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Gluten-Free Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Cupcakes 

These gluten-free dulce de leche pumpkin cupcakes will delight any trick or treater, so if you fancy handing out baked cupcakes instead of candy, this recipe can be baked and decorated a few days before Halloween.

Icing Designs

I have two icing suggestions: either a flat icing with Halloween sprinkles & cutouts or a generous swirl of icing for an impressive party number. 

several pumpkin cupcakes on the cake stand and some on the table
What is Dulce de Leche?

It 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. Besides South American brands selling Dulce de Leche, there is a good version made by Bonne Maman, a French brand under the name Caramel. It is very close to the real thing.

Can’t find Dulce de Leche?

All you need is a slow cooker, a tin of condensed milk and 9 hours! It is very easy to make by following the recipe below to make one or two tins.
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.

Food colouring substitute

Using a few drops of orange food colouring will give the buttercream icing a vibrant Halloween orange colour, but if you rather avoid any food colouring, adding a teaspoon or more of ground turmeric will give a touch of yellow/orange to the icing. Don’t add too much or the icing may start to taste savoury. The difference in colour can be seen in the above photos of the Halloween-face decorated cupcakes (with turmeric) and the high peaked decorated cupcakes (with orange food colouring).

Which pumpkin should be used?

Any! During pumpkin season, any time you are cooking pumpkin in soups, casseroles, roasts etc, just save 200g or more of cooked pumpkin for these cupcakes either chilled or stored in the freezer for later use.

Adobe photo of dulce de leche pumpkin cupcakes
3 gluten-free dulce de leche pumpkin cupcakes in front of a cake stand full of cupcakes

Gluten-Free Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Cupcakes

by Sandra, Fun Without Gluten
These gluten-free cupcakes are flavoured with cooked mashed pumpkin, cinnamon & spices, filled with either store-bought or homemade dulce de leche. They are finished lavishly with dulce de leche butter icing, slightly tinged with orange to give that "pumpkin colour".
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 50 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course baking, Halloween, Kids' Snacks, Party Food
Cuisine American
Servings 20 cupcakes




  • 1 tin condensed milk (measures 305 ml/95g per tin)


  • 200 g store-bought or homemade gluten-free plain flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon powder
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 90 g light or dark brown sugar
  • 90 g caster sugar
  • 115 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 215 g cooked pumpkin, rind removed, mashed and cooled


  • 100 g store-bought or homemade dulce de leche
  • 1-2 tsp milk (optional)


  • 500 g icing sugar, sieved
  • 160 g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
  • ¾ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder or orange food colouring
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 70 g store-bought or homemade dulce de leche



  • If you plan to make your own dulce de leche, try to make it the day before you make your cupcakes.
  • Place an unopened tin or two of condensed milk on its side in the slow cooker.
  • Add warm water to the slow cooker until the tin is submerged, allowing at least 5 cm of water to be above the tin.
  • Cover the slow cooker with the lid and select LOW for 9 hours.
  • Turn the slow cooker off and allow the tin to completely cool down before removing the tin from the water.
  • 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 as it could explode slightly and the hot dulce de leche may burn you. Also, don’t try to speed up the slow cooker by selecting the HIGH option. The pressure in the tin may explode at a high temperature.
  • Either use the dulce de leche for this cupcake recipe or chill it for later use in a clean glass jar. To make it worth your while, I recommend preparing two tins. One for this recipe and the other as a toast topping or served with other desserts.


  • Remove the rind off the pumpkin and cut it into bite-size pieces.
  • Cook in simmering water for about 15 minutes, or until the pumpkin feels soft enough to mash.
  • Drain and allow to cool in a sieve.
  • Melt the butter very gently and allow it to cool.
  • Whisk together the flour, bicarb of soda, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt and spices.
  • In another bowl, whisk the sugars, cool melted butter and eggs until smooth.
  • Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
  • Whisk in gently the cooled pumpkin mash. Set aside
  • Fill each cavity of a cupcake tray with a paper cupcake liner.
  • Pour the cupcake batter into each cupcake liner halfway, using either an ice cream scoop or a large spoon.


  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F.
  • 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.
  • Allow to cool in the tray on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the cupcakes from the tray and allow to completely cool on a wire rack.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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


  • Cream all the ingredients and only half of the milk together until well mixed and smooth. It is important to have the butter at room temperature – this guarantees a fluffy buttercream. NOTE: add more colouring if you want the cupcakes to be very orange.
  • Add the other half of milk if the buttercream icing appears too stiff.
  • Taste the buttercream. Add more dulce de leche for a more caramel taste, if preferred. NOTE: add more colouring if you want the cupcakes to be very orange.
    several iced orange cupcakes on a cake platter
  • Ice each cupcake with the buttercream either using a piping bag with a fluted nozzle or by using a spatula, making flat wavy patterns or at a height forming a peak at the top.
  • Decorate the cupcakes with cocoa powder and/or Halloween edible sprinkles or decorations.
  • Store in the fridge in a sealed container until ready to serve.


  • Keeps for 3 days chilled
  • Suitable to freeze un-iced
  • Dulce de Leche keeps for 2 weeks chilled in a sealed sterilised glass jar.
Keyword gluten-free baking, gluten-free cupcakes, gluten-free halloween, gluten-free pumpkin bakes
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Butter Softening Tip

Avoid softening butter in the microwave. Plan ahead and allow the butter to soften to room temperature by leaving it on your kitchen counter for 30 to 60 minutes


cut the butter into pieces and place them in a bowl of lukewarm water for 10 minutes. Remove the butter with a fork from the water and continue preparing the cupcakes. Surprisingly, the butter does not melt in the warm water.

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