Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel Dessert

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If you like caramel, then you will love dulce de leche! It’s exponentially better than caramel and you will find this sweet treat throughout Patagonia. Our recipe for Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel Dessert puts a South American spin on the classic creme caramel dessert.

Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel Dessert Creme caramel with dulce de leche 2 www.compassandfork.com After all of that magnificent hiking at Torres Del Paine, you deserve some of life’s pleasures. Dulce de leche is a traditional Argentinian dessert enjoyed across South and Central America. Just what you need after a strenuous, multi-day hike to get your energy back! Dulce de leche creme caramel is a real taste of South America.

Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel Dessert Hiking the W Torres del Paine www.compassandfork.com
Hiking at Torres del Paine NP, Patagonia, Chile

Depending on where you are, dulce de leche can also be referred to as manjar, manjar blanco, arequipe, or cajeta. When literally translated, dulce de leche means “sweet from milk”. However, in English it is commonly known as “milk jam” or “milk candy”. Dulce de leche can be used to form rich fillings in cookies, chocolates and cakes, flavor ice-cream or to create delicious and indulgent cheesecakes.

Dulce de leche recipes vary depending on where you find them. In Argentina the treat is made using milk and sugar plus a small amount of vanilla essence and baking soda. In Uruguay however, dulce de leche ingredients are simpler, requiring just milk and sugar.

In its simplest form, to make dulce de leche, you slowly heat milk with sugar. The mixture is stirred gently throughout allowing the water from the milk to evaporate leaving behind the thick, sweet dulce de leche. However, care must be taken to not overheat the milk and the mixture must be stirred constantly to avoid burning. (Don’t worry our version is much simpler than this and tastes just as good). In some cases cream is added to the milk if it is not considered creamy enough and some places use goat’s milk as an alternative to cow’s milk.

 Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel Dessert Hiking the W Torres del Paine 2 www.compassandfork.com
On the trails at Torres del Paine NP

The first historical reference to dulce de leche comes from a peace meeting between Juan Manuel de Rosas and his political enemy, Juan Lavalle, in 1829. According to legend, dulce de leche was produced by accident when Manuel de Rosa’s maid was cooking some milk and sugar and was unexpectedly called. Upon her return, the mixture had transformed into a thick, brown consistency. From that point forward, the new dessert was referred to as dulce de leche.

You can read more about the history of dulce de leche here.

It’s amazing how many foods and drinks have been created accidentally. Whatever the origins of dulce de leche, it is a supreme pleasure. It is everywhere throughout South America and would appear somewhere on the dessert menu for most restaurants. We featured Mamuschka Chocolate in our recent Bariloche post where high quality chocolates are filled with dulche de leche. Divine.

Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel Dessert Start of the W Torres del Paine www.compassandfork.com
“W” trail Torres del Paine NP, Patagonia, Chile

Making good dulce de leche is simple. But be warned, once you have made this you’ll find it very difficult to resist making it all the time. You simply place a can of sweetened, condensed milk on its side in a large pot. Fill the pot with water and bring to the boil. Then simmer for 2 to 4 hours, depending how thick and dark you want it.

You might be wondering why such a classic European dessert is being featured in food from Patagonia? There is a huge European food influence in South America. Spain, of course, France, Italy (40% of Argentinians are of Italian descent, including Pope Francis), German and British. Did you know there was a strong Welsh community in Patagonia? In the race to control South America, European powers were keen to establish settlements in sparsely populated Patagonia. So in Patagonia you will find a strong European influence with local twists.

Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel is a classic dessert that is surprisingly easy to make and provides an indulgent taste of Patagonia.

Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel Dessert Towards Torres del Paine www.compassandfork.com
Overlooking Torres del Paine NP


