chocolate cake with {salted caramel} frosting


Hello my fellow cake lovers!

I finally found my favorite combination of chocolate cake and salted caramel frosting. It took some time, experimenting with a few chocolate cake recipes, not to mention my time spent tasting salted caramel recipes. I am a BIG lover of salted caramel. From the salted caramel macarons at Laduree to salted caramels dipped in chocolate – I adore it all.

Today I made a three tier chocolate cake layered with salted caramel buttercream frosting. #1 was returning from his first ever camping trip with friends, sans adults, and I was so happy to see him. I wanted to celebrate. Now, you should know that I am not a talented cake decorator. I don’t do decorative finishes, perfect swirls, or use those tip-thingies to make little flowers. My priority seems to be taste – plain and simple. And this cake tastes divine. It isn’t overly sweet – just a nice moist chocolate cake, perfect for a birthday or a celebration, or simply a dinner with some really fabulous boys in your life~


Chocolate Cake
adapted from Ina Garten

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease your cake pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended. Divide your batter between your cake pans – use any extra to make some cupcakes. I like to fill my 6″ rounds 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 10-15 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Salted Caramel
~wonderful for endless desserts!

Salted Caramel

1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, kosher or sea

1. Combine the sugar, water, and the corn syrup in a large saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
2. Cover the saucepan and let it cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
3. After 3 minutes, remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.
4. Do not stir from this point on, but instead swirl the liquid around the pan so that the caramel doesn’t burn.
5. Continue to cook until the caramel turns an even amber color then remove from the heat and let stand for about 30 seconds.
6. *** Be careful here *** Pour the heavy cream into the mixture. The mixture will bubble up significantly and is very hot.
7. Stir the mixture, again being careful. Add the butter, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until combined.
8. Measure 1 cup into a Pyrex measuring cup. Stirring occasionally, allow to cool until thick like molasses and warm to the touch, about 20 minutes. Save any extra in a sealed container in the refrigerator. It is delicious on ice cream, not to mention your finger… :)

Salted Caramel Frosting

2 sticks butter at room temperature
8 ounces of cream cheese
3-4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 cup salted caramel (recipe above)

1. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy.
2. Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar into the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat to combine.
3. Add 1 cup of the salted caramel and beat to combine.
4. Add additional powdered sugar until the frosting is the sweetness and consistency you desire.


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168 Responses to chocolate cake with {salted caramel} frosting

  1. Oh Kimberly~
    You know I LOVE Ina!
    This is the cutest most YUMMIEST~perfect little FANCY cake ever!
    Pinning this!
    Gotta make it!
    You live the SWEETEST most loveliest life on the farm!
    How’s the itty~bitty kitty?
    I know he~she’s been cuddled and snuggle with so much LOVE~
    I’ve got so many SWEET stray kitty stories.
    Hugs to you for a HAPPY weekend!
    I bet you are going to the Barn House! xo

  2. I am soooo making this! I want to thank you. I said it on Facebook, but wish you to know. You are so creative and take advantage of your gifts be it making salted carmel or taking amazing pictures. You inspire me and I am just thankful for you.

  3. I have been waiting for this! I will file it away in a safe place as I know I will be making it soon. Happy week-end ~ have a blast ~ wish I was going with you. xo

  4. I just ate a WHOLE POT of salted caramel (from Guérande) instead of biting my nails, or swigging a bottle of champagne. They’ve just cancelled our flights to London and Azzy’s meant to be going on a week long horse camp. Remember French strikes??? I NEED YOUR CAKE NOWWWWW!!

