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Dulce De Leche Cake (Golden Key Cake)

Dulce de Leche Cake is one of the best caramel cakes out there. It has dulce de leche in the cake, soaking syrup and the cream, and the hazelnuts add a very pleasant crunch. This cake is among 5 of my favorite cakes as every bite is perfectly soft, moist and delicious.

If you are like me and love dulce de leche, you must try these incredible dulce de leche macarons, this apple and dulce de leche pastry, and my favorite crispy wafer cookies with dulce de leche.

Slice of 4-layer dulce de leche cake on a plate with fork.

A slice of the rectangle version of the Dulce de Leche Cake.

Dulce de Leche Cake

If you’re a fan of caramel or dulce de leche you’ll fall in love with this cake from the first bite. Everywhere I bring this stunner I have people come up to me to share that they absolutely loved the Dulce de Leche cake, followed by “can I have the recipe for it, please?”.

Among the Russian community, this cake is also known as Golden Key cake, because it resembles a caramel candy with the same name we grew up eating. The little caramel was basically cooked down dulce de leche in a wrapper and was a favorite for many. Now we have the flavors of Golden Key candy and Dulce de Leche in each spoonful of this cake.

Slice of an eight-layer cake made with dulce de leche.

A slice of the round version of the Dulce de Leche Cake.

What is Dulce de Leche? 

If you have never tried dulce de leche before, you are in for a big treat. It is basically sweetened condensed milk that has been cooked into a fantastic, caramel-like substance.

Of course, you can buy it pre-made, but here’s how you can make it at home. Transfer sweetened condensed milk into a glass jar and seal it with a lid. Place it in a pot, cover the jar with water and cook for 2.5 hours. Let the dulce de leche come to room temperature. Use this version in place of pre-made dulce de leche (it’s so simple!).

Visual image of caking showing answer to "what is dulce de leche?"

Caramel Cake Recipe

It sounds dramatic, but this caramel cake recipe is a treat for all your senses. It smells incredible, tastes even better, and it looks amazing. This dessert is perfect for special occasions such as baby showers, wedding showers, or even an actual wedding.

Even though the dulce de leche cake has caramel in every layer, the flavors and sweetness are perfectly balanced so the cake is not overly sweet.

You guys just have to make it – if you like caramel, I promise you’ll love this caramel cake!

Image of a caramel cake recipe made into a round, chocolate-covered cake.

Components in this Caramel Cake Recipe

This cake has several components to it. Here is a quick summary of what you’ll need to create for this gorgeous caramel cake recipe.

  • Cake. This caramel cake recipe uses a basic, but delicious, dulce de leche sponge cake that is also made with sour cream.
  • Soaking syrup. The rich soaking syrup is what makes this cake so moist and flavorful. Every layer of cake is doused in the incredible flavor.
  • Cream and toppings. In between each layer of cakes lies a creamy dulce de leche frosting. The frosting is also used to ice the cake, which is then topped with roasted hazelnut and/or chocolate sprinkles.

Four layer cake with chocolate shavings and roasted hazelnuts made from a caramel cake recipe.

Tip for Making this Dulce de Leche Cake Recipe

If you have decided to make this dulce de leche cake recipe (and you really should!), these tips and tricks will help guide you along the way.

  • Sift in your flour. Sifting may seem like an unnecessary step, but it isn’t. When you use a sifter, not only do any clumps in the flour get broken up, but sifting actually aerates your flour, helping you make a lighter, more airy cake.
  • Make the pans nonstick: When you are baking the cake layers, it is important to keep the cake from sticking. You can do this by either using a baking mat, by greasing the baking pan with butter and flour, by using parchment paper, or by lining it with foil and spraying with non-stick spray.
  • Do not overbake the cake. If the cake is overbaked, the layers will become dry instead of the moist layers this dulce de leche cake recipe is known for.
  • Use a squeeze bottle. The dulce de leche cake recipe’s soaking syrup needs to be applied evenly to the cake layers. The easiest way to do that, by far, is a food-safe squeeze bottle. But a brush or a spoon will work as well.
  • Roast hazelnuts. Do not be tempted to skip this step. Roasting caramelizes the nuts and releases all it’s beautiful flavor and aroma.
  • Hazelnut substitute. If you can’t find hazelnuts or don’t care for them, switch them out for roasted walnut chunks instead.
  • Choose your chocolate topping. I opted to make this cake by covering the outside with these amazing flakes of chocolate. However, you could swap that for chocolate sprinkles, or making a simple ganache to drizzle over the top of the cake.

Close up shot of a cake slice from a dulce de leche cake recipe.

Alright, let’s get to it now!

How to Make Dulce de Leche Cake

  • Measure your ingredients for the dulce de leche cake layer.

Ingredients for a dulce de leche cake.

  • Use a stand mixer to whip together the egg, sugar, and salt for about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together sour cream, dulce de leche and baking soda until there are no clumps remaining.
  • Slowly fold in the dulce de leche batter to the first batter without deflating.
  • Sift in flour and baking powder, then fold until incorporated.

Visual step by step instructions of how to make dulce de leche cake layer.

