Southern Caramel Cake. It’s just hard to beat it. It is one of my family’s all-time favorite cakes – especially for holidays, birthdays and major celebrations.

You can just count on it appearing to make those special occasions even more special.

Memorable even.

It’s odd to put that much significance on a cake, but you know, that’s just the way it goes around my house.

Southern Caramel Cake
my family’s original Southern Caramel Cake Recipe

I’ve talked about this cake before and how much the recipe means to my family.

The original cake will forever be a family-favorite.

Anything used for my baby’s first birthday cake has to be extra special. Don’t you think?

Oh my goodness. Just seeing that photo makes my heart melt.

Where has the time gone?

But thankfully, we weren’t celebrating my baby’s birthday this past weekend. I’m not exactly ready for him to be 11 yet. It was my Mama’s turn.

So, since my Mama has given the world to me, I thought it was only fitting that I make her very favorite cake for her on her birthday. But, I did something we’ve never done in my family. I changed the recipe!


I did. I really did.

And I wasn’t struck by lightening.

I went to bed and slept well.

I woke up and pinched myself because I hadn’t gone to…. well, you get the picture.

Before I go on. You really can’t go wrong with the original Southern Caramel Cake recipe that I’ve shared and made a thousand and one times. It’s perfect. No kidding. Perfect.

But, if you want to have a little fun with this cake and change things up a bit, you might just fall in love with this version, too.

So. Here’s what I did.

I made the cake recipe and the frosting recipe both just a touch lighter.

Salted Caramel Buttercream Cake

And I mean lighter as in texture, not as in calories. Just to be clear.

Just look at that texture!


Let me just say, no one refused a piece.

And the birthday girl loved it.

Please note that this recipe makes a three layer, 9-inch cake. I used the batter from one of the layers to make my Little Buddy some cupcakes. He couldn’t wait.

Here’s the recipe for my Butter Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting that I think you should make for your next special occasion.

Like a birthday, anniversary, engagement, shower, or just because it’s Wednesday.

That’ll do, too.

Butter Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Southern Caramel Cake is always a favorite. This version with Salted Caramel Buttercream is out of this world!
4.75 from 32 votes

Review Recipe

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Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time55 mins
Servings: 12
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Author: Robyn Stone | Add a Pinch


Butter Cake Recipe

  • 3 cups flour all-purpose
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup softened butter 2 sticks
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Salted Buttercream Frosting Recipe

    First Stage

    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 1/2 cup Crisco vegetable shortening
    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda

    Second Stage

    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    • 2 cups confectioner's sugar


    Butter Cake Recipe

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    • Prepare 3 9-inch cake pans with shortening and flour.
    • Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt with a whisk in a large bowl. Set aside.
    • Cream butter until fluffy and then add sugar. Cream together for about 8 more minutes.
    • Add eggs, 1 at a time, and cream together after each.
    • Add flour mixture and buttermilk, alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Combine each addition of flour and then turn mixer on high to add air into the batter.
    • Add vanilla and beat well. Turn mixer on high once vanilla has been incorporated for about 10 seconds to lighten batter.
    • Divide among pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until set.
    • Turn out of pans onto cooling racks and allow to cool completely.

    Salted Caramel Buttercream Recipe

    • Add all ingredients from the first stage of the frosting recipe in a 3-4 quart pot. Stir ingredients with a wooden spoon as cooking over medium-low heat.
    • Cook to softball stage (235-245 degrees on a candy thermometer as well as using the cold water test).
    • Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a whip attachment, whip the caramel until it has cooled enough to touch lightly.
    • Add the butter and salt from the second stage of the frosting recipe to the mixing bowl and whip.
    • Add confectioner's sugar in 1/2 cup increments, stopping after each to scrape sides of mixing bowl. Turn mixer onto high for about 10 seconds after each addition to incorporate air into the frosting.
    • Adjust the amount of confectioner's sugar to result in a frosting that will hold shape.
    • Frost cake and store on a cake plate covered with a dome or an airtight container.
    • Best served within 1-3 days.


