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.
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.
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!).
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!
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.
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.
Alright, let’s get to it now!
How to Make Dulce de Leche Cake
- Measure your ingredients for the dulce de leche cake layer.
- 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.
- Pour the dough atop two baking sheets and spread each into an even layer, then bake and let cool completely.
- 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 the Caramel Cream:
- Let the butter & cream cheese come to room temperature.
- Whip together cubed cream cheese and butter.
- Add dulce de leche in two batches, whipping after each.
- Fold in whipped topping/cream.
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.
- 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
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.
Dulce de Leche Cake Ingredients
- 4 eggs , large
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup sugar, granulated
- 1 cup sour cream
- 14 oz dulce de leche 14 oz = 1 can
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
Dulce de Leche Syrup (whisk or blend together)
- 8 oz evaporated milk
- 14 oz dulce de leche 14 oz = 1 can
- 2 cup whole hazelnuts
Dulce de Leche Cream
- 8 oz butter, unsalted, room temperate
- 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 14 oz dulce de leche 14 oz = 1 can
- 16 oz whipped topping or heavy whipping cream
How to Make the Dulce de Leche Cake Layers
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the baking rack in the middle.
For a rectangular cake: Line 2 large 12" x 18" or 15" x 21" baking sheet pans lined with parchment or silicone mats & set aside (alternatively butter and flour the sheet pans).
For a round cake - butter and flour three 8-inch round cake pans*
Mixture 1: In a bowl of a stand mixer whip together 4 eggs, 1 cup sugar, and ½ tsp salt for ~10 minutes. Eggs should be whipped until the mixture flows off the beater in a ribbon that takes 2-3 seconds to disappear.
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.
Combine: Fold the two mixtures together, being careful not to overmix and deflate the batter.
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.
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 ~9 minutes for the rectangular pans or ~12 min for round cake pans, or until the top is lightly golden and springs back when touched, or when the toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
How to Roast Hazelnuts
Roast: Preheat oven to 325F° with the baking rack in the center.
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.
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, or add to a ziplock bag and crush with a rolling pin.
How to make the Caramel Soaking Syrup
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
If using heavy whipping cream instead of whipped topping, whip the cream with a mixer until medium peaks and refrigerate.
Whip 8 oz of 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 until just incorporated.
Fold in the refrigerated whipped cream (or whipped topping) into the caramel cream in two additions.
How to Assemble the Caramel Cake
Flip each cake upside down and peel off the parchment paper or the silicone mat from the back. Cut the rectangular cakes widthwise into two equal pieces (you will have 4 cake layers now). For the round cakes use a long serrated knife to split each cake layer in half, horizontally (giving you 6 total layers).
Reserve about 2 cups of cream and set aside (1 1/2 cups for a round cake)
Place a dab of frosting onto the serving plate. Now top with the fist cake layer and press to adhere. Layer the cake by soaking each layer with the soaking syrup, then spreading some caramel cream and sprinkling some chopped hazelnuts. Repeat the process with the rest of the layers.
Add the final layer, then use 1 1/2 cups of the reserved caramel cream (1 1/4 cups for round) to cover the top and sides of the cake.
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.
Use the remaining cream ( 1/2 cup for rectangular or 1/4 cup for round) to pipe on cake top and decorate with whole roasted hazelnuts (use chopped hazelnuts for round version).
Refrigerate the cake for about 2-3 hours before serving. Serve cold or room temperature.
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What a cake! Did half of original size, left it overnight, the next day it was a pure hedonistic delight! Thanks
Really struggled with this cake, there’s not enough batter for the size of the rectangle pans recommended, I barely managed to get one and a half pans filled. Also the soaking syrup would not soak into the cake, it just sat in a puddle on top and yes I whisked it really well first. Maybe I should have poked holes all over the cake to get it to soak in. Frosting became difficult as it would mix with the syrup and slide all over. Disappointed as it’s a really time consuming cake, hoping it’ll still taste good :/
Hi Inna, so sorry to hear of the struggle.
If I had to guess, I would say that you most likely missed an ingredient or may be was off on measuring it, because there should definitely be enough for two pans.
Also, did you turn the cake upside down before drizzling it with the syrup? When you peel it off the parchment it exposes the porous texture of cake which allows the syrup to soak in.
Despite everything, I hope you still like the flavor ❤️
I didn’t miss any ingredients or mess up the measurement, maybe I just didn’t spread it thin enough? But then the cake layers would have come out super thin, also when I peeled off the parchment some areas were porous but some were smooth. The flavor is still good though
Wowwww! This recipe is super simple and amazingly delicious. I’m not the best baker but, I did this recipe and everyone loved the balanced taste in wetness, softness, and sweetness.
