This salted caramel cake made with real caramel sauce and frosted with caramel frosting, then loaded with toasted pecans, truly could give chocolate cake a run for the money. This tender moist cake is incredible!
The truth is that I didn’t think I’d like this salted caramel cake as much as I like my favorite chocolate layer cake.
But I was wrong. I love, Love, LOVE this caramel cake recipe.
I think I am always so ready to order anything chocolate that I forget about the other good things out there.
Like salted caramel sauce and caramel frosting and the roasted pecans on the top of the cake that I could eat by the handful.
Yes, this cake is a winner in every sense of the word.
I’m a wee bit embarrassed at saying that I just discovered Cheryl Day and her extremely addicitive cookbook, “Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking.”
However my late discovery has probably saved me a few thousand calories at the minimum!
It was Manservant that chose this cake. I gave him several cake recipes to choose from, but being from Texas, he likes anything with pecans.
And as you can see, this cake is covered with them.
So let’s get right down to it. I’m not going to lie.
This caramel cake is a labor of love.
It has a lot of steps but they all lead to the final product that is so glorious, your mouth will be thanking you.
First let me tell you what this cake is not.
It is not a cake with many cake layers. Of course, you could cut the cake in half and make layers but I prefer to think of this cake as “grab a fork kind of cake”.
Be ready to dive in!
This cake does not require cake pans, just a big 13 x 9 pan that I know all of you have.
This cake is not a cake with a caramel drip.
However it is a cake with tons of caramel flavor and will satisfy all birthday cake lovers-even those who prefer chocolate.
This cake is not a cake that requires ice cream.
After all, the salted caramel buttercream that coats this fluffy caramel cake with a thick layer of frosting should not be taken for granted.
It is incredible!
Is your mouth watering yet?
The first step to making this cake is making the homemade salted caramel sauce.
This is very easy to make but as Cheryl says it takes patience, caution and fearlessness!
Jeez. I thought I was just making caramel sauce.
But she’s right. Good caramel sauce should not be rushed.
(All that being said, the next time I make this cake I am tempted to skip the caramel sauce step and try buying a high quality sauce to use instead. I don’t know if this will work, but I’m pretty certain it would.)
If you choose to make your own, cream of tartar is used for acidity and keeps your sauce smooth.
It almost never goes bad, but if you are worried about it take a half teaspoon cream of tartar, a pinch of baking soda and mix it with 1/2 c of warm water.
If it fizzes it is good. Combine the sugar, cream of tartar and water. Bring to a boil and stop stirring.
Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, swirling occasionally until the caramel is golden.
This is the wet method to caramelize sugar.
It takes longer but has less of a tendency to burn.
After the sugar is golden stir in the butter one piece at a time and the add the room temperature heavy cream, stirring until the sauce is shiny and smooth.
If you end up with some lumpy pieces, merely return your pot to low heat and stir until the lump has dissolved.
Set aside until ready to use.
Make the Caramel Cake
Begin by preheating the oven and placing a rack in the lower third of the oven.
Sift together the dry ingredients, the flour, baking powder and sea salt. Mix a 1/2 cup water into 1 cup of caramel sauce. (This was hard for me because I wanted to eat it all!)
In the bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary.
With the electric mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the caramel mixture.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, then using the parchment paper, lift the cake out of the pan and let cool completely.
Make the Salted Caramel Frosting Recipe
In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan combine the brown sugar, 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter, the sea salt and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves.
Let the mixture come to a gentle boil, about 5 to 8 minutes.Whisk in the cream and bring back to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract.
Pour this into the bowl of your stand mixer and on low speed, gradually add the powdered sugar, beating until incorporated.
Increase the speed to medium and beat until the frosting has lightened and cooled to warm, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the remaining 4 T of butter, one piece at a time, and continue to mix until the caramel icing is light and fluffy.
Frosting the Cake
Place the cake on a serving plate and frost the sides of the cake, and the top of the cake, with a thin layer of buttercream to create a crumb coat.
