Cuban Espresso Dark Chocolate Cake with Salted Dulce De Leche Frosting

buttercreamA couple of years ago, my (then) 10 year old decided that he wanted to bake a cake for our local 4-H/FFA Youth Fair.  I agreed to teach him, but he had to decide what kind/flavor he wanted to bake.  He decided on a chocolate & peanut butter cake, which shouldn’t surprise me since I’m pretty sure he has Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups flowing through his veins.  He practiced for several weeks, and in the end, was named one of the top 10 in the show and auctioned his cake for nearly $400.

To a 10 year old, $400 is a fortune and lit a competitive, driven fire in him. The next year, he decided that he wanted a cake recipe that “no one else would have.”  He desperately wanted to be original and memorable.  I pitched a few ideas to him, and in the end, I wrote this recipe for him.  I guess it was the right recipe, because again, he was one of the top 10, auctioning his cake for nearly $300…not too shabby for a kid in the 6th grade.



3 cups sugar

3 cups all purpose flour

1-1/8 cups Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa

2-1/4 teaspoons baking soda

2-1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon espresso powder or packet of instant coffee

3 eggs

1-1/2 cups milk

¾ cup vegetable oil

1-1/2 cups strong hot coffee

3 teaspoons vanilla extract


15 fluid ounces dulce de leche

1 cup butter, softened

½ cup vegetable shortening

1 tablespoon meringue powder

2 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons salt

2 pounds powdered sugar



In a large mixing bowl, sift together sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and espresso powder. In a small bowl, combine eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and blend on high for 2 minutes. Whisk or stir in coffee. Pour batter into 3 greased & floured 9″ cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing cakes and cooling completely.


In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, 3/4 c. dulce de leche, shortening, salt, and vanilla. Blend until smooth. Add meringue powder and 1/2 bag of powdered sugar. Blend on low until completely incorporated. Add powdered sugar 1/2 c. at a time until completely blended. Add milk as needed. Turn mixer to high and whip frosting for 4-5 minutes.


cuban espresso cakeWith a cake leveler or serated knife, remove domed top of each cake. Spread frosting evenly between the layers and over entire cake as a crumb coat. Refrigerate until set. Use remaining frosting to cover and decorate cake. Microwave remaining dulce de leche and drizzle over cake. Decorate with additional chopped dark chocolate.

***The cake pictured is the actual cake that he entered in the fair.  Good job, Ean!**

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