How to Make a Caramel Cake

Caramel cake is a familiar addition to many Southern dessert tables. It’s a double layer cake coated in homemade caramel icing. Although it’s not usually decorated, you only need to take one bite to know why the recipe is handed down through families. The rich, caramel icing hardens a bit as it sets so you get a perfect bite of sweet caramel with fluffy yellow cake. Serve your caramel layer cake with cold milk and enjoy the compliments!


For the cake:

  • 1 cup (227 g) of softened butter
  • 2 1/2 cups (300 g) of sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 2 teaspoons (8 g) of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons (11 g) of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 g) of baking soda
  • 2 cups (400 g) of white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • of vanilla extract
  • of whole milk

For the caramel icing:

  • 2 1/2 cups (300 g) plus 1/3 cup (67 g) of white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (12 g) of all-purpose flour
  • of heavy cream
  • 1 cup (227 g) of softened butter, at room temperature, divided
  • of vanilla extract

Makes a double-layer cake



  1. Preheat the oven to and grease 2 round cake pans. Get out a couple of round cake pans and spray the inside with nonstick cooking spray. To make it even easier to get the cakes out, sprinkle a spoonful of flour across the bottom of the pan and shake it so it covers the bottom and sides. Then, tap out the excess flour and set your pans aside.[1]
    Make a Caramel Cake Step 1.jpg
    • You can also cut a piece of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of the pans. This makes it really easy to get the cakes out of the pans and you can simply peel away the paper.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Put 2 1/2 cups (300 g) of sifted all-purpose flour into a big mixing bowl and add 2 teaspoons (8 g) of baking powder, 2 teaspoons (11 g) of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon (1 g) of baking soda. Then, whisk the dry ingredients for about 30 seconds so all of the leaveners are completely mixed in.[2]
    • It’s always a good idea to check the expiration dates on your baking powder and baking soda. If they’re expired, your cake won’t rise!
  3. Beat softened butter with sugar for 3 minutes. Put 1 cup (227 g) of softened butter into a big mixing bowl and add 2 cups (400 g) of white sugar. Turn a hand or stand mixer to low and beat the butter with the sugar until they’re combined. Then, turn up the speed to medium-high and keep beating the mixture until it’s light and fluffy. Give it at least a few minutes before you turn off the mixer.[3]
    • Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times while you’re beating the butter mixture.
    • Want your cake to have a slight caramel flavor? Instead of using 2 cups (400 g) of white sugar, use 1 1/2 cups (300 g) of white sugar and 1/2 cup (100 g) of packed brown sugar.
  4. Mix in eggs and yolks, one at a time, along with vanilla extract. Turn the mixer to low and add 1 egg. Let it beat for about 15 seconds before you add the remaining 2 eggs and 2 yolks, one at a time. Then, mix in of vanilla extract.[4]
    • The extra egg yolks give the cake its beautiful yellow color.
  5. Stir the dry ingredients into the batter, alternating with whole milk. Switch to a wooden spoon or a spatula and stir in about 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Once they’re incorporated, mix in about half of of whole milk. Don’t worry about being super precise—you can eyeball this. Then, add the rest of the dry ingredients, alternating with the rest of the milk. Stop stirring as soon as the dry ingredients are absorbed.[5]
    • If you mix the batter too long, your cake will be dense or tough. This is also why you want to add the dry ingredients by hand instead of with an electric mixer.
  6. Spread the batter in the 2 round pans. Try to scoop the same amount of batter into each of your prepared cake pans. You can eyeball this or set your pans on a kitchen scale so you can see how much batter you’re putting in each pan. Then, use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the tops so they’re level.[6]
  7. Bake the cakes for 30 minutes or until they’re golden. Put the cake pans in your preheated oven and set a timer for 30 minutes. The edges should pull away from the sides of the pan and turn a light golden color. To test if your cakes are done, carefully stick a skewer or tester into the center of the cake to see if it comes out clean.[7]
    Make a Caramel Cake Step 7.jpg
    • If there’s still batter on the skewer, stick the cakes back in the oven and check them again in a few minutes.
  8. Take the cakes out of the oven and cool them completely. Wear oven mitts to take the pans out of the oven and set them on a wire rack. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Then, run a thin knife around the edge of the pans and turn the cakes onto a wire rack to finish cooling.[8]
    Make a Caramel Cake Step 8.jpg
    • It’s really important to cool the cakes completely so the caramel icing doesn’t soak into the cake when you put it on.

