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Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

whole caramel cake

Attention sweet tooths! Woh Mama! If you have a MEGA sweet tooth, then you will love this cake. It's a sweet one. It's also a tasty one, made with homemade caramel syrup, brown butter, and sprinkled with crunchy pecans. This is the perfect cake to have a small piece of with a strong cup of coffee. Aside from my complete adoration of everything chocolate, I do not have the biggest sweet tooth. I am able to appreciate good quality sweets, however I rarely crave them. They tend to make my heart feel like it's gonna burst out of my chest.

Proud member of Daring Bakers

This cake was my completed November Daring Bakers challenge, which was hosted by Dolores at Culinary Curiosity, Alex of Blondie and Brownie, and Jenny of Foray into Food. Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting is a recipe written by Shuna Fish Lydon of the food blog Eggbeater. You can also find the recipe at Bay Area Bites.

The consistency of this cake is that of a coffee cake, in my opinion. It's very dense, but moist. The frosting is super sweet, which is the preference of some, but not me. If I make this cake again, I will omit the granulated sugar completely from the frosting recipe and just use the caramel syrup to sweeten it.

This challenge marked the first time I have ever browned butter or made my own caramel syrup. I tried making caramel one other time but burnt it because I didn't know the rule of "no stirring" when the sugar syrup is boiling and changing into its signature amber color. Oops! But now I know and I was able to create a delicious caramel syrup that was a perfect partner to this cake, as it would surely be to a bowl of vanilla bean ice cream.

So, how do you make this caramelized sweet bomb? Well, start by making your caramel syrup since it has to cool before you can incorporate it into your cake batter. In a small stainless steel saucepan with tall sides, mix water and sugar until the mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with a wet pastry brush.

sugar and water

Turn on the heat to highest flame. Your sugar mixture will start to boil. DO NOT STIR THE MIXTURE AT ALL AT THIS POINT! If you do, your caramel will burn. It takes about 5 to 7 minutes for the sugar mixture to turn amber depending on the size of your burner and the heat it produces, so be patient, but don't walk out of the room or you might let it go too dark and again, burn your caramel.

sugar syrup boiling

Allow it to boil until the sugar mixture reaches a dark amber color.

caramel syrup cooking

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back. I didn't even attempt to take a picture of that part because you really do have to jump back when you pour the water into the caramel.

At this point you can now whisk the caramel syrup over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. To test the "stickiness", just put a little on a spoon, blow on the spoon until it's cool enough to touch, then test it out. In other words, just whisk it for about 3 minutes on a medium heat, then take it off the heat and let it cool down. I poured mine into a glass bowl when I took it off the heat so it could cool down. I stirred it with the whisk every now and then to help the cooling process along. As it cools, it gets thicker like syrup.

caramel syrup

Once the caramel syrup has cooled to room temperature, it's time to make the cake. Take a look at the recipe below to see how the cake batter is made. When it is done, turn batter into a buttered 9-inch cake pan that's at least 2 inches deep.

caramel cake batter

Place the cake pan on a cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set your first timer for 30 minutes, then rotate the pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Mine took 15 minutes to finish up.

caramel cake before frosting

Cool cake completely before icing it. NOTE: When the cake first comes out of the oven, it will be tall and fluffy. As it cools, it will shrink in size. Don't worry, this is supposed to happen. It is a dense cake.

While the cake is cooking, make your frosting. See below for the frosting recipe.

caramalized butter frosting

Once the cake has cooled, you can go ahead and frost it. I chose to frost mine, then drizzle it with the caramel syrup and add chopped pecans to the entire cake.

This cake will last at least 3 days out of the refrigerator on a covered cake plate.

piece of caramel cake

I decided to serve this cake last night at our after-Thanksgiving dinner at my dad's house and everyone seemed to agree that it was good, but a bit sweet.

So that's all for now. I know my November has not been the biggest food blog posting month, but finals are almost here, so I'm hoping that December will allow me to visit you all more often. I also have a birthday coming up soon, yay! Did I mention that I love my birthday? I do. I'll be 33. So far, my thirties have been very good. I find it to be a decade of knowing who you really are and celebrating it. So here's to an even better thirty-third year of life!

Oh and a quick shout-out to Rachael Ray as she prepares to go into surgery to have a benign cyst removed from her vocal cord: good luck in your surgery and get well soon!

See you soon.


whole caramel cake

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Notes from Natalie for those of you baking gluten-free:
So the GF changes to the cake would be:

2 cups of gluten free flour blend (w/xanthan gum) or 2 cups of gf flour blend + 1 1/2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1/2 - 1 tsp baking powder (this would be the recipe amount to the amount it might need to be raised to & I'm going to check)

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)

In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

- makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels -

1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer


Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.

Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.


Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.
(recipe from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert)


  1. Lovely job on the cake. Yeah! for accomplishing some firsts on this challenge!

  2. Good work on the cake! Your right it was sort of like a coffee cake in texture

  3. I had the same couple of firsts! Beautifully done! :)

  4. Your cake is lovely and looks absolutely delicious. Great job.

  5. damn! this looks good. i'm a sucker for caramel tasting things and butter.

    that diet will start in january.

  6. Wow! They have a cake JUST LIKE THIS at Chili's! Now, quit being a slacker and post something else...

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