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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.


4.20 from 26 votes

Southern Caramel Icing

Dessert 40 mins

Cook Time 40 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Author Robyn Stone | Add a Pinch
Southern Caramel Icing goes perfectly with Southern Caramel Cake, cupcakes, brownies, and all sorts of other desserts. A Southern Classic.


  • 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

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

Robyn xo

Frosting / Icing Recipes

Robyn Stone

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. Oh my! Now you’ve done it! This is a must try. It looks absolutely perfect and so delicious. I can think of some many ways to put this recipe to good use. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Buttermilk! What a wonderful ingredient for icing. I wonder if it would be good to make and eat off of a spatula? Forget the cake!

    1. Hi Merry!
      I’ve not tried with butter in place of the shortening. If you try it, let me know how it goes.

  3. Who needs the marble cake? I’m pretty sure I’d be happy with a bowl of this frosting, a spoon, and a dark closet!!

  4. My southern caramel icing, learned from my grandmother, is made with brown sugar, butter, cream and 10x. Little bit of vanilla. It’s pretty good too. And doesn’t require the use of crisco.

    1. @ Linda – Could you share your recipe too? I live in France now, although I am from the South, and we can’t get Crisco here! I have a major craving now though and think my husband would love this for Father’s Day. 🙂 One of us would anyway!

  5. this is such a great recipe! I made a caramel cake not too long ago and the icing wasn’t NEARLY as good as I imagine this is!

  6. What if I don’t have a cast iron dutch oven? What would be the next best thing to use? Also,at what temp do you have the stovetop? Can’t wait to make this!

    1. I would try another heavy-bottomed large pot and watch even more carefully so it doesn’t burn. Let me know how it goes.

  7. Hi Robyn!!! I stumbled across your recipes for caramel cake and the accompanying icing via Pinterest. Made this last night and it was heaven. My husband and I decided that we have NEVER tasted better cake, ever. The icing was fantastic, but much trickier for me as I have never made anything like it before (my dad was always in charge of these activities—killer fudge). However, with A LOT of patience, the icing turned out perfectly and I just wanted to thank you for sharing a family tradition that is good for the belly and the soul. Any additional tips you have on the icing, however, would be appreciated. Mine took alot longer than the estimated 20 minutes, so not sure if I missed something… Anyway, thank you again!

    1. Hey Whitney,
      I’m so glad you made the cake and everyone loved it! It really is quite the masterpiece cake that folks just love! On the icing, I’ve found that the weather can make the times off, too. In not really sure why, but if it is rainy or humid, it takes a bit longer than usual.

      Thanks so much for letting me know how it turned out!

  8. I don’t quite understand steps 3 and 4. Can you please explain? I want to make this for my father’s birthday!

    1. Elizabeth – when you cook the icing, it needs to cook long enough so it is thick enough to spread once you whip it. To test whether you’ve cooked it long enough, fill a glass with cold water, then dip a spoon in the icing, and let a small amount drip off the spoon in to the water. When the ball of icing looks like it holds shape like a soft ball rather than a stringy, spread out mess, that’s when you know it is done. It takes a whole lot of patience to get to that stage, but it is very important or else you’ll end up with a soupy mess! When it gets to the “soft ball” stage, remove it from the heat, let it cool, then whip it (with either a spoon, whisk, or a stand mixer) – my grandmother used to wait until it cooled and then put it in the blender 🙂

  9. OMG! I just made this icing for my boyfriend’s birthday. I was a little nervous because it definitely took way longer than 20 minutes to make before it was even somewhat close to being able to go on the cake, but once it was- I haven’t stopped eating it. I need to because it actually looks like bacon grease- and it might as well be. I was cooking at his apartment for convenience but he didn’t have baking soda so that was the one thing that was missing from mine- still delicious though- just a clearer color – and not close to being brown like in the pictures. Is that what would have made the difference?

  10. Thank you for both the cake and frosting recipes. For the frosting, I’d like to up the butter to 1 cup in place of the Crisco. Personal preference not to use Crisco. Will this impact the integrity of the frosting??

  11. Thank you so much for posting this recipe!! My husband’s people are
    from Mississippi and this is his favorite cake. My mother-in-lawnhas tried for years to
    replicate his Grandmother’s recipes, but we had missed the little
    touches you included, especially using a mixer to mix the icing at the softball stage. Thank you soooo much again. It made his birthday!!

    1. Elizabeth,
      Thank you so much for telling me! I am so glad that you found the recipe and he loved it for his birthday! There’s just nothing like when you are able to make something or taste something that reminds you of those that you love so much. Thank you again for your comment. xoxo

    2. 🙂 Making it again for Thanksgiving for my side of the family. Can’t wait for them to try. A very happy Thanksgiving to you, your family, and readers!

    1. Hi Kim,
      Jessie gives a great description of Softball Stage in Comment #22 that should help you out. If at all possible, I recommend using a candy thermometer that has all of the stages clearly marked.