  5. Had to skip on over after
    hearing about this amazing
    cake from Jill. Loved, loved
    meeting you at BH. It’s always
    wonderful when someone is as
    special in person as they seem
    to be on their blog. Loving
    this amazing Northwest summer
    xx Suzanne

  6. Kimberly~
    Making this cake for Greg’s birthday this week.
    Have never baked a really good cake like this.
    Greg’s getting my 6″ pans at Sur La Table today.
    On a scale from 1-10…how hard is the cake?
    Should I bake the cakes on Wed. and do the icing on Thursday for Thursday night?
    Hope mine turns out as lovely as yours~
    Happy Day Kimberly~


  8. I made this tonight. It is absolutely amazing!!!! I made the frosting a little thicker and swirled it on to make a little prettier. I drizzled (thin lines) of melted dark chocolate and then drizzled some of the carmel as well. WOW!!! Thanks so much for sharing!!!!

  9. Looks divine! I am a great salted caramel lover myself and often make a salted caramel ice cream! Question here – what size cake pans did you use? I have a 10 1/2 x 3″ pan which I would like to use – so I need to know how to resize the ingredients.

  10. Made these as cupcakes today for my mom’s birthday and they were a hit!! That has got to be some of the best frosting I’ve had. YUM! I’ll definitely made again!

  11. I just made this cake and it rocked my world. It’s the best cake I have ever eaten. It was so good I had to blog about it. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe and for giving such good instructions.

  12. I never can figure out how to put white frosting on a chocolate cake without having a bunch of crumbs getting mixed in and it looks like choc chip ice cream instead! Is there a coating you can brush on cake before you frost it? Or would partially freezing the layers work?

    • If you put a thin layer of icing on your cake (crumb Coat)then put it in the fridge for and hour, after that put your final icing coat on and you should have no crumbs in your icing.I also baste all my cakes with a simple syrup before icing it gives extra moisture and keeps down on the crumbs.hope this helps.

  13. I haven’t made it yet but planning to this weekend. How long does the frosting last? If I frost cupcakes on Sunday will they still be good on Tuesday? Do they need to be refrigerated?

  14. Do you think this would adapt for cupcakes? Going to a big party and often more bite size things are easier to eat with 50 people..

  15. I saw this recipe on pintrest and decided to make it…ehhh…not so good. I spent most of my day making the cake, carmel, and icing from scratch to get a “not so great” piece of cake. I bake all the time so it’s not because of my skill. The cake texture was almost brownie like and the carmel icing was a little too salty once on top of the cake. I will not keep this recipe.

    • I respect your opinion. As a baker, I would love it if you had a fabulous chocolate cake recipe that you could recommend. I can’t explain the saltiness as I make that salted caramel all of the time and hadn’t had that complaint. The beauty of cake recipes as there is that there are so many, I am sure you have ones you love~

      • My frosting turned out a little too salty too. But otherwise wonderful. I use salted butter, so next time I just used half as much salt and it was perfect.

        • Hi Vicky,
          The first time I made it I used the salt I use for cooking, which has different sized granules. I found that I would hit a salty patch- not so good. I try to use a fine salt now as it ends up more evenly distributed.
          Thanks for letting me know!

  16. I am so excited to have found this recipe! My daughter turns 18 on Saturday and she requested a chocolate caramel cake. I’ve had a tough time finding anything that requires a little more effort than a box cake mix and a jar of ice cream topping. Definitely making this one!!!

  17. Okay, that looks so delicious that I almost drooled on my keyboard. My birthday is in June and I have already chosen this as what I will eat that day. It may even be breakfast, lunch and dinner!!!

  18. I have made this twice and I absolutely LOVE IT. The icing is by far the best icing I have ever tasted. While the cake is GOOD….I have to say that I like Ina Garten’s Beatty Chocolate Cake better than this one….I find it to be much more moist and full of chocolate flavor! Thank you SO much for this wonderful recipe…I will be making this again and again!!!!!

  19. I found this post on pintrest…and it looks soooo good! I’m curious about the frosting. I am making a wedding cake and wondered if you think it might hold up for a wedding cake (it’s in May and shouldn’t be really warm or humid). The frosting looks like it has a very soft texture. The bride wants a good tasting cake, and she wants the rustic looking frosting. The color and texture of this frosting look like it would be perfect for looking “rustic”. Thanks!

