caramel cake

I know. I know what you’re thinking: this is out of control. This non-stop sugar/butter/egg/flour assault needs to stop. Our hips! Our abs! For the love of all that was once taut and perky, Deb, no more desserts! And I want you to know, I couldn’t agree more. I, too, strive for balance. I, too, swore those jeans were looser before Thanksgiving.

lumpy batter

Yet Dec. 30 is no time to be burdened with these lofty soup-and-salad goals. What else will we have to live down, and resolve ourselves better than, on New Years Day? Salad in December is like… mistletoe in January.

softest cake

Besides, on a last-minute whim we had a bunch of friends over last night to watch some yawnfootballyawn game and I can’t tell you about the three pizzas I made, because you already know about them. But I can tell you all about this delightful caramel cake from the gorgeous January Gourmet devoted to Southern food, how it came together rather quickly (I literally started on it at kickoff, and we ate it in awkward silence after the final score was called and I was all, “Who’s that guy? He’s hot!” and the whole living room groaned and said “That’s Tom Brady and he is The Sworn Enemy”) and what a welcome guest this could be at any New Years Eve party, along with your best bubbly and most scandalous dress. Or Tom Brady jersey.

boiling brown sugar caramel

So, if homemade brown sugar caramel sliding down the sides of a oh so fluffy, impossibly moist yellow cake that even smells like the embodiment of softness itself, I think you know what needs to be done. Turn off the Biggest Loser Australia marathon, close your browser, even if it is currently boasting the cutest puppy that has ever lived, get a few things out of the pantry and you could have this cake made in time for dinner.

pouring caramel

Not your bag (and really: who are you?)? Here are some non-dessert recipes from I think would be welcome at any cocktail party:

caramel cake

One year ago: Russian Tea Cakes, Coq Au Vin

Caramel Cake
Gourmet, January 2008

[Updated 6/09] About that caramel! I realized quite a bit after making this cake that my candy thermometer was not worth the $2.99 I’d spent on it. Who knew?! The temperature reading always ran way cold, so when you make this at home, you’ll find that your caramel is thinner and will sink into the cake more. This is actually correct, or the way caramel cakes traditionally come out. Want yours to come out thick and drape-y the way it is pictured here? Boil it a bit hotter — but be careful. And be warned — despite the fact that draped caramel looks very pretty, the next day it was a bit awkward to bit through a thick, almost fondant-like caramel layer to get to that delicious cake within.

For the cake
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For caramel glaze
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Equipment: a candy thermometer

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8-inch square cake pan and line with a square of parchment paper, then butter parchment. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture may look curdled). Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

Make the glaze: Bring cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Boil until glaze registers 210 to 212°F on thermometer, 12 to 14 minutes, then stir in vanilla.

Put rack with cake in a shallow baking pan and pour hot glaze over top of cake, allowing it to run down sides. Cool until glaze is set, about 30 minutes.

Do ahead: Cake (before glazing) can be made 1 day ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

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195 comments on caramel cake

  1. Jessica

    OMG, I LOVE that puppy – I just about died when I saw him a couple of weeks ago on CO. I am obsessed with english bulldogs right now. Oh, when we have a house…

  2. Sue

    OMG!!! That looks soooooooooooooo good! I declared a moratorium on baked goods now that Christmas is over, but….. my daughter and two friends will be spending the night before they head back to AZ and I think the calorie distribution might work with a few twenty somethings and a teenage boy to spread them amongst!
    Does that caramel topping stay gooey at room temperature or does it get solid?
    I hear football coming from the family room! Maybe I should get started??

  3. Geens

    Wow! This cake could have even made my husband feel ever so much better after our Giants loss last night. I will make this for sure…..looks dreamy maybe kinda like Tom Brady…..smack me I mean Eli!!

  4. Strangely enough, I recently made a caramel cake, too, but with a caramel-cream cheese frosting. Yours does look divine. And as a Southern girl, I will say it looks pretty authentic. I must add that because Eli and I share the same alma mater, I feel compelled to root for him. Happy new year!

  5. That cake has been in my queue since I laid my eyes on that magazine and refused to leave BN without it… Ah, the holiday eating. I have red wine chicken stew on the stove right now. We had to rescue our vegetables – and give our waists a break! :) As for that hot, sworn enemy Tom Brady, I hope not to lose favor with you if I confessed that I’ve been a longtime Patriots fan. As a former Boston gal, I have to keep my loyalties. Happy New Year, btw, I hope it’s a wonderful one for you and Alex!!

  6. deb

    Sue — It gets firm-ish once it sets, and from the fridge (where I kept it overnight, paranoid that it had so much cream in the glaze) it was even more like a caramel candy. However, and I am just considering this now, I ended up waiting a minute or two (though not more) after the caramel was ready to pour it over the cake (I was trying to get Alex in from the living room, actually, to take a picture of it being poured over!) and in that time, it started to set. If you check out the photo from the magazine the caramel seems to have absorbed into the cake more. It might even taste better that way, even if I think the draping of thick caramel in my pictures is prettier. I look forward to hearing/reading about how others found the topping–thick or thin and absorbant.

  7. ung

    god, i’m so glad i don’t have buttermilk in the house right now. i do not need to be making this.

    just made your chicken and dumpings! was a disaster because i didn’t read that little sentence that said simmer. so it was on medium high for an hour. edible, but barely.

    the peanut butter cookies, the russian tea cakes (i know them as snowballs), world peace cookies, all fabulous, just that for the world peace, i have to minus a tbs of flour and sugar each to get it to meld. oreos went a little iffy on me. don’t know why.

    love your site!

  8. geeshk
    i dunno deb, this was almost kinda cruel
    my food slots are full until D(iet) day, aka 1/2/08
    no space to bake it tomorrow
    making a tarte tatin
    but damn girl
    just damn
    i would kill for that one
    and me the nyc jew – living in nashville…
    caramel cake = so. my. thing.

