Caramel cake makes perfect birthday cake

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My son-in-law Parker had a birthday this weekend. Lucky for him he’s married to a girl who loves to cook, so he was definitely getting a homemade cake.

Holly called early to tell me that she wanted to make a caramel cake for him. I sent her my two favorite recipes.

The main thing to remember is use light or dark brown sugar when it is specified, if it calls for dark and you don’t use it you will miss out on a deeper flavor.

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My memories of a caramel cake when growing up were plain yellow cake with a caramel frosting. This cake is anything but plain.

Yellow layer cake

1 plain (not butter or anything else) yellow cake mix

1 cup milk

1 stick butter melted

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 and grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix on low for one minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Place in the oven on the center rack and bake until golden brown and barely pulling from the sides of the pan. Let set in pans for 10 minutes and then turn out on a cooling rack and let them completely cool. I cover mine lightly with a dish towel.

Quick caramel frosting

1 stick butter

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup milk

2 cups of powdered sugar, sifted (measure first then sift)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the butter and sugars in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir and cook until the mixture comes to a boil — about 2 minutes. Add the milk; stir and bring the mixture back to a boil then remove the pan from the heat. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, beat with a wooden spoon until the frosting is smooth.

Use immediately, while still warm, to frost the cake. It will harden quickly, if it does, place back on low heat and stir until it loosens up.

Adapted from the

The Cake Doctor

Next on my favorite caramel cake list is this pound cake, mostly because I love pound cake and this one’s flavor is definitely amped up with brown sugar.

Caramel pound cake

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 sticks butter, soft

6 large eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl and set aside. In another large mixing bowl, cream together the two sugars and butter with the mixer and then add the eggs one at a time, beating after each one until well blended. Then alternately, add the flour mixture and milk to the creamed mixture and beat until well blended and smooth. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out almost clean, about one hour. Do not overbake. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.

Caramel frosting

1 stick butter

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups of powdered sugar, sifted

Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan over low heat and then add the brown sugar and milk stirring until the mixture is almost to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool. Stir in the vanilla and then gradually stir in the powdered sugar and until blended and smooth.

Transfer the cake to a plate and ice the top and sides; let the cake stand for 2 hours before serving.

From James Villas

Christina Hall writes a weekly column for The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at