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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.


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

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.
PREP: 40 mins
COOK: 30 mins
TOTAL: 1 hr 10 mins



  • 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
Author: Christin Mahrlig
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Southern

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

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87 thoughts on “Southern Caramel Cake”

  1. 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.

  2. Nancy Armstrong

    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.

  3. 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!

  4. Rebecca Brown

    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!

  5. 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.

    1. I think you made some mistakes because it’s a great Christmas cake!! Turned out light and delish!!

  6. 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!

  7. Eva Correll

    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

  8. Erin Butler

    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?

  9. 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!

  10. 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!!

  11. Heather stichler

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

  12. Rokieshia Brawner

    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.

  13. Bailey Dexter

    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!!!

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

    1. Wow idk what I did. I made this tonight for my dad’s 86th birthday. Mine cake was like 2 hockey pucks. The icing was hard. It sounded so delicious so I’m so disappointed. Usually my food turns out amazing

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