  9. Jan

    I am picturing individual caramel cakes for the New Years Eve party! I have one of those square muffin tins. Little square cakes with all that gooey caramel! YUM! Thanks for the recipe. I haven’t been anywhere but work and the Chinese restaurant all week. This is just what I needed for tomorrow’s party.

  10. oh my lord.

    i can’t breathe.

    this is just GORGEOUS. It shall be the first cake that comes out of my oven in 2008 ‘cos I know it’s gonna bring in an entire year’s worth of delicious treats. I mean, how can it not?? Look at that dripping glaze and soft crumb. I’m swooning already.
    Thanks Deb, for yet another superb recipe.

  11. Dancer who eats

    Mmm… GIRL! You are crazy! Caramel… scary but mmmm……. (scary to make, that is)

    I made the Tomato Soup from over a year ago last night and it was good. I have this theory that one of the secrets to good cooking is just to put shallots and butter in everything and figure that you can’t go wrong. Shallots/butter or liquor or all three. Yup, can’t go wrong. Have to admit that I wasn’t sure the soup would be worth the effort but I was wrong. I freezed some of it for later… :D

  12. Jane

    I have never gotten so much pleasure out of recipes and cooking until I found your blog!!! So far I’ve made the peanut butter cookies, my son couldn’t even let them cool, the truffles with some chocolate from La Maison du Chocolat that I have been saving from a trip to Paris for over a year and now I’m going to try the chocolate sour cream cake (saw it in the Boston Globe). Don’t malign the Patriots!!!!!

    GO PATS………….

  13. Luscious and gorgeous. I love the simple elegance of it – who could resist! I love the mentioned idea of individual versions, possibly crowned with a fresh raspberry (or chocolate shaving) or two. Divine!

  14. Sue K

    Hey, Happy New Year! This cake is killing me:) I am not a frosting girl at all, but caramel…that is a different story altogether. And I agree on the Tom Brady thing, he should knock up more women, those genes should not go to waste. I have an easier time of it – husband is a Pats fan, so he takes my drooling for um…fandom or something

  15. Krissy

    After a very “smitten kitchen” holiday (I even attempted the babka:), this might have to be a last minute addition to my New Years Eve menu….and as for hot QBs, a Wisconsin gal must stick with Favre….old but a goody:) Have a happy new year Deb, and here’s to another year of fantastic food!!

  16. First of all…two things.
    1) I first noticed Tom Brady during the after Patriots game press talk. I asked my husband the same exact thing…saying “He’s a hottie!”
    2) I have this cake in the oven as we speak and was delighted to stumble upon the fact that you made it too and that it was a hit. This entire issue of Gourmet was fantastic! I have the Savannah Cream Cake from that issue chilling in the fridge. I have a dozen other recipes from that one issue I want to try!

    Happy New Year, deb!

  17. Beth

    Great Recipe. I just finished making it for my NYE party and if the cake is as good as its parts (the cake batter and the caramel) then it is sure to be wonderful. Just one variation I would offer tough, use a bigger saucepan than what is in the recipe. I used the size indicated and my caramel runneth over, and made a huge mess on my stove! Also, I inadvertently put the vanilla in before boiling the caramel mixture, but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference in the end product.

  18. Beth

    Also, my caramel sauce seems to be a bit thinner. Could be because i don’t have a candy thermometer, so I just boiled it until it seemed to reduce and stop being so bubby on the top.

  19. I love your not-so-enthusiastic commentary on the football game :) I’m sure I’d have a similar response! At least you all had this delicious looking caramel cake to share in.

  20. Out of all of the wonderful sounding recipes in that issue of Gourmet, this one totally stuck out to me (of course my love for the butter, sugar and cream helped).

    I’m thrilled you have made it, as now I know it’s truly possible. It shall be made tomorrow.

    Happy New Year!

  21. I’m sorry, was there content on this post? I was too busy dreaming of diving into that beautiful beautiful caramel to notice. *giggle*

    OMG I TOTALLY NEED TO MAKE THIS CAKE IT LOOKS DELICIOUS! Everything you make is so beautiful and perfect. Thank you for that!

  22. Jenny

    Another gorgeous recipe! I’m in the process of making it myself this afternoon. Happy New Year to me :) Deb, one quick question for you: when you decide, at the last minute, that you’d like to bake a cake, make cookies–how do you soften the butter to room temperature quickly? I tried the defrost setting on my microwave with okay success but am wondering if you have a better solution. Thanks!

  23. Famisamis

    Deb! Help! My friend and I successfully made the cake but totally effed up the caramel! It burned. Badly. And just now I can see the end of my apartment through the smoke. Where did we go wrong? It was bubbly and then bubbly some more. Obviously I cooked it too long but it never stopped looking grainy. Should it still be grainy at the end? It’s now grainy black and dark brown in the snow on the front lawn.

    Perhaps another idea of what to top our delicious cake with?

    Happy New Year!

  24. Jane

    Hi Deb, Happy New Year! We made the mushrooms stuffed with sundried tomatoes last night for our party and everyone loved them! Thanks for all the great recipes and very enjoyable read! I crack up at your jokes all the time.

  25. Ohiogirl

    Oh! Deb! Love that cake!

    I’m doubly thrilled as I too thought that whole January issue was fab, and didn’t know where to begin.

    I did make the potato casserole (yummy) and now I know what my second recipe will be – this cake!

    Thanks for a tasty 2007 (your red cat zucchini recipe is now one of our FAVORITES) and wishing you a happy, healthy 2008!

  26. VuDo Brew

    Thanks for this! I made it to top off our New Year’s Day meal of Corn Chowder and Ribs – it was the perfect ending. (Although eating while watching the Biggest Loser is NOT, I repeat, NOT a good idea). I will make this again and again. You have never led me down a tasteless road Deb – thanks!

