Let’s Be Pen Pals

Hello Lovelies. Thank you for joining me here this morning. Grab a cuppa and let’s have a chat.

How has your week been? Mine was pretty good. There was a Covid case at school so the girls spent most of the week at home. Thankfully there was no home learning so the pressure was off. Phew. Instead, I tried to teach them the virtues of housework and having pride in a tidy home. It was such a joy. Their eagerness to learn made our time together so delightful. Afterwards we sat down together and I read aloud while we all drank tea. Oh what a blessed sanctuary is our home.

Now, would you like to hear the real story? While we have done our fair share of reading great books aloud and drinking tea together, I can tell you, that is where the truth stops. I don’t know about you, but trying to get teenagers to help with household chores is not dissimilar to attempting to land man on the moon. It takes about the same level of skill, determination, strength and a touch of the miraculous. 

One morning this week, I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by the scale of disorder and mess in our home. It is a large house, with eight people currently in residence. The pile of washing alone is large enough to sink the Titanic, and that is with most of the kids doing their own. The kitchen is continually in various stages of meal and snack preparation and mess, and don’t get me started on the floors. One night I was awake in the small hours struck with panic over the state of the toilet window. I almost got up to clean it there and then, but realised doing so might indicate a serious emotional disturbance.

Anyway, with the kids at home this week I had a revelation. I know most of you awesome mothers out there have already nailed home organisation and regular chores with your kids, but apparently 26 years still isn’t enough for me to get victory in this area. With great gusto I gathered the wee treasures and announced that once a week, yes every week they are all going to choose a chore from my list and do it. Yayy!! Easy peasy. Right?


WELL! You should have heard them. Whinging and whining like there was no tomorrow. The oldest ones picked the easiest jobs and complained the whole way through them. They fought and bickered, threw accusations at each other and toward their barbaric mother, genuinely in shock at the injustice of their suffering. The youngest chose to clean the bathroom, the most difficult job (can you imagine the state of a bathroom that five girls use?) and she didn’t utter one complaint! What a legend. I cleaned the toilet window so I could sleep that night, and dodged the arrows that were continually flying in my direction.


My personal highlight was having one sweet treasure literally in tears reminding me, in all earnestness, when I explained for the millionth time that I do not exist merely to clean up after everybody else in this house, that

“YOU have had your life Mum!!!”

Oh that’s right! I forgot. My apologies. What was I thinking?!

 I can even testify to that not being the first time one of my teenagers has thrown that line at me. I (not so) gently responded that I would remind her when she is 51 that her life is over and she shouldn’t expect to do anything else other than clean up after her kids.

Oh, don’t worry, none of my family read my blog so they will never know that I’m talking about them. Ha ha! (oh the freedom!)

And so round one of ‘we are all in this together’ was eventually a success. Two hours later the house was tidy, the bathrooms were clean, floors vacuumed and mopped, washing folded, my nerves were shot and we all lived happily ever after. Until next week.

Now to these cupcakes. I had an order for a sweet young woman’s birthday, and she loves caramel. I had been wanting to try Colour Mill’s  ‘Coastal Collection’ of food gel pastes and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to use them. Coincidently, my new photography backdrops arrived in the mail this week (Ink and Elm Backdrops if anyone wants to know where I get them from) and they also happened to be a perfect match. The excitement was real folks and much rejoicing occurred. Keeping with a bit of a beachy boho theme, I added delicate dried flowers and swirls of delicious dulche de Leche caramel with the oceanic Swiss meringue buttercream. It was a match made in heaven.

The secret to these sweeties is the caramel. Listen up folks! You will need to make this the day before as it takes a whole 3 hours to turn good old condensed milk into the scrummiest, melt in your mouth caramel you have ever tasted. And since you are going to all that effort to make it, (which is really no effort at all. You just put the can into a pot of simmering water and wait for it to do the magic) throw two or three cans in the pot to give yourself a good supply. Put it on ice cream, in milkshakes, on your sticky date pudding, in a cake or just sit in a corner by yourself with a spoon and eat it.  

These cupcakes have oodles of delectable caramel in them which will satisfy the most ardent caramel lover. I have mixed a generous amount though the vanilla bean cupcake, piped it into the middle of each cupcake, swirled it on top and also added it to the buttercream frosting. All that to say that it isn’t too sickly sweet. The proportions are quite balanced.

Caramel Cupcakes

Homemade dulche de leche infused into a light vanilla cupcake, topped with caramel and vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream.
Servings 18 cupcakes


  • 1 can condensed milk * Make dulche de leche a day ahead
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup dulche de leche caramel
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 1/2 cups castor sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda

Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 6 egg whites, at room temp
  • 1 1/4 cup castor sugar
  • 300 grams butter, cubed
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 cup dulche de leche


  • * This step needs to be done a day ahead*
    Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Put a can of condensed milk into the pot and simmer with lid on for 3 hours. Use tongs to remove can from pot. Set aside to cool. Voila! You now have caramel.
  • Preheat oven to 180C
  • Line two muffin trays with 18 cupcake papers
  • In a medium bowl, mix eggs, oil, sour cream, vanilla and water. Using a hand whisk, beat until well combined.
  • Add dulche de leche and whisk well.
  • In a separate bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder and bicarb soda.
  • Carefully pour wet mix into dry mixture. Whisk until very well combined. Using an ice cream scoop, fill cupcake liners until each is 2/3 full.
  • Bake in a moderate oven for 18 minutes until brown and firm to touch. Leave on a wire rack to cool.
  • When cupcakes are cool, use an apple corer to scoop out the centre of each cupcake.
  • Put dulche de leche into a piping bag and squeeze into the centre of each cupcake. Alternatively, use two teaspoons to fill cupcakes. Top with swiss meringue buttercream and swirls of dulche de leche. Yum!

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • Put egg whites and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer. Place mixer onto a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water (like a double boiler). Simmer until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Use your fingers to test it.
  • Move mixing bowl back onto electric mixer and beat on high until thick and glossy, like meringue. About 5 minutes.
  • Turn mixer onto low and add butter, two cubes at a time. This will take about ten minutes. First the buttercream will look soupy, then curdled like scrambled eggs, then it will come together into a silky smooth, delicious frosting.
  • Add vanilla and caramel. MIx until combined.
  • Pipe onto cupcakes. Pipe caramel on as well for extra yummmm.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. It is one of my favourites as I am crazy about caramel. You could add white chocolate chips to the cupcakes for added flavour, or make chocolate cupcakes instead of vanilla. It is quite versatile so have fun with it.

Well, that’s it from me for this week. Thanks for listening to my motherhood musings. I would so love to hear from you, so drop me a comment and say hello. Don’t forget to suggest any cupcake flavours you would like me to make. I’m always up for a new recipe. I have my eye on honey and black tea cupcakes and am currently recipe testing my expresso sticky date cupcakes for all of the coffee lovers. 

Have a great weekend.

Until next week,

Love Anna xx


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