  20. My mom made this back in the 50’s…… only she used brown sugar and a lot more butter! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmemories!

  21. Just made this cake and LOVE it! The salted caramel icing is to die for! Definitely keeping this in my recipe book =)

  22. Made this cake yesterday for a good friends belated graduation party, with a dessert table full of goodies I was a little worried about how much I would come home with… but mine was the only plate licked CLEAN! What an awesome recipe… this one is a keeper for sure. Oh, and have you tried dunking fresh strawberries in the frosting? It’s a whole new level of wonderful. Thank you! ~ L

  23. This recipe looks wonderful and I can’t wait to try it. Just wondering though if the lemon juice gives it a lemon flavor?

  24. I made this frosting over the weekend and topped a “better than sex cake” with it instead of cool whip. I only put in two cups of powdered sugar because I didn’t want the frosting to be too sweet. It was a little runny immediately after making but once cooled it firmed up nicely. The frosting was amazing. I will be making this frosting again and again. I brought the cake in for my co-workers and it was a hit. They all want the recipe

  25. […] In the interest of complete randominity (which is not a word, but I’m too sleepy to think of a better choice at the moment), I am also going to include the recipe for a delicious salted caramel buttercream frosting I made this afternoon. It’s my own creation (by which I mean I mashed together the recipes found here and here). […]

  26. I love the look of the cake (haven’t made it yet), but it was your remark about NOT making all the swirls and such that made me very happy.
    It seems everyone around me makes all the “accesories” for decorating, I just make a really great cake or whatever, don’t have the patience for all the rest, it looks gorgeous without it!!! Thanks, nice to know we are 2!!!

    • I am with you sister- taste wins over looks (and that doesn’t just go for cakes). I am not patient enough either- and really- you are just going to cut it all up, right? :)
      Make sure when you make the cake that you try the caramel before making the frosting- you will want to make caramel weekly after that!

  27. Oh, this cake is perfection! If you only get to eat the tiniest bit of treats like cake, you want it to be scrumptiously worth each nibble and this one DELIVERS!

  28. Let me just say… this is Dee-Lish! I was seriously concerned with the 3 different recipes and how’d they all go together at the end. But, it wasn’t that bad, now that I’ve experienced it. The cake is so amazingly delicious!

    Thank you for the recipe! I made it on Saturday night with 2 6″ cakes. I had enough left over to make 9 cupcakes. There was plenty of frosting leftover. So maybe next time, I’ll thicken the middle layer with more of it.

    With 4 men eating this cake, 1 of which is not a dessert eater, they ALL agreed this one is a keeper and to be used either often or for every special occasion. I needed a new cake to bake so, well done and thank you!

    • I am so happy you enjoyed it Melody! I too feed lots of men and they really like this one. Make sure to save some of that salted caramel to put on ice cream, apples, and over popcorn!

  29. I found this on Pinterest thanks to your gorgeous photo! I just made it for a friend’s birthday, and couldn’t be happier. I love cake, and this one has quickly moved to the top end of the list of favorites!

  30. I made the caramel/frosting for my friend’s birthday cake today and OH MAH LAWDY. It was sooooooo good. Cooking the caramel was a little nerve-wracking at first, but it turned out perfect (it stays blonde for a long time then gets very brown very quickly, so keep a sharp eye). I used more than a half tsp. of salt, but we like our caramel a little more on the tangy side.
    I also made the frosting without butter (my mom does Weight Watchers and I didn’t want to kill her lol), just the cream cheese and powdered sugar, and it was PERFECT. We have a bit left over and it can totally pass for ice cream sauce… :)

  31. Hi Kim, I was wondering why you used cocoa powder as opposed to chocolate solids? I’ve always leaned towards cakes with chocolate in, would you make any alterations if you were to use choccy instead?

