Caramel Cake – caramel cake layers with caramel buttercream and caramel drizzle.
The Most Delicious Caramel Cake
A classic Caramel Cake is LONG overdue on CakebyCourtney.com, so I am beyond thrilled to share this recipe with you today. I have a caramel cake recipe I’ve used in other cakes before, but I’ve always felt like I could do better. I also saw that some of you struggled with that recipe and there was no way I was going to stand for that!
Instead, I decided to come up with an entirely new recipe and create a classic Caramel Cake, as well as update ALL my other recipes that have caramel cake layers. Now that this recipe and post are complete, I’ll be moving on to make those updates.
And to show you just how excited I am about this cake, I had to post this picture!
This is that look after the first bite when I’m just thinking, “yeah, this is it! I did it!” and there’s a little happy dance going on in my head!
Make sure you have the following ingredients on hand. I’m assuming just aren’t in your pantry normally. For the full list of ingredients, be sure to read the recipe below.
- Dulce de Leche – I use this brand
- Whole milk
- Granulated sugar
- Powdered sugar
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Unsalted butter
- Light corn syrup
- vanilla extract
For the Cake
In order to create a strong caramel flavor in the cake layers, I actually use dulce de leche. Not only is the flavor and texture of this cake amazing, but the color of the cake we get from the dulce de leche is gorgeous! You’ll also be using whole milk in this cake to create a ton of moisture.
For the Buttercream
For the buttercream, you can make your own caramel, as seen in the recipe below, or you can sub the homemade caramel and use ½ cup dulce de leche. The caramel gives the buttercream a little more salty/sweet flavor than the dulce de leche, but the dulce de leche provides a beautiful, smooth buttery flavor.
How to Stack and Crump Coat
I love how simple this cake is to stack and decorate. Be sure to always start with a crumb coat, as seen below, to lock in the crumbs from the cake. This ensures you don’t have any crumbs getting into your final coat of frosting.
How to Decorate Your Cake
To create these indented stripes, simply flip your offset icing spatulas horizontally against the cake, and then while holding the spatula in place, spin the turn table.
Use your leftover caramel to decorate the top of the cake.
Transferring Your Cake
To transfer my cakes, I use a cake lifter from Shop.CakebyCourtney.com to help support the cake.
TIP: freeze your finished cake for about 10 to 15 minutes to set the buttercream and then run a knife around the bottom of the cake to release it from the cake board. This technique will help ensure you don’t ruin the bottom edges of your cake.
I know you’re going to love all the caramel in this cake and these layers will be a new favorite!
Make Ahead Tips
- Cake layers – The cake layers are a great element to make ahead of time. I like to let me layers cool to room temperature and then wrap them well with plastic wrap. Let the layers thaw for about an hour before you decorate the cake.
- Buttercream – the buttercream recipe can be made a week ahead of time and stored in airtight containers in the fridge. Make sure to let the buttercream gets back to room temperature and beat it again for a few minutes to restore the fluffy texture.
- Caramel – the salted caramel can also be made ahead of time. I store mine in a mason jar in the fridge. You’ll need to reheat slightly before using to soften the caramel.
I can’t wait to see your finished product! Make sure to tag me on IG so I can see them: #cakebycourtney @cakebycourtney.
FOR THE CAKE
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 tsp (4.2 g) vanilla extract
- 3 cups (360 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp (10 g) baking powder
- 1 tsp (5.6 g) salt
- 1 1/4 cups (300 g) whole milk at room temperature
- 13.4 can (380 g) dulce de leche THIS is the brand I use
FOR THE CARAMEL & BUTTERCREAM
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 8 tbsp (113 g) water
- 4 tsp (28 g) light corn syrup
- 3/4 cup (173 g) heavy whipping cream at room temperature
- 2 tsp (8.4 g) vanilla extract
- 2 tsp (11.2 g) salt
- 2 cups (452 g) unsalted butter slightly cold
- 6 cups (750 g) powdered sugar measured and then sifted
- *This buttercream makes enough to fill and frost the cake. If you want to add any piping to the top of your cake, I recommend making an extra ¼ to ½ batch.
- **If you don’t want to make your own caramel for the buttercream, you can use dulce de leche
FOR THE CAKE
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch cake pans (or four 6-inch pans) with nonstick spray, line the bottom with parchment paper and spray again. Set aside.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine and then set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and the sugar. Mix on medium-high speed for about 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all of the butter and sugar are mixed well with the eggs. Add the vanilla.
With the mixer on medium-high speed, add the dulce de leche and mix for a couple minutes. The mixture will get a little lighter in color.
With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk, starting and ending with the dry mixture. Mix until just combined.
Pour the batter into your three 8-inch pans (or four 6-inch pans) and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs on it, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Allow the cakes to cool in the pan on wire racks for about 10 to 15 minutes and then invert onto wire racks (TIP: spray the racks with non stick spray) and allow to cool completely.
Cakes can be made ahead of time and wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen until ready to use. Be sure to give the cakes about 30 to 60 minutes at room temperature before stacking and decorating.
FOR THE CARAMEL & BUTTERCREAM
Mix sugar, water and corn syrup in a small saucepan.
Bring the water and sugar mixture to boil over medium heat, but DO NOT STIR. (Stirring encourages crystallization). Let the mixture cook until it caramelizes into a golden brown color (I like to let mine get nearly bronze). It happens quickly, so keep an eye on it.
Remove the caramelized sugar syrup from the heat and slowly mix in the cream. Pour in just a tiny bit at a time, especially at the beginning, and mix to combine. You can start adding more and more as you go along.
Mix in salt and vanilla. Stir to combine.
Set the caramel sauce to the side and let cool completely before making the frosting.
Once the caramel sauce is cooled completely, divide it in half and reserve one half of the caramel drizzle in the cake. Use the other half for the frosting (see below).
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, powdered sugar and caramel together and beat until smooth. If the icing seems to stiff, add a bit of cream – just a little at a time until it reaches a smooth, spreadable consistency of your liking.
Place the first cake layer in the center of the cake board. Using an offset palette knife, spread about 1 cup of the buttercream evenly across the cake layer. Drizzle with about a tablespoon or two of caramel sauce.
Place the second cake layer on top of the frosting. Frost the top of the second cake and drizzle with another tablespoon or so of caramel.
Place the third cake layer, top side down.
Crump coat the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting and freezing for about 10 to 15 minutes to set.
Once the crumb coat is set, continue to frost the cake with the remaining frosting, and then use the remaining caramel sauce as a drip.