As soon as pumpkins hit the stores, two thoughts cross my mind – Autumn baking and HALLOWEEN!

Halloween was not a well-known custom when I was growing up in Singapore during the 70’s, but nowadays, trick or treating in their best fancy dress across the island has picked up a trend, as well as other countries around the world.

Instead of handing out handfuls of assorted candy/sweets, I am more inclined to bake either iced cookies/biscuits or cupcakes.

These gluten-free dulce de leche pumpkin cupcakes will delight any trick or treater:

  • Yes, they are sweet, even though there is pumpkin inside. It’s good to know that at least one veggie out of the “five a day” has been included!
  • Dulce de Leche is a thick caramel sauce used as a topping on toast, cakes, pancakes or ice-cream in many South American countries. Translated – Sweet Milk – it is exactly that but cooked until the milk turns a golden brown and caramelises into a thick sauce that usually sticks to a spoon quite stubbornly.
  • The gluten-free plain flour works well in cupcake baking. They turn out light and airy.

Can’t find dulce de leche? All you need is a slow cooker, a tin of condensed milk and 8 hours! It is very easy to make- follow the recipe below to make your own.
Don’t be tempted to buy those caramel ice-cream toppings. These are made with sugar and water and lack the richness and special taste that dulce de leche offers.

Gluten-Free Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Cupcakes


For the cupcakes:

  • 200g store-bought or homemade gluten-free plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 90g brown sugar
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 115g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 215g cooked pumpkin, mashed and cooled (please note the raw pumpkin weighs the same before it is cooked)

For the filling:

  • 100g store-bought or homemade dulce de leche

For the buttercream:

  • 400g icing sugar, sieved
  • 120g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder or orange food colouring (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 50g store-bought or homemade dulce de leche

For the homemade dulce de leche:

  • 1 tin (375g) condensed milk
  • Warm water to cover the tin

Step by Step Instructions

1. If you plan to make your own dulce de leche, make it the day before you make your cupcakes.

2. Place an unopened tin of condensed milk on its side (leave the label on) in the slow cooker.

3. Add warm water to the slow cooker until the tin is submerged, allowing at least 5 cm of water to be above the tin.

4. Cover the slow cooker with the lid and set on LOW for 8 hours.

5. Turn the slow cooker off and allow the tin to completely cool down before removing them from the water.

6. When cooled, dry it with a tea towel and carefully open it. A word of warning: Do not attempt to open the tin while hot. It could explode slightly and the hot dulce de leche could burn you. Also, don’t try to speed up the slow cooker by choosing the HIGH option. The pressure in the tin may explode at a high temperature.

7. Use the dulce de leche for this recipe or store in a clean glass jar in the fridge for later use. It lasts for one month, but trust me, it’ll be finished by then. To make it worth your while, I recommend preparing two tins. One for this recipe and the other for snacking or served with other desserts.

8. Once you have your dulce de leche ready, start making the cupcakes.

9. Remove the hard shell of the pumpkin and cut it into bite-size pieces.

10. Cook in simmering water for about 20 minutes, or until the pumpkin feels soft enough to mash.

11. Drain and allow to cool in a sieve.

12. Meanwhile, melt the butter very gently and allow to cool.

13. Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F.

14. Whisk together the flour, xanthan gum, bicarb of soda, baking powder, salt and spices.

15. In another bowl, whisk the sugars, cooled melted butter and eggs until smooth.

16. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

17. Whisk in gently the cooled pumpkin mash.

18. Fill each cavity of a cupcake tray with a cupcake paper liner.

19. Fill each cupcake liner halfway with the mixture, using either an ice-cream scoop or a large spoon.

20. Bake for 20 minutes. Insert a toothpick in the centre of one of the cupcakes. If it comes out clean and has no mixture attached, the cupcakes are ready.

21. Allow to cool in the tray on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

22. Remove the cupcakes from the tray and allow to completely cool on a wire rack.

23. Fill the dulce de leche into a piping bag that has a long nozzle attachment. If the dulce de leche is too thick, add a little milk to loosen it.

24. insert the nozzle into the centre of each cupcake and squeeze the dulce de leche gently into the cupcake. There should be a tiny bit of dulce de leche peeking out of the cupcake.

25. If you don’t have a piping bag or piping gadget, grab a melon baller and scoop out a pea size cavity into the centre of each cupcake. Using a teaspoon, fill the cavity with dulce de leche.

26. Next prepare the buttercream icing.

27. Cream all the ingredients and only one tablespoon of milk together until well mixed and smooth. It is important to have the butter at room temperature – this guarantees a fluffy buttercream.

28. Add the other tablespoon of milk if the buttercream icing appears too stiff.

29. Taste the buttercream. Add more dulce de leche for a more caramel taste, if needed.

30. Cover each cupcake with the buttercream either using a piping bag with a fluted nozzle or by using a spatula, making wavy patterns.

31. Decorate with cocoa powder, Halloween edible sprinkles or decorations.

32. Store in the fridge in a sealed container until ready to serve. Keeps for 3 days.

Makes 18 to 20 cupcakes

Avoid softening butter in the microwave. Plan ahead and allow the butter to soften to room temperature by leaving it on your kitchen counter from 30 to 60 minutes or cut the butter into pieces and place in a bowl of lukewarm water for 10 minutes. Remove the butter with a fork from the water and start baking. Surprisingly, the butter does not melt in the warm water.