Southern Caramel Cake

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.

Southern Caramel Cake - moist vanilla cake with lots of ultra-sweet caramel 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.Β  πŸ˜‰

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.

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5 from 3 votes
Southern Caramel Cake
Southern Caramel Cake
Prep Time
40 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
1 hr 10 mins

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.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Southern
Servings: 12
Calories: 509 kcal
Author: Christin Mahrlig
  • 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
  1. Make the cake. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch cake pans.
  2. In a small saucepan, cook the butter and milk over low heat until the butter melts. Stir well and let cool to room temperature.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until light yellow and smooth.
  5. Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture just until combined.
  6. Add the cooled milk mixture and vanilla and stir well.
  7. Divide the batter between the two pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake springs back when touched lightly in the middle.
  8. Place pans on a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and let cool completely on racks.
  9. 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.
  10. Beat the icing with a wooden spoon for 2 to 3 minutes to thicken.
  11. 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.
Recipe Notes

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.

Nutrition Facts
Southern Caramel Cake
Amount Per Serving
Calories 509
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


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

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58 thoughts on “Southern Caramel Cake

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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!!

  8. 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.

  9. 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)

  10. 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 ?

  11. 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?

  12. 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! πŸ™‚

  13. 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!!!

  14. 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!!

  15. 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.

  16. 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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