  12. I am glad to have found this recipe. Recently I shared Caroloine’s Caramel Cake with my mother and she immediately recognized the icing as her Aunt Georgie’s icing from the 1930s. I have always heard the legend of this delicious caramel icing that took so long to beat by hand, but I have never seen the recipe. Thank you so much for sharing yours!

  13. We have a tradition in our family of grand daddy making the grand kids birthday cakes. My grand daughter wants a caramel cake. In looking at your caramel icing recipe I don’t see where you add caramel to the frosting. Did I miss something? Thank you!

    1. Hi, such a fun tradition that I know your grandchildren will cherish! You are actually making the caramel in my recipe for the icing. Hope she has a wonderful birthday!

  14. Just curious if this icing will harden up or be as firm as a buttercream.. need it to hold fondant. Thanks and can’t wait to try it.

  15. Is there by chance a way to rescue the icing if you over-beat it? I tried to make the Southern Caramel Cake for my wife’s birthday, but I let the frosting go too long.

    1. That’s what I thought but you just never know. Thanks! I’m gonna attempt this sometime this week.

    1. Hi Emily,
      You are making the caramel for the icing. So, no, no caramels needed. Enjoy! xoxo

    1. Hi Reagan,
      You’ll want to cook your caramel to between 235º – 245º F on a candy thermometer. I generally stop mine about 235º when using my digital candy thermometer for a lighter colored or go longer toward 245º F for a bit darker. Your caramel will definitely reach a heavy boil as it gets closer to these temperatures. Good luck and I can’t wait to hear how you like it!

  16. I’m about to attempt a seven layer cake! Will I need to let the cakes cool completely and do you think the icing may harden while I’m icing all the layers? Thanks!

    1. Hi Phyllis!
      I am in awe of you! Seven layers? Wow! Yes, I would definitely let the cake cool completely before icing. Otherwise, the warmth of the cake will make the icing slide and not set up as well on the cake as it should. A trick I sometimes use to prevent my caramel icing from getting too hard as I’m icing a large cake is to keep the icing bowl over a hot bowl of water. I will also keep a cup of hot water to the side to help as well. I’ve not attempted that many layers though, but you’ll want to work quickly! 🙂 Enjoy and let me know how that seven layer cake turns out!!!

  17. How come my icing is not brown and creamy like in the picture? It is a liquid white substance. How do I get it to turn brown from the insttuctions posted on how to make the icing?

    1. Hi! I’m not sure what could have happened, but it sounds like your caramel didn’t reach the right point before it was removed from the heat. If the temperature on your candy thermometer registered the right temperature, and your candy thermometer is accurate, you may need to increase the cooking time a bit until the caramel reaches a soft amber, caramel coloring. The icing won’t be any darker than your caramel. I hope those points help.

  18. 4 stars
    I have made this caramel twice now, and I have not been able to achieve a consistency that will keep its shape. Both times I ended up mixing the caramel with cream cheese, and it still ran off the cake, making for a very dry dessert. Any tips?

    1. Hi Kimber,
      I would say that you need to continue to beat the caramel as it doesn’t sound like it has reached spreading consistency yet.

  19. Thanks for an interesting version of my favorite icing! Your photos are gorgeous.
    For those having questions about the icing,
    a) regular sugar caramelizes–melts and turns golden, then darker–in a pan being heated. It scorches easily, so this recipe avoids that risk by combining liquid with the sugar right from the start.
    b) It really is necessary to use a candy thermometer–this icing has built-in uncertainty (see part C below), so why add to it?
    c) the typical thing about caramel frosting is that it seems to take the longest time to change from a molasses-ey consistency to a thicker one, and THEN it threatens to turn suddenly into thick, fudgey stuff that could stick bricks together! I’ve made it many times and each time I sweat bullets about whether it will thicken up or not! As it cools, it usually develops a kind of sugary or grainy quality.
    d) I’m not sure how it would work with your recipe, Robyn, but guidelines in the recipes I usually use (cream + butter + brown sugar as the base) suggest cooling the icing before beating. One recipe says to cool it to 140 degrees, one suggests 110 degrees (personally, I’d be nervous about the icing seizing up too fast, but I’ll try it someday), and the great Bill Neal says simply to cool “till lukewarm” and then beat it. In these recipes, a bit of cold butter is beaten into the frosting just as it’s removed from heat,and the vanilla is added at the end of the cooling period, before the serious beating begins.
    e) Neal also noted that icing that had grown too firm could be restored by very gently reheating with some cream or milk. (And I’ve had that happen, and stirred in warm cream just to get the last bit spreadable for the sides of the cake!!!!
    Hope that helps!
    I can’t wait to try your recipes for the icing AND the cake!

