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Homemade Southern Caramel Cake

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Soft buttery cake loaded with homemade caramel frosting and topped with apple chips. This classic southern caramel cake is great all year long, but we especially love it during fall.

Slice of homemade buttery vanilla cake with homemade caramel frosting topped with apple chips.

This real deal southern caramel cake lets the homemade caramel frosting be the star. The soft and slightly sweet cake layers are happy to let the caramel of the frosting shine through. If you are in the market for a perfect caramel cake, you have come to the right place.

You will find this recipe doesn’t shortcut a thing.  There are a few steps, but each helps to build the final product that is totally worth making.

I originally made this cake as part of The Cake Slice Bakers group.  We were baking recipes from Southern Living Cake Book.

homemade southern caramel cake with caramel icing and apple chips one slice served.

When I saw the caramel cake I instantly knew I had to make it.  I was using the group as a way to push my skills and the homemade caramel icing recipe was nothing like I had ever made before.

There were no shortcuts there either. You start with granulated sugar, milk and butter and let the heat do the work of making caramel.

While the butter and brown sugar butterscotch type caramel icings are delicious, I wanted to give real caramelization a try. (If you are looking for a brown sugar penuche frosting, I have those too!)

looking across a slice of homemade southern style caramel cake.

Because this cake and the icing do take some time to put together, I would consider this a special occasion cake. It would be a perfect alternative to pie for Thanksgiving.

It is also a stunner of a birthday cake. Or serve it for a shower like I did.

Heck, I don’t care if you serve it as a just because cake. Whatever the occasion, it is worth every second of thought and care.

Why This Recipe is Amazing

The yellow butter cake is rich, delicious, and not too sweet. It is the perfect vehicle for the caramel icing.

The homemade caramel icing is sweet with a nice depth. It takes more time that using a brown sugar butterscotch shortcut, but it gives you true caramel flavor that is worth the wait.

This recipe does take some time to make. However, you can bake the cakes in advance to spread out the effort.

Hand holding mixer paddle with caramel frosting on it.

You can bake the cake several weeks in advance if you wrap the layers in plastic wrap and freeze them. Or bake them a day ahead of time and just store them at room temperature until you are ready to make the icing.

The icing has more steps than a traditional buttercream, but it really isn’t hard to make. Just be patient and let the sugar caramelize.

Appreciate the magic as it is happening. And the sugar will transform into deep delicious caramel.

The optional apple chips bring it all together. Come to think of it, I think it is time for me to get another slice!

homemade caramel cake on cake stand next to slice of caramel cake.

How long can you store caramel cake?

Caramel cake should be loosely covered and can be stored at room temperature for 3-4 days. Refrigerating cakes is not recommended. Leftover slices can be frozen for up to 3 months. You can also bake the cake layers in advance, wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze them for up to 3 months. Allow them to come to room temperature and top with icing when ready to enjoy.

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Did you make this great recipe? Please leave a review in the recipe card below!

homemade caramel cake on cake stand next to slice of caramel cake.

Southern Caramel Cake

This authentic southern caramel cake recipe is built on a soft yellow butter cake. The sweet icing is made with homemade caramel and it really makes the cake. There is no wonder this is the queen of classic southern cakes.
4.84 from 12 ratings
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 16 Servings
Calories 551 kcal



  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caramel Frosting

  • cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
  • cups sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional for serving: apple chips
Makes: 9inch round



  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by greasing and dusting with flour.
  • In your mixer bowl, cream room temperature butter and sugar. Add eggs, mixing until blended after adding each one.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Add 1/3 of flour mixture to butter mixture and mix until just blended. Stir in sour cream. Add 1/3 more of dry mixture, again mixing until just blended. Stir in milk, then add last dry ingredient portion and mix until just incorporated.
  • Spread into your cake batter in prepared cake pans.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then invert onto wire racks and let cool completely.

Caramel Frosting

  • Place the first 1/3 cup of sugar in the bottom of a large heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  • Stirring frequently, cook over medium heat until it melts and becomes lightly golden brown. This will take about 3 minutes and don’t worry if the sugar clumps a bit.
  • In a second sauce pan, combine flour, sugar and salt. Whisk in cold milk until combined and any lumps are worked out. Place over medium-high heat and cook until it comes to a boil, stirring constantly.
  • Pour 1/4 of the hot milk mixture into the caramelized sugar. Whisk until combined. Slowly add the rest of the hot milk, stirring as you go.
  • Cover mixture and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Uncover and turn heat to medium, without stirring cook until it reaches 238°F on a candy thermometer (softball stage.) This will take about 10 minutes. Add butter and stir until well blended. Remove from heat and let sit for about an hour.
  • Pour into stand mixer bowl. Add vanilla and mix on medium speed for 20 minutes.
  • Spread immediately over cake, working quickly before it sets up.
  • Optional: Arrange apple slices on the top of the cake if desired.



Serving: 1ServingCalories: 551kcalCarbohydrates: 79gProtein: 5gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 15gPolyunsaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 110mgSodium: 335mgFiber: 1gSugar: 61g
Tried this recipe?Mention @carleecooks or tag #cookingwcarlee!
This old fashioned recipe for classic southern caramel cake is hard to beat. It features a butter vanilla cake base and rich caramel frosting. It is a must make dessert.

Thanks for sharing!

Recipe Rating


Monday 15th of May 2023

My grandkids always want my special brownies for anytime like everyday if I would make them and they would drive up here to Missouri to eat them. They live in Arkansas and Oklahoma. They come up at Christmas time and help me make cookies and candy for the holidays and then box it up and delivery it to several people I make for anyone who doesn’t have family or some


Tuesday 16th of May 2023

What fun! Those are memories they will cherish forever!


Monday 15th of May 2023

Just finished this cake and OH MY is it gooood!!! Thank you so much for the recipe!!!!Just like my Grandma used to make!! I could always make the cake but the frosting was never the same. I was a little gal and I would watch her every time and I still could never do it correctly. My mom was a great cook to and she could never duplicate it either so I never felt so bad. But your frosting was just perfect!! Thank you so much!! I am forever grateful!! Bless you!! I am 76 years old and just now have the recipe, you made an old woman very happy!!!


Tuesday 16th of May 2023

That makes me so happy! I am so glad I could help you get a taste of your grandma's cake. Thank you for making my day!


Thursday 28th of November 2019

I would say pan fried chicken dumplings with jasmine rice.


Wednesday 18th of December 2019

Yes please!


Friday 22nd of November 2019

This cake looks wonderful. I love the apple chips on top.


Saturday 23rd of November 2019

Thank you!


Monday 18th of November 2019

Leslie: My favorite holiday memory is reading 'Twas the Night before Christmas with my boys. [email protected]


Saturday 23rd of November 2019

That'a a great one!