Southern Caramel Cake
Inspired by an old favorite, this Southern Caramel Cake features a rich, caramel frosting over layers of white cake…and it’s delicious!
I love to bake. That’s pretty evident from the fact that I have a long list of cakes, breads, etc. here on the blog. In truth, breads are still my favorite thing to make/bake in the kitchen. I find playing with dough to be therapeutic. That, and I love eating fresh bread. But as much as I love to bake, I actually don’t like baking my own birthday cake. Call me strange. Call me weird. But I’d rather get my birthday cake from a bakery.
Back when we lived in Atlanta, I commuted over to Athens for grad school. (That’s roughly a 1 1/2 hour commute each way…if I timed to right to avoid Atlanta traffic.) As I didn’t know much about Athens, my colleagues who lived there were more than willing to offer up advice on the best restaurants in the area. And I couldn’t help but notice that the name of one bakery just kept coming up again and again. Cecilia’s. “If you ever need a cake, go to Cecilia’s.”
So I took that advice to heart, and picked up a birthday cake one year from Cecilia’s. And holy cow…it was amazing! Cecilia’s quickly became our go-to spot for birthday cakes. I’d call the order in ahead of time, and then I’d run over there in between classes to pick up the cake. In fact, one time I remember carrying the darn cake into class with me as I was afraid it was too hot to leave it in the car for 4 hours. I think I left my textbook in the car so I could carry the cake. Priorities, people, priorities!
My sister-in-law was also living in Atlanta at the time, and we ordered her a Southern Caramel Cake for her birthday one year. It was quite possibly the best cake I’d ever eaten. And I like to eat cake. (Technically, it was just called a Caramel Cake, but I added the Southern Caramel Cake because, well, Cecilia’s is in the south…so therefore it’s a Southern Caramel Cake.)
It’s been a number of years since I’ve had a slice of Cecilia’s Southern Caramel Cake…but I still remember it like it was yesterday. So the other day, I decided to recreate my own version of this cake. I don’t have Cecilia’s recipe, nor do I pretend that this version is copycat of their recipe. But I can tell you that this Southern Caramel Cake is delicious! I used my go-to white cake recipe for this one. It’s a bit of a denser white cake, but I actually love the texture. Whenever I make that cake, I always get questions about the cake itself. One of my curling teammates actually called this “a cake for people who don’t like cake.” Wait. There are people who don’t like cake?
But the shining star of this cake is the caramel frosting. This frosting is a bit different than most as it involves actually melting the butter with the brown sugar and then letting it cool. The result is a frosting with a deep caramel flavor…and it’s perfect when paired with the simple white cake! So if you have a birthday coming up, then may I suggest this Southern Caramel Cake? Actually, check that. Get your birthday cake at a bakery, and then just bake this one for fun! Enjoy!
Southern Caramel Cake
For the Cake
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup milk
- ¾ cup sour cream
- 1½ Tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 5 large egg whites
For the Frosting
- 1½ cups unsalted butter
- 1½ cups dark brown sugar
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 6-6½ cups powdered sugar
For the Cake
- Grease and flour (3) 8” round cake pans; set aside. Preheat oven to 325°F.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, sour cream and vanilla extract; set aside.
- Using a countertop mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (~3-4 minutes on medium-high speed).
- Add about half of the flour mixture to the bowl; mix on low speed until well combined.
- Add the milk mixture to the bowl. Mix on low until well combined.
- Add the remaining flour mixture; mix on low until well combined. (Tip: Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are fully mixed.)
- In a separate bowl, beat egg whites on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the egg whites into the cake batter until fully mixed.
- Divide the batter evenly between the 3 cake pans. Bake at 325°F for 30-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
For the Frosting
- Using a medium saucepan, melt butter completely over medium heat. Add brown sugar and heavy cream; continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until well combined and sugar has completely dissolved.
- Increase heat and bring to a boil; Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer mixture into bowl of a countertop mixer. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mixing completely after each addition. (Note: If frosting is too loose, add a couple more tbsps of powdered sugar. If frosting is too thick, add a tbsp of milk.)
To Frost Cake
- Place one layer of cake on large platter. Spread ~1 cup of frosting on top. Repeat with 2nd and 3rd layers of cake. Use remaining frosting on top and sides of cake. Decorate as desired.
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Love that cake.. It is totally sinful and perfect!!