  20. Hi Robyn,
    I made your cake for Christmas and it was the best caramel cake I’ve ever had. It’s my favorite cake and I can’t find it in bakeries in my city so I try to get a slice whenever I visit my childhood hometown. This icing was so easy to make and just the taste I’m looking for! Thank you so much! It’s very generous of you to share this. I didn’t use Crisco though. I substituted it with twice the butter. It still turned out great. Your caramel cake recipe was the holiday hit at my celebration. Thank you again!

    1. You can a little half and half to the icing, a tablespoon at a time to soften it a bit. Be careful not to add too much.

  21. This sounds so wonderful, I really want to try it. I am unsure of Step 2 in the instructions; it says to swirl the pan. Does this mean this is not to be stirred? Thank you.

  22. Robyn, thank you sooooo much! This is hands down one of the best caramel icings I have ever tasted! I love cooking for my friends and family, and seeing the smiles on their faces. You’ve given me more bragging rights 🙂 I will use this award winning recipe from now on! Absolutely amazing!

  23. 5 stars
    I just cooked the icing as a test run. I’m expecting special company in a week and wanted this cake to be perfect. You directions are so easy to follow. It is very rainey and cold here today and I was very leary about trying it, but it was so great to watch the caramel color develope. I tried to use the candt thermometer but felt like it was off and the color was getting close to yours in the photo soi ditched the thermometer and went with the soft ball stage in a cupf water. My question is should I have let it cool before whippig it with the mixer? I have put it in an air tight container in the refrig to see if I can let it come to room temp and use it in on the layers when I bake the cake. Thanks again for reviving my childhood memories and helping me make a new one!!

    1. Hi Sandy! I usually go straight from making the caramel to whipping it. I’ve not tried refrigerating it before I use it on a cake. If it is too hard, you can keep a bowl of hot water on the side to dip your offset spatula or knife in to smooth the frosting as you apply it, but you definitely will want it to be warm enough to spread. Good luck and I hope you love it! Thanks so much for letting me know how it worked for you!

  24. Can you tell what the baking soda does for the icing? Just wondering if it makes it more “spreadable”. Thank you!

  25. I have no idea what a cast-iron Dutch oven even is, but want to make this. What should I use instead?

  26. Hi.
    I am trying the icing recipe and it’s my first time making caramel too. When I put it off the heat, it immediately started to separate. When I started to mix it the oil and butter rose completed to the top, and I could literally pour it off the caramel. I reduced the temperature gradually, took it off the burner and kept stirring, and then once it cooled some put it in the mixer bowl. Help please.

    1. Hi Mallory,
      It sounds like the caramel may have been brought up to temperature a bit too rapidly which would have then caused it to not be stable and then separate.

  27. 5 stars
    I’m from the UK and a fan of the US south, especially its food! I made this icing yesterday, for the Southern Caramel Cake. I was amazed and proud when it turned out pretty much as you describe. I thought I’d share a few details in case you/your readers are interested.

    We have something called Trex over here, which I’ve heard is our equivalent to Crisco. I used a large crock pot, on a gas hob, as I don’t have a Dutch oven pot. I found that if I kept stirring on a low-medium heat for around 45 minutes it did thicken, gradually turning a deep brown colour. I don’t have a candy thermometer so I tried dripping some into cold water as you suggest. What’s weird is that I didn’t get a “soft ball”: it was still stringy, but since it was thickening and darkening so much I decided to remove it from the heat as it seemed it was about to turn. I whipped it up by hand and it was lovely and thick and easily spreadable. I had a bit of excess, which I put in the fridge and it’s gone a bit like fudge. So, do you think I did it right? It tasted fantastic, but ever so slightly grainy, making me wonder if I’d cooked it a bit too long or not whipped it enough.

    Anyway, I would like to thank you for bringing this delightful icing into my life! So worth the patience… I found it mesmerising.

    Oxfordshire UK

  28. OH MY STARZ!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just set off the fire alarm and the alarm company called us to make sure we weren’t burning the houses down!!! For other Yankees thinking this cake sounds yummy but who’ve never tried it or seen it made before – she is NOT kidding about a large pot! It bubbled up and bubbled up and boiled all over my stove – and then cooked and burned on the flat-top. I quickly changed pots (to my third!) and started it on another burner, and it finished fine! But again, know that you have to frost IMMEDIATELY! I ended up using my hands to press it around all the cake because trying to spread it tore the cake up! Yikes!! I can’t wait to taste it – I think it’s gonna be great – but what a mess I have to clean up!!