    For easier frosting of cake, wrap tightly in parchment and aluminum foil and freeze overnight. Brush the cake with a pastry brush to remove loose crumbs and then frost the cake with a light layer of frosting to create a crumb coating. Then, frost the cake as normal.
    Have you made this recipe?Tag @addapinch on Instagram or hashtag it #addapinch

    Robyn xo

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    Robyn Stone

    ..where I share sweet, savory and southern recipes, as well as home and garden tips and tidbits of travel.

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    173 Comments Leave a comment or review

    1. Two things, my cake batter fit into two 8 inch square pans. If you were to put it into three, would you only have an inch thick cake?
      Also, for those of us that know nothing about candy but do about baking, the caramel process is different. I have made homemade caramel but with brown sugar and/or condensed milk. So, I didn’t know you kept the pan on the burner to “brown” it.
      Just for those of us not familiar with that type of caramel. Thanks!
      Otherwise, it was good!

    2. This cake came out yummy! I made a 9 x 13 for ease of sharing with another family. It baked in just about the recommended time. I can’t wait to try this frosting on something chocolate! Thanks!

    3. Hi! Found this on Pinterest a bit back and made it yesterday for my granddaughter’s 21st birthday. It came out perfect and everyone loved it. Has already moved to the top of the hit list! Thanks!

      1. The note said freeze overnight, is that the frosting or the cake you freeze? If it’s the frosting, how long does it take to thaw? Why do you need to freeze it, is it runny?

    4. Saw this recipe on Pinterest and KNEW I wanted to give it a try – first, I live in a high altitude setting and it’s difficult to make layer cakes that bake well. I did not alter the ingredients, but did bake @ 325 for a bit longer (about 35 min) and it baked perfectly.

      Second, I was a bit nervous about the frosting because I don’t have a candy thermometer. However, I kept a bowl of chilled water next to me and tested the mixture every now and then. Just when I thought it would never brown (or form a soft ball in the water), both happened. Consistency of the final product was excellent.

      If the recipe makes you nervous because you don’t have all the equipment – just give it a try, trust the process, and be patient. It’s delicious! Best way to celebrate an Aunt’s 60th birthday!

      1. Thanks for your post. I found it very helpful. I too don’t have a thermometer and am on my second try at the frosting. I rushed it the first time and never got it to a soft ball in water. I’m being more patient this time.

      1. I always substitute butter. Crisco is just so unhealthy. Sometimes you need just a bit less butter as compared to partially hydrogenated oil.

    5. Just stumbled upon this recipe via Pinterest. I hardly ever bake, but I was just looking for something sweet and fun to make my husband and son after I get off work today as a nice surprise. “Just because it’s Wednesday.” How perfect. Thanks for the smile, and the recipe; can’t wait to try it!

    6. Hi… I’m new to your blog, and I’ve decided to try may hand at making this cake ๐Ÿ™‚ My problem is that I only have 2 nine inch pans… my other 2 pans are slightly smaller. Any suggestions? Can I make this with only 2 layers? Thanks!

    7. Hi Robyn! I just wanted to tell you how amazing your cake is! I’m new in my boyfriend’s family, and there have been a lot of issues of us being together (long story), but this cake truly broke the ice with them. My boyfriend’s sister, who went to culinary school to become a pastry chef/baker, was blown away by this cake, and everyone in their family has been requesting I make birthday cakes and dessert for family events even though his sister is a professional. No jealousy here though as she happily gobbles up this cake. The reason I was writing was because I followed your directions to a ‘T’ the firs time, and ended in tears. You see, I sat in my kitchen crying because I needed to take this cake to a 70th birthday party, and this was nearly identical to what the birthday girl enjoyed from her mama as a child. My frosting had stiffened up into what appeared to be a giant soft caramel chew. I stared at it for about 20 minutes wondering what I did wrong, and bemoaning the fact I was going to have to rely on an overly sweet back up, when I threw the big ball in my Kitchenaid mixer with the paddle attachment, and began adding milk a TABLESPOON at a time. Wouldn’t you know, that that did the trick and the milk allowed my frosting to become a spreadable consistency?! Being an absolute perfectionist, I also was taking too long to frost the cake, and my frosting hardened. As long as you add milk and stir it well, your cake won’t tear and your frosting will spread beautifully. No one even knew what troubles I had had, and the cake was gone within 10 minutes. Thanks!

