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.