Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting + Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels

It’s a Caramelpalooza with Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting and Golden  Syrup Vanilla Bean Caramels!!!

Did someone say Caramel?!? Yay, Daring Bakers! A cake loaded with buttery caramel goodness for this month’s challenge, plus soft caramel candy! I think I could live on caramel, not to mention bathe in it! What an awesome surprise, hence why I had to take part in this challenge, regardless of my current, incapacitated situation.

So I had my surgery, and I’m still incapacitated (ie – unable to walk or bend my knee until the doc gives the okay), and yes, I’m still at the rehab facility doing ‘time’ until I can start weight bearing and bending my knee (incredibly homesick!), but did that stop me when the word caramel popped into my line of vision when this months challenge was announced? HELL no.  Caramel anything elicits crazy feelings of lust from my brain to the heart of my digestive system.

Not only do I love baking and decorating cakes, but a caramel cake and/or soft, chewy caramel candies? Nothing, and I mean nothing, was going to stop me from taking part in this one, not even my wheelchair and a kitchen I’m not familiar with.

Before I go on, I have to thank Brian for his amazing generosity and graciousness in letting me use the rec kitchen once again.  Such a great guy!

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting + Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels

Having said all that, this months challenge, as I’ve already hinted at in the paragraph above, is a Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting, created by Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater. This months hosts, who did a great job in coming up with this challenge, once again gluten and gluten free, are Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity; Alex of the famous Blondie and Brownie duo; Jenny of Foray into Food ; and last but definitely NOT least, to aid in the gluten free recipe for this cake; Natalie of Gluten-A-Go-Go

This cake consisted of three components that we had to use:

  • Caramel syrup
  • Cake batter
  • Brown butter frosting

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting + Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels

The most important component was the caramel syrup, since this was going to give the cake and frosting the caramel flavor. How dark you cook the syrup really makes a difference in how much caramel flavor you can incorporate into the cake. I cooked mine to a dark amber, right before the smoking point.  Although bitter on its own when tasted with a spoon, once it was mixed into the batter and baked, it gave the cake a rich, deep caramel flavor, and a beautiful, honey color.

The cake alone received rave after rave for its moist, dense texture and intense caramel flavor.  At first I thought I’d done something wrong since many of the cakes by the other DB’ers look a lot lighter than mine.  Then I realized that maybe it was because they probably cooked the sugar to a lighter stage than mine, per the instructions. Regardless, this is why I love Daring Bakers, so many creative and contrasting results; all of them amazing!

 Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting + Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels

Since I knew the cake and frosting together was super sweet, when I made the frosting a second time, I reduced the sugar and it was perfect,. I used it for the whole cake the second time – inside-out, but no photos since it was a last-minute birthday cake for a friend.

As far as putting my take on this cake  you see in my photos, I iinitially didn’t want to cut any of the sugar in the recipe, so I torted the cake into 4 layers and filled each layer with a creamy fudge filling, instead of the frosting, which I combined with some ground macadamia brittle I made, then topped the fudge with a swirl of the recipe for Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Alice Medrich’s  Pure Dessert, cooked a little past the sauce stage (about 235-40 F), and a light sprinkle of Fleur de Sel.

I used the rest of the soft caramel to top the cake, along with some drizzles of dark chocolate ganache. I also made a batch of the caramel candies, and to say they were delicious is an absolute understatement!

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting filled with Chocolate Ganache

Truth be told, although this was a fun challenge, and the cake itself was delicious as others have pointed out, the frosting was a titch too sweet.  Because of this, I tried to put as thin a layer around the sides as possible, which resulted in a less than aesthetically pleasing cake, but the next time I made it, as mentioned above, I reduced the sugar and it was perfection! However, baking and decorating in a wheelchair with your leg up is pretty tough, so I suppose I could blame the aesthetics on that, right?

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting and Fudge Filling

Tender and Moist Caramel Cake with Caramel Brown Butter Frosting and Hot fudge Filling. Gluten-Free version too!

As for the caramels, I cut them into diamonds and just let everyone dig in – no added flavorings since the flavor and texture was absolutely perfect as is.  You know the old adage, if it ain’t broke…

Tender, moist Caramel Cake, (loaded with caramel flavor!) layered with warm fudge filling; frosted with an out of this world Caramelized Butter Frosting! A Gluten-Free version too! You HAVE to try this! #caramelcake #fudge #caramelizedbutterfrosting #caramel

On to the recipes….

