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Best Southern Salted Caramel Cake

February 21, 2022
Shanika | Orchids + Sweet Tea
Indulge in the rich and buttery flavors of Southern Salted Caramel Cake - The perfect treat for any season. [Vegan + GF Options]

Best Southern Salted Caramel Cake

This Best Southern Salted Caramel Cake recipe comes super moist, fluffy, and full of delicious buttery and caramel flavors--- thanks to the salted caramel infused in the cake itself, in between each layer, and drizzled atop the vanilla buttercream. There's nothing like this cake! Get ready to savor each and every bite of this heavenly treat! It’s the perfect sweet indulgence for every occasion and season. Vegan + Gluten-free options.

Whole caramel cake on a cake stand with slices surrounding it on a brown wood table and dark green background.

Being a Southerner at heart and growing up in Florida for almost half my life has certainly displayed itself in this recipe for Southern Salted Caramel Cake. If I'm honest, I'm completely obsessed with the flavors in this easy cake, and if you're a caramel fanatic----it won't disappoint one bit. But of course, if I'm keeping things traditional, then My Grandma's Baked Southern Banana Pudding and this Easy Southern Peach Cobbler [with Canned Peaches] is just the thing I go after! Pair it with this Salted Caramel Cashew Latte to enjoy all things caramel!

Jump to:

What Makes the Best Southern Salted Caramel Cake

When it comes to any cake, I'm convinced that the thing that makes it stand out is how completely moist and fluffy it is. In fact, I tend to make my cakes super light and fluffy, while ensuring that they still hold up well although they are crumbly. It's the crumbly, moist feel of any cake that melts my heart away.

For this Southern Salted Caramel Cake, the things that also make it the best are: the beautiful marriage of buttery and sweet caramel flavors as well as the homemade salted caramel sauce, which is so easy!

Ingredients on a dark green table including sugar, butter, eggs, salted caramel sauce, baking powder, and milk.

How to Make Southern Salted Caramel Cake

This cake as I’ve mentioned before is super easy to whip together and doesn’t require anything special or difficult when it comes to ingredients. All you need to whip up this simple salted caramel cake batter is:

  • Bob’s Red Mill All-purpose flour.
  • Cane sugar.
  • Baking powder.
  • Ground cinnamon (Just a pinch).
  • Vanilla.
  • Unsalted butter. 
  • Vegetable oil.
  • Plant-based milk (You can also use Regular cow’s milk)
  • Eggs.
  • Salted caramel sauce.
A white bowl with flour being held on a dark green table.

Salted Caramel Sauce Ingredients

The three components in this Southern Salted Caramel Cake are the cake batter, homemade salted caramel sauce and the buttercream. Here’s what you need to make the sauce:

  • Brown sugar. I use organic to make sure it’s vegan (for vegan-option especially).
  • Unsalted butter. I just substitute with vegan butter for that option.
  • Heavy Cream. I love using organic heavy cream. You can also use the coconut cream version for a creamier texture for vegan option.
  • Sea salt. This creates a nice balance with the sweet and helps to heighten the flavor.

SHOP MY FAVORITE BAKEWARE ITEMS AND ACCESSORIES!

Here, I’ve curated a list of bakeware essentials that I use to achieve my favorite baking treats, especially with this Southern Salted Caramel Cake. Everything from my fave cake pans, parchment paper, mixing bowls, and more. SEE THEM HERE!

Baked cake layers placed on a brown cutting board.

4 Tips For Making the Perfect Cake Every time

TIP #1:

Another thing that I’ve learned about baking a cake is having the right tools. As a basic—-you should have a cake stand (preferably one that has a turnstile table), spatulas (big + small), piping bags + tips, correct baking pans and parchment paper, and if you need to get a bit more fancy—Bake Even Cake Strips.

Have no clue what these are? Whelp, you basically soak them in water before wrapping them around your cake pan while baking. These stripes ensures that your cakes don’t bake with a funny “dome” or anything. Just flat and even.

Of course, if you don’t have these strips, you can simply butter your pan and use liners along with an old trick that I’ve always done when baking—–add a small pot of water to the oven to keep things moist. Yup. It works EVERY. TIME.

Buttercream in a white bowl with a spatula on a dark green table.