  • Pour the dough atop two baking sheets and spread each into an even layer, then bake and let cool completely.

How to bake a dulce de leche cake aka Golden Key Cake

  • To make the caramel soaking syrup, combine the evaporated milk and dulce de leche until smooth.
  • Add syrup to a squirt bottle.
  • Roast hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Let nuts cool, then skin and chop the nuts, set aside.

How to make a soaking syrup for a dulce de leche cake.

How to make the Caramel Cream:

  • Let the butter & cream cheese come to room temperature.

Ingredients for the dulce de leche cake frosting.

  • Whip together cubed cream cheese and butter.
  • Add dulce de leche in two batches, whipping after each.
  • Fold in whipped topping/cream.

Visual step by step instructions for icing on a dulce de leche cake.

How to Assemble the Dulce de Leche Cake

  • Carefully flip each cake upside down and peel off the baking mat.
  • Cut each cake evenly in half, for a total of four layers.
  • Pour the soaking syrup evenly over the cake with the squirt bottle.
  • Spread the caramel cream over one layer of the cake evenly.
  • Add crushed hazelnuts to the top.
  • Top with the second layer and repeat until you all four layers are done.
  • Cover the entire cake with the caramel cream once all four layers are together.
  • Finish with the decor of your choice then top with roasted hazelnuts.

Visual step by step directions for how to assemble a layered dulce de leche cake.

  • Let the cake sit in the fridge for a few hours so the flavors can meld.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Check Out Even More Cake Recipes:

Dulce de Leche Cake

5 from 3 votes
Author: Marina | Let the Baking Begin
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Russian
Keyword: caramel cake, dulce de leche cake
Calories: 287 kcal
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 25 minutes
Servings: 20

Ingredients

Dulce de Leche Cake Ingredients

Dulce de Leche Syrup (whisk or blend together)

Also

Dulce de Leche Cream

  • 8 oz butter, unsalted, room temperate
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 12 oz dulce de leche 12 oz = 1 can
  • 16 oz whipped topping or heavy whipping cream

Instructions

How to Make the Dulce de Leche Cake Layers

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the baking rack in the middle. Line 2 large 12" x 18" baking pans lined with parchment or silicone mats & set aside (alternatively butter and flour the sheet pans).

    *For round cake - butter and flour three 8-inch round cake pans*

  2. Mixture 1: In a bowl of a stand mixer whip together 4 eggs, 1 cup sugar, and ½ tsp salt for about 10 minutes. Eggs should be whipped until the mixture flows off the beater in a ribbon that takes 2-3 seconds to disappear.  

  3. Mixture 2: When the eggs are almost done whipping, in a medium bowl whisk together 1 cup sour cream, 1 can dulce de leche and 1 tsp of baking soda until no lumps of dulce de leche are seen. The mixture will increase in volume from the baking soda, so make sure to use big enough bowl.

  4. Combine: Fold the two mixtures together, being careful not to overmix and deflate the batter. 

  5. Add the dry: Sift in 2 cups of flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder, then fold the batter until fully incorporated. Do not overmix or the cake will be tough. 

  6. Pour & Bake: Divide the batter between the 2 prepared baking sheet pans (or 3 rounds ones for a round cake) into an even layer. Bake for about 9 minutes (about 12 min for round cakes) or until the top is lightly golden and springs back when touched. Remove from the oven and completely cool. 

How to Roast Hazelnuts

  1. Roast: Preheat oven to 325 with the baking rack in the middle. 

    Place the hazelnuts onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, tossing the nuts about every 4 minutes and tasting to see if they're roasted to your liking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

  2. Skin the hazelnuts: Add the nuts to a ziplock bag and keep shaking and rubbing the hazelnuts between the palms of your hands until the skin is removed. 
    Next, shake the bag so that hazelnut skins sink to the bottom of the bag, and remove the nuts to a separate bowl, discarding the skins. 

    Leave 20 or so hazelnuts whole, chop the rest of the nuts with a sharp knife to a medium size, or pulse a few times in the food processor.

How to make the Caramel Soaking Syrup

  1. Combine the evaporated milk and the dulce de leche with a whisk or an immersion blender until smooth. Pour into a squirt bottle if available.

How to make the Caramel Cream

  1. If using heavy whipping cream instead of whipped topping, whip the cream with a mixer until medium peaks and refrigerate.

  2. Whip 8 oz cubed room temperature butter and 8 oz cubed cream cheese for about 4-5 minutes or until the mixture is very fluffy. Scrape down the bowl several times throughout. Add the dulce de leche in 2 additions and whip after each. 

  3. Fold in the refrigerated whipped cream (or whipped topping) into the caramel cream in two additions. 

How to Assemble the Caramel Cake

  1. Flip each cake upside down and peel off the parchment paper or the silicone mat from the back. Cut each cake in half width-wise so that you have four cake layers total.

  2. Place a dab of frosting onto the serving plate. Now top with the fist cake layer and press to adhere. Using a squeeze bottle or a spoon, pour 1/4th of the Caramel Soaking Syrup evenly all over the cake layer.

