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by Lyndsy Mcdonald, Pastries By Design


1 quart whole milk
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine the milk and sugar in a large, 4-quart saucepan. Scrape out the seeds from inside the vanilla bean halves and add to the milk mixture, adding the bean halves as well. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Then add the baking soda and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered at a bare simmer. Stir occasionally, but do not re-incorporate the foam that appears on the top of the mixture. Continue to cook for 1 hour. Remove the vanilla bean after 1 hour and continue to cook until the mixture is a dark caramel color and has reduced to about 1 cup, approximately 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Cool completely before using.


1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
1 pound pecan halves
1 cup white sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250˚. Grease 1 baking sheet. In a mixing bowl, whip together the egg white and water until frothy. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Add pecans to egg whites, stirring to coat the nuts evenly. Remove the nuts with a slotted spoon and toss them in the sugar mixture until coated. Spread the nuts out on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes. Let cool.


1 and 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sour cream
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water

In a mixing bowl, cream brown sugar and butter. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy. Blend in vanilla. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; add alternately with sour cream to creamed mixture. Mix on low just until combined. Stir in water until blended. Pour into two dozen cupcakes, lined with cupcake liners. Bake at 350˚ for 20 minutes or until done. Cool completely before filling.


1 cups butter
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 fluid ounces heavy cream
1/4 cup dulce de leche

Cream butter until fluffy. Add confectioner’s sugar and continue creaming until well blended. Add vanilla and whipping cream blend on low speed until moistened.

Add 1/4 cup dulce de leche. Beat at high speed until frosting is fluffy.


With a sharp paring knife, hollow out a 1-inch diameter well in the center of each cupcake. Fill with 1 teaspoon of dulce de leche. Ice each cupcake with caramel buttercream and top with candied pecans. If there is extra dulce de leche, use it to make stripes pr other decoration on the tops of the cupcakes.

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

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