[Edit]Caramel Icing

  1. Cook 1/3 cup (67 g) of the sugar over medium-high for 3 minutes. Don’t be intimidated by making caramel! Set a heavy-bottomed pot on the stove and pour in 1/3 cup (67 g) of sugar. Turn the burner to medium-high and stir the sugar constantly until it melts and turns a deep brown. Then, turn off the burner.[9]
    • Got clumpy sugar? Don’t worry! The sugar clumps at first, but the clumps melt into a syrup that turns a rich brown.
  2. Whisk in flour, cream, and the rest of the sugar. Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar along with 1 tablespoon (12 g) of all-purpose flour and of heavy cream. Whisk really well to dissolve the flour.[10]
    • Heavy cream and whipping cream are interchangeable, so use whichever one you can find at the store.
    • You could also substitute the same amount of evaporated milk for the cream.
  3. Heat the syrup over medium-high until it reaches . Clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pot and turn the burner back on to medium-high. Cook the syrup for about 10 to 12 minutes or until it reaches . You don’t have to stir constantly, but you should stir the syrup every few minutes to help it cook evenly.[11]
    Make a Caramel Cake Step 11.jpg
    • You’re bringing the caramel to the soft ball stage. This means if you were to put some of the caramel into cold water, it would firm up enough that you could roll it into a soft ball between your fingers.
  4. Turn off the burner and stir in half of the butter and vanilla. You don’t want the caramel sauce to keep cooking, so turn off the burner as soon as it reaches . Then, put 1/2 cup (113 g) of the softened butter into the pot along with of vanilla extract. Stir the caramel mixture until the butter melts.[12]
    • Keep the other stick of butter out at room temperature. You’ll need it later to finish the caramel icing.
  5. Cool the caramel syrup until it reaches . Set the caramel aside so it cools off. This should take around 1 hour. Don’t have that long to wait? Don’t worry! You can speed up the cooling process by filling your clean kitchen sink half full of ice water. Then, set the pot into the sink and stir the syrup until it reaches . Just don’t let any water get into the caramel.[13]
    Make a Caramel Cake Step 13.jpg
    • If you’re cooling the caramel at room temperature, just stir it occasionally to help it cool faster.
  6. Beat the cooled syrup on high for 10 minutes. Spoon the caramel into a big mixing bowl and use a hand or stand mixer to beat it on high. Although 10 minutes might seem like a long time, beating the caramel for this long makes it fluffy, thick, and pale.[14]
    • If you want your caramel icing to have more of a pouring consistency, you can skip this step.
  7. Mix in the remaining butter and beat the icing for 5 minutes on high. To give your amazing icing even more volume, add the remaining 1/2 cup (113 g) of softened butter and turn the mixer back to high speed. Beat the caramel icing for 5 more minutes so it’s soft and easy to spread.[15]
    • Stop and scrape down the bowl a few times so all of the icing becomes fluffy.


  1. Put 1 cake on your serving plate and spread 3/4 cup (210 g) of icing on it. Set 1 of your cooled cakes on a platter or cake plate. If the cake has a noticeable dome, you can slice it off so it’s level or just flip it over so the flat side faces up. Then, spread about 3/4 cup (210 g) of caramel icing over the top of the cake.[16]
    • You can use an offset spatula or the back of a large spoon to spread the icing. Just use whatever’s comfortable for you.
  2. Stack the other cake on top so they’re centered. You’re almost done assembling your layer cake! Take your second cooled cake and flip it so the flat bottom faces up. Set this directly on the frosted cake so the sides line up.[17]
    • Again, if your cake is really domed, feel free to cut it so it’s level or just enjoy the slightly rounded caramel cake.
  3. Spread the rest of the caramel icing over the top and sides of the cake. Now, scoop all of the icing onto the top of the cake and spread it evenly over the surface. Then, spread the icing around the sides of the cake. For a polished look, quickly run the flat edge of a bench scraper around the sides and top of the cake. Try to work fast so the caramel icing doesn’t start to harden. [18]
    Make a Caramel Cake Step 18.jpg
    • Having trouble with the icing sticking as you spread it? Just dip your offset spatula or spoon in warm water to loosen the icing.
  4. Leave the cake at room temperature for 2 hours before you serve it. This might be the hardest part about making the cake. Let it sit out for a few hours so the caramel icing can set before you slice it. When you’re finally able to serve it, set out glasses of cold milk and enjoy![19]
    Make a Caramel Cake Step 19.jpg
    • Put the leftover cake in an airtight container and store it at room temperature for up to 5 days.


  • The flavor of this caramel cake gets better after a few days, so feel free to make it a few days before you plan on serving it.

[Edit]Things You’ll Need

  • round cake pans
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Mixing bowls
  • Hand or stand mixer
  • Spatula
  • Whisk
  • Wire racks
  • Oven mitt
  • Skewer or cake tester
  • Large heavy-bottomed pot
  • Spoon
  • Candy thermometer
  • Serrated knife
  • Cake stand or serving dish


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