Pear Dulce de Leche Cake Recipe

Tender Pear Cake filled and frosted with a caramel-like Dulce de Leche Buttercream and bits of oat crumble.

Pear cake with dulce de leche buttercream recipe

Canadian Thanksgiving was over a month ago, but that can't seem to keep my overwhelming feelings of thanks and gratitude away.  As the holidays approach, the days grow darker, and the rainy weather keeps us huddled together inside, I can't help but reflect on lucky I am to be surrounded by love, family, and lots of baked goods.  So when our family friend and editor-in-cheif of Risen Magazine asked if I'd share my story, I didn't hesitate to agree.

In the "Expressions" section of the latest issue, you will find my full creative journey.  From ballet lessons to baby bottles, I discuss my motivations for starting my own cake business to trying to do it all as a working mom to ultimately leaning on a bit of faith that these big, life-changing decisions I've made along the way were the right ones for our little family.  Cake design has been my major creative outlet over the past decade, my way of expressing my fears, doubts, joys, and triumphs.  Worry blocks creativity, so I've been trying my best to be more patient, a little less controlling, and to embrace the imperfections in life.  

Pear cake with dulce de leche buttercream recipe

This Pear Cake is slightly adapted from my book Layered.  The shredded pears nearly melt into the cake and keep it incredibly soft and tender. Adding Dulce de Leche to homemade buttercream is so luxurious.  Similar to caramel, the dulce de leche adds a deeper, not-as-sweet creaminess to the frosting.  Making dulce de leche from a can of sweetened condensed milk is super simple, but you may also try a store-bought variety.  

For an additional layer of texture, I added an Oat Crumble in the middle.  The cake is so moist and the buttercream so silky, I really feel like this cake benefits from a bit of crunch.  The oat crumble recipe will certainly make more than you need, so sprinkle leftovers over yogurt or roasted fruit!

Tessa Huff and family

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Pear Dulce de Leche Cake Recipe

For the cake:
2 ½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cardamom (optional)
3 medium pears, such as Bartlett
½ cup vegetable or canola oil
 ¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and cardamom (if using) and set aside.  Peal the pears and shred the pears (a box grater works great here) and place in a mesh sieve (or a few paper towels) over a bowl to drain.  If they are extra juicy, press down gently with a rubber spatula to release some of the excess liquid (or gently bundle them up and squeeze the paper towels).  Set aside.

Using an eclectic mixer, beat together the oil and sugar until combined.  Add in the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Add in half of the flour mixture and mix on low until combined.  Slowly stream in the buttermilk until incorporated.  Add in the remaining flour and mix until mostly combined.  Stop the mixer and fold in the drained shredded pears

Evenly divide the batter between the two pans and bake in the pre-heated oven for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.  Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.


For the buttercream:
2/3 cup prepared or store-bought Dulce de Leche (recipe to follow)
Small batch Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Mix the buttercream until silky smooth.  Add in the Dulce de Leche and mix until fully combined.


For the oat crumble (optional):
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and softened
½ cup rolled oats

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

Place all of the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the mixture forms small clumps of what looks like “wet sand.”  Dump the contents on a lined baking sheet and spread out.  Bake for 8 to 12 minutes (stirring halfway) until the crumble starts to crisp and turn slightly golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack then break up into small pieces (if the pieces are left large, then the cake will be difficult to slice).


For the Dulce de Leche:
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Place an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a slow-cooker.  Fill with enough water to full submerge the can.  Turn the slow-cooker to “low” and cook for 8 hours.  Very carefully remove the can from the hot water and let it cool at room temperature.  Open the can and store the Dulce de Leche in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. 

Place a cooled cake on a cake board or serving dish.  Spread on about 1 cup of buttercream with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.  Sprinkle on a generous amount of oat crumble and top with the second layer of cake.  Frost the cake with the buttercream and decorate as desired.

For the boarder, fill a piping bag fitted with a petal tip (Wilton #104), and pipe interlocking "V's" around the top and bottom edges of the cake. Keep the narrow end of the tip facing up as you pipe.



Chocolate Layer Cake with Coconut Caramel

Classic chocolate cake layers with caramel buttercream and coconut caramel drizzle.  It's like liquid gold!!

Chocolate Layer Cake with Coconut Caramel

I have a lot of mixed feelings heading into this post.  Mostly feelings of content, but there's a not so happy reason why I am sharing this particular cake on this particular day.  Don't get me wrong, this might be one of the best tasting cakes I've had in a long time (and I eat A LOT of cake).  You might even say it's life-chaging!  But it's not the only thing changing my life right now... 