  27. newgrandma

    Deb..the drizzled cake looks so beautiful, but I really flopped on the glaze..maybe my thermometer was off…cooked too long..what is the secret..There was no way I could put that stuff on the it out of the pan has been the chore of the evening…I will probably use the cake with raspberries and cream tomorrow..

  28. Susan

    HELP – Okay, I’ve made this cake 2x and with the same results: the texture seems strange, almost cornbread-y. Is that how it’s supposed to be? The taste is great and we LOVE the caramel glaze!

  29. deb

    Newgrandma — You might want to try re-melting the caramel, and pouring it quickly. Mine, too, went a little past the ideal temperature, hence the thickness you see, but moving quickly, I was able to drape it over the cake.

    Susan — The cake has a rather large crumb–like cornbread–but I found mine to have none of the dryness of cornbread. Hope that helps!

  30. kalle

    i made this cake, and it turned out exactly like the photo on epicurios. i, too, think that deb’s photo looks much tastier! i poured the glaze over the cake, on a rack over foil, and quite alot of the glaze pooled up on the foil. so, i scraped it off, and drizzled it over the cake again. i did this two or three times. the cake was good, but not a really strong caramel flavor, so i was a bit disappointed. if i were to try it again, i’d cook the caramel a bit longer, and maybe let it set a while before putting it on the cake, and hopefully it would be thicker.

  31. kate

    I made this over the weekend and my caramel topping (i took it off at 211 degrees) was very liquidy. It absorbed into the cake but gave it a nice sheen on top. This cake was so great- simple and wonderful. Especially good for breakfast the next day.

  32. I just made this for my husband’s birthday today, and also got more of a glaze. Just wondering–when you made it, did you take the 12-14 mins to mean boil it for that long (after it reaches that temp) or cook it for that long total?

  33. It does smell and taste great (the caramel), and the cake batter was delicious. I can’t cut it yet, since it is for my husband, but I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  34. Stacy

    I made this cake last night….and it was really good. My caramel wasn’t as thick, more glaze-y, but I did it without a candy thermometer. My suggestion: poke holes in the cake before pouring the caramel over top. The caramel then sinks in and makes it extra moist and delish.

  35. deb

    Hi Neesha — I am sure you could, simply by doubling it and pouring half the caramel over each layer. Oh, and then sending me a slice, though I’m sure that will have no effect on the final product. ;)

  36. Lydia

    Just made the cake last night while watching the Super Bowl… and it was great. It domed a little on top, but otherwise great base for frostings and glazes. I wonder how it’ll be in cupcake form.

  37. KA

    I have this recipe bookmarked and can’t wait to make it. Can you refresh my memory – didn’t you write that your candy thermometer was wacky and that’s why the caramel looks different than that made by many readers? I want mine to look like yours and most readers who make it indicated theirs was much thinner. thanks.

  38. deb

    Yes. My thermometer seems to run low, meaning that I cooked it well past the recommended temperature, which made it thick–at least 20 degrees, but use your eyeballs to make sure you don’t go too far. One thing though, when this hardens, it’s almost like a jelly roll-up texture (okay, not that thick, but it is clearly a separate texture from the cake). It will still be madly delicious, but I just wanted to warn that it was a side effect of it being a bit thicker.

  39. Rubs Robertson

    This recipe was absolutely fantastic. I mean it really made my birthday smell like caramel. All birthdays should smell like caramel. However, don’t attempt making this recipe into cupcake form. Once in the oven they are very easy to burn. All birthdays should smell like caramel

  40. Lisa in Poland

    I made this cake a few months back and never told you how much I loved it and how my caramel turned out just like yours (it looked a tad lighter but it ran the same and was the perfect texture.) Thanks so much for this recipe! It’s such a lovely cake! I keep wanting to make it again, but it’s hard for me to make something without chocolate in it, even something this delicious. But I will make it again soon!!

  41. Ilkia

    OMG I love this cake!!!! look so good. I was going to start my diet today until I came across this cake and my husband wants me to make it. I love carmel and so does he. I just hope my new diet can last while this cake is in my house!!!

  42. Jackie

    OMG I love this cake!!!!!!!!! It taste good. I made one by the recipe and it will make you slap your mother for not making it when you were small.

  43. Shannon

    I solemnly swear that I followed the directions to a tee, but found that my glaze was really runny. Did you, perchance, let it cool/ set up slightly before pouring it atop the cake?

  44. deb

    Hi Shannon — No, yours is right, and I have learned since that mine is “wrong” (if a caramel-draped cake could ever be wrong!). I realized while making fried chicken about a month later that my former candy/deep-fry thermometer way off, and running quite cool meaning that my caramel was cooked longer and hotter than the recipe says it should be, hence the extra thickness. However, I have also since learned that in traditional caramel cake, the caramel mostly absorbs.

  45. Tara

    So im eating this cake now and whoa is it good. I kinda messed up the cake part…instead of 1 stick of butter somehow i put in 2…but it tastes amazingggg. Its so light and tender. Todays thanksgiving so my whole family loved the cake. As far as the glaze goes, it was a little thin so i had to add some powdered sugar to it to thicken it a ltitle but it was still fantastic. My family caramel cake recipe, which i have yet to get from my grandmother has a similar cake texture. The icing however is thick and buttery like fudge and it is pounds waiting to be added but its amazing. So this cake with that icing would be a sin together! The cake itself isnt too sweet so paired with the caramel its a nice balance. But i advise everyone to try this amazing cake!

  46. Resee

    Ok, I’ve been reading reviews here and Epicurious. I bake cakes for several people, just for fun, and I’ve got an idea I’m going to try, since I’ve got to bake one today. If it turns out I’ll post the results.