  29. 5 stars
    Absolutely fantastic frosting – but definitely a labor of love – because I tripled recipe, it took me over an hour to cook and beat with a mixer – but definitely will make again. Couldn’t find my candy thermometer so used softball water test. I tripled the recipe for a 2-layer 9″ x 13″ cake and had a cereal/soup bowl of frosting left over. Had to switch to a very tall pot because it does bubble up so much. Took about 40 mins. of cooking to get it to nice caramel color and thickness at that quantity. Followed one of your previous suggestions and put it in my KitchenAid mixer’s 5 qt. mixing bowl, added wire whip, and let it mix away for probably 30 mins. until it had cooled and thickened. Before I could finish spreading the frosting on the top & sides of the cake in pretty swirls like yours, it had cooled a little too much so I mixed in a little half-&-half milk and it made it just right to finish frosting the cake. Office co-worker who had requested a caramel cake said it was to die for, and she is a health nut! I had to bring her and another co-worker a little bowl of the leftover frosting for them to eat with a spoon – it sets up like fudge once cooled. We are now best friends for life! Thank you for recipe. Even with length of time it took, I still say it is a 5 star recipe!

  30. Made this frosting using only butter (substituted butter for the Crisco as well, as Crisco isn’t available in India). Turned out just fine. Absolutely divine frosting.

  31. 5 stars
    Yum! I made the cake using unsalted butter only, no Crisco. I did add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Doubled the caramel frosting/icing recipe like you suggested. Turned out beautifully and tasted better! I did use my hands to “form” the frosting around the sides. I found that it did not “stick” to the cake sides very well as it cooled off. Pressing with my hands did the trick and it also smoothed out the cooling/drying frosting. Thanks for sharing. I highly recommend this carmel cake (I live in the south).

    PS I too go to France & I love it there.

  32. 2 stars
    Since I live In a country where crisco is not available what can I use instead.
    I really want to make this icing with your cake so quick let me know.
    I have no idea what crisco is.

    1. I have a old family(not everyone in family have this) carmel icing recipe, But it takes about 2 hours to make. My friends say WOW 5 star Would you like it I will share with you If you promise not to post it.

  33. Thanks for sharing your lovely cake and frosting; I will soon make it, but cant find crisco in my country; can I double the butter or what do you suggest? Thanks.

  34. I really enjoyed this frosting =) However, I do have some questions…can I use a 1/2 cup less sugar, but will it still be the same consistency, can I use a hand held mixer instead of the wooden spoon, and what can I use to possibly thin out the frosting (or did I just beat it too much)? Not sure why I can’t rate this recipe but I would give this recipe a solid 4 stars!!! I’m going to try this again and let you know how it turns out….thanks for sharing =)

  35. I could NOT get this to whip. It never fully got to the soft ball stage. I have to say the flavor was amazing but I was not able to apply it as a frosting for the cake (which I made and it was good). Like I said, the flavor was amazing and I used it as an ice cream topper!

  36. Hi! I really would like to make this icing, is it possible to use milk rather than buttermilk or any other substitute? Let me know and thanks for posting!

  37. My carmel icing tasted great… It was a runny mess… I beat with my hands then with an electric hand mixer because I got tired. The icing lightend up but didnt get fluffy… I beat for at least 10 min…. What did I do wrong

    1. mine too! I tried 2 separate batches. one, I beat with a wooden spoon but the recipe calls for “swirling so I tried that (not really knowing what that means) but it turned out the same. great flavor, but more like a melted carmel than a frosting.

  38. I was reading up on other posts and I dnt think we let the carmel cook until it was thick enough Maya L… I was supposed to get rlly thick then u beat with the wooden spoon…. I will try again soon. I hope this helps the BOTH of us

    1. It is really the best tasting saucy stuff. I will definitely try this again. I’ll keep y’all posted.

    2. You have to cook til softball stage and then a little longer…..maybe three -five minutes until starts to thicken….I’ve made multiple times and it’s great

  39. I tried this recipe and it made a caramel sauce…
    I even let it cook longer due to individuals comments, but that was to no avail.
    Maybe I will try again.

    1. Hi RoRo,
      Did it reach the softball stage and was still runny after you beat it with the wooden spoon or with the mixer? It will not be a fluffy frosting recipe as this is a cooked caramel icing.

      Robyn xo

    2. Professional bakers always recommend using unsalted to control the amount of salt when baking. I’m a rebel and generally use salted. 🙂

  40. 5 stars
    hello! I did this recipe and I think that is similar to buttercream, my question is: what is the difference between buttercream and this recipe that you show here? thank you and I follow you from Venezuela

  41. 5 stars
    Hi, I tried this recipe to bake a birthday cake for my daughter teacher. The caramel sauce is not that hard to make make 100% sure you do the cool water test before takeing it of the fire and creaming it. To test softball stage, simply take a small bowl of cold water and let a teaspoon full of he boiling sauce drop in to the water. If it sinks to the bottom in a caramelized stage and you can shape it with your finger then its ready.

    Best Regards

  42. I just made this Cake and Icing . Cake turned out great . Icing got too thick too fast . Guess I’m just slow . LOL Very tasty though . I couldn’t ice the sides because it thickened too soon . I was gonna tear the cake up . Gonna make dipped candies out of the extra icing .

