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Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake
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 a 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 are 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.
Enjoy! If you liked this post, follow me on Instagram @cakebycourtney for more tips and recipes on all things cake!
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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.
Trying this today! I make cakes all the time for friends, but have never done one with caramel, or made homemade caramel ever! I just finished the caramel part and it is amazing!!! I never realized how easy it was to make! Will post a picture of my finished product! 😋
Yay! So glad you’re liking it.
I LOVE this cake!! I made it before you combined the two posts, and everyone seriously loved it. I loved in your post with the salted caramel frosting that you added the pictures of the boiling mixture to help give an idea of the color you’re going for. The recipe in this post actually refers to those pictures. I was thinking it might be nice to include those images in this post? Just a thought. 🙂
I love what you do here! It’s my favorite. 🙌🏼
Good point. Thank you!
What have you used on top of the caramel in the picture? Looks like little chocolate squares of some sort?
They are chocolate sprinkles by Cacao Barry.
I can’t wait to make this for my daughters birthday! Will it work for 9 inch round pans? That is what I have. Thanks!
Yes it will – but I would just use two pans and cook for a few minutes longer.
This cake looks amazing! I want to try to make this cake for my husband’s birthday but I don’t have a stand mixer. Would a hand mixer work?
Yes it will!
I am making this cake the day before his birthday. Should I leave it in the fridge over night? Will the caramel drip harden in the fridge? Should I wait until I serve it to add the drip?
How do you get your cakes off the cakeboards seamlessly? Looks awesome!
I actually have a Tip Tuesday tutorial and video on my website you can refer to.
I’ve made this a couple of times, but always seem to have runny caramel for the drip. I’ve made sure the cake was very cold before applying and I’ve even let the caramel sit for a few hours to thicken but still runny! Help please 🙂
You may need to cook your caramel longer than you have been. If the caramel base isn’t thick enough before you add the cream, it definitely will be runny. You can also try adding less cream next time.
Hi! I love your posts! I was just wondering if I could leave the corn syrup out of the recipe as I cannot find it where I live! Thanks!
I think it’s worth a try.
I made this frosting and it didn’t taste very caramel-y. So I doubled it and it still wasn’t enough. Should it not taste particularly like caramel and be more of a buttercream flavor?
It should taste like caramel. Are you letting the caramel cook long enough?
This looks awesome! Question, what kind of sprinkles are those on top?
Those are Cacao Barry chocolate sprinkles.
Made this cake for a friends birthday, it turned out great and was super delicious. Made a couple of tiny changes, brushed each cake with a bit of kalhua to give it a kick, keep it moist and the coffee brought out the chocolate more. And then added a little bit of butter ripple schnapps to the buttercream to lighten it up and it brought out the caramel flavor a bit more.
Is it okay to make the frosting a day in advance, refrigerate it over night, and assemble the cake the next day? Thank you!
This was perfect! This cake rises beautifully! I am always afraid of recipes online that will have pictures of a beautiful tall cake but the cake turns out flat layers because they possibly used smaller than your typical 8 inch cake pans. .Also I have found usually recipes don’t give you enough frosting to adequately cover a cake but this was just the right amount for a 3 layer 8 inch cake. I have not tasted it yet…waiting for this afternoon but I have a few tips.
With the use of oil and no butter I can already tell the cake is moist just by the couch of the layers.
The salted caramel! So I started my sugar mixture off at medium-low heat and it didn’t brown so I turned it up to a little more than medium heat (about 7 on my stove) and it browned wonderfully but you really have to watch it because it can turn from caramel to burnt REALLY quick ( I had to make a second batch). As soon as you see the sugar turn brown immediately remove it form the heat and add the cream (right in the sauce pan).
I’m so glad it turned out well for you! Hope you love it.
This cake looks absolutely delicious, what do you sprinkle on top of the cake? I’ve seen them on desserts at restaurants but wasn’t sure what they were?
They are actual chocolate sprinkles from Orson Gygi by the brand Cacao Barry.
Hey Courtney, I’m going to be making this cake soon as a wedding cake. Typically on my wedding cakes, I put simple syrup on the layers after taking them out of the freezer. For the vanilla bean raspberry cake, I’m using a raspberry extract simple syrup. For this cake, I was thinking a chocolate Kahlua simple syrup might be a nice way to bring out the chocolate flavors and would compliment the caramel well. I’ll make a test cake tomorrow to see if that works. Thoughts on Kahlua in this cake?
What is on the top in the photo? Is it crushed chocolate?
It’s just chocolate sprinkles
I was just wondering how long before it’s needed could you make this cake and store outside of the fridge?
I would only take it out of the fridge a couple hours before you serve!
Could you please tell me what the little balls on top are?
They are caramel crisp pearls from Orson Gygi.
Baking the cake at about 26mins now and just placed it in the oven. Toothpick hasn’t came out of the cake clean for a 6 inch pan of 3 inch height :((((
Every oven is different. Just keep an eye on it and keep checking it. It might take a little longer in your oven!
Will dark corn syrup change the flavor of the frosting??
No, you’ll be fine with dark.
