This recipe for Classic Southern Caramel Cake will teach you everything you need to know about baking this sweet Southern treat. Even if you have never made a cake from scratch, you will able to learn how to make caramel cake in no time at all. This easy caramel cake recipe features a moist yellow cake that is made with buttermilk for extra richness. Once the cake has baked and cooled, it is topped with a rich caramel frosting that is unlike any other frosting out there.
To make the caramel frosting, homemade caramel is made on the stove from a combination of sugar, butter, and cream. Once the caramel has cooled, it is whipped together with butter and powdered sugar to form a luscious caramel buttercream. After the cake has been frosted, you can top it with toasted pecans and a drizzle of caramel sauce for a beautiful presentation. Everyone is sure to be impressed every time you serve this Classic Southern Caramel Cake.
If you are using a dark non-stick pan to make the caramel (easier to clean up!) you can spoon a teaspoon of the sugar mixture onto a white plate to check the progress of the color. The final color should be like maple syrup.
If you enjoyed this recipe for Classic Southern Caramel Cake, be sure to check out our complete collection of 10 Southern Caramel Cake Recipes.
- For the Cake:
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 2/3 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- For the Caramel:
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup cold butter
- 1 cup whipping cream, warmed
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- For the Frosting:
- 8 ounces butter, softened
- 6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- For the Garnish:
- 12-16 whole pecan halves, toasted
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray. Insert circles of parchment paper in the bottom and the flip the paper so that both sides have spray on them.
Mix the buttermilk and baking soda in a small container and allow to stand while you assemble the rest of the cake ingredients.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and toss well with a fork or whisk.
In the bowl of an electric mixer whip the butter and cream it with the sugar for 5 minutes until it is light a fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between additions. Add the cornstarch and mix well.
With the mixer running on low speed, alternate additions of the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture, ending with flour. Stir in the vanilla.
Spoon the batter into the two cake pans, dividing evenly, and smoothing the tops. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean after inserting in the center of the layers.
Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack, remove the pan and the parchment paper and allow layers to cool completely before finishing.
To Make the Caramel
Place the sugar into a 3-quart saucepan with a heavy bottom. Combine the water and corn syrup. Place the pan over medium heat and when you begin to smell the sugar toasting, add the liquid mixture and, without stirring, tilt the pan so that the sugar is all moistened. Without stirring, continue to cook over medium heat. The sugar will melt and bubble and eventually it will begin to turn a lovely amber color. It is important to stay right by the pan during these steps as this can happen very abruptly.
When it turns amber, remove the pan from the heat and add the cold butter, stirring until the butter melts. Slowly pour in the hot cream, using caution as the mixture will boil up and spatter. Add the salt and vanilla and stir until the mixture is smooth if it gets too stiff, return to low heat for a minute until it is pourable. Remove from the pan to two measure cups with pour spouts: in one put 1/3 cup of the caramel and the rest into another cup. Set aside to cool for about 1 hour.
To Make the Frosting:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the larger amount of caramel with room temperature butter until it is very smooth. With the mixer running on low, add the powdered sugar and continue to beat until it completely smooth; raise the speed and whip until light and fluffy.
To Assemble the Cake:
Place one layer of cake on a serving plate bottom side up and spread with about 1/3 cup of the frosting. Center the second layer, top side up, on top of the first and continue to frost the top and sides of the cake. Let stand a few minutes to firm up. If the frosting begins to drip down the sides while you work, chill it for 3 to 5 minutes before continuing.
Arrange the pecan halves around the top edge of the cake. Stir the kosher salt into the reserved caramel and drizzle it over the edges of the cake. Let the cake cool before serving; if your kitchen is warm, cover lightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before cutting into wedges to serve.
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