  47. Allison

    I just discovered your site a few weeks ago, and in reading the archives came across this recipe. As soon as I saw it, I said “I found my birthday cake.” So rather than making my family’s traditional chocolate Texas sheet cake, I made this for my 30th. It was a definite hit–even my niece, who says she doesn’t like caramel, was scooping extra frosting onto her slice. My cake looked like the picture from Gourmet–the topping is very thin, but I just put the cake in larger pan so that all the excess pooled at the bottom, and could then be ladled on as desired.

  48. Tim

    I think your recipe for the glaze shoud be 1 cup of sugarr and 1/4 cup of cream. The way you have it listed is runny. Swap those out and it’s perfect. Great photos!

  49. I made this on Monday for my moms’ group, and it was an absolute HIT. Not a crumb left – well, at least not after my hubby got into it! He said it reminded him of pancakes for some reason… I’m thinking it was the buttermilk. :) Also, my glaze was runnier than what yours looks like in the pictures, but it was DE-LISH!

  50. Colleen

    If this is the recipe my mom use to make its from the issue with the St. Louis Arch on the cover. She made it for my uncle who loved the caramel cakes that were sold at Sander’s in Detroit, MI. My brother loves this cake a lot. She would make it for him on his birthday but since we’ve misplaced that copy of Gourmet and I’ve been unable to find the recipe online he’s had to settle for a bakery birthday cake. I know that you despise bakery birthday cakes but this bakery makes a most delicious cake. Thanks for posting this recipe as I will probably make it for him on his birthday. Did the original frosting recipe have heavy cream listed because I don’t remember my mom using that ingredient.

  51. I am going to use your caramel sauce as a jumping off point for a birthday cake this week. I am going to make a layered cake soaked in coconut milk and rum concoction sandwiched between this caramel. I am thinking perhaps i should make this coconut flavored- such as subbing half or quarter of the cream for coconut cream. I hope to have a nice thick caramel that will stick the layers together as it need to be sturdy enough to be manhandled by the husband- to a party at 24 hour in advance… guah… advise? best wishes?

  52. Jessica

    I made this a few weeks ago. Like the other posters, my glaze was a lot runnier, but I found this worked well because it soaked into the cake better. One Tip: I found this cake to be much more delicious the next day after the glaze had a chance to soak in for 24 hours. It was moister and sweeter! Next time I will make it and glaze it the night before, and serve with another batch of glaze the next day! (I kind of figure you can’t have too much caramel glaze…) ;)

  53. LansingAnn

    I just want to let you know I made this and it was wonderful! Nothing like seeing to grown men cry because they have just ate something so good they wanna slap somebody. This was very very very good.

  54. Jason

    Call me a baking idiot (nicer word being a novice), but it looks like you cut the top off of the cake before pouring the caramel. Is this a technique that I haven’t learned yet in the art of cake decorating? Can someone please enlighten me on this… as I am trying to bake this for my grandpa’s 84th b-day tomorrow? Thanks!!

  55. deb

    Not an idiot! I did not level this cake (my old oven just did a terrible job browning the tops of things) but I often do. It is a decorators trick, just to level cakes before stacking and layering them. (If you put a flat-bottomed cake layer on top of a rounded cake dome, the top layer is likely to crack.) But it is not necessary on a single-layer cake such as this.

  56. Jason

    Thanks Deb! Wow, what a trill for such a quick response from a rockstar such as yourself. I am honored! Very good advice… I kinda sorta went ahead and sliced off a little of the brown after flipping the cake. I’m being optimistic with my hypothesis that the caramel glaze will seep down further into it… making the birthday creation even tastier on day two!

    Thanks also for going easy on me… I am truly a novice. This is my first year (out of 35 on planet earth) that I have decided to take up cooking from scratch. Well cooking of any kind for that matter sadly. So I am still in the infantile stages of baking only. Your website has given great inspiration. I think I’ve been through every recipe at least twice… and my next adventure (first non-dessert) is the pasta with baked tomato sauce. I’m so into this!!

  57. margie

    I want to let you know that I made this cake and it was amazing. So light, with a small tender crumb, amazing flavor. I used Lyle’s Golden Syrup instead of corn syrup in the glaze. And, I made a mistake, I had the oven set too low (325) when I put the cake in. After about 15-20 minutes I realized this and bumped up the temp for the finish. I wonder if that had anything to do with the overwhelming success of this cake.

    I also used high fat butter, and a 9″ round spring form pan instead. It all worked great. I definitely count this among the best cakes I’ve ever made.

  58. Kristen

    What temperature would you suggest for the drape-y fondant caramel icing? My grandmother used to make a Caramel Cake with a Thick Sugary Crusty Icing that used to tickle my nose, make me sneeze, and make me *supremely* happy. I had bookmarked your recipe (after trying other recipes that had pedestrian melt-into-the-cake icing) thinking “This is it! The nose-tickling caramel cake!”

    But alas. It was only your tricky candy thermometer that led to such results.

  59. Colleen Raezler

    Thank you for this recipe! My husband loves the caramel cake from the Detroit-based Sanders (mentioned in another comment above by another Colleen) and I’ve been searching for a recipe that comes close to it since we moved out of Michigan four years ago. This was perfect- so easy and so delicious!

  60. Ann

    I have had the same problem with all my themometers. This makes caramel even more challenging. I suggest you bring a saucepan of water to a boil and have the themometer read the temperature. Since water boils at 212 farenheit, by the reading on your themometer(example 207 F)you will get an ideal on the REAL accuracy of your themometer. Using the expample, I can tell I need to add 5 degrees to all ofmy themometer readings for an accurante reading.

  61. Susan

    Inspired by your current offering of Butterscotch Sauce (12/15/09) and this recipe, I riffed it a new one! I made my version of the buttermilk cake (very similar to this one) in two 8″ layers. I made and filled the cake with a butterscotch pastry cream and poured the chilled butterscotch sauce over it, like a butterscotch version of the Boston Cream Pie or, uh, like this recipe. Oh, Deb! This answers perfectly, but with much less bother, Leite’s Thankful Butterscotch Cake. The buttermilk cake is the perfect vehicle for this sweet and salty sauce and the pastry cream cuts the potential sugar overload in Leite’s cake way down. It is SO good.