TIP #2:

One of the essential ingredient combos for a light, silky cake texture is baking soda and acid ingredient (usually vinegar or buttermilk if the cake calls for it). When acid and baking soda reacts, it creates bubbles and helps to create a nice rise for your baked goods, leaving an airy texture.

In the case of vegan cakes, this is usually done by adding apple cider vinegar to your milk and letting it sit for a few minutes and then later combining it with the dry ingredients (which includes baking soda). Wallah!

Cake on a cake stand with drips of salted caramel on the tops and sides on a brown wood table with a dark green background.

TIP #3:

One of my latest tricks to a perfect cake has been to ensure that ALL of my dry ingredients are sifted. Trust me, ya’ll—-this works!

Making all the dry ingredients fully sifted makes things airy, as you’ve guessed it and allows everything to combine faster.

TIP #4:

Never Over-mix! When creating a cake, it’s so important to add the dry ingredients and wet ingredients alternately and as soon as everything is combined very well, THAT’S IT! Over-mixing creates a more dense cake.

Top view of fully frosted cake with drips of salted caramel on top on a cake stand on a brown table with a dark green background.

Icing vs. Buttercream. Which is Better?

Honestly, I prefer buttercream for this cake because it gives it that real indulgent cake feel. However, I do know that many caramel cakes come with caramel icing instead. So what's the difference? Caramel icing is thinner and tends to set quickly and harden, much like glazes on a donut or pop tart.

As for buttercream, it's usually thicker and fluffier, which in my opinion adds to the already fluffiness of this cake. Plus, when you decide to warm the cake a bit, I find that buttercream holds up better. Win, win.

What To Serve Southern Salted Caramel Cake With?

This caramel cake is indulgent and amazing all on its own, but if you're looking to add a little something extra, here are some more fun ideas for what to serve with a Southern Salted Caramel Cake -

  • Whipped cream: A dollop of freshly whipped cream or coconut cream can be a delicious addition to a slice of salted caramel cake. The lightness of the cream can help balance out the rich sweetness of the cake.
  • Ice cream: The contrast between the cold ice cream and warm cake can be a winning combination. The subtle vanilla flavor can also complement the caramel and salt flavors in the cake. Try my No-Churn Caramel Cone Ice Cream
  • Fresh berries: Adding some fresh berries, such as strawberries or raspberries, can provide a nice pop of acidity to cut through the richness of the cake.
  • Coffee or tea: A cup of coffee or tea can be a great way to round out the flavors of the cake. The bitterness of the coffee or tannins in the tea can help balance out the sweetness of the cake. Try my decadent Iced Caramel Latte [with Coffee Ice Cubes]
  • Caramel sauce: If you really want to double down on the caramel flavor, drizzling some additional caramel sauce over the cake can be a decadent finishing touch. Just be aware that this will make the cake even sweeter!
Slices of cake on white plates side by side with the cake stand in background along with a glass of milk on a brown wood table.

Southern Salted Caramel Cake Q + A's

How To Make This Cake Gluten-Free

If you would love to make this cake gluten-free, then substituting all-purpose flour with Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour is the easiest option. It’s a special blend of gluten-free flours, starches, and xanthan gum, which makes this cake just as soft, fluffy, and airy as the original!

How To Make This Cake Vegan

To make this cake vegan, simply remove the eggs and unsalted butter, substituting them with vegan butter (softened at room temp.) and apple cider vinegar (1 Tbsp) mixed in with the milk. Also, you can make the salted caramel sauce vegan using this recipe.

Can I Make Salted Caramel Cupcakes?

Certainly! If you’d like to make cupcakes, simply follow the recipe as written. Instead of pouring the batter into cake pans, pour it into a cupcake tin with liners. Bake the cupcakes for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.

How To Store This Salted Caramel Cake

If you have leftovers, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or place them in an airtight container. Keep the cake in the fridge for up to five days. You can also freeze leftover cake for up to three months. Defrost the cake on the counter before serving.

How to Store the Salted Caramel Sauce

Leftover caramel sauce can be stored in a tightly sealed mason jar for up to two weeks. When ready to use, simply reheat sauce in the microwave at 15 second intervals until softened and at room temp

So, What Does It Taste Like?

