This Southern Caramel Cake Recipe is a traditional caramel cake made from an heirloom family recipe. It’s delicious topped with homemade caramel icing!

Southern Caramel Cake from #cake #recipe #desserts #caramel

Southern Caramel Cake is one of those desserts that is a true labor of love. So rich and decadent, it’s a cake that surely takes any special occasion to a whole new level and is by far one of my family’s favorite cakes.

We celebrated two birthdays in my family this past weekend – Mama’s and my husband’s. I asked each of them what kind of cake they would like for their birthday and both of them replied, “Caramel Cake!” Any cake that is requested by multiple people in a family the size of mine for their birthday is definitely a cake to make sure you get just right.

It’s a cake to take pride in, even though mine is a far cry from decorator perfect. Right down to the smudges on the rim of the cake plate. You can surely tell it’s homemade can’t you?

Here’s how I make it.

How to Make Southern Caramel Cake

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Even though professional bakers and cooks say to use unsalted butter, I stick with my Grandmother’s instructions instead and use salted butter. It’s just better that way in my book.


Cream your butter until it is fluffy and then add in your sugar. Cream the two together until they are nice and .. well, creamy.


Add in your eggs one at a time and cream them into your butter and sugar mixture.


Now add in your flour and buttermilk alternately. Start with your flour.


Then buttermilk and the rest of your flour.


Add in your vanilla, give it a quick mix.


Pour your cake batter into three prepared cake pans.

Bake at 350 degrees.


Remove from the oven and turn cake out of cake pans onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely.

This is when you’ll have time to make your caramel icing.

I’ve previously posted the recipe for Southern Caramel Icing that I use. I do have a slight update though. After I posted my recipe, my Mama told me that if Grandmother had had a big heavy duty mixer, she bet she’d have used it. Thanks for the idea on that Mama. I’m a converted woman!

Once your icing has reached the soft ball stage, pour it into your mixer bowl and whip away until it reaches a point where it holds when you stop the mixer. Basically, if you were to stick your finger in the icing for a taste, someone would be able to tell that you stuck your finger in there. {Not that that is how I test mine or anything!}


Another example is that it looks like this.


Stack, spread and stack and spread again.


And then spread it nice and thick all over.

Then, think about how much I need to take a course in how to decorate a cake.

Make this cake soon for someone you love, to celebrate something special, or just because. You won’t be sorry.



Southern Caramel Cake Recipe

A traditional Southern Caramel Cake recipe.
4.66 from 38 votes

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Prep Time40 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr 10 mins
Servings: 24
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Author: Robyn Stone | Add a Pinch



  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Prepare 3 9-inch cake pans.
  • Cream butter til fluffy and then add sugar and cream for about 8 more minutes.
  • Add eggs, 1 at a time, and cream after each.
  • Add flour and buttermilk, alternately, beginning and ending with flour.
  • Add vanilla and beat well.
  • Divide among pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until set.
  • Turn out of pans onto cooling racks and allow to cool completely.
  • Prepare Southern Caramel Icing as cakes are cooling then ice cake.
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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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250 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Hello, I made this cake tonight and it was certainly a hit. However I do feel that it could be improved, and maybe the problem I’m having is due to higher altitude. I live at 7500 feet. My cake turned out very dry and crumbly. Great flavor, but I would have expected it to be more moist and spongy. Anything I can add or adjust to get a more moist consistency?

  2. I made this cake again for the second time tonight. It is so wonderful! I have never had a problem with the icing like some of the posts. I think using a candy thermometer is key and doing the cold water test. After I get it to that point, I let it cool for about 5 minutes and then mix it with my KitchenAid mixer for about 10-15 minutes and then ice the cake. One thing I have found when Icing the cake, if it starts pulling up the cake, I dip my knife in hot water to get it warm so it spreads easier. This cake is just as good, if not better than the cake I bought from Caroline’s Cakes, the Caramel Cake.

  3. I haven’t tried this cake but I may, I am more a pie baker but my comment is about a few of the others comments. It reminds me of being the “fastest gun in the west” some people always try to “shoot you down” ha. When people say to me, “you make the best pie crust ever” I cringe, knowing someone out there is gunning for me. Not that I care a great deal, I just find it amusing. I love your recipes and will try some but rest assured if they flop, you wont hear about it because it will be something I did wrong

  4. This recipe sounds good, but it would be nice if you had also posted the Caramel Icing recipe. Or, maybe you did but it did not show up on my page, which doesn’t make much sense.

    1. Hi Victoria,
      The link to the caramel icing is the last item in the ingredients list. When you click it, it takes you straight to the recipe. Hope that helps!

      1. Thanks so much for telling me, Faith! I’ve reattached the link to the cake recipe. It’s also listed under Southern Caramel Icing if you ever need to find it on it’s own sometime too. I hope you enjoy it! It’s definitely a cake my family loves!!! xo

  5. Thank you so much for posting tho wonderful recipe! I made it for my friends’ birthday (she grew up in Arkansas) and she loved it!

