Yesterday I shared with you about my Mama’s Chocolate Marble Squares. Well, I had lots of emails and requests for the recipe for the caramel icing to go along with it.

Have I ever told you that you are definitely my kind of people?

You most certainly are! There is nothing like fresh, homemade caramel icing to make the world go ’round.

Cause I really and truly think that it does.

Good caramel icing is an act of love. You truly put your heart and soul into making good southern caramel icing.

My Grandmother Verdie would stand at her stove for what seemed like hours swirling her pan to get the perfect “color” on her sugar. Her hands wrought with arthritis, she held the cast iron dutch oven as tightly as possible as she kept the rhythm of the caramel in her heavy pan. She never used a mixer to make her caramel icing, I always was amazed that she didn’t. The time it had taken her to swirl her pan earlier seemed like seconds compared to watching her beat the icing by hand.

When I married, I learned that my mother-in-law also had a special recipe for a cake topped with southern caramel icing. She’d learned to make it from an aunt of my father-in-law’s when she married into the family. She’d talk about how Aunt T would beat her icing by hand so that it would be just right. While her recipe was slightly different, Aunt T’s  and my Grandmother’s method were still the same.

When Little Buddy turned one, I decided it was high time that I made a caramel cake myself. We were living with my husband’s parents as we were building our house at the time. We’d invited all of our family to a dinner to celebrate the big day. I’d worked for weeks planning the menu, creating the perfect invitations, finding just the right color of light blue placemats to match a speck of blue in my mother-in-law’s rug, and thinking about this cake.

It had to be perfect.

The icing had to taste just like the caramel icing from when I was a little girl carefully watching my Grandmother.

I set out to make the icing all by myself. I was determined not to call Grandmother Verdie to help me. The arthritis had even further ravaged her hands by now, but I knew she wouldn’t let that stop her from trying to make it for me.

After three attempts, I finally had a caramel icing I could spread on Little Buddy’s birthday cake. I felt like I had accomplished the world. I’d repeated the dance I’d watched so many times before, swirl and stir, swirl and stir, swirl and stir until I finally found just the right rhythm.

Here’s how I make it.


Southern Caramel Icing

4.91 from 21 votes
Southern Caramel Icing goes perfectly with Southern Caramel Cake, cupcakes, brownies, and all sorts of other desserts. A Southern Classic.
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 16


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


  • Mix all ingredients in a 3-4 quart cast iron dutch oven and place over medium heat.
  • Swirl pan to keep ingredients moving in the pan.
  • Cook to softball stage 235º – 245º on a candy thermometer or when tested in a cup of cold water.
  • Remove from heat and beat with a wooden spoon until creamy and ready to spread. If using mixer, once your icing has reached the softball stage, whip the icing until it holds to the whisk when you stop the mixer.
  • This is a perfect icing for Southern Caramel Cake


Calories: 213kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 130mg | Potassium: 22mg | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin A: 202IU | Calcium: 19mg | Iron: 0.02mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does.

Robyn xo

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About Robyn

Robyn Stone is a wife, mom, blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. Welcome to Add a Pinch where I share thousands of delicious, tested and perfected easy recipes that the whole family will love.

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Recipe Review


  1. I have only made a caramel cake once and it was awful. The icing became horribly hard. With your recipe do you have to frost it right away or will it harden?

    1. Jennifer, I use this recipe to frost a 3 layer cake. It doesn’t harden for me. You can use your mixer to make it even fluffier. 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.

  2. Robyn, Verdie is not a common name. I had an aunt by that name who was married to “Roy”. (Since this a public forum I won’t give last names)
    Any chance it’s the same one??

    1. Peppi, no, I’m sorry but not the same one. I never knew anyone else that spelled their name the same as my grandmother.

  3. I made the caramel frosting and removed it from the heat and put it in my mixer. The frosting was a very dark caramel color. The only draw back was it appeared a little oily and harder to spread on the cake as time went on. What did I do wrong? Everything went in the pot at the same time, swirled the ingredients until soft ball stage. Whipped it until spreadable… I did Frost the cake..It just looks like a chocolate cake.

    1. Lawrence, some reasons your caramel icing didn’t turn out correctly could be that you cooked the caramel icing too long, had the heat turned too high, or used a pan that is too thin. In no way should it look like chocolate.

    1. I haven’t tried making this with all butter so I’m not sure how it will turn out, Raenell.

  4. Ugh! This was beautiful until I transferred to my mixer….. beating for almost 20 minutes and it’s just crumbs….. very disappointed. Don’t understand what I did wrong. The caramel was perfect temp and soft ball stage. Looked great – wish I had just beat it by hand!

  5. 5 stars
    Ok, 2nd attempt – success!!!! I beat it by hand this time (20-25 minutes) – totally worth it! Also highly recommend having a glass of hot water close by when icing – life saver to help smooth out the icing.
    Delicious – complete labor of love but glad I made it. Excellent recipe – not for beginner bakers.

    1. Sherry, I’m so glad this frosting worked for you this time. Thanks for the tips.

  6. You indicate on your southern caramel cake recipe that if you make this frosting you will need to
    double the recipe. Do you mean you need to make two separate batches or can you simply double the
    ingredients in the recipe and make one batch. If you can make one double batch how big of a pot do you need to prevent the frosting from boiling over. I love this cake and frosting recipes!

    1. Susan, I double the recipe and make in one batch. I use one of my larger Dutch ovens, either a 6 quart or 8 quart one. I hope you enjoy your cake and the caramel icing.