  62. LaTonya

    This is a great recipe. The cake and glaze came out perfect. I have used it several times and each time it comes out perfect. Love it!!!

  63. Robert

    why is it called caramel cake there is absolutely no caramel in the recipe lol. So im confused why people call it caramel cake without the caramel. To me if it say caramel cake then there should be caramel in the recipe. just like chocolate cake has chocolate in it you wouldn’t call it chocolate cake without the chocolate so to me same concept on the caramel cake. I’m looking for a true caramel cake that has caramel in it thx

  64. Hi. So I just attempted this cake…and the cake itself is AMAZING. Totally delicious. The caramel glaze however was kind of a disaster. The first batch I made in a sauce pot that was too big – it started boiling reeeaaaally fast so I switched it to a smaller pot, where it preceded to sputter and spew all over me and my kitchen. Oddly it looked and tasted like a pretty decent caramel glaze, so I saved it.

    Batch 2 I started in the smaller pot (1.5 qt). There it preceded again to sputter and spew like Mt. Vesuvius – I’ve got caramel-ish gunk in my hair, all over my glasses, all over my stove. I gave up about 7 minutes in.

    So, is that, um, par for the course for caramel glaze? What am I doing wrong? Disclaimer: I’m in France, using French cream – could that have jacked it up? Or is this purely user error?

  65. Jenxoxo4

    HI Deb! Once again, you always have what i’m looking for!!! Quick question thou, do you think this cake will fare well as cupcakes??

  66. Thanks for this great recipe! My book club read The Help for March and one of the characters makes a handful of these caramel cakes over the course of the story. I just knew I needed to make one to share as we discussed the book. So delicious!

    I wanted to take a picture of the final product, but most of it got eaten before I had a chance! I do have a pic of the last slice up on my site. I went for the “soaking in” caramel sauce and loved it.

  67. Shonnie

    Fueled by my recent success in making your red velvet cake, I made this and doubled the cake portion and made three 8 inch layers. I still used the caramel for in between the layers but made a chocolate ganache frosting to frost the entire cake. Everything turned out wonderfully except . . . the cakey part tasted like cornbread. A wonderfully sweet cornbread, maybe the best I’ve ever had, but cornbread nonetheless, which I found entirely odd, as there is no corn product in the cake. Everyone raved about it, and the cake was completely demolished, so still a hit!

  68. Oh my god. I just made this cake for my birthday (doubled batter, baked in 2 9-inch rounds with caramel filling between layers and 2 tablespoons of caramel and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt added to a buttercream frosting). It was amazingly delicious and was very well received!

  69. Raich

    I was just coming to tell you that I made this for my book club who read The Help this month, but it looks like Beth beat me to the punch. Thanks for the great recipe!

  70. Brenda

    Noticed your comment on top layer of cake being cracked if bottom layer is rounded. I read on some website that you can put a paper towel over the cake when it comes out of the oven and press it down with your hand. This has worked for me in the past. Just press lightly.

  71. merrijane

    This is really good but next time I’ll double the icing and use a bigger cake pan. The cake to caramel ratio was too much cake to icing for me. I might divide the cake into two layers and with double the caramel could ice both. In spite of this criticism, I loved it and am eating a piece right now.

  72. Hello! I have been reading for years, but this is my first time commenting! I just tried out this recipe, except I made little caramel cupcakes instead. It worked like a charm and was absolutely delicious. One change that I made (and I think you would approve of) was instead of putting salt in the caramel glaze, I dusted sea salt on top of the cupcakes. It looked like beautiful little sprinkles! I posted about it on my website if you want to take a peek.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  73. Katena

    So I have been having a craving for caramel cake for way too long and I decided today was the day for it to happen. I cannot eat gluten so I substituted a blend of tapioca starch, potato starch, rice flour, sweet rice flour, almond meal, amaranth flour, millet flour and xanthan gum. The cake came out moist and the caramel glaze was to die for! It was delicious!

  74. MrsCampbell

    Hi Deb! Curious…do you think this recipe could be adapted to make cupcakes? I do not have an 8 inch square cake pan but have some cupcake tins, as well as a 9 inch round pan and a 9×13 inch pan. Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!! :)

  75. I’m looking for a caramel frosting to frost a chocolate cake for my dad with. Your ingredient list looks very similar to what he remembers from when he was growing up, the frosting he remembers was thick and similar to candy. He remembers cooking the frosting till a soft-ball stage, I’m wondering with your thermometer being off if that approximates what you did? He can’t remember quantities of ingredients, so I’m hoping yours is very close. By the picture, your frosting looks exactly like what we’re looking for.

    If you have any thoughts I’d love to hear them.

    1. deb

      To get it to drape, and not sink in, you can cook the caramel a little further and let it set a little before you pour it on, but of course, not too long that you cannot pour it.

  76. I made this a few days ago. It wasn’t bad… it got rave reviews, in fact – but I think that was entirely due to the caramel. The cake itself I found a little bland – not dry or obnoxious in any way, just not quite pulling its weight. On reflection, I think adding malt to the cake batter would make the cake much more delicious. Anyone tried it?

  77. Nicole

    Let me first say that the caramel for this cake is really good. I did add 1/2 tbl spoon on butter to the caramel to prevent it from hardening the next day. However, the cake on the there hand leaves a little to be disired. I found the cakes flavor to be just average. I sifted the cake flour and the cake actually come out pretty light… there was nothing dense about the texture. I have a birthday order to fill next month for a caramel cake… but I see I will need to keep on looking.

  78. Laura S

    I’m curious if you could substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour in this recipe. If so, would it be a 1:1 conversion of cake flour to all-purpose flour? Anyone have any ideas? Thanks so much!

