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Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake – Dark chocolate cake layers with homemade salted caramel frosting and a salted caramel drip.
Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake
This was one of the first cakes I ever made and posted on Cake by Courtney, but I always had the recipes listed separately on the site: chocolate cake and salted caramel frosting. It was always a little tricky for readers to find the cake in two parts, so it was time to pull it all together!
This cake is made up of my go-to chocolate cake recipe. It’s rich in flavor, but still moist and tender. I also like to think it’s pretty fail-proof after I spent days trying to perfect it once I moved to high altitude and found that it was sinking here in Utah. I reworked it to make sure it would always have a nice rise to it, no matter where you’re located.
The salted caramel frosting is made with homemade salted caramel and has an incredible flavor. You can certainly skip the step of making your own caramel and use store bought, but I don’t think the flavor is quite as strong when you do.
I love how simple this cake is to make. There’s just a few steps and they’re all pretty simple.
- Don’t over-mix your batter once you add the wet ingredients. Over mixing your batter causes it to sink in the oven.
- Use a dark chocolate cocoa powder. A regular cocoa powder doesn’t give the cake the same rich chocolate flavor. I love using Extra Brute Cacao Barry Cocoa or a similar high-quality brand.
- Make sure to preheat your oven for about 20 to 30 minutes before you bake the cake layers so the heat is fully distributed through the space. This ensures you get an even rise in your cake.
- Feel free to make the cake layers ahead of time and freezing them until you’re ready to assemble.
- Frosting and caramel can be made ahead of time too and stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake
Dark chocolate cake layers with salted caramel frosting and caramel drip.
FOR THE CAKE
- 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (225 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (375 g) granulated sugar
- 3/4 cups (88.5 g) good quality dark cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons (8 g) baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon (3 g) baking powder
- 1 teaspoon (5.6 g) kosher salt
- 1 cup (240 g) buttermilk at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (109 g) vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon (4.2 g) pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (236.6 g) hot water
FOR THE SALTED CARAMEL & FROSTING
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 8 tablespoons (118.3 g) water
- 4 teaspoons (27 g) light corn syrup
- 3/4 cup (173.25 g) heavy cream
- 2 teaspoon (8.4 g) pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoon (11.2 g) kosher salt
- 6 cups (750 g) powdered sugar sifted
- 2 cups (452 g) unsalted butter slightly chilled
- *This buttercream recipe makes enough to fill and cover your cake. If you want to add additional piping, you’ll want to make an extra 1/2 batch.
FOR THE CAKE
- Preheat the oven to 360 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch or four 6-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper, then spray the pans again. Set aside.
- Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
- In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, water and vanilla.
- With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 16-18 minutes.
- Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until ready to use. You're still going to want to level your cake layers to ensure a completely even surface for frosting and stacking.
FOR THE SALTED CARAMEL
- 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 (as seen in the photo above). 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 for the drip. Use the other half for the frosting.
FOR THE FROSTING
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the softened butter, powdered sugar and half of the caramel together in a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth. If the icing seems to stiff, ad a bit of cream - just a little at a time until it reaches a smooth, spreading consistency of your liking.
- Place the first cake layer bottom-side down, in the center of the cake board. Using an offset palette knife, spread about 3/4 cup frosting 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, on top of the frosting.
- 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.