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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I originally made this cake as part of The Cake Slice Bakers group.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 butterscotch style caramel 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.

We are supposed to cook the recipes as unaltered as possible, which I did. Until it came to the last minute.

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

I was throwing an apple themed shower and I wanted to the cake to tie into the theme. So, I added some apple chips.

It was so pretty nobody wanted to cut into it, but let me tell you it was worth it once we did! The cake is the right mix of dense yet airy, moist and perfectly homemade.

The icing is sweet with a nice depth. The apple chips brought it all together. Come to think of it, I think it is time for me to get another slice!

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.

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

Yield: 16 Servings

Southern Caramel Cake

homemade caramel cake on cake stand next to slice of 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.

Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes



  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caramel Frosting

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional for serving: apple chips



  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by greasing and dusting with flour.
  2. In your mixer bowl, cream room temperature butter and sugar. Add eggs, mixing until blended after adding each one.
  3. 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.
  4. Spread into your cake batter in prepared cake pans.
  5. 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

  1. Place the first 1/3 cup of sugar in the bottom of a large heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Pour into stand mixer bowl. Add vanilla and mix on medium speed for 20 minutes.
  7. Spread immediately over cake, working quickly before it sets up.
  8. Optional: Arrange apple slices on the top of the cake if desired.


Adapted from The Southern Cake Book

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 551Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 110mgSodium: 335mgCarbohydrates: 79gFiber: 1gSugar: 61gProtein: 5g

All nutritional information is estimated and will depend on the exact ingredients you use.

Did you make this recipe?

I'd love to see it! Share a picture on Instagram or Pinterest and tag me @carleecooks to let me know how it went!

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!



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!


Sunday 17th of November 2019

My favorite holiday recipe is for polish coffee cake called placzek. We make it every year and it is amazing.


Saturday 23rd of November 2019

I've been thinking I need to make placzek again soon so I can update my pictures. Mmmm!


Saturday 16th of November 2019

My favorite holiday memory is eating dinner at my Grandma's house every Thanksgiving with all my Aunts, Uncles and Cousins. Her house was really tiny and there were a lot of us! Back then I was a pretty picky eater and would basically fill up on mashed potatoes, corn, biscuits and of course...DESSERT!


Saturday 23rd of November 2019

I love memories from grandma's house. And I like your menu choices!

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