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Mother's Day Caramel Dessert

I'm in charge of dessert for my boyfriend's mother's day dinner. He and his brother are cooking dinner for their mom together...but neither of them do sweets so that's my contribution. She loves caramel...and that's about all I know. No idea about chocolate, fruits...nothing. (and her sons are no help...which I think is terrible, what kind of son doesn't know if his mom likes chocolate? but that's a whole other issue)
They haven't made any decisions on their menu yet...but I don't expect they will until Saturday so I'm going to have to make a decision without knowing what dinner will be.

Right now I'm thinking a dulce de leche cheesecake, but I want a recipe with a regular cheesecake (and I'm a fan of creamier cheesecake) with a dulce de leche top layer. Does anybody have a recipe that fits the bill or suggestions for other caramel-ey desserts?

Two odd caveats...I do not own muffin tins and though they are not a big ticket item, they are not in the budget this month. So nothing that requires muffin tins. And the boys both HATE peaches with a deep and firey passion. So no peaches.


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  1. Last week I made cajeta (goat's milk caramel), which is similar to dulce de leche but more interesting, I think. I made individual apple tarts—the easy "rustic" kind where you just put dough rounds on a baking sheet, pile with fruit, and fold up the edges—using grated piloncillo in addition to regular sugar with the apples and topped with chopped pecans mixed with butter and more piloncillo. (Unbaked ones pictured below.) Drizzled the cajeta over the top. If you don't want to do individual desserts you could also just make one big rustic tart. The caramel is wonderful with the piloncillo-apple-pecan combination.

    But cheesecake sounds good too . . .

    1. What about a caramel tart? Or caramel cake, which is an old Southern recipe. It's basically a white vanilla cake with caramel frosting.

      I like the cheesecake idea as well, and what you can do is make a regular cheesecake, then spread the dulce de leche over the top, like you would a sour cream topping. Maybe flavor your cheesecake with a vanilla bean?
      I'd just make sure that she likes cheesecake ahead of time before making it. There are some people who don't care for cheesecake, though I think they're crazy! ;-)

      Here's my recommendation. If the dinner isn't a surprise, call her up and ask her what she would like to have for dessert for her birthday. If she can't give you an answer, at least you can ask her if she likes chocolate, cheesecake and everything else.

      3 Replies
      1. re: QueenB

        It's not exactly a suprise...but since her sons haven't bothered to make a solid plan for dinner yet, I dont want to put them on the hotseat by telling her that dinner is planned when it really isn't. Just in case they drop the ball...

        I'll talk to my BF's brother, who still lives at home, and ask him to get me more info. I like the idea of a tart...anybody have a good recipe? And I was thinking that dulce de leche spread on top of a cheesecake would work pretty well...so thanks for the support QueenB. Do you (or anybody else) have a favorite go-to cheesecake for me? The last couple I've made just haven't quite been right. I like a rich, creamy cheesecake rather then the lighter fluffier kind, but I don't want it to be too dense.

        1. re: wawajb

          I recently made this epicurious recipe for caramel pecan bars (in a 9x13 pan) but you could easily press the crust into a tart pan and follow the remaining directions to prepare it as a tart:
          I think the cheesecake idea is really good as well but would also caution you to check and see if she likes cheesecake (I personally don't care for it and it's not an easy dessert to eat if it's not your thing). I recently made a cheesecake for a friend and it was a nice basic recipe with a middle of the road texture (not too fluffy but not like a brick in your stomach either):

          1. re: wawajb

            I've never made a caramel tart, so I don't have a recipe for it, but there are plenty of recipes out there.

            My cheesecake is pretty simple, and comes out how you would like (I think). Here's the recipe:

            First, wrap a 9" springform pan in several layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Make sure the layers are pressed firmly together, so no water can get in.


            1 cup graham cracker crumbs
            1/4 cup brown sugar
            1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) butter, melted

            Combine all ingredients together and press into the bottom of the wrapped 9" springform pan. Bake in preheated 375 F oven for fifteen minutes. Remove and let cool slightly.

            Reduce oven to 350 F.

            4 8oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
            1 3/4 cups sugar
            5 large eggs
            2 large egg yolks
            1/3 cup whipping cream
            1 tsp vanilla extract
            1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
            1/4 cup all purpose flour

            In an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the five whole eggs, one at a time, then the two yolks. Add whipping cream, vanilla extract and vanilla seeds and beat until smooth. Beat in flour. Pour the filling into the baked crust. Place springform in a large roasting pan and add hot water to come halfway up the sides of the springform. Bake until cheesecake is set around the edges and just barely wiggles in the center, about an hour and 20 minutes. Remove from water and let cool to room temp. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Then top with your dulce de leche and refrigerate some more.