    1. I am getting ready to make this cake and I too questioned Crisco shortening or oil? Thanks for answering the question. Perhaps the others who had a runny mess used Crisco oil.

  43. Found you through Pinterest, made it tonight… Kids likes it but hubby didn’t, I’m torn!!! Icing didn’t get as dark as yours and it was not creamy still was gritty…. Gonna try icing again with a chocolate cake….

  44. 1 star
    I made the southern caramel cake this afternoon/evening.
    The cake part is really good, the icing part is terrible…
    I probably did something wrong, but my frosting separated into oil and lumpy fudgy mess.
    It was unspreadable and basically consisted of crumbs which was extremely annoying after spending so much time on both the cake and the icing… oh well. I’ll be making the cake again but I’ll definitely find another icing recipe to go with it.

    1. Oh no, Becky! I’m sorry the caramel gave you problems. It can be a bear at times. At what point did it separate on you? For it to become crumbly like that, it sounds like it may have gone too far.

    1. Hi, I’m probably far too late, but I never have shortening on hand, so I’m going to try this recipe tonight with butter. I suspect butter’s lower melting temp might be a problem, but if it turns out well, I’ll let you know. 🙂 You can substitute butter for Crisco in a lot of other recipes, like cookies and buttercream frosting.

  45. hi, i tried making this caramel and it tasted really good! but something was wrong woth the texture. it was fine when i checked for softball stage so i removed it from the heat and beat it using a wooden spoon. but the problem was it started to caramelize. where do you think i went wrong?

  46. I have a better recipe for the icing just boil sum water in a soup/chili pot. Put 2 cans of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk or whatever you have available in your supermarket. Let it boil for like 3/4 hrs let the can rest for 5mins then carefully open them then just spread on your cooled cakes. Way less trouble. Taste just like carmel from the store.

  47. 3 stars
    Hi! I tried this recipe and I’m pretty used to making cooked syrup recipes but for this one I was a little confused. I cooked all the ingredients while stirring and swirling alternately and I got a nice color on the syrup, almost like your picture. However, once the caramel started to cool, it started to get hard and grainy. Was I supposed to whip the caramel while it was still hot or did I over-cook the syrup?

  48. Hi,
    I made your salted caramel frosting and it tasted great! I also want
    To try this recipe but i dont have a dutch oven.can i use a normal pan? And can
    I substitute the buttermilk with sourmilk instead? Thank you!

  49. 3 stars
    I followed this recipe exactly. The cake was very moist, but the icing was did not have that nice caramel color; it had the caramel taste, but it turned out an ivory white instead. I’m not sure what I may have done wrong. Thoughts?

  50. TRIED the caramel cake and icing recipe even after reading all the posts about the icing. I cooked my icing a little longer than softball stage as recommended by one of the posts. My icing was grainy. I knew I had cooked it too long. So, I tried abs I n according to original recipe. The icing turned out beautiful and smooth, but I had a terrible time trying to ice cake. It pulled the cake up and had a hard time sticking to cake. Should I have iced cake while icing was still warm?

  51. I tried this yesterday and it is GREAT!!!! Thanks for sharing, would love to share photo with you. It looks and taste good.

  52. I tried this cake and icing again! First time I overcooked icing,second time I tried to spread it while too cool, third time I bought caramel icing, fourth time icing was great but I accidentally put 4 cups flour instead of 3 and the cake was awful(lol). Last night I made it again and it was all good.Making another one this morning. Love the recipe , but the cook needs a little practice.

  53. I also love homemade Carmel, but sometimes I get in a hurry and don’t let it cook long enough or whatever, so my remedy is just add some powered sugar into it, and it turns out wonderful. The taste is still the same and you get that wonderful flavor of cooking and stirring for hours. It does make the Carmel a little lighter depending on how much powered sugar you add but usually you don’t have to add that much. Love the recipe!!

  54. I made this frosting and I love it. The key here is patience. Swirl the pan the whole time. I think I swirled for 30 minutes at least waiting for it to get to the softball stage. I also used an electric mixer instead of a wooden spoon (sorry grandma!) and the consistency was fantastic. It did begin to harden, but that is to be expected with caramel frostings.

    Anyway, I love this recipe. Great job!

    1. My icing came out terrible when I used white sugar. I had to change it to brown sugar then it came out great!

  55. Hi Robyn! This looks great! I was wondering if this icing stays soft on the inside when it cools and sets or if it gets pretty hard and crunchy the way penuche frosting does? Thanks!

  56. I love this recipe cake so moist. But me and that icing had a time I double the recipe but it nevered form to creamy stage even after constantly twirling, after reading post will try again using shortening. Will post again

  57. Well update I made another one today and it cam out wonderful next time I will have the long wooden toothpicks to keep cake straight so it will not move or tear apart while icing it thank you for the recipe!

