Cajeta is Mexican caramel, made with slowly-cooked sweetened goats milk and infused with cinnamon, vanilla, or other spices and flavorings.
By Bowen Close
There’s nothing quite like freshly made caramel sauce. Sweet and smoky and maybe even a bit salty, velvety and chewy and perfect on top of a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
But do you know about cajeta?
Cajeta is Mexican caramel, made with slowly-cooked sweetened milk (traditionally and preferably goat’s milk) and infused with cinnamon, vanilla, or other spices and flavorings. The milk reduces and the sugar caramelizes very slowly, creating an ultra-smooth texture and a complex flavor that perfectly balances its sweetness. Velvety and creamy, like the best caramel sauce you’ve ever had, but with subtle hints of savory, spice, and tang. If you love caramel sauce but often find it too sweet, cajeta is your new best friend.
Cajeta adds a bit of exotic excitement to all the things you’d usually do with caramel – poured over ice cream, drizzled onto pound cakes, spread onto shortbread cookies – but is also fantastic for flavoring buttercream frosting (add up to 1/4 cup to a batch of your favorite buttercream), drizzling over fried plantains, spreading onto fruit … I’m sure you’ll find plenty of ways to use it, once you have a jar of it in your house.
Cajeta is a great thing to make while you’re doing other things in the kitchen, since it requires fairly frequent attention for upwards of 90 minutes. You don’t need to be working with it that entire time, but you want to be able to check in on it and give it a stir fairly often. In the last 15-25 minutes of the cooking process, it will need your almost-undivided attention as you stir constantly and bring it to the desired consistency without it scorching on the bottom of the pan. The photos below show the cajeta right after adding the dissolved baking soda, then again at the 15, 30, 45, 60, and 75 minute marks, so you can see how it proceeds.
And as it cools on the counter and you’re finally able to dip a finger in to get a taste, you’ll know all that time and stirring was absolutely worth it.
Originally Published: May 18, 2012