Southern Caramel Cake

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Southern Caramel Cake is a fabulously rich and decadent cake with tons of super sweet icing. This is a cake that will make any occasion memorable.

Southern Caramel Cake

As a child it seems like whenever I went to my grandmother’s house, which was often for a holiday or special occasion, there was always a caramel cake. They were never made by her. I don’t think she baked anything in her entire life, but she had lots of friends who loved to bake and they were constantly bringing her food gifts. Pound Cake and Caramel Cake were the two regulars.

Southern Caramel Cake - moist vanilla cake slathered with lots of ultra-sweet caramel icing.

I fell in love with the icing on a Caramel Cake at a very young age. It is as sweet as sweet can be. Sometimes I would just eat the icing and leave the cake part because it can tend to be a little dry and bland.

But this Southern Caramel Cake from Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrationshas two delicious and moist cake layers, with a lighter texture than many caramel cakes. And a fabulously sweet icing. Lots of it!

Because it’s all about the icing.


I actually didn’t intend for it to have this much icing, but both my cake layers collapsed slightly in the middle (I think I opened the oven door too many times to check on them.) and I didn’t have a sharp enough serrated knife to even out the top. I probably should have just flipped them over and had the bottom be the top. But my mind must have been so fixated on the icing that I wasn’t thinking straight.

Southern Caramel Cake- moist vanilla cake with lots of ultra-sweet caramel icing.

Instead I had to let a ton of frosting pool in the middle to flatten out the top. So it was necessary to make a second batch of icing to cover the sides. Not neccesarily a bad thing.  😉

Warning: If you don’t have a serious sweet tooth, this is not the cake for you.

Southern Caramel Cake - moist, vanilla cake with lots of ultra-sweet caramel icing.

You might also like this Hummingbird Cake. Check it out in the video below!


Southern Caramel Cake

Southern Caramel Cake

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Southern
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 509kcal
Author: Christin Mahrlig
Southern Caramel Cake is a fabulously rich and decadent cake with tons of super sweet icing. This is a cake that will make any occasion memorable.
Print Recipe



  • 3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caramel Icing

  • One box light brown sugar (1-pound)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 7 tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Make the cake. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch cake pans.
  • In a small saucepan, cook the butter and milk over low heat until the butter melts. Stir well and let cool to room temperature.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until light yellow and smooth.
  • Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture just until combined.
  • Add the cooled milk mixture and vanilla and stir well.
  • Divide the batter between the two pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake springs back when touched lightly in the middle.
  • Place pans on a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and let cool completely on racks.
  • Make icing. In a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom, combine the brown sugar, butter, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Stir well and turn heat down so mixture boils gently. Cook for 7 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Beat the icing with a wooden spoon for 2 to 3 minutes to thicken.
  • Place bottom layer on a platter or cake stand. Working quickly before icing sets up, spread icing on top. Place second layer on top. Ice the top and sides. A knife dipped in hot water can help smooth the icing out.


If icing becomes too hard while you are spreading it, place it over low heat and whisk in another tablespoon or two of evaporated milk until smooth.
I actually made more icing than the recipe calls for. My cakes were a little sunken in the middle once they cooled and I didn't have a sharp enough serrated knife to even the top of the cake out. Because of this, a lot of my icing pooled in the middle and I needed more.
If you think you need extra, add another 1 1/3 cups brown sugar, 4 tablespoons butter, and 3 1/2 tablespoons evaporated milk. Plus a little extra vanilla if you desire.


Calories: 509kcal

Recipe Source: Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations

More Southern Cakes


Hummingbird Cake

Hummingbird Cake

Duke's Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake - so moist and rich!

Duke’s Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

87 thoughts on “Southern Caramel Cake

  1. I was very excited to try this recipe. (I like recipes with simple, real ingredients and I don’t use many boxed, canned, or artificial ingredients). I am a fairly experienced cook and I make most things from scratch- but I’m certainly not a professional. That said, I’m disappointed to say this recipe was a disaster. The cake batter overflowed when baking and made a huge mess. I don’t know what I did wrong. The cake tasted like sweetened scrambled eggs. The frosting tasted good but was gritty and so thick that I could not spread it. I would love to find a good Southern Caramel Cake recipe, but this one isn’t it.

  2. I made this icing and it came out great. Since its only 4 ingredients I know it by heart. I love caramel frosting, but did not want a recipe that used confectionery sugar. I wanted one that uses evaporated milk, which I think is the correct way to make caramel frosting. My family really enjoyed it. Thank you, for a recipe I can use for years.

  3. My mother n law made this before she passed and she’s been gone for 2 yrs. I took over her tradition and this cake is the one the family loves.