  58. Your directions aren’t very clear…what temperature are you supposed to cook the icing at? For approximately how long? Do you let it cool then beat it? Or beat it while it’s still hot? Mine came out okay but it was so thick it broke the cake apart. I used a regular stainless steel pot and cooked it for 50 minutes over medium low heat, it came out good but never got fluffy. I would recommend frosting the cake with the icing slightly warm.

  59. I could feel the love you have for your family just reading the caramel cake recipe. That’s the kind of cake I always look for at southern pot luck dinners. Enjoy your family, and remember things don’t always have to be perfect. Love and laugher fills in any imperfection. Thank God!

  60. Perhaps you would be willing to post a video on the preparation of the frosting and even include frosting the cake. I am looking forward to making the cake and the icing.

  61. 1 star
    Robyn I was wondering why you aren’t answering any of the “POST” about the Icing, It seems like everyone is having Problems with the Icing not thickening up or turn in Caramel at the Soft Ball Stage…Ingredients are to expensive to be WASTING…HELP! Tell us what we are doing WRONG. LOVE THE CAKE…MOIST TENDER CAKE…HELP PLEASE….WAITING TO HEAR FROM YOU…THANKS.

    1. 5 stars
      Hey Margaret,

      I think she is not replying because many of the questions have been answered at least twice in previous posts. The comments that I have found to be most helpful are comment numbers 17, 22, 44, 50, 53 and 57. The older comments have a lot of helpful tips. Good luck

  62. 5 stars
    This recipe is NOT for the novice or the faint in heart. However, if you succeed than you will be graciously rewarded with an awesome cake that is a crowd pleaser. However, I learned / did to get this awesome cake (wish I could post a picture):

    Tip 1. Swirling is NOT the same as stirring and will cause your fluid in the pot to get airy and , if left on the heat, will cause the substance to boil out. So don’t stand over the pot stirring. Swirling just requires a slight / gentle circular motion of the pot to make the fluid move around in the pot. So grab the pot by the handles and gentle / slightly swirl it so the fluid keeps moving.

    Tips 2. If you stir and the fluid threatens to swell up out the pot, move the whole pot off of the heat so that you don’t make a huge mess. as the fluid cools slightly it will go back down. once it goes back down stop stirring it, swirl it.

    Tip 3. I am a slow icing person and coupling that with an icing that needs to be warm to spread it and a very moist cake was initialing making for a disaster when icing the sides. I ended up taking a piece of plastic wrap, spraying lightly it with cooking spray (I had coconut oil cooking spray) and using my hand to mold the icing onto the sides of the cake and smoothed out the finish. This allows for the icing to stick to the cake more than the knife and allowed me to mold a smooth finish on the cake before the icing completely cooled.

    Good luck ladies with your journey to cake lovers heaven.

    1. Hi, do you use Crisco Shortening or Crisco Oil? Your cake look scrumptious! I am making it Friday for dinner with family and friends. Thanks!

  63. Do you know if this icing keeps in the fridge? I need to be ready for a birthday the day we return from vacation, and it would be so awesome if this were already made! Thanks!

    1. Hi Audrey,
      This icing needs to be made and then immediately applied to a cake. It isn’t like a buttercream that can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator or even the freezer before use. I wish it could! It sure would make life easier!!! xo

    1. Hi Nancy,
      I double this recipe when I make my three layer Southern Caramel Cake and frost with this icing. If you take a look at this cake on my site, it has the double recipe of this icing. Thanks so much! Enjoy – it’s a family favorite! xo

  64. Do you think this cake could be cooked in a 13 x 9 inch sheet pan and for how long would you recommend cooking it ?

  65. 4 stars
    Thank you! This will be my goto Caramel frosting recipe. I admit I had the KA on standby but there was something wildly therapeutic and gratifying about using every bit of my right arm to beat this sugar into submission. The only thing I had to do was add a little drop of hot water to thin it out.
    *only enough for a 2 layer cake or cupcakes*

    For those of you who are having trouble, I found if you are not using cast iron, the softball stage takes a little longer to reach. Using a non-stick Dutch oven, cook and stir until the sugar becomes that wonderful caramel brown and then remove from heat. Then you can use your wooden spoon or mixer to finish the rest. Excellent!

  66. 5 stars
    Made this over the weekend for a birthday-it was a huge hit. The little bit of extra effort for the icing is so worth it and really it is not that much extra

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

    2. How long would you say you cook for and how long should I stir for? I don’t have a candy thermometer and not sure what soft ball stage is. Making for aunt in law birthday on Thanksgiving so nervous 🙂

    3. It will take about 40 minutes total cooking time when cooked over medium heat. Soft ball stage is when the mixture has thickened and when you drop a small amount of it in a bowl of cold water, it will form a small ball. You will beat it until the frosting is smooth and easy to spread on the cake. Hope you enjoy!