            Alternately, if you don't want to do a water bath, you can cook the cheesecake by placing the filled springform on a baking sheet, and baking at 475 for ten minutes, then reducing the heat to 250 F and baking for one hour longer. Then, turn off the oven (don't open the door yet) and let sit for one hour. Open the oven door, let the cheesecake remain in oven for half an hour. Then remove from oven and cool to room temperature before refrigerating four hours (at least). This will give you a similar gentle baking as a water bath and the gradual cooling will prevent big cracks from forming.

        2. Food and Wine recently had a recipe for dulce de leche napoleans -- layers of phyllo dough sandwiched together with dulche de leche and pastry cream. Would require some last minute assembly, but they were beautiful and looked delicious.

          Here's a link to the recipe:

          They also had on the F&W website a recipe for a salted caramel cheesecake with the caramel on top as you described. They're in ramekins though.


          1. I'd be cautious about cheesecake until you've confirmed with one of the sons that she loves it. There are plenty of cheesecake haters out there.

            A couple ideas--
            David Lebovitz's recipe for salted butter caramel ice cream: http://tinyurl.com/38qwbc
            or this cake from Saveur: http://tinyurl.com/3dwg5n

            You will need a candy thermometer for the frosting, but it's worth the trouble. As long as you've worked with one before, I don't think you'd be intimidated. You could also try a southern jam cake with caramel frosting, although that's a little more of an acquired taste than a white or yellow cake with caramel frosting.

            1. I have a caramel tart recipe that I love. It's from Emily Lucetti (sp?), and it's a caramel custard with chunks of chocolate. Basically, you caramelize a cup of sugar, add a cup of cream, and temper in a couple of eggs. Toss some chunks of chocolate (I use a combo of milk, semi and bittersweet) into a parbaked tart shell (Pillsbury works for me), and pour the custard over. Bake until its just barely wiggly in the middle.

              That was, obviously, from memory. I love that it's so easy that I have it memorized. If you're interested, I can double check the proportions tonight.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cyberroo

                I am interested and would love to know these are correct measurements and also how to caramelize suger-do you just heat it until it melts and turns golden? is there water involved and plesse tell me know need for a candy thermometer. Hot sugar scares me!

                I'd like to make it in a ramekins without the pastry layer-do u think that will work?

                1. re: cyberroo

                  Cyberro, i would love to try this tart! I like to make my own pastry so I'm guessing that it would be okay with your recipe. I make a sort of a shortbread pastry that is super easy,and I think the carmel and chocolate would be just lovely. Thanks!

                2. What about a bread pudding with carmel sauce?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Megiac

                    Mmm...I love bread pudding, so this is a great idea. Now I just have to figure out if she loves bread pudding. Not to mention, I need the boys to get their ducks in a row so I know if this dinner IS actually happening. grrrr...

                    So...after discussion with the BF, it seems that healthy desserts (relatively speaking) are the only ones that he's seen his mother eat. So...what fruits besides apples do people think go with a caramel and/or dulce de leche sauce?

                    And I'm also liking Emme's caramel custard/flan/creme caramel idea below. I think I may have no choice but to consult with the mom in question here. I've got too many things I love that I have no idea if she even likes. I'll just be vauge about when dinner is planned for...

                    1. re: wawajb

                      Banana and caramel go perfectly together.

                      1. re: wawajb

                        What fruit doesn't go?

                        I think most fruits go with caramel, but then again - I am a caramel fiend...

                        Mango, berries, even lemon or citrus, of course pear, apple, banana. Depending on where you are and what is in season, you can do a search for that fruit and caramel on Google and you will find recipes that will at least assure you that they go together.

                    2. What about creme caramel or flan that makes its own caramel sauce? Simple, and won't upstage the main meal... I might suggest something different if I knew what the boys were planning on making...

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Emme

                        I've never actually made a creme caramel before...though I've eaten it plenty of times. After a slightly overwhelming recipe search, any particular recipe you'd recommend? And is there actually some subtle difference between caramel custard/creme caramel/flan besides country of origin or are they all the same thing? I'm leaning toward individual ramekins rather than a single large pan...although this recipe: looks intriging.http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                        1. re: wawajb

                          I've made a recipe that is very good. Scroll towards the bottom (after the fried rice) for step-by-step instructions with pictures on how to make creme caramel. It's really pretty easy, and does keep in the refrigerator, so you can make it a day ahead of time.

                          1. re: wawajb

                            I'm allergic to strawberries (and don't like em to boot), so I can't speak to that recipe.

                            This one: http://www.baking911.com/recipes/cust... is pretty darn good and easy. So is this one from Delia http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/cl...

