Food. Life. Travel

Dulce de Leche Chocolate Espresso Cake: Recipe

I turned 24. In order to celebrate the big TWO-FOUR, I wanted to recreate a cake my sister made for me on my 22-nd birthday. I cannot express to you how delicious that cake was. In fact, it was so good that I do not even think my recipe can compete with it.  However, it does come as a close second. The cake that she made was a coffee cake with a dulce de leche buttercream. She piped little dollops of whip cream on top, and placed a macaron on top of each mound.

The cake was euphoric. It tasted like my favourite coffee drink. Words cannot describe how good it was. It was tender, with a perfect buttery crumb. The espresso flavour stood out in every bite, and the dulce de leche buttercream had hints of caramel without being overly sweet.

My sister lost the recipe. 

Cue the chaos, and the tears (okay not really). But can you imagine my horror and frustration? This led me to a pre-birthday panic of trying to find a recipe that could compete. See most recipes that are “coffee” based, just use coffee in place of water, for their chocolate cake. The coffee flavour enhances the chocolate but by no means stands out.

Secondly, most cakes used oil, and I wanted a butter based cake because I liked the crumb better. Less dense and fudgier, and instead is airier and light.

Finally, my sister could not remember whether she made her own dulce de leche or if she bought it. It had only been two years and she had the memory of an octagenarian (or worse!).

This meant that I was left to try and re-capture those same flavours based on memory alone. What I came up with is tasty, but by no means comparable to the original. Perhaps some things are better left to melancholic memory! Eventually I landed on a recipe by the Little Epicurean Kitchen. Her cake uses coconut oil and a few other ingredients I swapped out. But I liked that she was generous with her coffee!

Ultimately, my recipe for Dulce De Leche Espresso Cake, is incredibly delicious even if it isn’t the same cake I had on my 22-nd birthday. I can assure you the coffee flavour stands out in a subtle rather than raucaous manner, and the dulce de leche buttercream is sweet and caramel-y.

My dulce de leche espresso cake was the perfect way to ring in my 24th year, and I am excited I can share it with you!


Originally I thought maybe I could lament on the 24 things I have learned (or rather the 23 things), over the last 24 years. There is a lot, and in fact, I have learned a lot in just a this last year alone.

One of the main things I have learned, and I hope to always remember, is that I have to have faith in myself, and trust when things do not go as planned. Like for instance, realizing that the drizzled dulce de leche along the edges of my cake were not perfect, but the cake still tasted good.

I have to have faith knowing that I have baked long enough that my goods will turn out good. And if they don’t then I have to learn from my mistakes. 

And finally, I have learned that I need to be patient. Life flows by in a whirlwind, and if I rush to experience things, I miss out on everything else. Patience is one of the hardest elements of life yet it is omnipresent. Even in baking. Despite wanting to rush through the process and incorporate my lazy girl hacks, sometimes I just need to be patient. 

Making this cake was a new process for me that forced me to implement the above mentioned. I had to have faith that I was capable of baking and successfully frosting a 6-inch cake (first time). I had to relax when things did not go as planned aesthetically (i.e. the ugly drizzle). And finally, I had to have patience in the process. That was the key.

Instead of explaining every element about this cake, I will instead encourage you to just go ahead and bake it, keeping in mind everything I have mentioned above!


Like your favourite latte drink, this cake has hints of espresso and a rich caramel buttercream.

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Dulce de Leche Buttercream

This rich chocolate cake has a deep flavour of coffee, and is paired with a sweet caramel dulce de leche buttercream, capturing all the flavours of your favourite espresso drink!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 1 4 -layer 6 inch cake


Chocolate Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used Valhrona cocoa powder)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tbsp instant espresso powder (I used finely crushed espresso)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp coffee extract
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt

Dulce de Leche Buttercream:

  • 4 cups icing sugar (you may need more)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (cut into small cubes)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tbsp full cream
  • 1/4 cup dulce de leche *


Chocolate Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line and grease two 6-inch round cake pans and set aside.

  2. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until pale and creamy. Add the sugars and whip for 5-7 minutes. Scraping down the sides as needed. On low speed, add the vanilla and coffee extract. Combine. Crack one egg at a time and mix for 1 minute each or until combined. Add the espresso powder. 

  4. In a small glass measuring cup, combine the milk and yogurt. On low-speed alternate between adding the flour mixture and milk. Add about 1/3 of flour, following with 1/2 of milk. End with the flour.  Mix on low speed until there are no longer any streaks of dry flour (you may need to use your spatula). Do not over mix!

  5. Divide batter between prepared cake pans. Level batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan for 5 minutes before inverting them onto a cooling rack. Allow cakes to cool to completely before frosting. 

Espresso Swiss Buttercream

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until pale. Scrape down the sides. With the mixer on low speed, add 1/4 cup of icing sugar at a time, ensuring that it combines with the butter. If the mixture is too thick, add a tbsp of full cream at a time to loosen the consistency. Add the vanilla and the dulce de leche, and whip the buttercream on high for 5 minutes until you achieve a pale and fluffy texture. 

  2. Set the buttercream aside until ready to use. Re-whip the buttercream for a few moments prior to frosting, to re-incorporate the ingredients. 


  1. Once cake is cooled, slice each cake into two equal layers. To build the cake, place one layer on a cake board, spread a layer of frosting, place another layer on top. Repeat with all the layers. From there, spread a thin layer of buttercream (your crumb coat). Freeze the cake for 30 minutes or until buttercream is set. Coat the cake with another (final) layer of buttercream. Place the cake back in the freezer to set. If desired, you can (using a spoon) drizzle the remaining dulce de leche over the edges to create a drip effect. Let the cake come to room temperature prior to cutting and serving. 

Recipe Notes

* You may need more dulce de leche for the buttercream. Keep in mind, it will make the buttercream even sweeter. In addition, the flavour of the dulce de leche buttercream develops after an hour. Furthermore, you will need extra dulce de leche to drizzle over the edges of the cake if you so wish. 

I use store-bought dulce de leche because I did not have any time (or patience) to make my own. If you feel up to the challenge I encourage you to make your own. I find that flavour and consistency to be better 🙂 however storebought will be just fine (and still be tasty!). 




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