      1. What a great story, Lacey! Isn’t it amazing how food really can bring people together? Especially cake! Love your tip on saving the frosting. xoxo

        1. Can the cake be put into cupcakes? Going to try this for my college aged son. His favorite is caramel cake and he is going to visit his girlfriend this weekend and wanted something portable. If so, how long to cook a dozen pan cupcakes?
          Nervous to try the icing which is why I thought I would start on cupcakes! ๐Ÿ˜‰

        2. Hi Angie,
          I would recommend baking between 20 and 25 minutes. I sure hope your son loves them! What a sweet Mama!!! xo

        3. Hi Robyn,
          I made this cake yesterday and it was delicious. I would like to make cupcakes with this recipe, is there anything I need to change or add? Thank you so much.

    8. Hello!

      I came upon your recipe during a late night pinning binge, and had to make this cake! So, yesterday while my daughter dyed Easter eggs with her best friend and grandparents, I whipped my best with my kitchen aid and aunt. The cake was incredible! I’d give it a pretty high difficulty level, because if you’ve never baked from scratch before, this cake can be daunting. However, the flavor is a solid 1,000,000/10. The cake is a great supporting role to the creamy, buttery, ever so daintily salted caramel iced star. My frosting came out almost the texture of modeling chocolate. I absolutely loved the ease of spreading, verses the age old Wilton buttercream (which obviously pales in comparison in flavor as well!) All in all, the extra effort was definitely worth the extra flavor, and smiles on my family’s faces as they enjoyed it this Easter Sunday!

    9. I pinned this a while ago as a recipe to try and finally gave it a go yesterday. It was a colleague’s birthday and I wanted to make cupcakes (easier for the work environment) for her (she doesn’t do chocolate). Oh. My. Goodness. They were incredible. I foolishly ignored the caution not to overfill the trays as the cake was so light, and my first tray were a bit popped over, but the rest came out beautifully and the frosting was to die for. I have a loathsome electric stovetop that has historically given me no end of trouble in the caramel making department, but I kept the heat low and my candy thermometer in place and the caramel came out heavenly. Will definitely be keeping this recipe around!

    10. Had pinned this salted caramel cake a while back and finally made it today for my daughter’s birthday. I had some troubles. I did the batter in three round pans but had trouble with two of them sticking to the bottom even though I greased the shortening and floured the pans. Maybe they were not cooled off enough. I was able to salvage the bottoms anyway and with the frosting in between, I didn’t think it would be that noticeable which it wasn’t. I cooked the caramel to soft ball stage and put it in my stainless Kitchenaid bowl and beat it on about medium till it was “cool to touch”. Next put in the butter and the powdered sugar. I failed to note that you said to put the powdered sugar in 1/2 cup at a time and dumped all in at once. It would not come together and stayed in little balls like it was separated. I thought a little more butter wouldn’t hurt so I put in about two tablespoons. That did not help so I thought I would add some half and half as I did not have any cream. That made the frosting finally come together. I didn’t know how much to add so I went ahead and started frosting the cake, but the consistency was real dense and heavy and the frosting kept pulling away and would not stay on the sides of the cake hardly at all.
      Do you think all this problem with the frosting was caused by my putting the whole amount of powdered sugar in at once. I so wanted the frosting to be light and airy like regular buttercream frosting. Is this over-all a denser frosting? I would like to try it again because it did have nice flavor.

    11. made it….it was AWESOME! Sent half of the cake to my 94-year-old neighbor, she loved it too. So good I had to share, or I would have eaten it all myself. Best caramel cake recipe I have found on the web. thank you.