Just like a Southern Salted Caramel Cake should! It’s:

  • Fluffy and tender
  • Generously frosted
  • Salty-sweet perfection
  • Moist and dense
  • Totally decadent, and did I mention delicious?
Up close shot of slices of cake on a white plate with a fork on a brown wood table.

More Mouthwatering Caramel Recipes

If you're anything like me, and can't get enough of all things caramel, then you absolutely have to check out my other dessert recipes too. There's something for every caramel fanatic out there.

MADE OUR RECIPE(S)?

If you make this Best Southern Salted Caramel Cake, tag @orchidsnsweettea_ on Instagram and hashtag it #orchidsandsweettea!

Up close shot of slices of cake on a white plate with a fork on a brown wood table.

Best Southern Salted Caramel Cake

February 21, 2022
4.56 from 25 votes
This Southern Salted Caramel Cake is the best recipe to satisfy those cravings during any season with a burst of buttery and sweet caramel flavors.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 8 servings

Ingredients

HOMEMADE SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE:

  • 1 cup organic brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsps unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • ½ cup organic heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

CAKE:

  • 4 cups organic cake flour, sifted
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 2 cups organic cane sugar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional (Helps to enhance caramel flavor)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp.
  • 4 large eggs, at room temp.
  • 2 egg yolks
  • cup vegetable oil (You can also use coconut oil or olive oil)
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • ½ cup dairy-free "buttermilk" (You can also use dairy, if desired; See Notes!)
  • ½ cup yogurt (You can also use sour cream instead)
  • ¼ cup salted caramel sauce, homemade or store-bought

CARAMEL BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

  • 5 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp.
  • 1 cup salted caramel sauce, homemade or store-bought
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 1-2 Tbsps Almond milk (You can also use whole milk, if desired!)

TOPPING:

  • Salted caramel sauce, for drizzle

Instructions

HOMEMADE SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE:

  • Heat the brown sugar in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and stir constantly using a rubber spatula until clumps are formed. Add butter and continue to stir until everything has melted and become a dark 'amber-like' color. Continue to stir consistently until fully melted and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Now, slowly whisk in the heavy cream and continue stirring until well incorporated and sauce has fully thickened. Remove from heat, stir in the salt and allow to cool slightly before using. Set aside to cool completely before adding it to the recipe.

TO MAKE THE CAKE:

  • Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease (with butter) AND line with parchment paper the bottoms of THREE standard 8-inch cake pans.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the milk and apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and set aside for 5-10 minutes until everything "activates" to create the dairy-free "buttermilk". See Notes for Regular Buttermilk option.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt until combined.
  • In a bowl, add the butter and sugar, beating them together using a hand-mixer (on high-speed), until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the eggs (one at a time) followed by the egg yolks, vanilla, oil, yogurt, and salted caramel sauce, mixing until combined. On low-speed, add in the dry ingredients followed by the buttermilk and continue to mix until combined and the batter is smooth, about 3-4 minutes. NOTE: The batter should be thick, yet slowly run off the whisk once lifted.
  • Divide the batter evenly into each of the cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick or butter knife comes out clean when tested in the centers.
  • Remove cakes from the oven and let them rest in the pan for 10 minutes or so before removing the cakes and placing them onto a cooling rack to fully cool. NOTE: Let them cool for at least 1-2 hours in a cool place.

MAKE THE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

  • Simply beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer (or using a hand-mixer) on medium-high speed, until smooth and pale. Add in the powdered sugar, vanilla, caramel sauce, and milk, continuing to mix on medium-speed until you reach the desired consistency----smooth and fluffy. NOTE: Add more milk (1 tablespoon at a time if too thick) or powdered sugar (for more thickness).

ASSEMBLY:

  • Place the first cake layer on your cake stand and evenly cover the top with buttercream. Now, top with 2nd layer and add more buttercream atop that layer. Finally, top with final layer and top with remaining buttercream, spreading it over the tops and sides of cake, evenly and fairly thinly.
  • Once fully frosted, add drizzles of salted caramel sauce to the top and sides, if desired. Chill for 5 minutes to ensure that buttercream sets.
  • When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator. Slice and enjoy!
  • Bon Appetit!

