There’s no doubt that the star of a classic Southern caramel cake is the frosting. The rich, deeply-flavored frosting firms up as it sets, creating a candy-like shell that makes it stand out from the typical layer cake. Buttermilk — a quintessential Southern ingredient—is added to both the cake and the frosting for a wonderful tang that offsets the caramel’s sweetness.
Inspired by New Orleans’ famous Doberge torte, which has an Old World European influence, a traditional Southern caramel cake can seem like a daunting task at first. This recipe is designed to help bakers who want to advance their cake baking skills without too much of a challenge. Just be sure to everything ready because many steps require you to work swiftly.
A pure comfort food dessert, the Southern caramel cake is a fantastic year-round treat—the decadent caramel flavor is great for cozy autumn and winter gatherings and celebrations, but the light and fluffy texture also works for early spring holidays like Easter.
What Is Caramel Icing Made Of? The basic ingredients of caramel icing are brown sugar, butter, and some type of dairy milk. Recipes tend to use some combination of buttermilk, whole milk, and heavy cream. Vanilla extract and a small amount of salt are also commonly used to enhance the flavor. Other ingredients like cornstarch, corn syrup, baking soda, confectioners’ sugar, and evaporated milk can also be added to caramel icing.
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups whole milk
6 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 (14 oz.) can condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven to 350º F and lightly grease 2 round cake pans, depending on desired thickness of cake.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl or mixer, beat sugar and shortening together for 2-3 minutes, or until smooth and fluffy.
Beat in eggs and vanilla extract until incorporated, then mix in milk and dry ingredients, being careful not to over-mix.
Pour cakes into greased baking rounds and place in oven.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
Combine brown sugar, sugar, butter and condensed milk in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring continuously until thickened.
Bring to a boil, then lower heat and stir in vanilla extra and sea salt. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until thickened. Let cool slightly until warm and thickened, then assemble bottom cake layer and pour 2/3-3/4 cup icing over.
Top with second cake layer and pour frosting over the top of cake, letting it coat the sides. (If using three layers, divide icing appropriately.)
Slice, serve and enjoy.