    12. Robyn,

      I’m generally not one to comment on recipes from the web. However, the Butter Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting Recipe is the exception. The cake and frosting are wonderful!! The cake batter yielded soft, moist layers that were perfect. The frosting is absolutely delicious. Thank you so much for such an awesome recipe. I will definitely make this cake again.

      1. Hi, I made the cake yesterday for my teenage daughter’s 16th birthday party, and I used Copha instead of Crisco. I’ve just now been hiding in the kitchen finishing off the last slice that got overlooked…yum.

    13. Just wanted to thank you so much for posting this recipe. When I was growing up, every year for my birthday I got a caramel layer cake from Sanders bakery (out of Detroit area, MI). When I was a teenager, the bakery changed owners and the caramel cake was never the same. I’ve made several recipes but have never found one that even comes close. This recipe is pretty perfect!! Thank you so much, I loved the cake (couldn’t stop eating it) and it brought back great memories of childhood. ๐Ÿ™‚

    14. Pinned this recipe for my 6 y/o bday cake. She wanted the salted caramel frosting…This is the best tasteing frosting I have ever made!!! My only concern was that I may have jumped the gun on adding the second stage of ingredients (not sure it was cool enough). The frosting seemed really thick, not air-y at all. Should I have added more confectioners?? Re-whipped it once it cooled?? Any suggestion would be great!!

    15. I made this cake yesterday just to try it out because I have been looking for a yellow butter cake recipe that isn’t dried out. It was GREAT!!! I did a homemade chocolate icing though and my family loved it! thanks so much, my search is OVER!! This one is a KEEPER.

    16. I did not see an reply to the Two Women that asked about substituting butter for Crisco/shortening??!!?? I am not a fan of Crisco/shortening….if one is to “go for the Gold”, I’ll head for the Butter!!

      I would like to know if there is a scientific reason for not using Butter!

      Warmest regards,

    17. I just made these but as cupcakes. They are excellent!!! I had no problems with the recipe it went smoothly. It made 30 cupcakes. I put the frosting in a zip lock bag with a star tip and piped it on. It looked great. I’m at high altitude so the only thing I changed was the boiling temperature for the soft ball stage in the frosting (2 degrees lower for every 1000 feet in altitude). I didnt change anything with the cake and it turned out great. It’s definitely a keeper. Thank you Robyn : )

    18. Thank you for the amazing recipe! I made it for my girlfriend’s birthday and it was a huge hit. I have to question though to see if maybe I did something wrong.

      1) The cake didn’t rise very much (3, 9 inch round cake pans), is that normal? They rose maybe about 30-35% of the original batter size. Any idea why this might be if it was supposed to be more?

      2) I would like to try to make the cake more moist (personal preference). I used greek yogurt instead of buttermilk, but wanted your opinion on adding applesauce for moisture. I’ve used it on other recipes with great results.

      This is the second recipe I use from your website and I look forward to making more!

    19. Hi! I tried my hands at this recipe the other day and, for some reason, the cake came out with a consistency closer to that of a pound cake. I reviewed the ingredients and directions multiple times and cannot figure out what would have caused this. Any thoughts?

    20. Just a quick question…

      On the southern caramel cake recipe you mention using salted butter in the cake batter, is that the same for this recipe? Also, is it salted or unsalted butter in the frosting?

    21. Hi!

      I tried your BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE EVER and it was a hit! Now, I’m searching for the best caramel cake recipe for a change and ended here at your blog. I would love to also try this recipe because I’m a SUCKER for caramel and I love caramel! I only have 2 questions. What is “softball stage”? (newbie baker here he he) and I can’t seem to find a liquid buttermilk here. Can I use a powder buttermilk instead? Hoping for your reply. Thanks!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    22. My frosting did not turn out as brown as that pictured. I could only get the temperature to 200 or the pot would boil over. Would that make a difference in color? What are the dimensions of a 3 – 4 quart pot?

