I know we might not always need a whole big layer cake right now, but also maybe we do. This combo is fluffy sponge cake, topped with caramel sauce that soaks into the cake, and wrapped up in a caramel buttercream that I’m obsessed with. If you’re a caramel lover, or if you’re just ready to try out making layer cakes, this one’s for you.

How To Make Caramel Cake

I’m just going to say it straight out, if you want to make your own caramel sauce, go for it. BUT, also you can totally buy some too. Caramel sauce is one of the hardest things to make. I’ve done it dozens of times, and I still mess it up. I’ve put some tips below to help, but if you opt to purchase some caramel sauce, just try to find some fairly thick, high-quality stuff!

We’re starting with a super fluffy sponge cake made with toasted sugar. If you’re not familiar with toasted sugar, it’s super simple. You just take normal granulated white sugar, and bake it at 350, stirring often, for about 30-40 minutes, or until it becomes a light brown toasty color. We’re beating together eggs with toasted sugar to start things out.

Then, we’re folding in warm milk, butter, and vanilla extract, in alternating additions with the flour mixture. This cake gets most of its lift from the eggs, so you want to fold the other ingredients in very slowly and very gently. After these cakes cool, I’m adding a vanilla milk soak to the cake to keep the cake moist.

The frosting is a simple American buttercream with your caramel sauce beat right in. This frosting tends to be on the sweet side, so give it a good sprinkle of salt along the way. And then it’s time to stack up your cake!

This process can be a bit tricky, but the biggest tip I can give you is to just take your time. Take the time to trim the cakes to be as level as possible, and take the time to stack and spread each layer as evenly as you can. If you really want something clean looking in the end, take the time to do the crumb coat!

Tips & Tricks For Caramel Cake

This is a fairly in-depth cake to make, so I’ve got a few tips and tricks to help you bring this beauty together.

  • Don’t walk away from the caramel sauce if you decide to make it from scratch. Caramel is just one of those things that you really need to stay on for the entire cooking process.
  • The caramel may look split after you add the butter but don’t worry, it will come back together after you add in the heavy cream. Just keep stirring!
  • Add the heavy cream slowly to your caramel. This helps prevent lumps from forming, and it creates a slightly less-violent bubbling process.
  • If there are lumps, keep heating the caramel while you continue to stir. And be sure to strain your caramel sauce after to remove any of the smallest lumps.
  • Trim your cakes to be level with a very sharp knife, and wait until the cakes have fully cooled. Take your time here to make sure it’s completely level.
  • Makes sure your caramel sauce is completely cool before you start spreading it on your cakes or mixing it into your frosting.
  • I’m at about 5,000 ft above sea level and I find that most people who live between 3,000 and 7,000 ft do not need to make any adjustments to my recipes.

Hope you guys enjoy this one!

Ingredients

For the caramel sauce (or 1 1/2 cups store-bought caramel sauce):

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 9 tbs. butter (cut into small cubes)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the cake:

  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cup toasted sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 tbs. vanilla extract

For the soak:

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 2 cups softened butter
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup caramel sauce
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbs heavy cream

Instructions

For the caramel sauce:

  1. Make sure all of your ingredients are ready and out before you start. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add your sugar. Cook the sugar over medium heat, stirring frequently. The sugar will slowly start to melt and become a deep amber brown color. Stir the mixture and heat until all of the sugar is completely melted.

  2. Turn the heat off, and slowly stir in the butter until fully melted. Then, very slowly and stirring constantly, add in the heavy cream. It will violently bubble up as you add in the cream. If there are lumps, turn the heat back on and stir for a few more minutes. Then, stir in the salt and vanilla extract. Pour the caramel through a fine mesh sieve to remove any small lumps, and cover. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or until fully chilled.

For the cake:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and generously grease 2 8-inch cake pans. Optionally, line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add in your eggs and use the whisk attachment to beat the eggs together. You can also do this with a hand mixer. Beat the eggs until they become foamy, and then with the mixer running, slowly start adding in the toasted sugar. You want to go extremely slowly for this step. Continue adding sugar and beating the eggs until they are extremely fluffy and a ribbon forms when the mixture drips off of the beaters.

  3. In your measuring cup, stir together the whole milk, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Heat the mixture in the microwave for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the mixture is warm to the touch. Add the sifted flour mixture and the warm milk mixture in alternating additions, folding each addition very gently into the egg mixture, until everything has been mixed in. You want to fold very gently, but you also want to make sure there are no pockets of flour hiding the batter, so be sure to turn your bowl often.

  4. Divide the batter evenly between your two prepared cake pans, and bake for 25-28 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool the cakes completely before removing from the pan, and using a very sharp knife to cut off the tops and create a level surface.

For the soak:

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and vanilla extract. Generously brush the leveled off cakes with the milk mixture.

For the frosting:

  1. In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until very fluffy and light in color, about 2 minutes on medium-high speed. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar until well combined and thick. Then, beat in the caramel sauce, salt, and heavy cream. Beat the frosting for a full 5-10 minutes, which seems like a long time, but it helps the frosting really combine evenly and become extra fluffy!

  2. To frost the cake, place a small dab of frosting in the middle of your cake plate, and place one layer of cake on top, taking time to make sure it's centered on the plate. Spread a very thin layer of caramel sauce on top of the cake, about 3-4 tablespoons, in a thin layer that goes all the way to the edges. Top with a generous layer of caramel frosting, spread to go slightly over the edges. Then, repeat the process with the second cake layer, another thin layer of caramel, and a thick layer of frosting that goes over the edges slightly.

  3. Cover the entire outside of the cake in a thin layer of frosting, using the overlapping frosting edges to coat the cake. Then, chill the cake for 30 minutes. This is the crumb coating, and it doesn't have to be perfectly smooth. You just want a very thin layer to catch all of the cake crumbs!

  4. Finally, frost the outside of the cake as desired, and top with more caramel sauce and optionally, sprinkles. Slice to serve!


5 Comments

  1. Elizabeth C Rivers

    March 13, 2021 at 4:01 pm

    Hi Nicole,
    I live at 7500', so have to adjust most of my recipes after living in Illinois most of my life.
    If I remember correctly, you stated that your recipes are adjusted for those living at 7000.'
    Will I have to adjust your recipes?
    Thank you.
    Elizabeth Rivers

    Reply
    • Dough-Eyed

      March 19, 2021 at 4:52 pm

      Hi there! So, you're kind of right on the edge of what I hear in terms of where my recipes work. I would suggest trying to make the recipes without an adjustment first, or for cakes, maybe just add another tablespoon of flour to start. I have heard people who are around 9,000 ft and find my recipes effective, but it's hard to know since there can be so many factors.

      Reply
  2. Sue

    March 13, 2021 at 8:54 pm

    You say that we’ll need 1 1/2 cups caramel syrup for the cake, but I only see 2/3 cup for the frosting listed. Is the remainder of the syrup drizzled on the cake?

    Reply
    • Amanda Donovan

      March 18, 2021 at 1:34 pm

      I've been reading this because I'm going to make the cake over the weekend, and it looks like some additional caramel sauce is spread on each layer when stacking the cake. Then I'd assume whatever is left after making the frosting and assembling could be drizzled on top if desired.

      Reply
    • Dough-Eyed

      March 19, 2021 at 4:53 pm

      Hi there- you use some caramel on the cake layers itself as well, and then the rest as a drizzle!

      Reply

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