Chocolate Cake with Caramel Buttercream - Tessa Huff
Chocolate Layer Cake with Coconut Caramel
Chocolate Layer Cake with Coconut Caramel

Today is a great day, so let's start with the good news: THIS CAKE!!!!  I make so much cake that I tire of it rather quickly.  I test recipes weekly and always have cake in the house, in some form or another.  It takes a really outstanding recipe like this that brings me back for slice after slice instead of just forcing the leftovers on my neighbors or shoving it in the freezer.

This might be one of the tastiest chocolate cakes ever.  It is moist without feeling oily or heavy and full of chocolate flavor.  Thanks to a healthy dose of buttermilk and yogurt keeping it nice and tender, each bite pretty much melts in your mouth.  The one thing that makes this chocolate cake even better?  CARAMEL!!  

Chocolate Cake with Caramel Buttercream

Two things intriguided me about this caramel sauce.  1) there is an option to use coconut milk instead of cream and 2) it is made using a dry method (which I'd never done before).  I thought it might be like any other salted caramel sauce that I've made, but I was pleasantly surprised!  Terrified yes, but happy with the results.

In my go-to caramel sauce, I use a wet method.  I start by bringing sugar, water, and a little squirt of corn syrup to a boil before adding in butter and cream to make the caramel saucey.  The corn syrup keeps the sugar from crystallizing and you don't even have to stir or use a thermometer.  Just watch as it turns from cloudy to boiling to golden!

With a dry caramel method, you melt white sugar in a dry skillet.  Won't it burn?  Won't it turn into a horrific mess?  I held my breath the entire time, but it worked!  The sugar melts on its on rather than burns.  It turns the same deep amber color as the wet method, before stirring in butter and cream (coconut cream, in this case) and then bringing it back to a boil until thick and glossy and delicious.  I love the addition of the subtle coconut flavor, but you could use heavy cream.  The coconut isn't overbearing, but pairs beautifully with the chocolate layers and just elevates the entire cake.

Chocolate Layer Cake with Coconut Caramel
Chocolate Layer Cake with Coconut Caramel
Chocolate Layer Cake with Coconut Caramel

This Chocolate Caramel Cake is from Tieghan Gerard's new cookbook, Half Baked Harvest.  Named after her hugely popular blog, this highly anticipated book has it all!!  From spectacular snack boards and over-the-top desserts to easy weeknight dinners and pics of her family goats, this gorgeous book is packed full of recipes and Tieghan's signature food styling and photography.  I've been following Tieghan's work for years - watching her grow into an Internet super-star with an extensive catalog of delicious, creative recipes to back her up.  She started cooking as a teen for her family of 7(!!!) and blossomed not only into one of the most recognizable young food bloggers but also a charming, mature, and dedicated young woman.  Congrats, girl!  You totally deserve every ounce of success and recognition!

Chocolate Cake with Caramel Buttercream

I chose today to share this cake because I was supposed to be on a flight to Denver this afternoon.  I was invited by Tieghan and her team to join a small group of food bloggers for a culinary retreat in Colorado to celebrate the release of her book.  I don't ever get out on my own like that and this was one of the first big industry meet-ups that I was asked to attend.  I was thrilled!!!  Brett was equally excited and we made all the necessary arrangements for me to take my first solo trip since Everett was born.  Last week, I unfortunately had to cancel...

As I said in the beginning of this post, I write this with very mixed feelings.  Today I fell great and I am mostly content, but I've been dealing with some recurring health issues... I thought my episode with Mal de Debarquement was a one-time thing last year, but it looks like it might be something that I will have to consider forever.  

What's that fancy french word you ask?  MdDS is similar to land sickness.  Ever get off a long flight or a cruise and still feel a bit wobbly for a few hours?  Now imagine that feeling but it doesn't go away for weeks, months, and sometimes years.  I had my first experience with MdDs last year after flying to California and back.  I wrote about my month stuck in bed in this post.  The syndrome is most easily described as something similar to vertigo, but a feeling of rocking/bobbing/swaying instead of spinning. I was given the rare diagnosis last year after landing myself in the ER.  It felt like I was in a row boat in a hurricane.  Thankfully, symptoms eventually subsided and I went into "remission" about 4 to 6 weeks later...

Since I've pretty much felt fine this past year, aside from the motion sickness and migraines I typically get, I thought it was a one-time thing and had no reservations about traveling again.  With my history of motion sickness and migraines, I guess it's no surprise to learn that this could always come back... After our family vacation to Toronto last month, it came back.  Thankfully symptoms were much much milder, but enough for me to come to a realization that I will always be susceptible to MdDS.  

