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The Most Delicious Caramel Cake
The Most Delicious Caramel Cake – caramel cake layers with caramel buttercream and caramel drizzle.
Table of contents
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. These are ingredients 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 Crumb 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 of the most delicious caramel cake! Make sure to tag me on IG so I can see them: #cakebycourtney @cakebycourtney.
More Recipes Like This
Caramel cake layers with caramel buttercream and a drizzle of caramel.
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.
- Crumb coat the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting and freeze 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.
I am a beginner baker and absolutely loved making this recipe. I am early, I know. But as soon as I saw the Instagram post, I knew I had to make it. I started gathering the ingredients right away because dulce de leche is one of my favorite flavors. One little tip for everyone struggling to find the dulce de leche at their grocery store: Put water in a pot to boil. Remove the label of two cans of sweetened condensed milk, place in the boiling water, and at medium heat, let them simmer for three hours. I know it is a long process, but it is worth it! I did two because the cake batter calls for one and you need more for the buttercream. I started boiling them when I took my ingredients out of the fridge to get to room temperature. When the dulce de leche is done, give it a cold bath and place it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to get cold. I hope this helps 🙂 HAPPY BAKING!
Thank you!! I have looked everywhere and couldn’t find dulce de leche in any stores!
Hi all, I have looked everywhere in our area and cannot find the dulce de leche brand. Is this a brand or a type of caramel? If it is a brand, where can I get it? I even looked on Gygi.
Hi Courtney, If I don’t have dulce de leche to add into the batter, could I just leave it out?
It won’t have the caramel flavor so I suggest just making a different cake.
What about using caramel instead. Could that work?
What is the Dulce de Leche brand? When I click the link it just takes me to Instacart but doesn’t actually show the item!
I can’t wait to make this cake for Thanksgiving. Do you think there is a need to use sour cream instead of/with the milk? Or does this cake need to be more dense because of three layers?
Yes the sour cream with help with flavor and to make it moist!
hi Courtney, I made this cake twice today, I reduced the ingredients by half. the cake didn’t come out nicely, it didn’t grow and was all oily, what did I do wrong?
I made this cake for Thanksgiving and it was a hit! Everyone said how good it was. I did forget to drizzle the caramel on the layers but that didn’t deter everyone from wanting seconds. Thank you for a great recipe!
Thank you so much!
Could I replace the whole milk with buttermilk?
Yes you can.
If I want caramel, but not especially salted caramel, would I reduce the amount of salt in the caramel recipe? To what amount?
Just leave it out!
We do not get corn syrup where i live, what can i substitute it with.
Hi Courtney! If I don’t have dulce de Leche, can I use homemade caramel in its place in the cake layers?
I have made a few of your cakes, and received some of your tools for Christmas. I do not have pans that are 8″, Mine are 9″. Does it make a huge difference if I split the batter between these two pans or is it better to invest in the 8″ ones.
I love your Chocolate cake recipe and have had wonderful success with covering it in chocolate butter cream and putting the peanut butter chocolate buttercream in the middle and on top. Many compliments.
I’m going to suggest 8 inch always! And then you don’t have to convert any recipes! If you’re using 3 9-inch pans then you will want to 1.5x the recipe.
I followed the recipe exactly but the buttercream still looks off white. How do I get a darker color?
It should darken as it sits!
I think the grams on the corn syrup is off. 75 grams is way more than 4 tsp. I use grams and my caramel is off. How much corn syrup should I use?
Fixed it! Thank you. It should be 28g.
This cake looks amazing, will try it this weekend since we love everything caramel. Just had a question, if I use buttermilk or sour cream instead of milk do I need to change any of the other ingredients? Can I do half sour cream and half milk? Thank you
I would do half buttermilk half greek yogurt.
I was wondering is this cake sturdy enough to cover with fondant and stack?
If using prepared dulce de leches or prepared caramel sauce in the frosting instead of making from scratch, how much of the prepared dulce de leches or prepared caramel sauce do I use in the frosting? Thank you!
1/2 cup to 1 cup. Taste after half cup to see if its enough.
We live at nearly 6000 ft elevation. I usually don’t have much luck with cake recipes I get online. This one is so good! The crumb is moist not dry and airy like I usually get. It makes me want to try more recipes from Cake by Courtney!
Because we live in a small town I could not find Dolce de Leche so I caramelized two cans of sweetened condensed milk by baking them in the oven in a water bath. They turned out pretty good too.
I love to hear it!
Very delicious! The caramel is not over powering, but a nice rich taste. My caramel turned out a little thinner, so I think I’ll try to make that ahead and store in the fridge so it will be thicker when I get to the drip stage. I also need to make sure to put more frosting between the layers, just need to practice more, and obviously exercise more so I can keep having a piece of cake. Thanks Courtney for a yummy recipe.
I put 2 tsps of vanilla in the caramel and it totally overpowered it. Did I do something wrong? Was i supposed to add the vanilla to the buttercream?
You did it right!
Haven’t made the cake but will be tomorrow and my question is, how much dulce de leche would I use in the buttercream if I’m not wanting to make my own caramel (normally on the verge of calling the fire department when I do lol). All your recipes look awesome and will definitely be coming back to make more
Same amount of dulce de leech
The recipe only says to use all of the caramel sauce but if we are using dulce de leche instead, we need an exact amount. Help!😆
Also, I made the caramel sauce and it seems a bit thin and VERY salty. Is this the way it’s supposed to be?
If the caramel is too thin, it wasn’t cooked long enough. I have a post on my blog that shows how to make caramel sauce. It’s supposed to be salted caramel.
I’m making this cake today for my sister in laws birthday, but needed to make it gluten free. I followed your gf vanilla cake recipe, but subbed buttermilk for the whole milk in this recipe. The cake rounds turned out BEAUTIFUL. The cake tastes amazing. This was my first time using your gf cake recipe and I’m so impressed with how the layers turned out.
This makes me so happy!
Hi! I’m a huge fan of your blog!! I wanted to know is this different to a southern caramel cake?
Loved the recipe! The flavor was delicious, is it supposed to be a denser cake? Or did I do something wrong?
It is a little denser so you’re all good.
I am planning to make this recipe in a few days.:) I wanted to ask you few questions about the recipe. Do you recommend using cake flour instead of all purpose flour? And for the frosting, I am concerned it may be too sweet for me. Do you have any suggestions on how I can make the frosting less sweet?
For this cake, use all-purpose. For the buttercream, consider adding additional salt to taste to help offset the sweetness.
Can use a 9×13 pan?
If I was just going to do one later ( still a beginner) what would be the temperature and baking time?
I would split the recipe in half, so you’ll have one thick cake layer in an 8-inch round cake pan. Baking temp stays the same, and you’ll probably be pretty close to the time given.
Does it work to sub the homemade caramel in the cake layers instead of using the dulce de leche?
Lovely! I am going to try this out today. What approximately should be the height of each layer?
It’s about 1.25″ tall
This cake looks amazing! Do you think I could use this recipe to make cupcakes instead?
Yeah! Just reduce the baking time to 15 to 20 minutes.
Do you have a substitute for the nestle la lechera milk based caramel? I can’t find the caramel kind anywhere around me. Can I use the homemade caramel instead? Thank you in advance!
Just an update that I was able to find it! This recipe was perfection! I made this cake for a birthday and it went over so well! Trying it as cupcakes tonight! Thank you for another stellar recipe!