  6. I made this cake over the weekend and it is perfect! I didn’t have any buttermilk so I used 2% milk with white vinegar and both the cake and the icing were incredible! When I mixed the ingredients for the icing, I truly thought there was no way it would become the decadent confection pictured on your site, but I walked away from it once it came to a boil and I had turned it down, and came back to a rich, caramel syrup that beat up to perfection. Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Sweta,
      I was in the middle of making this cake and then I discovered we had no eggs, so i used a banana instead. It turned out delicious! I used the caramel buttercream that is linked in the ingredients list and with that, it becomes a banana caramel cake. I used a medium sized banana that had lots of brown spots and no green in sight; very ripe and sweet. Although it tastes slightly different from the original cake, it is still delicious and i highly recommend you try it.
      Erin M xx

  7. I made this cake today and the frosting didn’t quite turn out right, so I’m hoping you can give me some pointers. I made sure to cook it to soft-ball stage (using the cold-water test), then dumped it in my KitchenAid and whipped it until my finger made an imprint. I’m not sure if I whipped it too long or not long enough because when I tried to put it on the cake it didn’t spread at all. It was like playdoh consistency. I tried rolling it out with my rolling pin and that didn’t work either, it stuck to my wax paper and just didn’t look nice. It’s still delicious so I’m still bringing it to my church activity tomorrow, but any ideas on how to make the frosting actually spreadable so that next time I make it it won’t look so ugly? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jackie,
      It does sound like it whipped just a little bit too long. It can happen quickly. One minute you think it will never reach that stage and then the next it is past where it should have been. It can be a real pain, I know!

      One thing that I’ve noticed is that newer models of stand mixers seem to be more powerful than older models. If that’s the case for you, maybe back down on the speed of your mixer a bit so that it reaches the proper stage a bit more slowly. I hope that helps!

      I know your friends at your church activity will love you for bringing that to them though! xo

      1. So I think the original problem was actually that I had cooked it too long, so I made some more frosting this morning and made sure that it was in a very soft soft-ball stage before whipping it, but I think I also whipped it for too long again because it came out very hard to spread. Do you think it would help if I cook it even less time, or do you think the problem is mostly whipping it for too long? Also, do you keep your caramel cake in the fridge after you frost it or do you leave it out in room temperature? PS Everyone at the activity did love it, and I was super excited that a generous amount of crumbs were left on the platter for me to eat!

      2. Why don’t you try beating it by hand, like the original recipe suggested. Those kitchen aid mixers are powerful. By hand you can tell what is going on with your frosting.

  8. Hi – so what is the flavor of the cake? I was expecting it to be a caramel cake, but it seems more like a butter yellow cake. Is that right?

    Also – can I halve the recipe & bake in 2 cake pans (shorten the time a bit because they’ll be thinner) & make a single batch of the caramel icing? It’s just a two of us, and I’d rather not have all the extra lying around 🙂

    Thanks for responding!!

  9. The cake is awesome but I still need to practice mastering the technique on the icing. It gets too dark when it’s beating. The flavor is there but it’s not perfect yet.

  10. Thanks for the great recipe, can’t wait to try it but I have a quick question. I live in Australia & would like to know what is Crisco, it’s in the icing & I don’t know what an alternative for it would be in Aus. Thanks

    1. Hi
      Just read your question and saw it hadn’t been answered! Crisco is available at most cake decorating shops In Australia now. It is Vegetable shortening. Another place to find it online is at the USA food shop in Melbourne.

    1. Hi Diana,
      Once your email is entered, it should send you an email for you to confirm that you would like to subscribe to receive the emails. Once you click to approve to receive the emails, you are all set! Let me know if you still have problems with it! xo

  11. Hi,
    I was making this cake with the ingriedients listed. As I go thru the steps, it says cream butter, add sugar, then cream, Cream is not listed in the ingriedients, only buttermilk. What am I missing here??

  12. OMG!! I made this recipe and the caramel frosting is the best EVER!!! The cake however was crumbly and very hard to work with but it had a good flavor. The cake got into my frosting and left crumbly appearance. The frosting was maybe too thick. I would definitely make this recipe again and again.

  13. At the bottom of the ingredients for the cake it says caramel icing “double the recipe is that referring to the cake ot the icing?

    1. I made as cupcakes and while the flavor was still great, they didn’t turn out as well – very fragile. I wouldn’t recommend it.

    1. Huh? Caramel is simply melted sugar and milk, heated until it caramelizes. So, yes there is caramel in the icing. Homemade caramel.

  14. I don’t have self rising flour , so I can use regular flour and how much baking soda or baking powder can I use. O yeah what about salt? Thanks

    1. Hi June,
      I have never used a cake mix for this cake, so the flavor would be your preference. I hope you will try this cake by this recipe sometime – it is delicious! Thanks so much! xo

    2. A butter cake mix, or yellow cake mix, or sometimes you can actually find caramel cake mix is good with the frosting. The caramel frosting is so good I have had people request some to eat with a spoon. It does take awhile to make the frosting to heat it to the right point, but it is worth it.