  3. Reserve about 2 cups of cream and set aside (1 1/2 cups for a round cake). Layer the cake by soaking each layer with the soaking syrup, then spreading some caramel cream and sprinkling some chopped hazelnuts.

  4. Add the final layer, then use 1 1/2 cups of caramel cream (1 1/4 cups for round) from that which was set aside to cover the top and sides of the cake in icing.

  5. Cover the cream with chocolate flakes by sprinkling the top and pressing it against the sides. OR prepare chocolate ganache and pour it over the top of the cake.

  6. Pipe the leftover 1/2 cup of cream (1/4 cup for round) on cake top and decorate with whole roasted hazelnuts (use chopped hazelnuts for round version).

To serve:

  1. Refrigerate the cake for about 2-3 hours before serving. Serve cold or room temperature.

Nutrition Facts
Dulce de Leche Cake
Amount Per Serving
Calories 287 Calories from Fat 162
% Daily Value*
Fat 18g28%
Saturated Fat 9g56%
Cholesterol 63mg21%
Sodium 174mg8%
Potassium 242mg7%
Carbohydrates 26g9%
Sugar 20g22%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 530IU11%
Vitamin C 1.3mg2%
Calcium 142mg14%
Iron 0.8mg4%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Marina | Let the Baking Begin

Welcome to Let the Baking Begin! I'm Marina and my love and passion for eating only the most delicious foods drive me to share that love here on Let the Baking Begin (since 2009). With over 20 years of experience in the kitchen, you know the recipes are tested and retested until perfect. I'm so happy to have you here. Enjoy! Read more...

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  • Julie

    Is it normal that once I baked the layers, they seem to be sticky when cooled off. Or did I do something wrong?

    · Reply
  • you’re absolutely right, this cake is incredible!! I made it 2x already, within 4 days lol. A couple things I did was reduce the sugar to 3/4 c. in the cake batter, half of a can of dulce de leche in the soaking mixture and about 3/4 of the cool whip tub in the frosting. My family doesn’t like really sweet desserts. And this still turned out amazing!! Also, chopping the hazelnuts by hand is ideal, because I did the first time in a blender and it pulverized it. And this cake recipe was perfect for 2, 10 inch cake pans! Made a really nice and tall cake. Everyone absolutely loved it!! wish I could show a pic on here, but either way, everyone take my word for it that this is delicious!! Thank you for a great recipe that will go into my recipe book! 🙂

    · Reply
  • MashaP

    Made this for a event and this cake turned out so delicious! So moist and flavorful. Thank you for the recipe!

    · Reply
  • Layla

    In your ingridience list it says 4 tsp of baking powder. And in your instructions says 2 cups of flour and 2 tsp baking powder. Where does the rest 2 tsp of baking powder go??

    · Reply
  • Hello,
    how far in advance can I make this? I was hoping to make it for Saturday but would like to make it as early as possible. It looks so delicious I cannot wait to try it! I will be back with a review 🙂

    · Reply
    • Hi Vicky,
      Thank you so much!

      This cake refrigerates well and would probably be pretty good even 4-5 days after making, but I probably wouldn’t make it earlier than Thursday if you want it served on Saturday.

      · Reply
      • Vicky

        Hi again,
        so your list says 4 tsp of baking powder but in the instructions below, it says 2 tsp of baking powder. I’m assuming it’s 2?

        · Reply
  • Maria

    Bit confused about whipping cream portion . Vs whipping topping. If in using heavy whipping cream I need 2 cups(16oz) unwhipped ? Or measure 2 cups after its whipped ?

    · Reply
    • Hi Maria,
      The recipe indicates ingredients in weight not volume because in whipped heavy cream will be 2 cups in volume, but whipped topping will be more in volume but still the same in weight. Whipped topping is sold in 16 oz tubs so you wouldn’t have to measure it.

      · Reply
      • Maria

        If your recipe is measured in weight not volume then it’s even more confusing. 16ounces of whipped topping is equal to 1lb(453g) your measurements if switched to metrics on here say “226.8g”. But I dont want to use whipped topping . I would like to use heavy whipping cream . They come in fl oz. In your recipe it indicates 16oz of whipped topping or 16 oz of whipping cream. It’s two different measurements and amounts of whipping cream.. this is where I found it confusing . I am using heavy whipping cream how many fl oz would I need of heavy whipping cream to substitute the 16 oz(net wight) tub of whipped cream.

        · Reply
        • Hi Maria,
          If you’re using heavy whipping cream, you can measure it by volume (2 cups) or by weight (16 oz). Either way, you’ll end up with 16 oz.

          I’m not sure why the conversion was calculated wrong on my end (it’s done automatically), but I went ahead and fixed it to reflect the correct weight, sorry about that.

          · Reply
  • Olga D

    Can I leave the butter out of the cream or is it a necessity? I really don’t like butter in creams

    · Reply
    • Hi Olga,
      I haven’t tried that so can’t tell you. I wonder if you can replace it with cream cheese, but I do think the cream will not be as stable and might be runny.

      · Reply

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