Tips & Tricks

  • STORAGE: Keep cake leftovers stored for up to 4-5 days in the fridge. Keep it in an airtight container to keep the cake from drying out. You can also freeze the cake tightly wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 3 months. Before serving, defrost the cake on the counter.
  • FLOUR: You can also substitute cake flour with all-purpose flour if you'd like.
  • STORAGE (CARAMEL SAUCE): Leftover salted caramel sauce can be stored in a tightly sealed mason jar for up to two weeks. When ready to use, simply reheat sauce in the microwave at 15 second intervals until softened and at room temp.
  • CUPCAKES: This recipe yields about 30 cupcakes. Simply bake for 18-20 minutes instead, until centers come out clean.
  • VEGAN OPTION: To make this cake entirely dairy-free + vegan, simply omit the unsalted butter and eggs and use vegan butter instead and add 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar to milk instead of lemon juice. Also, see my recipe for a vegan caramel sauce to substitute.
  • BUTTERMILK: You can use either regular buttermilk (you may need an additional 2 Tbsps or more until desired consistency is met) or create a dairy based buttermilk by adding ½ cup of whole milk with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. 

Nutrition

Calories: 961kcal | Carbohydrates: 158g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 74g | Saturated Fat: 41g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 19g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 307mg | Sodium: 624mg | Potassium: 171mg | Fiber: 0.01g | Sugar: 79g | Vitamin A: 2139IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 166mg | Iron: 1mg

DID YOU MAKE THIS recipe?

Tag @orchidsnsweettea_ on Instagram and hashtag it #orchidsandsweettea

Shanika

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  1. I made this cake. The flavor was great, but the cake was very dense. When mixing, it was so thick, my electric mixxer and hand mixer both struggled. I added more milk/buttermilk (I can't remember, but whatever the recipe called for) to thin it out. After baking, it was so dense, it was hard to eat. What did I do wrong?

    • Hi Renee! I'm so sorry to hear that your cake didn't turn out great! That's so strange, because I haven't had feedback about it coming out dense. I'm wondering if the brand of flour matters? I usually use Bob's Red Mill or King Arthur's, so I'm sure that specific brands could be an issue. For next time, I would recommend trying to use cake flour or try doubling the amount of milk and slowly adding it until you reach the desired smoothness of the batter if using a different brand of flour. 🙂

  2. I noticed the recipe for the cake calls for 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract. Is this correct? I also saw that the recipe calls for 1/2 cup dairy-free buttermilk (you can use dairy if desired, see notes). When I go to the notes to see how to make the dairy buttermilk it is missing. Could you update and provide clarification, please?

    • Hi Amanda! I apologize for the confusion! Please find the updated amount of vanilla in the recipe. Also, for the buttermilk----You can use either regular buttermilk (you may need an additional 2 Tbsps or more until desired consistency is met) or create a dairy based buttermilk by adding 1/2 cup of whole milk with 1 tsp of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. I hope that this helps! 🙂

  3. Ok, I'm confused. The instructions say to add the caramel sauce to the cake batter but then also have you drizzle the sauce over each layer. How much do you add to the batter? I'm in the middle of making this now!!

    • Hi Linde,

      I'm so sorry for any confusion! Under the cake ingredients, I have 1/4 cup of sauce being used. When frosting, you can use how little or much you like depending on preference. 🙂

  4. Hi Shanika, Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. It was an absolute treat to eat and I will most definitely make it again.

    • Hi Fred! I'm so happy to hear that you enjoyed this cake! Thanks so much for choosing to make it! 🙂

  5. One word for this recipe "AMAZING" I made this cake and now this cake is my favourate now. Abosulotely lovvvveed it so scrumptious, moist and rich full of caramel flavour yummy.😋

    • Hi! OMG---I'm so happy to hear that you enjoyed this cake! Thanks so much for choosing to make it! 🙂

  6. I made this cake over the weekend and the whole family loved it! The flavor was incredible and we will definitely be making it over and over!

  7. I've never had southern salted caramel cake before. It looks and sounds amazing!!! I'm putting this on my 'must bake' list right now.

  8. Just lovely! Perfectly risen and moist cake, and the frosting was divine, but that sauce... wow! I scraped every little bit of it off my plate!