Chocolate Cake with Caramel Buttercream

For the past few weeks, I've been researching symptoms and treatments all while feeling like I am floating around on a pool raft.  There aren't really any "cures," but only ways to manage symptoms and some preventative tips for when you might encounter a trigger (traveling).  I was terrified at first.  What if it never goes away?  What if it gets worse?  Will I ever travel again?  For the first time, I joined an online support group.  Reading about what other people were going through was equal parts comforting and terrifying.  Some had mild symptoms like me while others were suffering for years and years.  

It was devastating when I canceled this highly anticipated trip to Colorado, but I am determined not to let fear keep me from traveling ever again.  I am learning so much now about triggers and how to manage my symptoms (lots of rest and low-stress, two things that I constantly struggle with on a daily basis).  My family doctor suggested I book another appointment with my neurologist (scary that I have one of those now, but it's for my migraines) to discuss vestibular migraines and a treatment plan for when I do eventually travel again.  Just last night, Brett and I booked our flights home for Christmas.  I'm a little scared of what will happen, but mostly feeling excited and confident that I can overcome this terrible illness and not let it control my life.  I read that it's life-altering, not life-threatening, so I will not let it beat me!  Hopefully optimism wins.  And if not, at least I can drown my sorrows in chocolate cake =) 

Chocolate Caramel Cake
adapted from Half Baked Harvest

For the Chocolate Cake
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup canola oil
4 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup hot coffee

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans and set aside. Stir together the dry ingredients (including the sugar) in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs, buttermilk, yogurt, oil, melted chocolate, and vanilla on medium speed for about 3 minutes.  With the mixer on low, add in the dry ingredients in two batches.  Mix until combined.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.  With the mixer on low, slowly stream in the coffee and mix until combined.

Evenly distribute the cake batter between the prepared pans.  Bake for 3o to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack fro about 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

For the Caramel Buttercream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 to 4 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cup caramel sauce, or to taste (recipe to follow)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
splash milk, as needed
pinch salt (optional)

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioner's sugar until incorporated.  Turn the mixer to medium and mix until combined.  Add in the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth.  Add more/less caramel, sugar, and milk until desired thickness and sweetness is achieved.  

For the Coconut Caramel Sauce
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups coconut cream, full-fat coconut milk, or heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt

In a large, dry skillet, heat the sugar over medium-high heat.  Cook the sugar until it melts into a medium golden color.  Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the butter, a tablespoon at a time.  Whisk in the coconut cream.

Return the skillet to medium heat and cook until thick, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.  Carefully pour into a heat-safe container and cool.  Sauce will thicken as it cools.

Place a cooled cake layer on a cake board or serving plate.  Spread on about 1 cup of buttercream with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.  Top with the next layer of cake and repeat.  Crumb coat the cake with caramel buttercream and chill in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes.

Frost the cake with the remaining buttercream.  Before serving, slightly reheat the caramel so that it flows (should be thicker than honey) and is about room temperature (not too warm or it might melt the buttercream).  Drizzle over the cake (I start by adding drips around the edges, but can you just pour onto the top and then spread around).  The caramel will most likely continue to slowly drip down the cake, so try to not get discouraged - it will still taste amazing!!

Chocolate Caramel Valentine's Day Cake

Classic chocolate cake is with filled with luscious caramel pastry cream before being smothered in a salty caramel buttercream frosting.  Sweet, salty, and a bit sinful, this is the perfect little cake to share with a loved one!

Chocolate cake with caramel pastry cream and caramel buttercream for Valentine's Day.

Our first Valentine’s Day as new parents did not go exactly as planned - but I suppose that was what I should have actually expected.  Everett was nearly 4 weeks old, and I set out to make a fancy home-cooked dinner for two.  I love to cook just as much as I love to bake, and this was my first big meal back since the babe was born.  I hardly remember those early days, but I think there was risotto and some sort of savoury tart involved.  The dishes all finished at different times and we took turns eating and holding a restless newborn.  I think we even skipped dessert.  I know, right?!  Never again, lol. 

This year, the plan is keep things fairly low key and casual.  Cooking a multi-course meal with a 13-month old doesn’t seem particularly relaxing nor romantic - instead rather hectic with lots of dishes to tackle afterwards.  I’m not exactly sure what the rest of the day with entail, but one thing is for sure, there will be cake - this Chocolate Caramel Cake, to be exact.

Chocolate cake with caramel pastry cream and caramel buttercream for Valentine's Day.

I designed this cake with both my husband and myself in mind.  He loves everything salted caramel and I am particularly fond of anything custard-filled or containing pastry cream.  Most of the time this means that I gravitate towards pastries like eclairs or cream puffs, not necessarily my beloved cakes. 

Pastry cream is so rich and luscious, but it can be tricky to use as a filling between layers of cake.  The silky, creamy texture isn’t the most stable filling out there, but I’ve been determined to make it work.  How great would it be to put something so smooth and delicious in your favorite layer cake?  Think Boston cream pie - yum!

