Made with a light, fluffy from-scratch cake and homemade frosting, this Caramel Cake features a deep, rich caramel flavor in every bite. This layer cake is perfect for the fall season and holiday celebrations.
Easy Caramel Layer Cake Recipe
If you’re a caramel fan, you’re going to LOVE this Caramel Cake. While the light and fluffy cake itself has just a subtle caramel flavor, the icing is what really sets it apart. The frosting is made with a homemade caramel sauce featuring both light brown and dark brown sugar to create a rich, deep caramel flavor.
Of course, as you can assume, this is a very sweet cake. There are three different sugars in the icing alone, so that is to be expected. It’s perfect for special occasions – even Thanksgiving – and pairs nicely with a tall glass of milk!
This caramel dessert is made almost entirely with pantry staples.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
For the Cake
- All-purpose flour – Spooned and leveled, for accurate measuring.
- Baking powder & baking soda – To help the cake rise.
- Fine sea salt – Helps to balance out the sweetness.
- Butter – I recommend unsalted butter, since we’re adding sea salt.
- Vegetable oil – Keeps the cake extra moist.
- Sugar – Both brown sugar and granulated sugar sweeten this caramel cake.
- Eggs – Acts as a necessary binder for the batter.
- Vanilla extract – Gives the cake a nice, light vanilla flavor.
- Buttermilk – Buttermilk in cake helps create a soft crumb and lends flavor.
For the Frosting
- Brown sugar – Both light brown and dark brown sugar are used in the frosting. I highly recommend using dark brown sugar as it is the secret ingredient to making the icing super dimensional in flavor. But if you don’t have dark brown sugar, you can use more light brown sugar in its place.
- Unsalted butter – For richness and moisture.
- Sea salt – To balance out the sweetness.
- Evaporated milk & heavy cream – Creates a rich, smooth caramel sauce.
- Powdered sugar – Turns the caramel sauce into a spreadable frosting.
- Vanilla extract – For flavor.
Can I Use Box Cake Mix For This Recipe?
How to Make Caramel Cake
Even with the two layers, this caramel cake is quite easy to make. The most important part is to work quickly with the frosting.
(Scroll down to the printable recipe card for details and measurements, and don’t miss the video below.)
- Make the cake batter. Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl. In the stand mixer, combine the butter and oil. Beat in both sugars for 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, along with the vanilla. Add half of the dry ingredients, then half of the buttermilk. Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk.
- Bake. Once mixed well, transfer into two greased cake pans lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350F for 22 to 28 minutes in the pan. Cool completely.
- Make the frosting. Whisk the brown sugars, butter, and salt over medium heat until melted. Pour in the evaporated milk and heavy cream. Whisk to combine. Simmer for 4 minutes, then transfer to a heatproof bowl. Mix in the powdered sugar a little at a time, then add the vanilla.
- Assemble the layer cake. Place one cake on a serving platter. Top with 3/4 frosting and spread evenly over the top. Top with the second cake. Frost the sides and the top of the cake.
- Serve. Let the cake set for at least 2 hours, so the frosting hardens completely. Then slice, serve, and enjoy.
Tips for Success
Here are a few tips for making this layer cake recipe.
- Make sure each cake is equal. It’s important the batter is split evenly. If you don’t trust yourself to eyeball it, you can always use a scale to weigh the batter.
- Spread the batter evenly. Once the batter is divided, use a spatula to smooth out the top so the cakes bake evenly.
- Work quickly with the frosting. Since the frosting is made with homemade caramel, it does harden as the caramel cools. It’s important to work quickly to frost the cake while the frosting is still spreadable. Be sure to prepare the cakes and remove the domes before making the frosting, so they’re ready to go.
Video: Caramel Cake Recipe
This cake is best served at room temperature since the caramel hardens even more in the fridge. Before serving, especially if I’m making this for a special occasion, I like to add a few toppings to the cake or at least to individual slices like caramel sauce drizzle, chocolate sauce, flaked sea salt, or chopped pecans.
- Storing leftovers. Leftover caramel cake can be kept at room temperature for up to 5 days or for a week in the fridge. In either case, keep the cake tightly covered. If you refrigerate the slices, I recommend letting them sit on the counter to come to room temperature before enjoying.
- To freeze. Leftovers can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Just wrap tightly in plastic wrap and again in foil. Thaw on the counter.
More Caramel Desserts:
- Caramel Apple Nachos
- Caramel Apple Grapes
- Homemade Caramels
- Caramel Apple Sheet Cake
- Caramel Creme Brulee Pie
For the Cake
- 2 & 2/3 cups all-purpose flour , spooned and leveled
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter , softened to room temp
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar , packed
- 4 large eggs , room temp
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 & 1/4 cups buttermilk , room temp
For the Frosting
- 1 cup light brown sugar , packed
- 1 cup dark brown sugar , packed
- 1 cup unsalted butter , cut into tablespoons
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/3 cup evaporated milk
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups powdered sugar , sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven 350°F. Lightly spray 2, 9-inch cake pans with nonstick spray. Place parchment paper in the bottom of the pans. Spray the top of the paper with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In the body of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the butter with the oil until combined. Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat them together on medium speed for 3 minutes.
- Add the eggs one at a time until fully mixed in. Stir in the vanilla.
- Add half of the dry ingredients and stir it in until combined.
- Next, add half of the buttermilk, stir until combined. Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Divide the batter between the two cake pans. Take a spatula and smooth out the top, this will ensure the cakes bake evenly.
- Bake for 22-28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely in the pan.
- When the cakes are cool and you are ready to assemble, cut any doming or uneven parts off the cake if there are any, and then make the frosting.
- For the frosting, place the light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, butter, and salt into a medium-sized pot.
- Place the pot over medium heat and whisk constantly until the butter and the sugars are melted. Pour in the evaporated milk and then the heavy cream, whisk to combine.
- Bring to a gentle bubble and simmer for 4 minutes, it will start to thicken. Immediately pour into a heatproof bowl.
- Using an electric hand mixer, add the powdered sugar a little at a time until fully mixed in, and then mix in the vanilla.
- When the frosting is done, you need to work fast to frost the cake while it is still spreadable.
- Place one of the cakes top side up onto your serving platter. Add 3/4 cup of the frosting and using an off-set spatula or something similar, spread it out over the top of the cake.
- Place the other cake, top side down, on top. Frost the sides and top of the cake as fast as you can before the frosting hardens.
- Let the cake sit until the frosting completely hardens, about 2 hours. Slice, serve and enjoy!