Sunday, March 3, 2013

Old Fashioned Caramel Cake

The idea of making a caramel cake was inspired by an episode of America’s Test Kitchen. I don’t remember ever having this traditional southern cake in the past, but it seems like an old-fashioned recipe to me, perhaps because the many versions I came across in my research were described as ones made by grandmothers for generations.

The cake itself is just a traditional butter cake. The key is to use a recipe that creates a somewhat dense cake that will support the frosting and one that is not too sweet to balance out the very sweet caramel frosting. The original recipe calls for buttermilk. Since I hate buying buttermilk just for the small amount needed in a recipe, I used the substitution of whole milk mixed with a little white vinegar.      

Many frosting recipes call for heating the sugar and butter to the softball stage. What I like about the ATK recipe is there’s no thermometer to watch. The trick is actually frosting the cake. After mixed, the frosting is still warm and somewhat runny. The key is to let it cool enough to frost the cake, but not so much it sets up.

This cake was a hit with everyone who tried it. I love the way the delicious caramel frosting gets a sugary crust on the outside after it sets but remains creamy on the inside. The frosting also helps keep the cake moist.

Author: Linda Ditch
Old-Fashioned Caramel Cake

Old-Fashioned Caramel Cake

This old-school cake, adapted from an America’sTest Kitchen recipe, is perfect for a Sunday dinner dessert or a celebration.


  • For the cake:
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar 
  • 4 room temperature eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
  • For the frosting:
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, cut into pieces and softened
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted


  1. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 2 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, pour in the whole milk and vinegar, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Then whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix to combine. With the mixer on low, add the butter a piece at a time until it mixes in and creates a sandy texture with only small pea-sized butter pieces left. Pour in half of the milk and egg mixture and beat on medium-high until light and fluffy. Slowly pour in the rest of the milk/egg mixture and mix until combined.
  4. Pour equal amounts of the cake batter into the prepared cake tins. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (One of my pans took 25 minutes, the other took 28 minutes.) Allow the cakes to sit in the pans for 10 minutes, and then turn them out onto cooling racks to cool completely.
  5. To make the frosting, place 8 tablespoons of butter and the brown sugar and salt into a large saucepan. Set over medium heat and bring just to a boil. Whisk in the cream and bring the mixture back to just a boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla.
  6. Pour the butter/sugar mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer. At low speed, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar until blended. Then, on medium speed, beat the mixture for 5 minutes until the frosting is a pale brown color and still warm but not hot. Add the rest of the butter, a piece at a time, and beat until the butter is melted and the frosting is light and fluffy.
  7. Place one of the cakes on a serving plate. Spread the surface with some of the frosting, and then add the other cake on top. Frost the rest of the cake, working quickly before the frosting sets. Allow the frosting to set on the cake a few minutes before serving.
Created using The Recipes Generator


  1. Yum your cake looks delicious, I love caramel cake!

  2. I was so excited when I saw you were making a Caramel Cake. This is my all-time favorite cake! When I lived in Hendersonville, NC (right outside of Asheville) there was a Saturday market and this lovely elderly woman would always bring Caramel Cakes to sell. You had to get there early, she sold out fast! Looking forward to making my own- thanks for the lovely recipe!

  3. Oh I want this. I love old fashioned cakes and this is a Caramel cake, it's like heaven in a cake. Beautiful!

  4. I have caramel cake on my bucket list. This is as good as an old fashioned cake gets! And the frosting is gorgeous!

  5. Be grateful for superb recipes. I merely got and yes it tasted great: -)
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  6. Oh, yum! What's not to like about this caramel cake?!? Love the look of the buttery cake, but that frosting is the true star. I'd have trouble not swiping some from the other slices ;)

  7. Nothing beats a homemade cake!! I love the old fashion kind! It's just lovely!!

  8. I LOVE these kinds of classic cakes. Simple and perfect!

  9. Never had a cake like this but I know I would love it as caramel is my fav!!

  10. I haven't heard of this cake before but I would sure like to try it out now. Caramel is one of my favorite things. Lovely!

  11. I just died a little... how amazing

  12. Wow ... a beautiful cake and I am just shivering thinking about that caramel frosting! My teeth hurt just imagining a sweet slice on my dessert plate!

  13. So I normally don't eat much of the icing on cakes. I tend to eat the cake and leave most of the icing on the plate. But I am not going to lie I would probably lick my plate clean with this caramel icing.

  14. Caramel cake, actually the frosting part, is my nemesis. I've tried several times with the cooked caramel recipes and no success so far. I'll have to try yours since it seems a bit easier.

  15. I love that you went the classic route with this gorgeous caramel frosted cake. I can just imagine how delicious it tasted together - I wish I had a giant slice right now!

  16. I've been wanting to make a caramel cake for myself for sometime now. I guess I'll have to drool over yours until I do!

  17. With all the cakes I make, I've never made a caramel cake. This one looks amazing!

  18. Ooh this looks so so good!And it has to be if its a family recipe :) Love caramel and I bet it tastes divine!

  19. look at how perfect those layers are! love!

  20. I've never had a caramel cake, but what's not to like! Yum

  21. That looks amazing! I have never tried a traditional caramel cake, but I need to change that. I know exactly what you mean about the frosting getting a bit of a crust on it...mmmmmm....

  22. Very thin layers when baked.

    1. Hummm...that seems strange. Perhaps your baking powder or baking soda are old and need replacing? Did you use the 9-inch cake pans? they should have turned out like the ones I show in the photos.