    23. I’d been searching for a ‘real’ caramel frosting recipe (i.e., not brown sugar) to make some salted caramel cake balls, and since the butter cake recipe looked fantastic as well, I made both. It was heartbreaking to have to crumble it up for the cake balls — the texture was just too perfect! Next time (and there will be many next times), it will be served as a cake so that texture can be properly appreciated.

      This is far and away the best caramel frosting I’ve tasted, too. I thought I’d ruined it somehow when my caramel sort of clumped up towards the end of the whipping/cooling time, but the powdered sugar and a few tablespoons of milk brought it right back together.

      Raves from everyone who’s tasted the results so far. Thanks so much for sharing!

    24. The frosting was by far the most intimidating. I was patient with the caramel and did the softball test as instructed; however, once I started adding the confectioners sugar, the icing wasn’t puffing up to icing consistency – it was still rather dripping. I added up to another full cup of sugar and then noticed it was getting dense… a tbs of milk didn’t help either. Right now I’m letting the frosting cool and will then try whipping it again, but is there a reason why the icing is more drippy than forming peaks? And what can I do to fix it??

      1. Hi Beth,
        Sorry the frosting gave you problems! While I’m not certain what happened, it sounds like the caramel needed more whipping time to incorporate the butter before adding the confectioner’s sugar. Once you add the confectioner’s sugar and it incorporates, you’ll want to turn the mixer on high speed to whip a lot of air into the frosting to lighten it up. About 20 seconds or so per cup. Since all of the sugar is now in the caramel, I’d try putting it back in the bowl and whipping it on high, watching it carefully, to get some air worked into it. Good luck!!!

    25. I bake quite a bit and found this recipe most intimidating. The cakes were dry, and the icing was grainy. The consistency of the icing was very thick. It did not spread well and I had to patch it by hand and smooth with a warm wet knife. The icing had a good flavor, but the grainy part bothered me. I am going to wait until the afternoon to see if the icing is too hard to be icing and I may have to go buy a store bought cake as I made it for a friend’s birthday.

      1. Try adding one tablespoon of corn syrup to the first part which is supposed to stop the sugar from crystalizing. Some people add lemon juice which they say also stops the sugar from crystalizing. I would try the corn syrup fist though!!

    26. So firstly, this cake is INCREDIBLE. Absolutely delicious. If anyone has eaten the caramel cake at the Piece of Cake bakery in Atlanta, this tastes JUST like it. I’ve moved away from Atlanta so I’m thrilled to have found a remedy for my craving!

      But I did have a lot of problems with the vague instructions for making the icing. It took me multiple tries to get it right and almost caused me to ruin my kitchen aid mixer in the meantime. The first stage hit 235-245 degrees way before it was actually ready. It didn’t start becoming golden and caramel-y until higher temperatures. I also had to up the temp a lot. I have a very strong stove top but medium-low wasn’t cutting it. I was successful at medium-high temps. I wish more instructions and tips had been given on how to know the icing is ready or when you’re getting close, etc for people like me who don’t have any experience making caramel cakes.

      Other side notes – This was only enough batter for me to make 2 9-in layers, not 3. And to get layers of icing as thick as they are in the pictures, I would recommend doubling the recipe. I made one batch and my icing layers were probably half the size as the ones in the pictures.

      But I was so relieved when the cake ended up being worth the trouble. It was so so yummy.

    27. Unable to print recipe no matter how many times I tried. I even ended up trying a cut and paste at the end of it all and still unable to print it! My printer is fine as it has gone on to print without any problems. Just thought I would let you know and wonder if anyone else has experienced this issue?

    28. My frosting turned out much paler and significantly more mild then many salted caramel cakes I have had. I soft ball tested and everything (bordering on a firm ball test), but the color failed to become amber…more beige. I’m sure this is why the caramel tastes so mild. Any idea why? And my finished icing was also slightly grainy. Suggestions?

    29. Do you need to add any actual caramel? If so how much and what type? Really want to make this cake! Thanks for the recipe.

      1. Thank You – I followed your recipe step by step and it is divine! Thank you so very much! I have never made caramel before and it is delicious. So, for the other people out there who don’t know the first stage of the salted cream recipe makes the ‘caramel’ and it is delicious!