    4. I substituted coconut oil instead of the crisco. The liquids separated and it’s super liquidy how is this supposed to be an icing texture?

    5. MC Laney, substituting coconut oil for the solid Crisco shortening in the recipe would cause the icing to be “super liquidy”. This is a recipe I would not make with oil. Hope this helps!

  67. Hi Robyn! Can I use a stainless pot instead of a Dutch Oven for this icing? Thanks! I’m excited to try it for a Christmas dessert.

  68. 5 stars
    I’ve used this recipe for wedding cakes, birthdays and baby showers. It is a huge hit and it never fails to please the crowd. In fact, the last wedding cake I made was the southern caramel with this icing and unlike most weddings, THERE WAS NO CAKE LEFT OVER!! It was demolished in an hour.

    I’ve just made another of the southern caramel for best friends birthday tomorrow, this is the third year running she has requested it. Much love from New Zealand!!

  69. I have not cooked with Crisco. Is there a reason it is used instead of all butter or adding coconut oil solids?

  70. 5 stars
    It turned out fantastic! Thanks for sharing this. This tastes just like my mom’s and grandmother’s. I lost both of their recipes years ago, and am thrilled to find one just like it. Did I miss where you indicated the stove temperature setting for cooking the icing? I didn’t see it, and couldn’t remember from previous experiences. I simply used trial and error, so it worked out well.

    1. I’m so thrilled you found this recipe if it reminds you of your mother’s and grandmother’s. Every time I make this caramel icing, I think of my grandmother, too. I’m sorry, I didn’t include the stove temperature in my recipe. I cook mine over medium heat. Hope you find more recipes on my site that you enjoy! Thanks.

  71. I find it so very disheartening to see so many inane questions posted for this very simple recipe. Learn the basics of cooking and/or baking and set yourselves free. So many have become food network slaves without realizing it’s  goal is to keep its viewers stupid so they keep tuning in.

  72. For some reason mine came out like a glaze more than icing or frosting and very dark. Nothing like the picture. What did I do wrong? I’m usually good on recipes. So I have 3 layers ready to use, guess I’ll make my famous pineapple cream cheese frosting for now because I don’t have enough ingredients to try another batch of icing. Please help .

    1. Hi Janice,
      It sounds like you may have cooked your icing too long. If it was very dark, did you use brown sugar? This will not be a soft, fluffy frosting like a buttercream frosting, but it should not be hard like a glaze, either. I hope you try this recipe again and have better luck next time. Thanks

    2. 5 stars
      My son has requested a caramel cake like his Granny makes. I’m going to make six thin layers. Do you think a double recipe will be enough to cover all six layers & the sides? Also, does this need to be stirred constantly for the entire 40 minutes it takes to cook? Thanks for your help!

    3. Paula, I double the recipe for my 3 layer cake so maybe 2 1/2 times the recipe should be enough. I just swirl the ingredients enough to prevent sticking or burning. I hope your son has a very happy birthday and enjoys his cake.

  73. 5 stars
    My committed family helped me on a second attempt at this frosting. The first was not cooked long enough. This stuff is amazing.

    1. I’m glad you tried this recipe again so you could see how delicious it really is. Thanks.

    2. This frosting sounds delicious! I will be attempting this on Saturday to bake for my brother n law’s birthday, along with the cake you posted the frosting with! Do you have to have a candy thermometer because I don’t…. I really have never used one..? I hope this is a winner. I will let you know and your cake looks frosted just fine. Don’t be hard on yourself! I’d rather have a delicious cake with a home style frosted look, than a professional perfect cake that tastes not the best you know what I mean..? Lol . Thank you so much for sharing your recipe!

    3. Carlisia, many people don’t use a candy thermometer with this icing. Just make sure you cook it to the soft ball stage. Jessie gave an excellent description of the soft ball stage in her comment. “when you cook the icing, it needs to cook long enough so it is thick enough to spread once you whip it. To test whether you’ve cooked it long enough, fill a glass with cold water, then dip a spoon in the icing, and let a small amount drip off the spoon in to the water. When the ball of icing looks like it holds shape like a soft ball rather than a stringy, spread out mess, that’s when you know it is done. It takes a whole lot of patience to get to that stage, but it is very important or else you’ll end up with a soupy mess! When it gets to the “soft ball” stage, remove it from the heat, let it cool, then whip it (with either a spoon, whisk, or a stand mixer) – my grandmother used to wait until it cooled and then put it in the blender.” I hope your brother-in-law has a very happy birthday and enjoys his cake.

    1. You can use a 3 to 4 quart heavy saucepan or a heavy Dutch oven in place of the cast iron Dutch oven, Dennie.

  74. Does this icing never get ‘set up’ or get firm? Or did I do something wrong? Tastes great, came out just like the recipe… covered cake to take to dinner, and got a nasty, messy looking cake when I took off the foil. This was my first try with this kind of frosting and it SEEMED like It was going to be fine. I guess I would have transported it differently if I’d know the frosting stays sticky. Thanks!

