Cajeta Birthday Cake

My birthday had a subtle Mexican theme, in that I had been craving margaritas and guacamole. I went with that craving and served a Mexican menu, complete with a Cajeta caramel-frosted vanilla birthday cake. I had to run a couple of errands on my birthday (glamorous day, I know), so I resorted to a doctored cake mix recipe. It was easy, of course, but the home-made frosting was delicious. If you are somewhat opposed to boxed cake mixes, that’s fine, good for you and all of that, but you may still find sufficient value in the frosting recipe to forgive my gourmet faux pas. 

Cajeta is a fantastic Mexican dessert that is simply caramelized sweetened condensed milk. Cajeta, which is readily available in tins in the Hispanic section of many major grocery stores, is traditionally made by simmering milk (either cow’s or goat’s milk, or sometimes a mixture of the two) and stirring frequently. If you aren’t able to find any Cajeta ready-to-go in your local grocery, the blessed internet returned recipes to make it on your own in the microwave, on the stovetop, and boiling in the can.

When I was little, my mother would make us an Easter treat of sweetened condensed milk that had been simmered in the can for a couple of hours. She said that this was a family Easter tradition she had enjoyed when she was a child, too, although I don’t think they called it Cajeta in Zimbabwe. On a trip to Thailand several years ago, my mother, sister, and I visited a coconut processing refinery and tried a sweet fudge-type dessert made from hardened coconut milk that had been cooked with cane sugar until it too thickened, if memory serves. You see, I was too busy eating as much of it as I could get from first the sample stand, and then from the bag I purchased after I realized that it would be shameful to be kicked out of a coconut plantation for being “overserved” on caramel candies. In my research for this post, I found a gorgeous recipe on Smitten Kitchen for caramel candies that I am going to have to try as soon as possible.

It appears that caramel may be a universal treat, binding us all together in sticky-fingered delight. Hopefully your friends will appreciate the flavor, and they won’t even need to know it’s an easy, modified cake mix recipe.

Cajeta Birthday Cake

For the classic vanilla cake, you will need:

  • 1 box French vanilla cake mix (and ingredients as called for on the package)
  • Two extra eggs
  • 1 tsp. Mexican vanilla extract (you can use any kind, I just prefer Mexican, and that makes it just a bit more fun, if that’s even possible, for my Mexican-themed table) 
For the Cajeta frosting, you will need:  

  • 1 can Cajeta
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar (aka powdered sugar)
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ tsp. course-ground salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 
  • Grease two cake pans and add flour (or spray with non-stick baking spray).
  • Prepare cake mix as called for on packaging, adding in extra eggs and vanilla.
  • When cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting. In the bowl of your mixer with the whisk attachment, add in the melted butter, milk/cream, vanilla, powdered sugar, salt, and Cajeta. Mix until well combined. This will be thick.
  • Spread over the middle of your cake and on top. I love when the cake is exposed on the sides (as opposed to covered in frosting).
  • Serve and sparkle. 

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