stress that this was their OLD apartment. She’s completely out of words for their new space. She’d like you to fantasize about this studio/game night and then cube it: then you’ve maybe approached an idea of the Club A & D experience.
So the real question was: how can Miss Fats make a dessert that lives up this party? Well the answer is: she can’t. Nor should she really try, because it’s doomed to failure. Miss Fats can’t bake flying unicorns, after all. She decided to move forward with an indulgent cupcake that embraced the kooky mix of flavors that were as rich and celebratory as the evening itself. Naturally this started with a base of chocolate. Normally, a taco party would seem to demand something on the coconut-flan-y spectrum; and Miss Fats seriously struggled with herself on this. She was so close to attempting a tres leches cake, but just could not seem to get herself out of the chocolate mind set. Sticking to her guns, she decided to go with her weird flavor bomb from last fall and add a little heat to the mix. Miss Fats paid homage to the mexican flavors by adding cinnamon and cayenne to her usual chocolate cake batter, to create a secret mouth fiesta and cut through the decadence of the rich peanut butter and dulce de leche.
This recipe follows Miss Fats’ method of a three-part stuffed cupcake, that is incredibly easy. Three bowls, three components, and about an hour of your time (outside of cooling and bake time that is). As usual, these little guys can be broken down into two days: cakes baked off day one, and all the other ooey-gooey stuff on day two.
Spiced Chocolate and Peanut Butter Dulce De Leche Cupcakes
makes approximately 18 cupcakes
cake adapted from The Kitchn’s Dark Chocolate Cake
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup oil
1 cup hot coffee
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup dulce de leche
1-2 tbs milk
1 tbs oil (optional depending upon your peanut butter)
1 stick butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup dulce de leche (or essentially, the remaining can)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1. Make the cakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare cupcake tins. In a large bowl, mix together sugar, cocoa powder, flour, baking soda and powder, salt, and spices. Whisk in eggs, oil and butter milk. Mix vigorously for approximately 2 minutes. Pour in hot coffee and mix until fully combined. Divide batter among cupcake trays. Bake for approximately 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to fully cool.
2. Filling: In a small bowl, mix the peanut butter and dulce de leche. Add approximately 1 tbs of milk and oil. This will depend on the consistency of your peanut butter. Natural peanut butters will likely require more oil for a smoother consistency. You’re looking for a filling that approximates the gooey-ness of a freshly mixed jar of natural peanut butter.
3. Frosting: In a stand mixer (or using a hand-held one), beat the butter, cream cheese and dulce de leche on high until light and fluffy (approximately 2 minutes). Add the salt and vanilla and mix until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar and beat until combined.
4. Assembly: Using a small spoon, scoop out a hole in each cupcake. Spoon in approximately 1 tbs of the filling. Finally, spread the frosting over top, or swirl using a pastry bag (or gallon ziplock bag with the tip cut off).
Now Miss Fats can’t claim that these cupcakes objectify her amazing friends, but she hopes they in the very least approach the endlessly creative, fun and surprising times at Club A & D. The salt-sweet-heat of these little guys can only account for a fraction of the flavors of the club: they are full force-flavor kind of people. Miss Fats can only dream of creating a mouth party of that scale. For now, she’ll leave the remaining flavors to D, who turned it out with the crazy taco bar. She just hopes they enjoyed these dessert delights as they danced and drank the night away.