** BTW the ( bread part) was super soft. To my surprise even softer than the any sponge cake I did.
Thank you so much for the recipe ☺️☺️
It was a big hit! I baked it for Christmas’ Eve and my dad’s birthday which are on the same date and everybody loved it! My boyfriend thought it was such a gourmet, high cuisine flavor. Thank you very much for the amazing recipe!
I am planning on making this cake in advance for a birthday party. I’ve read in the comments that this cake freezes well, but what’s important for me to know is how long does the cake take to thaw once it’s been frozen? I am hoping to thaw it in the fridge, how long would that take from a frozen cake? (I am making the round version)
Hi this cake looks amazing! I want to try to make it for our family gathering, would I be able to put the ganache on the cake and freeze it for a couple days before the gathering? Or better to decorate the top after the freezer?
I was coming to ask basically the same question. But also if the cake is stable enough to frost (with American Buttercream?)
Thank you so much! I can’t wait to try it!
Yes, just make sure to refrigerate it or freeze it prior to decorating.
This is a very delicious cake! Thank you so much for the recipe!
I am wanting to make this cake again for my sister’s bridal shower. Do you think it could be made into a two tier cake if I double the recipe and make one portion 8 inches round (3 layers) and one portion 10 inches round (2 layers)? I will use a cake board and dowels for support… will it hold up? What is your suggestions based on your expertise?
I’ve not made this specific cake before but since the creator hasn’t replied to you yet I thought I’d put in my two cents having made several other cakes in the past.
My suggestion is that you make each tier of the cake separately (so imagine it like you’re making 2 cakes at first). Put them each, still separate, into a freezer and freeze them completely. Then, put the two tiers together, do any more frosting and decorating that you need to do, and pop it in the fridge to gradually thaw (which usually takes around 1-2 days).
Freezing both parts of the cake separately before stacking them will make it a lot easier for the cake to hold up well. Good luck! 🙂
Tried it once, but really struggled to get the cake soaked with the syrup once the cake has cooled down. Could the syrup have been be too thick? Should I heat up the syrup before pouring or can I pour it while the cake is still warm? Or advice to you have?
was the syrup itself very thick? Did it need to be whisked better? Sometimes the clumps of dulce de leche don’t incorporate easily, I fix it by blending the syrup with the handheld blender. Would this help?
I am going to make this cake for a small number of people. I intend to halve the recipe, cook on a tray and cut the cake into 4 pieces. I will layer these and hopefully it will turn out like a “loaf”.
Hi Jane, that’s a great idea!
You can also make a roll, just like the one HERE. It is made with half the ingredients in this cake as well.
Hi marina 🙂 I’m planning on making this delicious cake for Sunday and was wondering if I can make the cake the day before, wrap and refrigerate and then on Sunday morning add syrup, cream and ganache.
It’s best to leave the cake assembled overnight to allow the cake layers and cream stabilize together, so that when you’re cutting it the layers don’t start sliding from the cream.
But, if leaving it overnight is nothing an option, at least 5-6 hours assembled and refrigerate is the next best thing.
What size round baking pans do you use?
I use an 8 inch round cake pan and it makes a very tall cake. If you’re not looking for a very tall cake, 9″ or a 10″ will both work.
Hi, is there something else i could use to soak the cake layers to make it less sweet, like regular milk?
Have you tried the cake as written and thought it was too sweet or you haven’t tried it and just trying to reduce the sweetness? I only ask because in all the times that I have made it, I have never had someone mention it’s too sweet. So if you haven’t tried it as is, I would recommend you do.
But, if you still would rather have it less sweet, you can replace the sweetened condensed milk with more milk in the soaking syrup.
I am now officially confused. Should I be using sweetened condensed milk in the soaking syrup? It says evaporated milk.
I apologize for confusing you.
Let me clarify.
If you’d rather have it less sweet, replace the Dulce de Leche with more unsweetened condensed milk.
Dulce de Leche is boiled (in a can) sweetened condensed milk, that’s why I mentioned it in the original comment.
Is it supposed to say 8 oz of butter, or 8 TBSP?
1) this recipe needs a shipping list. 2) there needs to be a video. I need to see how it’s made in real time. Pictures are not even close to the real thing. Trying this recipe but those 2 points made it frustrating!
Shopping. Not shipping, lol! Damn autocorrect
Thank you Matthew, I’ll take your advice into consideration.
Made this cake about 10 times now. Delicious and fail proof ! Thank you so much!!!
That’s great, Luba! Thank you!
Curious if the entire recipe can be assembled a week in advance and frozen?
Yes, this cake freezes very well. Just make sure to keep it in a container that closes well.
Such a perfect cake! Easy to make. Delicious. Keep in mind it’s very sweet. But just so good
Thank you for your feedback, Tanya!