I used to think corn starch was only used to thicken stews and gravy, but there is definitely a place for it in the pastry kitchen as well.  Mixed with sugar and egg yolks, then heated with milk, corn starch helps stabilize pastry cream - turning it to a thick, luxurious pudding that can be used to fill anything from cake to fruit tarts. When I use Fleishmann’s corn starch to make pasty cream filling, I eliminate the fear of my layer cakes falling apart.  Instead, I know that each slice will come out perfect!  Plus, the starchy taste is always cooked out - leaving only the essence of creamy vanilla (or caramel, in this case) behind.

Chocolate cake with caramel pastry cream and caramel buttercream for Valentine's Day.
Chocolate cake with caramel pastry cream and caramel buttercream for Valentine's Day.

This cake has it all: decadent chocolate, luscious custard, and silky caramel.  If you ask me, these are all the makings for a fancy at-home dessert - the kind you prepare for special occasions and/or for the ones you love.  The homemade caramel is fairly easy to make and is used in both the pastry cream filling and buttercream frosting.  Seriously, you are all going to love this caramel pastry cream! All of the elements can be made a few days in advanced and then assembled the day of, so there is no need to stress or rush around too much (should you want to make this cake for you valentine too).

Happy Baking and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate cake with caramel pastry cream and caramel buttercream for Valentine's Day.

Chocolate Cake
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup hot coffee
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons Mazola vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour three 7-inch round cake pans.  Set aside.

2.     Stir together the cocoa powder and hot coffee together until the cocoa dissolves.  Set aside.

3.     In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

4.     In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and buttermilk.

5.     Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

6.     Using an electric mixer, beat the batter for about 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth.

7.     With the mixer running on low speed, stream in the cocoa mixture until combined.

8.     Evenly distribute the batter between the pans and bake for about 23 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.

9.     Let cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

Caramel Pastry Cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
3 egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Fleishmann’s cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup caramel sauce (recipe to follow)

1.     Place the butter in a heat-safe container and set aside.

2.     Gently heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until it comes to a slight simmer.

3.     Meanwhile, whisk the eggs yolks together in a separate mixing bowl.  Stir in the sugar and cornstarch.

4.     Once the milk is hot, remove from the heat.  Slowly pour in about half of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. 

5.     Add in the remaining milk and whisk until smooth.

6.     Pour the milk mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat.

7.     Whisking constantly, bring to a boil.

8.     Once the custard begins to “pop,” remove from heat and strain over the bowl containing the butter.  Scrape the contents on the back of the strainer into the bowl and discard any bits left behind.

9.     Add in the vanilla and stir the custard and butter together. 

10. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard and chill in the refrigerator until cool and thick.

11.  Once chilled, mix in the caramel sauce.  Place back in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large egg whites
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup caramel sauce

1.     Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Gently whisk until combined.

2.     Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and place over medium heat.

3.     Place the mixing bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler.

4.     Whisking occasionally, heat the egg mixture until it registers between 155 to 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.

5.     Once hot, carefully return the mixing bowl to the electric mixer.

6.     Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg mixture on high until stiff, glossy peaks and the outside of the mixing bowl returns to room temperature.

7.     Turn down the mixer to medium-low, and add in the butter, a few tablespoons at a time.

8.     Once the butter is incorporated, stop the mixer and swap the whisk for the paddle attachment.

9.     With the mixer on medium, add the caramel sauce and beat the frosting until silky smooth.



1.     Once the cakes are completely cool, trim the tops so that they are nice and flat.

2.     Fill a piping bag fitted with a plain, round piping tip (about ½ to 3/4-inch in diameter) with some of the caramel buttercream and set aside.

3.     Stir the pastry cream to loosen, if necessary, and set aside.

4.     Starting with the bottom layer of cake, pipe a ring of buttercream around the top edge.  Fill the ring with half of the pastry cream and smooth out with a small off-set spatula or back of a large spoon.

5.     Top the pastry cream with the next layer of cake and repeat.

6.     Crumb coat the cake with the buttercream, then chill in the refrigerator for about 15 to 20 minutes to set (this is will make the pastry cream a bit less “wobbly” and the cake more stable and easier to frost).

7.     Frost the chilled cake with buttercream.  Use any remaining buttercream to pipe on decorative details, if desired.

8.     Chill the cake until the pastry cream sets before serving (about an hour).


      Caramel sauce may be made up to one week in advanced (stored in the refrigerator).  Gently reheat so that it is fluid, but not hot, before use.
      Pastry cream may be made up to three days in advanced (stored in the refrigerator).

Disclaimer:  This post was sponsored by ACH Foods.  Thank you for supporting the brands that keep Style Sweet CA possible.