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 12 to 16 servings
Recipe from Shuna Fish Lydon
Caramel Syrup
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup caramel syrup (above)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup milk, at room temperature
  • !Warm Fudge Filling (for my version)
  • Macadamia Brittle (for my version)
Caramelized Butter Frosting *
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted (I used 2¾ cups)
  • 4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 vanilla beans scraped or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup (above)
  • Kosher or sea salt to taste
Make the Caramel Syrup
  1. Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.
  2. In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.
  3. When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.
  4. Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}
Make the Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt and continue to mix until light and fluffy.
  4. Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
  5. Sift flour and baking powder.
  6. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}
  7. Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.
  8. Place cake pan on cookie sheet or ½ sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.
  9. Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.
  10. GLUTEN FREE OPTION - 2 cups of gluten free flour blend (w/xanthan gum) or 2 cups of gf flour blend + 1½ teaspoons xanthan or guar gf + ½ to 1 teaspoon baking powder.
Make the Caramelized Butter Frosting *
  1. Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.
  2. Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Stir in vanilla seeds or extract and then add salt to taste.
  4. Assemble Basic version of the Cake (just the cake and frosting)
  5. Split the cake in two or three horizontally so you have two or three distinct layer. I use unwaxed dental floss after cutting around it, to split it evenly.
  6. Spread the caramelized butter frosting over each layer as you stack it, then frost the top and outside of whole cake with a crumb coat and refrigerate it until crumb coat is set. Frost the crumb coated cake with the remaining frosting and serve.
Assemble MY version of this Cake
  1. Torte the cake into 4 thin layers. Spread the first three layers with some of the warm fudge filling, a drizzle of caramel sauce from the golden vanilla bean caramel recipe below (the sauce option), and crushed macadamia brittle, stacking them as you go along. Frost the sides and top of the cake with the caramelized butter frosting, and pour the thickened caramel sauce on top (if it drips down the sides, even better;prettier). Pipe rosettes of the remaining caramelized butter frosting around the top, and garnish each rosette with a whole candied macadamia nut (cook equal parts sugar and water until medium brown, then dip whole macadamia nuts into it with fork or slotted spoon until coated. Gently set each caramel coated nut on a parchment lied sheet pan to set),
* Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels

Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels

Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels
Yield: 81 1-inch caramels
Recipe from Alice Medrich's Pure Desserts
Equipment A 9-inch square baking pan Candy thermometer
  • 1 cup Gold Syrup
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ⅜ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1½ teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or scraped vanilla beans ground in a coffee or spice grinder, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened
  1. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.)
  2. Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.
  3. When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.
  5. Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.
  1. Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant ¼ teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.
  2. Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.
  3. Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add ½ teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.
  4. Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.


Tender, moist Caramel Cake, (loaded with caramel flavor!) layered with warm fudge filling; frosted with an out of this world Caramelized Butter Frosting! A Gluten-Free version too! You HAVE to try this! #caramelcake #fudge #caramelizedbutterfrosting #caramelNote – The photo of the pulled caramel to the right of the photo of the cake batter at the beginning of this entry, is courtesy of Chef John and his amazing determination, patience, and cell phone!

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22 Responses to Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting + Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels

  1. Sharon says:

    I am not a baker, but I am an expert consumer of baked goods. I had the pleasure and privilege of tasting Lisa’s caramel cake and candies. One word-amazing! The cake was moist and flavorful. I particularly loved the filling. Caramel candies are one of my favorite treats, so I’ve tried many. These were wonderful! Thank you Lisa.

  2. Angela says:

    It’s so good to hear from you Lisa! I’ve been wondering how you were doing.

    I’m glad to hear that your surgery went well, but boo hiss to being stuck at the rehab facility still! Any idea how long before you can try bearing weight?

    Your cake and caramels look amazing! Especially considering the wheelchair and all. I think you deserve extra credit 😀

  3. Lisa, you are a true CHAMP. If anyone embodies the daring baker spirit, it’s you 🙂 Your cake looks so beautiful, awesome, awesome job. Great photos!! And your idea to add bittersweet chocolate ganache and macadamia brittle sounds DIVINE.