Hi, I’m going to try and make this cake for my husband’s birthday on Tuesday. I am going to double the amount of caramel that I make, but I’m wondering how much goes into the frosting? Approximate cup size? Thanks so much! Love your site!
This recipe makes about a cup of caramel. So 1/2 cup of caramel in the frosting.
So delicious! I only wish there were more directions and photos with the caramel portion.
Noted! Thank you!
Thanks for sharing..it sounds divine! However, not a dark chocolate fan. Would regular 100% un-sweetened cocoa work well with this frosting? Maybe it doesn’t make a difference….
That’s totally fine.
How much more batter will I need for a 8 inch cake with 6 inch height? And how much batter should I pour in each tin.
You need to evenly divide the batter between your three pans. I suggest using a food scale.
Making this cake right now so excited… Question about the light corn syrup… should we use 4 tsp or 75g, they aren’t the same. Maybe it’s a typo or just me. I looked it up just to check 4tsp= 27g light corn syrup.
Thank you! I’ll fix that now!
This cake is SO GOOD. I always use Courtney’s chocolate cake recipe, and this caramel buttercream brings it to the next level. Although the caramel was a little too loose for me to drip on the sides (I probably added too much cream), it tasted so good and was very easy to make. Definitely recommend!
Thank you so much!!
Hi Courtney!!! Thank you for this recipe, I’ve made it 3 times in the past month 🙂 I substituted buttermilk for 1 cup heavy cream + 1 TBS Vinegar as we do not have buttermilk where I live. My finance loved the cake as well but insists that it has a strange smell but taste is fine. I can smell it too but doesn’t quite bother me. Was wondering if you possibly knew why it has this smell. Could it be from the buttermilk substitute?
It could! Next time you can do half milk, half greek yogurt as the buttermilk sub! Might get rid of that smell!
This is a great cake. I did the ultimate chocolate cake first which is a bit more involved. The dark chocolate salted caramel cake is pretty easy. It tastes really good. I did make a mistake, though. I put the salted caramel on top of the cake because my drizzle attempts were pathetic and mostly on the counter. The bites with the top of the cake are a bit salty. Not a big deal, I just need to eat it a bit different.
I cannot get over how moist and flavorful Courtney’s dark chocolate cake recipe is. It’s so good. I used the Extra Brute Cocoa she recommends. It’s so good. I got it at Gygi.
Making the caramel is pretty easy. My advice is don’t rush it. You can smell it caramelizing so you don’t have to hover. It does smoke a bit. You only need to hover once it starts turning brown. It goes fast! Also be careful when adding the cream and stirring. Steam is evolved and it gets a bit uncomfortable on the stirring hand if you are dim like me and stir with a spoon. A smart person would use something with a long handle!
This was so nice of you! Thank you!
Just made this for my husband’s birthday. He’s a salted caramel dark chocolate fanatic, and he absolutely LOVED it! The sweet and salty balance is spot on! Thank you for posting this recipe!
Yay. I love to hear it!
This cake is absolutely delicious! The caramel buttercream became a quick favorite at our house, and the salted caramel drip really takes it to the next level.
I saw on one of your posts a link for cake pans, but I can’t find it again. Could you tell me where to find them? And are they the secret to baking even cakes? Or could you give me any tips to to that?
You can get them at Orson Gygi!
Absolutely love this cake and frosting!! My coworker was wanting me to make this into cupcakes for her? Any advice on how to convert this into cupcakes?
I’ve made this 5 times and it is my go to. I will say if you’ve never made a caramel sauce before it takes forEVER. seriously going on 25 min right now as I type it is still pretty clear so just don’t fret it will eventually turn. The first time I made this I burned it because I was like why is this taking so long and turned it up thinking I was doing something wrong. Also, I substitute coconut oil for vegetable oil because that’s what I always have on hand and it works perfectly.
Thanks for the recipe! It was delicious! . I wanted to let you know I made the cake with Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free pastry flour with 1.5 tbs of white vinegar and it turned out very moist and fluffy! Thé 30 guests at my husband’s 50th devoured it! So if you get asked can I make this GF? YES! Just add a tbs of vinegar!
I love this!!
Hi Wendy! I’m going to attempt to make this gluten free as well! I can’t find Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free pastry flour… is that the same as the Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour? Thanks!!
Hi Courtney, it sounds really delicious. I would like to make this cake for fondant decoration. I believe it is ok correct?
One other question is that I don’t have corn syrup here what can I do?
Thank you so much
You can leave out the corn syrup. But this cake is a little soft and not as sturdy. Might not be great for fondant.
My cake has been in the oven for 30min. It is almost done. Your recipe says it should be done in 16-18 min. That isn’t even long enough for a cupcake is that correct?
Yes, I’m guessing that is a typo in the baking time. I doubled this recipe to make 3 12-inch cake layers, and my cakes baked for almost 33 minutes at 360.
I have been asked to make this as cupcakes. Is there anything I should do differently with the recipe? Thanks in advance!
Its about the same!
This turned out absolutely amazing!! So moist and not too sweet. I ended up baking my sponges for 26 minutes (maybe my oven runs cold?) and they were perfect!