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.
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I originally made this cake as part of The Cake Slice Bakers group.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.
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!)
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.
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!
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!
Southern Caramel Cake
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 2¾ cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup milk
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
- 2½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 cup milk
- ¾ cup unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Optional for serving: apple chips
- 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.1 cup unsalted butter, 2 cups granulated sugar, 4 large eggs
- In a separate mixing bowl, mix together dry ingredients.2¾ cups all purpose flour, 2 tsp baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt
- Add 1/3 of flour mixture to butter mixture and mix until just blended. Stir in sour cream and vanilla.1 cup sour cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 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.¼ cup milk
- 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.
- 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.1 Tablespoon all purpose flour, 2½ cups granulated sugar, 1 pinch salt, 1 cup milk
- 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.¾ cup unsalted butter
- Pour into stand mixer bowl. Add vanilla and mix on medium speed for 20 minutes.1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Spread immediately over cake, working quickly before it sets up.
- Optional: Arrange apple slices on the top of the cake if desired.