  79. Laura S

    That’s genius! Thanks so much for the quick response, Deb, as I plan on making this cake for my birthday this week.

  80. Steffany

    My baby sister requests that I make her a caramel cake for her 21st birthday this week, and I love your recipes so plan to try this out. (: I do not have a candy thermometer though, so I hope I can just trust your guideline of minutes and keep a good eye on it .. it seems like it may be tricky though as I have read elsewhere that it can turn into a toffee like substance fast !

  81. annie0303

    This is pretty much the best cake I’ve ever made! The cake itself is a consistency that I’ve never been able to achieve before – yummy yummy yummy!
    Thank you so much for posting it!
    I’m a caramel junkie so I made a slight variation..I doubled the glaze recipe, then poked holes in the delicious cake with a kebob skewer. Then I poured the glaze in. OMG – heaven!

  82. Kate

    One of my family members decided that he HAD to have caramel cake for his birthday after reading/eating through The Help and since I’m the designated pastry chef of the family I went on the hunt for a recipe.

    This is too good. You can tell from the moment the batter comes together that it’s gonna be amazing. I’m more of a fan of making cake rather than eating it, but this one made me change my mind. Cake haters will be appreciative of this recipe.

  83. Vidya

    So I’ve made this cake many times but decided to go ahead with the caramel tonight. I only had a half cup of cream so like another commenter, made the butterscotch sauce on the site instead, poured it over while warm and then almost blacked out. Smashingly good.

  84. I made this cake for my friend’s graduation. She loved it! Thanks for the tips. I had her over for dinner with a few of our other friends, so I made it just before dinner. It was the perfect dessert. Everybody took a couple slices home. Thanks for the tip about the caramel too, it was really helpful. This cake is so yummy

  85. RAE


  86. This cake came out good and the caramel was really yummy! I’ve never had caramel cake before so it was something new but it was good! So glad I tried this recipe out :) , I’m going to try this recipe out again but make it vegan!! I hope it comes out just as good as it did today!!!

  87. kate C.

    Three times I have tried this cake and three times I have failed. :( I assume it’s something I’m doing, because I’ve read the other comments and no one else has said their cake had problems. (the cake isn’t right)

    The only thing I can think of (after switching pans, getting an oven thermometer to verify my new house’s oven temp is right) is that perhaps you can’t sub milk/vinegar in this recipe for the buttermilk? I’ve always done this in recipes (I never have or buy buttermilk) but maybe I can’t for this recipe?

    I know this is years after the original post, but maybe another person will read this and mention that they used milk with vinegar and their cake came out fine, so that I can rule out this possibility!

    The edges/top of the cake had the right consistency and the flavor and texture were out of this world awesome, so that’s why I kept trying it. I wish I could have gotten it to work (particularly for my daughter’s birthday cake the first time! sad) but I guess I’ll try another recipe since I fail at this one!

  88. The Cake Chef

    I was challenged as a joke to make this cake by a girl in my grade at school. I accepted. Let’s see what she thinks of it tomorrow, shall we?

  89. Tested

    While this cake is a good candidate given the likely event you have all of the ingredients on hand, it was a one-note disappointment. Perhaps replacing the vanilla with almond extract would have helped… yawn.

  90. Virginia

    @kateC, I keep a container of powdered buttermilk in my cupboard because, like you, I never have buttermilk and normally have no use for it. I found it in my regular supermarket, in the aisle with baking supplies. It’s perfect for my needs, it doesn’t need refrigeration and seems to last forever. It’s great to be able to make buttermilk pancakes in the spur of the moment… or this amazingly delicious cake!

  91. I found this cake kind of bland and disappointing, though my guests seemed happy enough to eat it…..

    First of all, the glaze was more like butterscotch than caramel. Butterscotch is fine, but it’s not the same thing. My taste bud were hoping for a true caramel glaze! I should’ve realized that true caramel requires actually caramelizing sugar.

    The other thing was that the cake itself had a crumb that reminded me of cornbread. Is that how yours was too?

  92. Nina

    hi Calisson! Just chiming in to say that I’ve made this cake twice; once with cake flour and once with regular flour. The regular flour made the texture a little cornmeal-y, and that combined with the soft yellow color made my boyfriend and I deem it a cornmeal cake. The cake flour version was light and delicious, no one would confuse it with cornmeal. Both were delicious, though!

  93. kate c.

    @Virginia – thanks for that tip! I’ll have to try it next time. I did try this cake one more time tonight and… SUCCESS!!! :) I did buy a half-pint of buttermilk, but I’ve been doing some reading and trying a few other cake recipes and I think my problem the other three times was that the batter was too wet, for some reason, I don’t really think the buttermilk was at fault.

    So, this time, I (almost) completely ignored the instructions and measured 2 c of non-sifted cake flour, and then sifted it. The cake turned out super! Tall, moist, but very, very tender and light and, I think, delicious. (though I only snuck a bit before it was totally cool. I’m waiting until later tonight to have a ‘real’ piece.

    Anyway, who knows why my measuring/sifting technique is off from most everyone’s, but I’m very glad to have conquered this cake! :) (I guess it’s another bit of evidence of why weighing ingredients is better than measuring!)

  94. I just bought Gourmet Today and I realized that this recipe is in this book. Since the cookbook doesn’t have any pictures, it’s nice to see how the cake turned out. This cake look amazing and all I need is a candy thermometer to make.

  95. Neelam

    Do you think this cake would hold up as a base for tres leches cake? Or would it become soggy? All tres leches cake recipes I have found use large amount of eggs (5-6 eggs per cup of flour). Since I don’t like my cake to be super eggy, I was wondering if I could this yellow cake as a base. Thanks a bunch.

    Btw I have baked these into cup cakes and they were super delicious!