  4. Dolores says:

    Baking in a wheelchair. I am not worthy. Madcap Cupcake is right, THAT is the spirit of a true Daring Baker.

    Your cake looks STUNNING. I love your add-ins.

    Thanks for baking with us this month.

  5. Congratulations on finishing the DB Challenge! In a wheel chair and a bum leg! Wow! The cake and candy look fancy and delicious. The diamond pattern is very cool. That’s thinking outside of the box.

  6. Jason says:

    Amazing! This cake looks so incredibly delicious! I’m pretty bummed that I wasn’t able to make it back in time to get my hands on a piece of it, but hopefully I can twist her arm to make one for me when she’s feeling a bit better. All of your cakes are fantastic but I can never shake the feeling that each one might be better than the next, so I hate to miss one, lol. I’m awed that you’ve had the drive and the discipline to continue with these challenges given the current circumstances, and I’m so proud of you. I can’t wait till you’re all healed up and I can get back home for a share of whatever you come up with next! I love you, baby!

  7. Tartelette says:

    You’re my hero Lisa! It’s good to have you back!! You have the true spirit of a true DB!!
    Gorgeous cake!!

  8. whitakerworld says:

    Loved how you decorated your cake also! Isn’t it neat how you can decorate one cake so many different ways? My caramels turned out so nasty I did not even mention them! I do love caramel so I may try it again!!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  9. ingrid says:

    Glad to see you are back, some what, and on the mend!

    Your photos look marvelous! (good job, Chef John on the caramel photo!)

    Good for you that you didn’t let your knee and a strange kitchen keep you from giving this challenge a go!

  10. Dawn says:

    WOW, took caramel cake to a new level. It reminds me of a turtle candy cake with macadamia and dark chocolate instead of peanuts and milk chocolate. I’m going to use the caramel recipe to make my hub’s favorite orange walnut caramels! YUMMMMMM!!!!!

  11. Delilah says:


    I stopped by your site to check out your Levain clones, but got sidetracked by this mouth watering cake. I’m so looking forward to making it, although I doubt it will turn out as pretty as yours! Great pictures!

  12. Kinsey says:

    That cake looks scrumptious, and tell Chef John he got a great shot of that dripping caramel! I wish my mouth was under that lmao

  13. cakeitaly says:

    Great ideas!!!! Congratulations for the blog.

    Bye from Italy
    From the Staff of

  14. Nice work Lisa. Wonderful infact! The cake and caramels are really lovely!

  15. Your caramel cake is gorgeous-I love how it’s decorated! Great idea slicing the caramels into diamonds, they look really nice that way 🙂

  16. Arlette says:

    Hello Lisa

    Every think look yummy, I love the challenge and your tuiles
    all the best Arlette

  17. MandyM says:

    Oh my, macadamia brittle…. You’ll have to post that recipe some time, pretty please!
    I’m absolutely nuts for nuts 😉 Macadamias are one of my absolute top of the list favourites!

  18. cakebrain says:

    oooh! I’ve bookmarked this recipe in my cookbook for ages and haven’t gotten around to it yet. Your cake looks amazing! What a gorgeous dessert!

  19. Diane says:

    I just started making this cake. You say to add the salt sugar and cream, but in your ingredients, you do not have any cream mentioned. I am now at a stand still. Need to know how much of this ingredient, PLEASE.

    • Lisa says:

      Diane, the recipe was directly printed from Shuna Fish Lydon’s recipe via the Daring Bakers Challenge. How it looks and how it’s meant may have confused you. It says “Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy”, meaning cream the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, ‘cream’ meaning to beat or mix until the butter, sugar and salt is creamy. I changed it to mix so no one else misinterprets, which was easy to do! lol Hope that clears things up!

  20. Diane says:

    Oh how stupid am I! You mean to CREAM the ingredients. So Sorry…

    • Lisa says:

      No, no, no, Diane! When I first looked at it, not having made it in two years, I thought the same for a moment! It’s the ‘&’ that made it confusing, so replacing it with ‘and’ and the word mix makes it clearer. Easily mistaken, so no worries at all! I’m just glad you get to make the cake now 🙂

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