Haha…thanks so much, Sharmila! Sometimes you just need a good slice of cake, right? 🙂
I love breaking too, but it’s impossible to bake when you live alone. Living in California me, and all of my friends, are always watching our weight, so no one is willing to take and eat my baked goods. When I finally settle down and start a family, I plan on baking weekly. Until then I just have to look at this Southern Carmel Cake and dream. I can’t believe you decorated this cake, David, you are one talented chef! Have a great weekend
Oh, I totally get it, Mary. We have Laura’s co-workers, our neighbors and the curling club to help us eat all of the baked creations around here. And sometimes we stash as extra slice away in the freezer for a weeknight night. (Sshhh…our secret!) 🙂 Thank you so much for the kind words, my friend!
I agree with you 100% – I’m happy to bake a birthday cake for anyone but myself. 🙂
We usually get cupcakes for our birthdays – my husband and I are just two days apart, same year even! We get vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting from a little shop called Ida’s here in Bend. But this combo of caramel frosting on vanilla has me intrigued. Looks like another ‘must try’ from my friend, David!
Yes! What is it about baking birthday cakes for ourselves? I love to bake…but I absolutely refuse to bake my own birthday cake. So odd! Wow, I can’t believe you and your husband have birthdays so close to one another. Do you just split the difference and have a wild party on the day in-between? 🙂 Thanks so much, Marissa!
I do have a birthday coming up. It’s on St. Patrick’s Day, so you have plenty of time to bake one of these and send it to me! I also like playing with dough and baking bread. It’s a great stress buster with delicious rewards. And I’m not quite sure I would trust anyone who doesn’t like cake!
Yes! I actually did remember that you have a birthday on St. Patrick’s Day. I gotta say that’s pretty awesome, Rachelle! I mean some holidays would really stink for birthdays, but St. Patrick’s Day is a good one! Wait. There are people out there who don’t like cake? Lies! Ok, I’ve got 5 days to bake this cake and drive it down to you…but you better have me some green beer waiting when I get there! 🙂
Heh, last year I made my own birthday cake. Well, technically, I made it two days before my birthday. Also, they were mini cakes. Do you think this might count as the example? But I agree, there could be much more fun than baking a cake for your own birthday. So there’s a great idea. You should bake my birthday cake and send it to me. How fun is that, eh? Of course, I’d love to bake a cake for you too, but I’m not that good baker:) But first you should practice (cause the BH cake must be impeccable) so please send me a sample of this lovely caramel cake (and extra frosting too):)
Well, technically those mini cakes weren’t on your birthday…so they might not count. But I just can’t get behind baking my own cake. I’ll bake cakes for anyone else’s birthday…just not mine! I’ll even bake you a cake, Ben…but sadly I don’t have enough lavender to successfully do that. Haha!
This caramel cake looks like a real treat and the perfect Birthday cake. I have to give this recipe to hubby who can make it for me on my next Birthday as I completely agree with you, it is odd to make your own Birthday cake and I fully understand that you prioritised your cake over the textbook 🙂 Have a great week!
Yes! There must be something written in the Great Book of Baking (does that actually exist?) about baking your own birthday cake. It’s just not allowed. But you can give the recipe to a significant other who can then bake the cake for you…that is totally allowed! 🙂 Thanks so much, Miriam…and I hope you have a great week ahead yourself!
Oh is it? Even I don’t like to bake on my own birthday. BTW lovely cake David, Pinning!
Why thank you so much, Puja! 🙂
Hahaha! I like how you prioritize, my friend! Cake trumps text books ANYDAY where am concerned too – cake is my favorite thing to eat – and this one looks spectacular! Gah – it’s times like this when I so wish I was in your neighborhood so I could “accidently” drop by! Hey, I’d even bake ya a birthday cake and you could pass this “fun bake cake” off to me? Am on a roll with ideas on cake procurement today! 🙂 I need to check out Cecilia’s (I’m assuming it’s the same as Cecilia Villaveces Cakes which I found through Google?) next time I know am heading to Athens, I’m gonna have to put in ma order for a test for sure!