    1. This icing does not stay sticky, Tina. It does get firm. It sounds like it may have not cooked long enough. I have not tried covering the cake in foil so that may have contributed to the issue, too.

  75. 5 stars
    I love this icing! I was very nervous initially because I decided to quarter the recipe (I’m using it for a single 6-inch cake) and I’ve heard so much about how tricky it is to make a caramel icing at home. I don’t bake frequently so when I try a new recipe, it’s usually never anything adventurous, which is definitely what all caramel recipes are in my book. But as I kept repeating the soft ball test every now and then, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The result was just amazing! And I used an electric beater in the end to stiffen it. Thank you for sharing this. It’s going to be my new favorite icing. Cheers to your grandmother!

  76. I can’t wait to try this icing on the southern cake!! It looks so good!! I will update when I do and let y’all know how it turned out.

  77. 5 stars
    Delicious, definitely recommend. I added salt, and may brown my butter beforehand next time, but it is really good as is. I also think you actually need to triple the recipe for the seven layer cake. I have it spread very thin, just like the caramel cakes I grew up with, but still have a section not covered on the back of my layer cake. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Brianne, I double the icing recipe for a 3 layer cake so you would need at least triple the recipe for a 7 layer cake.

  78. HI – I’m really looking forward to making this cake but am a little hesitant about using shortening in the icing. Could it be made with all butter or would that change it too much?

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

  79. I tried making this with swan down cake flour it didn’t rise well I made my icing it came out to thick were did I go wrong???

    1. Debrah, you need self-rising flour for this cake. The cake would not rise using cake flour because there is no leavening in the cake flour. It sounds like if the icing was too thick, it cooked too long. It will take about 40 minutes total cooking time when cooked over medium heat. Soft ball stage is when the mixture has thickened and when you drop a small amount of it in a bowl of cold water, it will form a small ball. You will beat it until the frosting is smooth and easy to spread on the cake. I hope this helps.

  80. I made this icing today with a little difficulty. I think I cooked it too long; it’s a darker brown than the picture. After whipping in my stand mixer it turned into a grainy mess and some of the liquid separated (like peanut butter does sometimes). Using a wooden spoon I was able to get it back to a nearly-workable consistency. But, I made it too early and by the time the cakes cooled the icing had become a solid mass like fudge. I warmed it up in a double boiler and was able to ice the cakes, so maybe all is not lost. The icing does taste good. I used a yellow cake mix for the cake.

    One question though: Does a cake with this icing need to be refrigerated?

    1. It does sound like you cooked the icing too long, Bruce. Cook just to softball stage. It is easy to tell when you reach that stage if you have candy thermometer and the temperature reaches 235-245º F. The icing does not require refrigeration, Bruce.

  81. Hi Robyn,
    Firstly can I please say that your BEST EVER CHOCOLATE CAKE is exactly that !!!! So I’ve looked up your recipes to find a caramel cake to cook for our sons birthday on Sunday but we live in Australia and I do not know what crisco is or what to substitute it with ? Please help if possible. Kindest Regards Cherie

    1. Cherie, Crisco is a solid vegetable shortening. I think Copha may be the closest you have to it in Australia. I hope your son has a very happy birthday.

  82. 5 stars
    I’ve made this recipe a few times and LOVE it!! I’m in the mood for a maple flavor, have you tried making the frosting with maple syrup? Maybe replace half the sugar with syrup? Will that mess up the consistency?

    1. Jackie, I haven’t tried making this caramel icing with maple syrup and am not sure how it would work. You could try adding maple flavoring with the vanilla if you wish.

  83. Can you tell me what makes this Carmel flavored? The cake just sounds like a yellow cake and does the cooking process make the icing Carmel flavored? Thank you

    1. Donna, when you cook the sugar, butter, and other ingredients in this icing, it becomes caramel flavored. I hope you enjoy!

  84. I used your caramel recipe as a base but tweaked it. I used evaporated milk (as my mom did), added vanilla and only used butter. The 40 minute cook time was just right. Icing came out perfectly. Just let it cool before frosting cake.

    1. I’ve never made this with brown sugar, Cassandra, so I can’t tell you how it would work.

    1. Just follow the instructions in the recipe, Areielle. Mix all ingredients in a 3-4 quart cast iron dutch oven and place over medium heat as listed in Step 1. Hope you enjoy!

  85. 5 stars
    I have to admit that when I started making this icing I would never in a million years have thought it would turn into caramel. 🙂 I’ve never made a cooked icing before, but it turned into a wonderful candy-like caramel. Thank you for sharing! And I did use an electric mixer; my arms weren’t up for whipping it by hand.

  86. 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.

  87. 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.

  88. 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.