  4. This very much reminds me of a cake my Mama often made for us kids and our friends she called 1-2-3-4-Cake with Brown Sugar Icing … so good! And that was seventy years ago! Thanks for posting this and bringing back another grand memory. I think I’ll make this memory last a little longer and go bake me one just so I can scrape the bowl of the delicious brown sugar icing!

  5. I made this cake twice recently. The first time, the cakes didn’t rise properly. I salvaged one of the layers and ate that without icing…because it still tasted good. The second time, I decided to make it in a 9X13 pan (fool me once). That worked perfectly. I poured all the icing on the cake and it was great.

    1. I haven’t tried to make this yet, but was going to ask the question if this cake would work in a 9×13 pan. Thanks for posting that you used a 9×13 pan and it worked! I’ll definitely try it!

  6. I made this a few months ago and it was incredible! I am a chocoholic and this is so good I would give up chocolate for this! I have people begging me to make this again. One person told me that it was the best cake she had ever had in her life.

  7. This was the worse cake recipe I’ve ever made. I made it for Christmas and we literally threw it away. I was looking for the icing recipe and decided to try this cake recipe for a different version of vanilla cake. I wish I had stuck with my original recipe. The problem in my opinion is melting the butter. If the butter was whipped with the sugar, then add the eggs the recipe would probably work because the flavor is good but the texture is horrible. I make a lot of cakes and I’ve never seen one where you melt the butter so I thought heck let’s see if this is a new method works better, it doesn’t. I believe it’s this process that created the non rise and dense cake.

  8. I used the recipe for the caramel frosting. It worked perfect. I did use a cast iron skillet like my dad used back in the day. It was a winner!

  9. This cake is in my oven cooking now. I DID use a bundt pan, and THEN I read your reply to a previous comment suggesting not to use one. Oops. Oh well. Fingers crossed anyway. But I’m a little concerned. I followed the recipe & directions exactly. But,my batter was very thin. I’m hoping it will just take a little longer for the cake to get done. But that it’ll come out good

  10. My cake totally sunk, then when I tried to get it out of the pan, it fell apart. Cake fail. Followed directions exactly. Had to cook it longer because it was super liquid in the middle. Only thing I can think of that might have been wrong is when I beat eggs and sugar to smooth, I used cane sugar and it took a long time to get smooth. You think that might have caused it to fall apart?

  11. Hello! This looks delish! Can I make the frosting ahead of time and re-beat before frosting the cake? Or do you recommend only making it right before serving? Thanks!

  12. Just got finished making this cake. Oh my is it heavenly!! I have Celiac Disease so I made it gluten free. Only subbed gf flour in. It is ridiculously moist!! I love to bake and it is really hard to make gluten free cakes moist and not overly dense without using vegetables in it. I am going to make this cake just as my new cake base and then add in whatever or use whatever icing. The caramel icing is sooooo yummy too! Haven’t been able to find any caramel that doesn’t have soy so this is fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  13. My icing was very dry and crumbly, is there something I could do to make it a it easier to spread?

  14. Made this cake last night and it’s awesome! Very moist..but for some reason it didn’t rise. My cake looks very small. Can somebody tell me what i did wrong?

    1. I had the same issue, Rokieshia. Both layers are really thin, but the cake itself tastes good. I haven’t made the frosting yet – will do that tomorrow. Am hoping it will give a little height to the cake. Not sure if maybe an 8″ pan is more suitable.

  15. I made this cake Glutenfree, OMG so amazing! Wish I could post a picture! I used a cake ring to keep icing in place, once in the fridge and back out to smooth it. Picture perfect . So moist, I never change anything in the recipe except the flour to make it Glutenfree! Thanks!

    1. Thanks for posting! I just found this and was going to make it using gf flour. I’m pregnant and am craving cake bad!!!

  16. This is my new favorite cake eva!!! Holy crow, it’s INSANELY moist, rich and amazing. Thanks for the cake of a lifetime!!!

  17. Cake was amazing, moist, fantastic flavor. Baked perfectly, never sank like some of them do. My only issue was the icing, very grainy. Followed directions, even added a little extra milk to help with the texture, but that did not help any. I love to bake and carmel has become my new favorite, so I’m keeping the cake recipe and ditching the icing,… to long to make, to grainy and way to disappointing.

  18. I followed this recipe to the letter and found the cake to be very dry. It tastes like stale pound cake. Next time I’ll add 3 tbsp sour cream to the batter to see if that’ll make it softer and more moist. Otherwise it’s back to square one for a good caramel cake recipe.

  19. I’ve made this cake two Saturdays in a row! Last weekend was a test…it worked. Just made the second one to take for our family Easter dinner. Thanks so much – it is delicious!