Yes! Cakes definitely take priority over textbooks. I mean I don’t even remember those textbooks…but I still remember that cake. That alone means something, right? 🙂 Oh man, I wish you could ‘accidentally’ drop by, too, Shashi! We almost always have something fun…and I could always sit down for a tea or coffee and a chat! Oh, and yes, that is indeed Cecilia Villaveces Cakes in Athens. Definitely put an order in before you go! I don’t recall them having a big display case…but rather an order ahead type of thing. But man was that a good treat!
What a pretty cake! I want to eat that frosting with a spoon!
Haha! Hey, you are welcome to eat that frosting with a spoon…your secret is safe with me. 🙂 Heck, I’ll even give you the spoon! Thanks, Manali!
OMG to this caramel frosting – looks amazing! What a pretty cake! I don’t make cake all that much, but trust me, I enjoy it. I think I need more reasons to make cakes… because if I just make it for my household, I’ll wind up eating it all myself! 😉
Yeah, I always have a dilemma when I make a cake here. I love baking, but then I end up with a whole cake. We often slice it and freeze it, or I’ll send in like half of it to Laura’s coworkers. Start thinking about all of the people who would appreciate a piece of cake…and then you’ll have an excuse to bake! 🙂 This Caramel Cake is a fun one for sure! Thanks, Nicole!
I get you! I hate baking my own birthday cake. It´s wrong! One should never bake your own cake… This cake looks AMAZING David! Oh how I wish I lived in the States so we could do a collab together, bake something together in the kitchen… I so miss a baking buddy here in Spain 🙁
Yes…I’m right there with ya on the birthday cake baking philosophy. It’s just not as much fun when you make your own cake! Oh man, I wish you were here in the States, too, Johlene. I love to bake, and I’d welcome a baking buddy…and a cake-eating buddy! 🙂
Oh. My. Lanta. This is PERFECTION! Seriously, I am a cake and caramel lover to the death, and I can’t think of a better way those two things could come together. Might make this my new bday treat!
Yes! This cake is seriously yummy, Carly! The caramel frosting is decadent, and it pairs so well with the simply white cake. Of course, the caramel frosting would also be delicious on chocolate cake…or any other kind of cake for that matter. Hope you have a great weekend, my baking friend! 🙂
Wait…. 1.5 hour commute? Dude that is dedication and you deserve ten cakes for it….or good recommendations at least! I love a cake here called a ‘caramel mud cake’ which this reminds me of!
I too prefer baking for others’ birthdays, and the one time I made my own, everyone else brought desserts instead so it was uneaten!
Yup…that 1.5 hour commute got old. But it was actually a good time to just think and chill out, ya know? But yeah, the cake made it worth it! So a Caramel Mud Cake, eh? I need to know more about this dessert…maybe you can make it for your birthday this year? 🙂
This seems like a delicious cake, David! I will definitely give it a try!
Hey there, Agness! Thank you so much for the kind words…this cake is mighty delicious. The frosting is unique, but it’s got such a wonderful deep caramel flavor. I hope you enjoy this one as much as we do! 🙂
David – Just scrolled through quickly. The cakes looks delicious. Do you think I could change it to cupcakes instead?
Hey there, Tracy! Thank you so much for the kind comment! So I’ll start by saying that I’ve never made this cake in cupcake form…but I think it might still work. Any cake that starts with creaming the butter and sugar should be able to be translated into cupcakes…the only change is the obvious one of reducing the baking time. However, this cake is a bit denser than other white cakes. I personally love it (and I’ve gotten comments on this with other folks who have eaten it)…but I’m not sure what that would be like in cupcake form. I imagine it would still be tasty! Oh, and you’ll likely need to add a bit more powdered sugar into the frosting to make it stiff enough to pipe on top of a cupcake. All in all, though, it should translate decently well! If you do try this one in cupcake form, will you swing back by and let me know how it works? 🙂 Thanks again, and happy baking!
Ha! I’m sitting here in Athens looking for a way to make an easier caramel cake!! Fun to read your story about Cecilia’s!! It’s a small world!😊 And this looks so much prettier than traditional caramel cake- they spread horribly (unless you are Cecilia;)….Going to try it! Thanks
Cecilia really is a magician when it comes to cakes! I love her caramel cake, but sadly we live about 1,000 miles from Athens now. So I decided to use Cecilia’s inspiration, and I came up with this version. The cake certainly doesn’t spread! I hope you enjoy it…and if you make it, come back and let me know how it turns out?? 🙂 Happy baking, Lauren!