    30. So I usually never take the time to comment because I am a bit lazy after I have made a huge mess in my kitchen but this salted caramel buttercream is too good to not share about! OMG it is just perfect. I wish I could describe the flavor but it is escaping me except to sit here gaping open mouthed remembering how good it is and wondering i 11am is too early to eat another slice. The only changes were made were out of necessity but then it still ended up turning out perfect so I thought I should share.So I was out of shortening so I used 1 cup of butter in phase 1 of the frosting. I made sure it cooked to 235 and was a tiny worried it was getting too dark but after I whipped it the color changed to the same as your photos. It took at least 10-15 minutes to get the temp up and it started out very foamy like when I make buttermilk syrup.

      Then in phase 2,I was in a rush so I poured the caramel into my stainless steel kitchenaid bowl and put it in an ice bath. I was once again a little concerned that the oils in the caramel looked like they were separating, but once it cooled and I whipped it up a little with the whisk attachment, it was fine. I waited until the caramel was cool enough not to melt the softened butter you add in phase 2. I also only had a 1/4 cup of butter left. I added it and whipped up the frosting with scant 2 cups of powdered sugar and lo and behold, perfect caramel frosting. It frosted beautifully and it had great texture. Not at all grainy or overly sweet like I was worried about before starting. I have to admit I did not use the cake recipe offered here because I had another butter cake recipe from food and wine magazine that I had been wanting to try, but considering how great this buttercream concoction is, I am betting the cake is amazing as well. Thanks for a forever recipe. I can promise I will be using it as a default frosting from now on!

    31. ABSOLUTELY delectable. I was expecting it to be sweeter due to the amount of sugar in the recipe, but it was actually a wonderful balance between cake and frosting. Next time, I will try brown sugar, as my frosting turned out to be quite white!

      1. Just a hint to some who have had problems with the frosting–be sure you are using pure cane sugar. Some store brands of sugar contain beet sugar. I have found that beet sugar will not caramelize and so in this recipe that may be a factor. Years ago I tried to caramelize sugar in a skillet to make caramel for a recipe and it only lumped up but would not melt and turn brown. After several failures, it occurred to me that the sugar was the problem so I checked the bag and it did not say “pure cane sugar” so after that I made sure to buy cane sugar and never had that problem again.

    32. This cake was pure perfection! The cake was easy enough to make. My only worry was the icing. I have never made caramel before and this was a concern. The instructions were so straightforward that I easily succeeded and my icing was magnificent. I am so beyond excited to have made this cake. It was a challenge but it tastes so good! Thank you so much for posting this recipe. I’m sure my boyfriend is going to love it!

    33. just tried to make the frosting… And basically it just kept bubbling higher and higher until it boiled over all over my stove. I have never made caramel before so WAY more instructions would have been helpful, or some pictures… Hoping I can figure it our before Hubby’s bday tomorrow.

      1. This is an extremely late reply but maybe it can help someone else. Make sure to use a bigger pot to avoid boil-over. I made the frosting recipe multiplied by 1.5 in a 3 quart pot and had to switch to a 4 quart halfway through. It will go back down to managable size after boiling.

    34. Can you tell me how to make this into a half sheet cake. how would I adjust the ingredients to make these cakes. I cant wait to try them.

    35. Followed your recipe to a “T”, and it is a real winner! I will be bringing it to Thanksgiving, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with how it turned out! Thank you so much for sharing it!

    36. I made this yesterday. It was amazing! One question….it says to use 3 9″ pans…where does the 3rd one go? The picture shows 2?

    37. Just curious… how does this compare with your White Cake… the “best” one… since they are both technically white/vanilla cakes? They both use the same amount of butter, but does this one taste more buttery?

      I’m going to try them both this weekend!


    38. This is by far, the best cake I have Ever made. Whipping the batter for so long was the key, it was light, fluffy and oh SO moist and gooey all at the same time! This cake has made my famous in my family. THANK YOU for sharing!!!!!!!!

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