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Butter-Yema Cupcakes

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This Butter-Yema Cupcakes recipe didn’t get into my first cookbook How to Cook Philippine Desserts, Cakes and Snacks for lack of space. But I’m sharing this now because it’s a popular Filipino dessert which is often enjoyed at parties or whenever family and friends gather.

I once asked my sister in the Philippines for this well-loved recipe and she said, “Bake butter cupcakes and simply make a yema icing, it’s that simple.” So, I did just that. This butter cake recipe is a basic one which I’ve made often in different forms for various occasions – layered, a sheet cake, a Bundt cake and now for cupcakes. The difference lies in the oven baking time, and it’s a shorter amount of time for cupcakes.

Yema is a Filipino term for a sweet, thick, spreadable custard made of condensed milk, eggs, butter and vanilla. Yema candies, encased in colorful cellophane wrappers are highly coveted at Philippine parties but rather tedious to make because you need to keep stirring the mixture continuously on the stove.

Today, after baking these cupcakes, I did not have the time nor the patience to stand over the stove and stir the yema mixture non-stop. Instead, I did a shortcut for making the yema spread. I made Dulce de Leche in the can. I offer two ways to do this in the procedure – on the stove top in a stock pot or in the current favorite Instant Pot (or any pressure cooker/multi-cooker you own). These days, I don’t often bake sweets as much as I used to for lack of time. But when I do, it’s to share at potlucks or give as gifts to friends and family. This one here is a winner. After all, who doesn’t love a sweet ending to any meal?

Butter-Yema Cupcakes

Butter-Yema Cupcakes are a popular Filipino dessert and easy-
to-make with basic pantry ingredients. Simply bake butter cupcakes and make a rich,
thick yema custard spread to slather on the moist, buttery cakes. Sprinkle
freshly-grated sharp cheddar cheese on top to balance off the sweetness and
enjoy a savory-sweet decadent dessert. This butter cake is a previous Asian in
America recipe. The Yema-Dulce de Leche spread recipe was inspired by
*I offer two ways to cook the Yema spread: On the stove-top OR
in the Instant Pot multi-cooker.
Prep Time1 day
Cook Time53 minutes
Course: Dessert, Snacks
Cuisine: American, Asian, Filipino
Keyword: Butter Yema Cupcakes Dessert
Servings: 16 cupcakes
Calories: 177kcal
Author: Asian in America recipe


  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup freshly-grated sharp cheddar cheese


To make the Yema- dulce de leche on the stove

  • Remove paper labels from the can of condensed milk. Place can in a medium-sized, deep stockpot filled with water, enough to cover the can. Cover and let the water boil, then simmer over medium heat to cook the condensed milk inside the can. Cook this for 3 hours.
    After cooking time, leave the can submerged in the water and allow it to get to room temperature. Open the can the following day to spread yema on cupcakes.

To make Instant Pot Yema-Dulce de Leche

  • Remove paper label from can. Place the can in a steamer basket, atop a trivet in the inside pot of the Instant Pot (I use a 6 quart Instant Pot). Fill the inside pot with about 10 cups of water. The can should be completely submerged in water.
    Close and lock the lid. Set the steam release handle to a Sealing Position.
    Click Manual and cook on High Pressure for 15 minutes.
    When buzzer sounds, do a NPR (natural pressure release) for 5 minutes to allow steam to come down on its own. When float pin drops, press Cancel to turn off. Unplug the Instant Pot and leave the can covered overnight. Do NOT open the lid till the next day. Open the can the following day. Use yema/dulce de leche filling as icing for the cupcakes.

To bake the Butter Cupcakes

  • Place oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
    Prepare muffin tins by lining them with paper liners (I used tulip-shaped cupcake liners).
  • In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: Flour, baking powder and soda, and the salt. Set aside.
  • Using a cake mixer, cream the softened butter on medium speed till light and creamy. Add the sugar to the mixture gradually.
  • Add the whole egg and continue mixing. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Mix well.
  • Lower the mixer speed. Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk. Begin and end with the dry ingredients. Continue mixing for 1 to 2 minutes till batter is smooth and blended.
  • Pour the cake batter into the lined muffin tins. Bake cupcakes at a preheated oven of 350 F for 18 to 20 minutes. Test for if cakes are done by piercing the tip of a small knife at the center. If knife comes out clean, cupcakes are done.
  • Remove cupcakes from the oven and cool on a cake rack for about 1 hour. Cupcakes must be completely cool at room temperature before adding the frosting or icing on top.
  • Using a cake spatula, spread 3 Tablespoons of Yema on each cupcake. Sprinkle a teaspoon of grated cheddar cheese on each cupcake.

Cook's comments:

  • For best results, use premium butter. Check flour and baking ingredients for expiration dates. Do not use old, stale ingredients.

Notes on the Instant Pot

  • Use accessories recommended for the Instant Pot like silicone or metal. Do not use glassware in the Instant Pot or similar multi-cookers. Consult the product's readers' manual for safety precautions.


Calories: 177kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 51mg | Sodium: 67mg | Potassium: 75mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 325IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 0.6mg

Did you love this recipe? I have more Filipino Instant Pot recipes in my newest cookbook Instant Filipino Recipes: My Mother’s Traditional Philippine Cooking in A Multicooker PotBuy my cookbooks and books on Amazon.com sold worldwide in paperback and Kindle format.

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Disclosure: Instant Pot is the brand name of a multi-cooker that cooks in high and low pressure. I was not paid by the Instant Pot company to mention the product or brand nor endorse it. This is not an ad. My views and opinions are my own.

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