 Recipe for Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel Dessert

Dulche de Leche Creme Caramel Dessert www.compassandfork.com
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Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel Dessert
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This rather indulgent dessert features custard, caramel and dulce de leche. It is a taste sensation and easy to make. You need to start this the day before you want to serve it.
Servings Prep Time Cook Time Passive Time
8people 20minutes 2 1/2hours 12hours
Servings Prep Time
8people 20minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
2 1/2hours 12hours
Servings: people
Servings: people
  1. To make the dulce de leche, place a can of sweetened condensed milk (label removed) on its side, in a large pot. Cover with room temperature water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 2 hours (lighter color) to 3 hours (darker). Make sure the water level is always above the level of the can. Top up with boiling water, if necessary. Remove with tongs, allow to cool, transfer to a heatproof container and store in the refrigerator.
  2. For making the caramel, place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir and use a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals forming on the side of the saucepan. Once the sugar dissolves increase the heat to medium and bring to the boil. Boil, without stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes until the caramel is golden brown.
  3. Turn off the heat. Pour into a round 8 inch (20cm) cake pan. Swirl the caramel around until the base is well coated. Caramel level www.compassandfork.com
  4. Pre-heat oven to 390 F (200 C).
  5. To make the custard, place the milk, vanilla seeds and pod and the remaining caster sugar into a saucepan and over moderate heat, bring to a boil. Immediately take off the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.Cooking the custard www.compassandfork.com
  6. Meanwhile, place the whole eggs and egg yolks in a large bowl. Whisk to combine well. Gradually add the warm milk mixture to the egg mixture, whisking as you go. Return the combined mixture to the pan used for the milk and whisk continuously for 5 minutes over a medium/low heat.
  7. Carefully pour the mixture through a fine sieve into the cake pan containing the caramel. Cover the cake pan with foil and place in a roasting pan. Add boiling water to the roasting pan so that the water level is halfway up the cake pan. Place the roasting pan in the oven, reduce the temperature to 320 F (160 C) and cook for 60 -70 minutes or until just set. Slightly wobbly is ok.Creme caramel ready to go in the oven www.compassandfork.com
  8. Carefully remove the pan from the roasting dish and allow to completely cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for a minimum of 6 hours.Creme caramel cooling www.compassandfork.com
  9. To serve, run a thin, sharp knife around the inside of the pan. Invert onto a serving plate.
  10. Slice and serve with dulce de leche. I prefer to gently heat the dulce de leche, as it pours easier. Place your heatproof container holding the dulce de leche in a small saucepan and gently heat.Creme caramel with dulce de leche www.compassandfork.com
Recipe Notes

My "cooking time" for the dulce de leche was 2 1/2 hours.

I prefer to gently warm the dulce de leche.  It is easier to spread.

Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel Dessert Creme caramel with dulce de leche 2 www.compassandfork.com

16 Responses

  1. Sache
    | Reply

    Just a comment on the picture of “Overlooking Torres del Paine”—I looked it up—it means “Towers of Blue”. From the spectacular picture you posted with the mountains jutting majestically skyward along that strand of yellow/green plain, it is easy to see why. I have enjoyed your this site immensely.

    • Editor

      Thank you so much for your kind comments. We have some other great posts specifically about Torres del Paine NP that you might enjoy. Go here and here. And here are all of our posts about Patagonia,a magic place.

  2. Estrella
    | Reply

    I have a big sweet tooth, so I know I’d love this. In Filipino culture we have a very similar dessert, but caramel isn’t as thick. I’ll have to try this recipe out soon. Thanks for sharing!

    • Editor

      Estrella, Thanks for your comment. I have learned something about Filipino food which is always great. Can you tell me what is the similar Filipino version called? I want to look it up.

  3. Kathryn @ FoodieGirlChicago
    | Reply

    I love caramel and this looks absolutely delicious! It’s one of my favorite desserts though I’ve never actually made it. You’ve inspired me to put it on my fall “must make” list!!

    • Editor

      Kathryn, Invite some friends over when you make it- they’ll love it!

  4. Teresa
    | Reply

    I love dulche de leche and your dessert makes my mouth water 🙂

    • Editor

      It was hard to resist it long enough to get the pictures!

  5. In South Africa we made our own caramel dessert topping or dulce de leche so often that the company producing the condensed milk started producing it ready made, about 25 yrs ago or so. It was the best thing that ever happened to cakes and home bakers.

    I love creme caramel and with the sweet dulce de leche topping I’m definitely trying this recipe when I come back from vacation at the end of the month, God willing. Thanks for sharing.

    • Editor

      Love your comment, thanks. Once you taste dulce de leche, it’s like taking caramel to the power of 10! It can be a bit addicting.

      I’m looking at the can of sweetened condensed milk in the pantry right now thinking that I should turn it into dulce de leche.


  6. Stella @ Stellicious Life
    | Reply

    I love creme caramel and this one sounds like I would gobble it up in no time!

    • Editor

      Thanks Stella. Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Annie @ Annie's Noms
    | Reply

    The addition of dulce de leche is genius! Love the richness it gives and imagine it’s great along with creme caramel!

    • Editor

      Annie, It was a really nice dessert.

  8. Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious
    | Reply

    I am swooning over the looks of this gorgeous dessert!

    • Editor

      Dorothy, Give it a try it was delicious!

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