  96. Eyrún

    So I come from Iceland and we don’t have the same things as you here. So many questions:). We don’t have any buttermilk. Is it possible to make it with normal milk?? And why do you use both baking powder and soda?? And what is it that you call sifted cake flour?
    I really want to make this cake so I will be waiting for your answer:)

  97. I love love love caramel cake. HOMEMADE! There is nothing like it, and I think this cake is a step above the usual. Whodaythunkit? Caramel CAKE with Caramel Icing? Wow!!!

  98. kate C.

    Just made your ‘remake’ of this basic cake recipe from your cookbook and it’s cooling on the counter right now! Came out perfectly, first try (I was one who had problems before… not sure why except that I might measure flour differently). I love that the cookbook recipe doesn’t require cake flour AND that the measurements are in grams too! (which, btw, is a much easier way to cook with kids! I just let my 3 or 5 year olds scoop in the ingredient until it’s getting close and then I finish it off precisely! Love it!)

    I’m going to try the caramel topping on it tomorrow – can’t wait! :)
    Love your cookbook!! Thanks!

  99. CJ

    I made this cake. It was wonderfully easy. A couple observations:

    1. the caramel icing was much better the next day. It sort of mellows out and gets creamier.

    2. This cake loves being refrigerated. Helps both the texture of the cake and the icing.

    3. I didn’t have cake flour so I did the thing where you sub out 2 tbsp of the all purpose flour for 2 tbsp of corn starch, and it was very weird – somehow the corn taste came through very loud and made the cake taste like corn bread. Tasty, but strange. I wouldn’t recommend it. Next time I’d maybe just add a little more buttermilk, if I were using all purpose flour.

  100. Sadie

    You are killing me, oh that caramel! And I love caramel.
    Please, have mercy.
    (The next excuse I get, this is getting made.)

  101. Rene M. W.

    I have been searching for a caramel cake for a while. So I made it on Sunday as a test cake to see if I should make it for my moms birthday. I made this cake on evening Sunday and it was gone by Monday morning. It is WONDERFUL!!! I love it.

  102. Bessa

    I saw that I can sub all-purpose flour, but do you think gluten-free all-purpose flour would be okay?? Btw, EVERY recipe of yours I have ever tried has not only been amainzing, but it made me look like and amazing cook as well:)so thank you!

    1. deb

      Bessa — I haven’t tried this with a GF flour mix but if you’ve replace other layer cakes with one before, this is very close to a yellow cake layer underneath, and you’d probably be successful here too.

  103. Sadie

    Hi Deb!
    I (151) have finally made this! The cake turned absolutely scrumptious! But the caramel went weird, I made it as written with out the corn syrup, unfortunately after it was delicious smelling, it curdled and went a very ugly brown. ( It still tasted good so I poked holes in the cake and poured it over.) but it still tastes yummy!

  104. Sadie

    I think about the 13 minute mark, it would bubble up like the picture and go down when I stirred, except for the last time when it curdled. I know thats not very helpful, perhaps I will make it soon and then tell you if it happens again?

  105. cindy

    Could I use this to fill chocolate cupcakes, do you think? (or would your salted caramel sauce be a better choice)?


  106. cindy

    Thanks, Deb. Do you mean the recipe where you add it to brownies? Placing a piece of caramel in each cupcake (batter), then baking? Sounds divine!


  107. deb

    No, I hadn’t thought of that at all but I LOVE the way you think. Please do that and tell me all about it so I can eat vicariously through your cake? :)

  108. Janice

    It would be nice to see more reviews of the recipe. I was wsnting to try and make this but wanted to really read how it worked and tasted for others. More reviews is a def must! Its nice people comment on the pics but not very useful. Sorry, just being honest! Thanks!

  109. deb

    I hear what you’re saying, especially in the earliest comments, but Commenters 140, 141 142, 149, 150, 151 and 155 (and these are just from the last 20 or so) all report back that they’ve made it and offer detailed reviews and ingredient suggestions.

    1. deb

      Sally — It’s standard to do dry-wet-dry, etc. but I think the best recipes try it both ways and only suggest the extra steps when it improves the final outcome. Here, I don’t think the extra work is worth it. Re, caramel sauce, yes but use the temperature suggestion here.

  110. Sally

    Thank you! I tried it last night with your caramel sauce – it worked beautifully. the only negative was that the caramel has such a rich deep flavor that you couldn’t really tell how wonderful the cake is – but everyone LOVED it. Thank you!

  111. Erica

    I just made this for New Years, based on the time revisions you added…and it was foolproof! I followed the recipe exactly, except I added a bit of salt to the caramel….because I like salt in my sweets. Couple comments:

    While the cake is delicious, it was deemed to be slightly “Pancake” tasting by my sisters (I agree). This, however, did well in offsetting the sweetness of the caramel topping. My candy thermometer was all over the place, but I timed it as you mentioned above and it came out perfect. On day two, the topping was still a soft caramel texture and easy to cut/eat (I can’t stay out of it!)

  112. Susan

    After browsing through all the cakes on the site, my 6-year-old son picked this cake for his birthday treat at school. The end result was *amazing* and gobbled up by everyone. This recipe is a keeper. I just wanted to leave a few notes for others:

    * As I needed to feed 24 kids + 3 teachers, I doubled this recipe and baked it in a 9×13 pan. The total cooking time was closer to 50 minutes. The only difference from the pics appear to be a slightly thicker cake. The texture was moist and beautiful. It’s a textbook buttermilk vanilla cake.

    * I also doubled the caramel glaze, which may have been somewhat unnecessary. But, hey, I have leftovers. :-)

    * Lacking a decent candy thermometer, I simply boiled the glaze until the desired thickness ~14 minutes. I let it cool for a minute then ladled it on. The caramel cooled to a perfect consistency, solid, creamy and not chewy.