Place the cake in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to set.
When you take it out, the caramel frosting should still be a bit tacky so that the final layer of caramel icing will adhere properly.
Frost the cake with the remaining frosting and then decorate the top with the toasted pecans and some Maldon salt flakes.
This caramel pecan cake can be stored loosely covered with plastic wrap for up to 3 days on the counter or longer in the fridge.
Just make sure to bring it back to room temperature to serve it.
If you love frosting you will adore the frosting to cake ratio.
This beautiful cake is one of the best cakes I’ve eaten and now I can’t wait to try more of Cheryl Day’s recipes and buy her other cookbooks!
Yes, there are a few steps in this caramel cake recipe so plan accordingly.
Honestly though it could quickly become your favorite cake. It is that good!
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This salted caramel cake made with real caramel sauce and frosted with caramel frosting, then loaded with toasted pecans truly could give chocolate cake a run for the money. This tender moist cake is incredible!
1 c sugar
1/8 t cream of tartar
3 T water
4 T unsalted butter cut into 1” cubes
1/2 c heavy cream at room temperature
1 t fine sea salt
1 T bourbon (optional)
2 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t baking powder
1 t fine sea salt
1 c Salted Caramel Sauce, at room temperature
1/2 c water
8 T unsalted butter at room temperatire
1 1/3 c sugar
3 lg eggs at room temperature
Salted Caramel Frosting
1 c toasted pecans, chopped
Maldon Flaky Sea Salt
Salted Caramel Frosting:
2 c packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1/2 t fine sea salt
1/2 c heavy cream
1 1/2 t vanilla
2 c powdered sugar, sifted or run through a sieve
In a medium deep saucepan, combine the sugar, cream of tartar and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once the sugar mixture has reached a boil, stop stirring and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, swirling occasionally to distribute the heat evenly and keep checking for color until the caramel is golden amber. Watch carefully because caramel can quickly become burnt! Take your time! As soon as it is golden, remove from the heat.
Add the butter one piece at a time, stirring until smooth. Slowly and carefully add the cream. It may sputter a bit. Stir constantly until the sauce is shiny and smooth. If the heavy cream is too cold the caramel may sieze up and you may end up with some lumps of hard caramel. If this happens, return the pot to low heat and stir until the caramel is completely melted and smooth. Stir in the salt and the bourbon, if using.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350. Butter a 9 x 13 baking pan or coat with non-stick spray. Line pan with parchment paper leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a small bowl combine the caramel sauce and water and stir until smooth. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.
With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the caramel mixture and beginning and ending with flour, mixing until just combined. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, then using the two sides of the parchment paper lift the cake out of the pan and let it completely cool on the rack.
To Make the Frosting:
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the brown sugar, 8 tablespoons of butter and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil, 5 – 8 minutes. Whisk in the cream and bring back to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and on low speed gradually add the powdered sugar, beating until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the frosting lightens in color and has cooled to warm, 3 – 5 minutes. Add the remaining 4 T butter, one piece at a time, and continue to mix until the frosting is light and fluffy. Use immediately.
Assemble the cake:
Place the cake on a large serving plate. Using an offset spatula-which I still don’t own-frost the top and the sides of the cake with a thin layer of frosting to create a crumb coat. Place the cake in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to set the crumb coat; the frosting should still feel a bit tacky, so that the final layer of frosting will adhere properly.
Frost the cake with the remaining frosting, using the back of the spatula to create swirls. Decorate the top with the chopped pecans and sprinkle with the flaky sea salt.
This cake keeps loosely covered at room temperature or in the fridge for 3 to 5 days, however it tastes best at room temperature.
*This cake is challenging but if you follow the directions it turns out beatifully.
Next time I may try using a high end caramel sauce, instead of making my own. If you try it, let me know.
Keywords: caramel cake, caramel cake recipe, caramel frosting, caramel icing, caramle icing recipe, salted caramel cake, caramel frosting recipe, caramel pecan cake, cheryl day