                            Flan is basically the Spanish equivalent of creme caramel. Here's a good traditional flan: http://fooddownunder.com/cgi-bin/reci...
                            and one that uses more processed ingredients:

                            The CIA says, "Flan is a custard baked in a dish/cup that has had a layer of caramel added to it. After baking, the custard is unmolded so that the caramel (which liquefies while the custard rests in the fridge) is on top and creates its own sauce. Flan is often considered a Spanish/Mexican/Latin-style custard and it is very similar to crème caramel, the French version."

                        2. I do a Caramel Apple Cheesecake that is easy and impressive looking....not to mention really good.

                          Do a graham cracker crust (mix a bit of cinnamon in it, too).....put a layer of Comstock (or whatever brand you can find) apples (the ones in the syrup) on bottom (about half the can). Top with your cheesecake mixture (with a bit of vanilla bean and cinnamon in it). Bake in oven. When done and cooled, heat some caramel dessert topping on the stovetop until loosened a bit. Put remaining apples in caramel and toss to coat. Use tongs to pull the apples back out and decorate the top of the cheesecake with the apples (I usually go around the outside to make an apple "ring" around the cake). Then, pour the caramel over the whole thing. Chop a pile of toasted pecans and put in middle of apple "ring." Let set in frig.

                          1. It doesn't qualify as a healthy dessert, but this recipe in today's NY Times looks pretty amazing:

                            Recipe: Butterscotch Budino With Caramel Sauce

                            Published: May 9, 2007

                            Adapted from Dahlia Narvaez of Pizzeria Mozza

                            Time: 1 hour, plus 3 hours’ chilling

                            FOR THE BUDINO
                            3 cups heavy cream
                            1 1/2 cups milk
                            1 large egg
                            3 large egg yolks
                            5 tablespoons cornstarch
                            1 1/8 cups dark brown sugar
                            1 1/2teaspoons kosher salt
                            5 tablespoons butter
                            1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum

                            FOR THE SAUCE AND TOPPING
                            3/4 cup heavy cream
                            Scrapings from 1-inch piece of vanilla bean, or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
                            2 tablespoons butter
                            2tablespoons light corn syrup
                            1/2 cup sugar
                            1 1/4 teaspoons fleur de sel
                            3/4 cup crème fraîche.

                            1. For the budino, combine cream and milk in bowl or pitcher, set aside. Whisk egg, egg yolks and cornstarch in medium bowl, set aside.

                            2. Combine brown sugar, kosher salt and 1/2 cup water in pot. Place over medium-high heat and let sit until edges start to brown. Tilt pot as needed to even the browning until caramelized, nutty and deep brown, about 10 minutes.

                            3. Immediately whisk in cream mixture, mixture will steam and caramel will seize. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Whisk a cup at a time into egg mixture until half is incorporated. Remove from heat, and immediately whisk egg mixture back into pot until custard is very thick, about 2 minutes.

                            4. Whisk in butter and rum. Pass through a fine mesh strainer and divide among 10 6-ounce ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap, allow to cool, and refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours or up to 3 days.

                            5. For sauce, combine 1/2 cup of cream and the vanilla in medium saucepan. Heat until simmering. Add butter and remove from heat; set aside.

                            6. In large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine corn syrup, sugar and enough water (3 to 4 tablespoons) to make a wet, sandy mixture. Cook over medium-high heat, swirling pan for even cooking, until mixture is medium amber, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully whisk in cream mixture; set aside and let cool. (May be refrigerated and reheated before serving.)

                            7. Whisk remaining 1/4 cup cream in a large bowl until it begins to thicken. Add crème fraîche and whisk until thick and fluffy. To serve, spoon a tablespoon of warm caramel sauce over each budino. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon fleur de sel, and add a dollop of cream topping.

                            Yield: 10 servings.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Katherine H

                              yeah...I saw that, and it seemed particularly timely. So many choices.

                              1. re: Katherine H

                                This is a truly amazing dessert. I may just have to make it for myself for mother's day.

                              2. I love caramel too, but I don't make too many caramel desserts. I don't like the sound of cheesecake with dulce de leche spread on top at all. I'm okay on cheesecake, but I'd prefer fruit on top or plain.

                                I love super rich butterscotch pudding made with cream, and the Budino from Mozza sounds incredible.

                                I've also had a chocolate cake with Caramel-Milk Chocolate frosting from Epicurious. It is amazing frosting, just amazing. Like a ganache. When we made it, it had to be chilled a bit and beaten in order to firm up, but everyone went nuts over this cake. You can pick another cake, but the frosting is amazing.