    * I refrigerated the finished cake with glaze overnight as I was worried about the cream in the glaze. I pulled it out of the refrigerator about 2 hours before eating and let it warm to room temperature The cake and the glaze retained all their wonderful textures despite the refrigeration. Yum!

  113. Jo

    Hi Deb!
    I’m from the UK and It’s not very easy to get corn syrup here – do you know if I can use something else instead or leave it out?
    Thanks very much!

  114. Monique

    I have made this cake a few times…and OH MY GOD! It is AWESOME. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. My family loves it!!!

  115. thefrogpouch

    Hello! I’ve actually made this often since it’s so awesome and amazing (you get that a lot, I’m sure), and I noticed a while ago that you found the caramel pretty but quite hard to cut into the next day, am I right? Whenever I make this, I substitute the light brown sugar with Muscovado sugar (same amount–still 1/2 cup | it’s kind of like the powdered version of brown sugar–it still clumps, but it breaks easily anyways so it’s smooth).

    The caramel ends up runny and it’s not as thick as you’ve made them but it’s still good and smooth and soft and easy to cut into the next days. By the end of making it I’d still have enough caramel to dip my loaves of bread in for days on end (my parents have been scolding me about my intake of sugar–but we all have guilty pleasures, don’t we?).

    Funny thing–pretty weird of me, but I also replaced the light corn syrup with maple syrup because we didn’t have any light corn syrup. I still wonder if the taste is any different since I just assumed the syrup would help make the caramel into that luscious, gooey topping, and since we didn’t have any other type of syrup–maple worked nicely.

    Family loves this recipe, and so do I. Have a good day, Deb!

  116. May

    Just made it and it tastes fabulous. The caramel tastes fairly similar to Alpen Liebe candy. My family loves it too!! ♡♡♡♡♡

  117. 2Baked

    This has to be the best caramel icing I have ever tasted. The texture is smooth…and not grainy so many other I have tried. I do have a question though, if I wanted to double this recipe would I simply just double the ingredients? Has anyone ever tried that? Also, how long does this last if bottled and refridgerated?

    Please help!!

  118. Omg.. This ooey goey caramel looks so delicious.. I’ve tried to make caramel so many times but it always turns out to be a disaster(not smooth and turns rock hard when cold).. I dont have a candy thermometer.. Is it possible to make caramel without the thermometer??

  119. Sarah

    Hey there Deb – any chance you can advise on cooking time for this recipe as cupcakes? Looking over the comments, I’m not the only fan to be curious! Thank you!

  120. Linda

    Hello!! I checked through all the comments and didn’t see this question. My apologies if I missed it: what about freezing the entire glazed cake–caramel icing and all?

    1. deb

      Hi Linda — I don’t feel confident that the caramel will look wonderful after defrosted, that said, it’s intended to sink into the cake more than it does in my photo.

  121. deb

    Sarah — You can definitely make these as cupcakes. You’ll probably get a dozen. Cupcakes usually bake for 15 minutes or so, it cannot hurt to check in 2 minutes sooner until you know exactly how long they’ll take.

  122. meredith

    baked this for my husband’s birthday last night and it came out beautifully.

    Had some trouble getting the cake out of the pan – so skipped that part. i think you’d need to put parchment paper on the bottom to guarantee removing from pan.

    also had the bright idea to increase the caramel a little bit so i could have BOTH the glaze, and the harder caramel. So increased the recipe by about 1/3 and brought to 212, poured half or more over the cake then brought back to the stove to increase the temp. unfortunately i just couldn’t seem to get the temp to rise much more. it might have been a measuring issue but it was frothing up a storm but not raising it’s temp much. finally just poured the rest on as is.

    no matter. the cake was delicious! and a little extra caramel didn’t hurt. Even better the next morning when the caramel had soaked in a bit more. i have Not refrigerated it but will have to soon and imagine that will be tasty too with a chewier caramel when cold.

  123. Angela

    I made this for my father’s birthday this past Sunday. Both parents loved it, which is a rarity since my mother isn’t a lover of sweets and my father has been known to eat buttercream frosting on it’s own.

    The cake has a lovely delicate flavor. I don’t have a candy thermometer so I don’t think it got up to the right temp, my caramel was softer which refrigerated nicely.

  124. Wendy H

    I have made this twice now, the first time as written (except I baked it as 2 6 inch layers, more festive that way for a birthday). It was delicious, everyone loved it. The second time, I poured some of the caramel on the layers to soak. Then, I cooked the caramel a bit longer so it was thicker. Yep, really good that way. Now, I can’t stop thinking how this would be if I adapted your apple cider caramels ( a fav at my house) and used that! It will happen soon.

  125. donmcphee2013

    Cake came out of the pan perfectly. Next time I will aim for the 212 and not 210 as I did. Ready for over night chilling then demolition tomorrow.

  126. Livi

    Hello! This looks amazing. Can I glaze the cake, put it in a cake carrier, and then serve it the next day without the glaze getting too thick? Thank you!!!

  127. Katie

    I’ve made this for my mom’s birthday, and it was delicious. Now my son wants the same thing for his birthday, but with a chocolate cake. Do you think this caramel sauce on top of your fudgy chocolate party cake from Smitten Kitchen Every Day would be good?

  128. Katherine Pettus

    To whomever wonders:
    My candy thermometer is one of the fancy laser ones. I let the caramel boil until 216 degrees; the result is very luxurious, and only ran enough to envelop the cake.

  129. Seema

    Could you include some weight measurements to this recipe? Sifting then measuring seems quite cumbersome compared to using a scale. Thanks!

  130. Chris

    This sounds very good indeed but it isn’t caramel cake; it’s yellow cake with caramel topping. Where can I find a recipe for caramel CAKE?

  131. Chris

    Like every other caramel cake recipe I can find, this is yellow cake with caramel frosting/icing/glaze. It sounds great but my grandmother used to make a cake with caramel in the cake. Can anyone help me find a recipe???