Caramel Cake

Caramel Cake.

Caramel Cake.

caramel13So here is the good news, this is one tasty cake. The caramel frosting has a crystallized, almost maple candy-like outer shell and a creamy, caramel-flavored interior. The yellow cake is moist and delicious. The combination is a perfect bite. You don’t even want ice cream with this cake. Just enjoy it as it is.

caramelcaramel1So here is the bad news. This is a hard cake to make and not one that welcomes any messin’ around with the recipe. Caramel frosting is tricky stuff and you need to make a sturdy cake to handle such a heavy frosting. But if you follow the formula you get a delightful dish. And it is worth the effort.

caramel2caramel5And we do use the word “formula” here. As we (and others) often like to note, baking is a form of chemistry. And in many cases you simply can’t play with the basic formula and get good results. To be fair, baking is hardly as exact a science as “real” chemistry. Humidity, inconsistent ingredients, finicky ovens and variations in cookware make baking a very inexact science, even in the best conditions. But we suggest that if you make this cake you stick with the recipe (at least the first time you bake it).

caramel7caramel8We adapted the recipe (barely) from a Cook’s Country recipe. Cook’s Country is Cook’s Illustrated’s less  ridiculous? obnoxious?  “overbearing” cousin, and tends to feature recipes that you can make and actually work. This is one of those recipes. They do add some technique and tuning to a traditional recipe, but in real terms the big addition is using all-purpose flour in the cake and not softer cake flour. Using AP flour makes for a firmer, but still moist, cake that can handle the thick, heavy frosting.

caramel9caramel11Otherwise, the other key technique is to beat extra butter into the frosting just before you apply it to the cake. Butter does make everything better, and if it makes the frosting easier to work with, then we are all for it. The bigger challenge will be keeping your fingers out of the frosting. It tastes so good, you can lose quite a bit as it makes its way to the cake. But we do encourage a little patience. When you combine the frosting with the cake, it is even better.

caramel10caramel14So if you have the time this Memorial Day weekend, this is a cake worth making. Is it a bit of extra fuss? Well….yes. It it worth it? Without a doubt.

Caramel Cake:

(Adapted from Cook’s Country)

Notes Before You Start:

  • No extra notes. Just follow the recipe and take your time.

What You Get: A crowd-pleasing, sweet and flavorful cake with awesome caramel frosting. Yum.

What You Need: A stand mixer (or electric mixer) and 2, 9-inch cake pans.

How Long? 3 hours, with about an hour, maybe a little more, of active time. Details matter here, so taking your time is advised.


(Makes 1, 2-layer cake)


  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened


  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted


  1. For the cake, place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2, 9-inch cake pans and then line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla together in a small bowl or measuring cup.
  3. In the bowl of your mixer, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Then, with you mixer on slow speed, beat in the butter one piece at a time until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Pour in half of the liquid mixture an and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy, about a minute. Then slowly add the rest of the liquid to the bowl and beat until incorporated, about 15-20 seconds.
  4. Scrape the batter into the pans, smooth the tops and lightly tap to release any air bubbles. Place the cakes into the oven and cook until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20-25 minutres. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and turn out the cakes onto a wire rack. Let the cakes cool completely, at least 2 hours, before frosting.
  5. For the frosting, heat 8 tablespoons of the butter, brown sugar and salt together in a large saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan, 4-8 minutes. Whisk in the cream and cook until the bubbles reappear, 1-2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the vanilla.
  6. Transfer the hot frosting mixture to the bowl of your mixer. Then, at low speed, slowly mix in the confectioners’ sugar until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the frosting is pale brown and just warm, 4-5 minutes. Then add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, one piece at a time, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  7. Line the edges of a cake stand (if you have one, otherwise use a plate) with strips of parchment. Place one of the cake layers on the stand. Spread 3/4 cup of the frosting on top of the cake and spread to the edges. Place the second cake on top and press lightly. Then frost the sides and top of the cake. Remove the parchment paper from under the cake. Slice and serve.

37 thoughts on “Caramel Cake

  1. Oh, that is very pretty. And I imagine it just melts in your mouth. That said, can I still have a bit of ice cream with my slice? Please?

  2. I usually shy away from caramel because I always get distracted and it burns. But this cake looks worth the concentrated effort.

    I could really go for a piece of this right now.

  3. So glad you posted something I don’t want – only, kidding .. this is so good and all those calories just want to come over to me. *smile Have a fantastic weekend now, you two.

  4. I love caramel, and have made a delicious cake using AP flour and buttermilk, so I think this cake looks worth the work. Do I really have to measure and cut parchment circles? I didn’t know scissor skills would be required for this cake.

    • The parchment circles do help. You can probably live w/out but the bottom may have a few small patches stick to the cake pan. Just grease heavily if you go without…

      • I liked the wax paper idea a lot (after all!), because you peel it off for two flawless 9 inch rounds and hassle free from sticking–too! I asked the same question, bc normally I butter and flour the pans…but I loved this technique.

      • It did–complete with pecans on top for extra goodness and decoration! Thank you, I (and everyone else) loved it. I even took some pictures too:) I think it is in my top three favorite cakes. Check out my Buttermilk Bundt cake recipe on my blog from last year. Those two cakes plus my Kahlua Bundt Cake are my top threes!

  5. Excellent cake. Love the texture. Icing is great too. But next time I would skip the salt asked for in the icing. I would also cut the salt in the cake to only 1/8-1/4 tsp.

    • Let me also add that this cake will be what I will use from now on with other icings like chocolate or vanilla buttercream, etc. It is a soft, moist cake wlth a lovely texture. A cross between a cake mix and a from scratch butter cake. You could also turn it into a citrus flavored cake by adding some orange or lemon zest.

  6. I highly recommend this cake too; it was fantastic! I found the recipe in my Entertaining 2010 (from Cook’s Illustrated) and just tried it today – so glad that I did. We both loved it!!!

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