      1. Usually it’s because you are using too much leavening. Try using 1/2 of the callout. This can also be a “high altitude” problem. The cake rises too quickly and then sinks because it’s not quite done in the center. Look at “high altitude” baking theory on-line and it will give you some great tips for better baking results even if your not at a higher altitude. J

    1. Instead of all purpose use self rising I made it the first time like the recipe then I went back and change my flour

  20. This reminds me of my childhood because I think that’s the last time I had this cake. I loved the carmel frosting so much. My mom made it once in awhile which made it special. She I believe used a white cake. I will be trying this very soon. Thanks for the memories.

  21. This recipe didn’t work for me at all. I followed it to the letter and the cake was dry And the icing never hardened. Had to throw the whole thing away……????

    1. I made this was awaful.dry th the cake was the caramel was grainy. U could taste the sugar. I threw the whole cake way.

  22. Just made this using a box cake mix but substituting milk and butter for the water and oil. Icing recipe was perfect and just enough to ice the two layer cake. Can’t wait to try it.

  23. I had to take a peek at the recipe since I make one that’s been handed down for generations. I may try this one to compare. I’ve found it interesting each time I see brown sugar used. However, I like the idea of mixing it all together and bringing it to a boil.

  24. please, do you have a recipe for Peanut butter frosting that hardens ? My husband would think he was in heaven !! Thank you in advance !! I’d love to make it for his birthday in September . . . . Im planning in advance !! Mary Jo Fair

  25. I live in the north east and maybe that is the reason why….but I had to add 15 minutes to bake time. I was touching the centre and it was def not rising back at 30 minutes. Having said that, I have made this cake twice to rave reviews. Love it! Thanks so much for this great recipe!!

  26. I made this last week and my family inhaled it… The icing is perfect. Only problem, my cakes were so sunken in the middle, like collapsed souffles. (Looks like you had some of this trouble, too.) I leveled them off with a serrated knife. Lots of scraps. I’d like to find a scratch cake recipe with the same flavor but without the structural problems.

  27. Instead of evaporated milk, for the icing, can we use another ingredient??? te recipie looks tasty, and I would like to try it.

    atte, laura (uruguay)

  28. I followed the recipe exactly, except used my stand mixer to beat the icing since I couldn’t find a wooden spoon. I have been trying to duplicate this type of cake for many years. It was always my favorite treat when I would visit my Grandmother n Greenville GA. This is the first time I’ve had success with the icing! I feel like maybe the icing could use a bit more butter, but other than that, it is amazing. I’m going to freeze half of it right now so I don’t eat the entire cake ?

  29. Since it is so sweet I wonder if you could leave out some of the sugar in the batter. I do that sometimes with recipes that have super sweet icing. Has anyone tried that yet with this recipe?

  30. This cake is wonderful! I made as directed except I put the cake in a 9×13 because I didn’t want to deal with the layers and was feeling lazy on this snowy day. It took 45 mins to cook on 350 degrees F.

    Yes the batter seems runny when you make it, but that’s because the milk/eggs your adding in. It bakes up so moist and rich!

    If anything this is a VERY rich and decedant cake and just like what I find down in Southern Alabama. Yummo.
    I added a pinch of flaked sea salt to the top of the icing when I served it and OMG! To Die.

    Thank you for sharing your recipe-Love!

    1. So glad you enjoyed it! And thanks for letting us know the cooking time for making it in a 9×13-inch pan. That is definitely an easier way to do it. The flaked sea salt must have tasted magnificent! 🙂

  31. Have you tried the true blue southern cooked sugar caramel cake? It is even more amazing! It’s a buttery caramel frosting. It is achieved by cooking the sugar until it melts and turns brown. This is how the brown color gets in the frosting instead of using brown sugar. You should try it. You would die it is so good!!!

  32. Love the recipe! Can you make this type of icing in chocolate? My grandmother used to make it and I cannot find a recipe that works. Thanks!!

  33. Question- I just made the cake and it looks amazing (and what I’ve sampled iS all amazing) My frosting, however, has set and is hard to the touch. Is that normal? Don’t want to serve it if I’ve messed up somewhere

    1. The very exterior of the frosting gets hard to the touch and the amount of humidity can have an effect. It is usually pretty humid where I live. I’ve eaten plenty of caramel cakes where the icing was somewhat dry and crumbly. Don’t be afraid to serve it. It will still be delicious!

    1. I had the same problem with runny cake. Is the temperature suppose to be 325 degrees as that seems awfully low for the time frame 25 to 30 min. Should it be 350 degrees?

      1. The correct cooking temperature is 325 degrees. Will try the recipe again this week and pay close attention to the baking time. If 30 minutes doesn’t do the trick, 35 definitely should.

  34. This was a hugely popular favorite at childhood church suppers in northwest South Carolina. Ladies there usually baked it as a very large sheet cake with one layer.

    Anyway I’m getting a toothache just reading the ingredients, but I still want to make this some time for a party!

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