Southern caramel cake recipes have always been a classic that I could have any day of the week. My family has made it for decades, and it is definitely an old time Southern favorite. The funny thing about this cake is a lot of people did not become familiar with it until the movie “The Help” mentioned it. After the movie was released in theaters, I saw tons of replicas of this classic cake online (definitely real deal caramel cake imitators). These recipes weren’t as authentic as I thought they should be.
WHAT MAKES THE BEST CARAMEL CAKE RECIPE?
The real deal caramel cake imitators all seemed okay but nothing like the one I am used to eating. The classic caramel cake recipe has a moist yet slightly dense (but still light) yellow butter cake that isn’t too sweet because the caramel icing is the true star of the party. The classic southern caramel cake doesn’t shortcut the caramel icing recipe with a quick brown sugar butterscotch method, which is a caramel frosting substitution (my recipe doesn’t shortcut anything). This caramel uses granulated sugar and evaporated milk to create the luscious flavor.
CARAMEL ICING VS. CARAMEL FROSTING
This southern caramel cake recipe is the real deal caramel cake. It puts other caramel cake recipes to shame. The caramel icing (definitely an icing and not a caramel frosting which is a bit different in texture and consistency) comes from my Aunt Bev, and she definitely gets down in the kitchen. Try this for yourself and finally enjoy the true classic! And P.S., this is not a cake you can throw together quickly. It definitely takes about 3 hours from start to finish but it is well worth the wait!
HOW TO MAKE CARAMEL ICING
Here is a look at how the caramel icing begins to come together. Some people struggle with knowing exactly how the icing should look after about two hours of cooking on a very low heat. Low and slow is the best way to achieve this perfect icing. The color will deepen and it will naturally thicken.
Remember to make sure that the caramel turns the color of the photo below before stopping the heat. It should also COMPLETELY coat the back of a spoon to ensure thickness. Be careful to watch, adjusting heat temperature to not let it burn.
Once you remove the caramel icing from the heat, it will continue to thicken on its own. Make sure to allow this process to happen. I like to let it cool at least 30 minutes. It will help with frosting the cake without the icing dripping everywhere and the layers sliding too much.
Just a note here: If you are having problems with your cake sliding, it is because the caramel icing recipe is too thin. If you let it GET TOO THICK, just add a little bit of milk. Really follow your instincts here.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SERVE THIS CARAMEL CAKE RECIPE?
This caramel cake recipe is perfect for the holidays. It is not an easy cake to pull off because as I mentioned before it can take up to 3 hours to complete the recipe. Make this caramel cake for special occasions and holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a family reunion. This cake is made with love and should be shared with those very special people in your life. If you love this cake, you might also become infatuated with some my other holiday desserts like my Ultimate Lemon Cake, Cream Cheese Pound Cake, Brown Sugar Pound Cake and Southern Peach Cobbler!
This cake can stay at room temperature for 3-4 days due to the high sugar content cooked icing. However if you want to refrigerate it, make sure you bring slices to room temperature before serving and eating.
CARAMEL CAKE RECIPE CREATIONS
I love seeing your Real Deal Caramel Cake Recipe Creations!! Check out some of the amazing photos I have received! After more than five years, I must say this Real Deal Caramel Cake Recipe is still my most popular cake recipe.
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Real Deal Southern Caramel Cake
For the Cake:
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 2 sticks
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 cups Cake flour, sifted
- 6 large eggs room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks room temperature
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
For Aunt Bev's Caramel Icing:
- 1 1/2 sticks butter
- 2 cans evaporated milk 12 ounces each
- 2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, oil and sugar on high until fully incorporated and light and fluffy, about 5-6 minutes.
- Turn mixer to medium speed and mix in eggs and egg yolks one at a time until well incorporated.
- Add in vanilla extract and mix.
- Sift cake flour, baking powder and salt into a medium sized bowl.
- With mixer on slow speed, alternate adding in flour mixture and sour cream ending with flour mixture until mixed through.
- Do not over mix.
- Spray three 9 inch round cake pans with baking spray or grease and flour them.
- Pour batter into individual cake pans evenly.
- Bake in preheated oven for 23-30 minutes or until fully baked (but DON'T OVERBAKE THESE CAKES- CHECK THEM EARILER SO THEY DON'T DRY OUT).
- Remove cake pans from oven and cool on cooling racks for 10 minutes.
- Remove cakes from pans and wait until completely cooled to ice.
For the Caramel Icing:
- Add butter, evaporated milk, and sugar to saucepan over medium heat until everything has melted together.
- Leave over medium to low heat stirring periodically for about 1 1/2- 2 hours (watch the entire time to make sure it does not burn until thickened and caramel has darkened to a beautiful golden brown.
- Make sure that the caramel turns the color of the photo below before stopping the heat.
- It should also thickly coat the back of a spoon to ensure thickness. See notes below for additional tips for the caramel.
- Be careful to watch, adjusting heat temperature to not let it burn.
- Remove from heat and add in vanilla extract.
- Cool for about 15-20 minutes to allow it to thicken before icing the cake. If you see that it is too warm and still not completely thick enough, cool it in the refrigerator and get it thick!
- P.S. Some people like to take the caramel and whip it in a stand mixer to create more of a frosting texture. That is totally up to you.
Want more great desserts?
Check out my Banana Pudding Cheesecake Blondies!