  15. This cake looked good, but when sliced was so dry, all crumbs. I followed the recipe and cooking time exactly and don’t know what when wrong. The icing as many have said was a labor of love. It was delicious but as the icing continued to cool it became impossible to spread. I actually iced the sides with my fingers, first time I have ever done that. If you have any suggestions on what caused this cake to be so dry and how to maintain an icing consistency that can be spread easily please share.

    1. Hi Lisa, I am so sorry your cake turned out dry for you. I know that can be frustrating. I’ve found sometimes if a cake is too dry, it could possibly be the flour. I use White Lily Flour, which has a similar consistency to cake flour.
      As far as the icing getting hard to spread as it cooled, it sounds to me like it is possible that it was either cooked too long or beaten too long. I hope these tips help and that you enjoy it if you decide to bake it again. Thanks so much! xo

  16. I made cake today three huge layers. I doubled the icing recipe bc the layers were so big. I boiled icing to 245 degrees but I best for 45 minutes and it never turned to caramel. If tastes like mashmallow cream. I’m so upset!

  17. When making caramel icing try boiling two cans of condense milk eagle brand for three to four hours. in a Dutch pot covered with water at all times and let cans cool completely and open them up and spread over cakes.

  18. This looks wonderful! I’d like to make this as a one-layer cake. What size pan and bake time would you suggest? Thanks!

    1. Hi Phyllis,
      I’m so glad that you love the caramel cake! Isn’t it amazing? One thing that I’ve found that causes cakes to split is if I have not allowed them to cool completely before I add my frosting or icing to the cake. xo

      1. Hi Phyllis,
        You’ll want your layers to cool completely to the touch. I recommend letting them cool in the pans for just a bit and then turning them out onto wire racks to cool completely. This can take a while, so I generally just leave them while I do other things around the house and then come back to them for layering and frosting later.

  19. I have made this for my son (by request!) for his birthday 2 years in a row. It turned out really well- he loves it! He wants to try making it himself but wants to make it chocolate caramel, have you ever tried adding chocolate to this recipe? Or do you have a chocolate caramel cake recipe? Thank you for the great recipe!

    1. I love that your son loves this so much that he requests it for his birthday!!! I haven’t made it as a chocolate caramel, but that sounds like something I need to do soon! xo

  20. I am going to try this Cake soon, my Aunt was known for her Amazing  Burnt Caramel Cakes, I know she cooked the sugar until it reached a dark brown stage ( Thats why it was called Burnt Sugar) not really burned. Her cakes were just the most delish ever, I need to get the recipe from her Daughter. The icing on the Cake you posted looks like her icing….and I thought the way you frosted it looked like a Pro, you don’t need lessons, you could give them! Thanks for the recipe……????????

  21. Hi Robyn! Greeting from the Philippines! I can’t find self-rising flour in my local grocery so I’m going to make my own self-rising flour according to your DIY recipe. So for 3 cups all purpose flour i will need to add 4 1/2 tsp baking powder plus 3/4 tsp salt? Thank you in advance!

  22. I just made this cake and it got rave reviews. I only own 2 9″ cake tins, however, and one reviewer wrote that it didn’t really fill three tins, and so I thought two would work.

    Well, that reviewer either didn’t use self-rising flour, or didn’t beat air in the batter like your supposed to, because my two layers came out quite tall — three tins would have worked perfectly.

    And so I’m going to buy a third 9″ cake tin for the next time I bake this cake, because I certainly will!

    In fact, I have so much caramel frosting left over than I may do it tomorrow.

    By the way, I followed the recipe to a T, except that I omitted 1/4 cup of the sugar — I used Baker’s sugar – – and added a teaspoon of almond extract, because I always do. Don’t think it was noticeable, though: this cake is simply a delivery device for the amazing caramel frosting, and doesn’t need to be more than it is: a light (NOT dense!) yellow cake.

  23. Hi Robyn,

    I will be making this cake for my husbands birthday this evening. I’ve looked through the comments first before deciding to ask. What if I don’t have a ducth oven to make the icing? Would a no stick pot be ok?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Barbara,
      I’m not sure about what type of cake that was, Barbara. This cake recipe is delicious and my family has loved it for years. Hope you like it too if you give it a try! thanks!

    1. Hi Brenda-
      Yes, you can freeze the layers. Just allow to cool completely per the recipe instructions and wrap each layer in freezer wrap and store in an airtight container. When ready to frost the cake, allow it thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Make sure it’s thawed completely before you frost it.
      I would not freeze it with the caramel icing on it – I’d suggest freezing the layers as described.
      Enjoy! Thanks!

  24. Your recipe for the icing calls for crisco, is that shortening or the liquid form?  Please help making this cake in less than 10hrs

  25. I made the cake. It came right out of the oven looking perfect. I let it cool for a little in the pan…and when i turned them out, it was nice and moist, but very crumbly. The middle of the cake came out before the rest of the cake in the pan. It was all evenly cooked, but just coming apart. I put it back together with my hands and wrapped them in saran wrap and put them in the freezer…I’m hoping this helps! I’m going to cover it in icing anyways lol. The part I did taste was delicious

  26. I’m going to make this cake for a friend it sounds delicious!!! How is it stored once finished? Fridge or can it sit on a covered cake carrier on counter?

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