    • Hi Sarah,
      I have used cocoa powder because it was in the recipe. However, I have been working with a number of chocolate recipes recently that have used chocolate solids and I think the next time I make this I will try it! I’m not sure what I will do and am guessing it will take a few tries to perfect it but if I do find a combination that works well I will update the post with the alterations and post it on my facebook page to let people know about it~
      Thanks for the suggestion,

  32. Hmm, got most of the way through making this and then saw the 6″ cake rounds. They MAKE cake rounds that aren’t 8″ or 9″?

    Sadly that’s all I’ve got and don’t really plan on buying new tiny ones, these have worked for 20 years. ;) But the icing is delicious and I can swap in a more reasonably sized chocolate cake recipe pretty easily.

    I’d add a note to new candy makers that the caramel making process (the swirling step) will seem to take FOREVER. Really, especially on an electric stove (no gas hookups out here in the country) this can take an age. Having someone to spell you on the swirling is a good idea. Keep at it, it WILL turn, but it will take a while.

    • Hi Josephine,
      I use 6″ rounds as I have a tray with six of them in one! The 8″ work just fine- the recipe calls for simply dividing the batter evenly into your cake pans.
      I hope you enjoy it!

  33. Thank you for a beautiful recipe! The cake was exactly like my Grandma used to make and the frosting was so easy and SO decadent. I made them as cupcakes and they went FAST!

  34. Have these in the oven now. The batter is so light (tastes yummy too) and can hardly wait until they’re done (doing cupcakes). Got 23 out of the batch – seems I may have filled the cups a bit more than I should have. Question: I was going to use an oversized star tip to pipe the frosting but from the photos, seems that may not work. What do you think?

  35. Just made your frosting to top a pumpkin cake (white cake mix and can of pumpkin), DELiCiOUS!!! My go to frosting from this day forth! Thanks for sharing!

  36. Hi! I would love to make this for my friend’s birthday. I was wondering, to be more efficient, if I could make the icing the day before? I want the cake to be as fresh as possible but I won’t have enough time to make the icing and the cake part before taking it in to work that day. Would the icing be ok if I put it in the fridge and then rewhip when ready to frost?
    I’d like to make this next week so if you could reply, I would greatly appreciate it!! ;-)
    Thanks so much!!

    • Hi Shannon~

      While I haven’t made it ahead of time, I make the salted caramel often and it stores nicely in a sealed container in the fridge. I would make that the day before, and then simply finish the frosting recipe the day you want to use it. That should take long at all. Let me know how it turns out! I hope you love it as much as we do~


  37. Hey. Just made the cake for my birthday yesterday, and everyone loved it! Found the recipe on pinterest and it looked too good to resist. Luckily, I had leftovers, and it is even better today!

  38. Your cake looks DELICIOUS!!! I was torn between trying a Guinness Chocolate Cake and yours, and yours has won. I can’t wait to bake it! Your recipe makes 3 6″ cakes, right? But it should be fine to make 2 8″ or 9″ cakes, right? I don’t have 6″ tins.

  39. This looks simply DIVINE!!! Any idea how long I’d want to bake for if I’m doing it as cupcakes? (Little easier to share at work and school than a whole cake.)

  40. Hi! I found this recipe on pinterest. The chocolate cake is nothing short of divine. However, the frosting didn’t mix right. The caramel was hard and wouldn’t mix in with the rest of the ingredients. Please help! I would love to make this for my family for Thanksgiving.
    Thank you!

    • Hi Annie,
      I have never had the caramel go hard… The caramel should be slightly runny (so you can pour it over ice cream!) when finished. You may want to try it again as if the caramel turns out it should all go well~ Let me know!

  41. I used this salted caramel frosting recipe on my chocolate cake this weekend. It was a huge hit. My husband is still raving about it. Thank you for sharing!

  42. Hi,

    My wife and I have made your salted caramel numerous times, and ALWAYS love it. I was just curious if you use salted or unsalted butter in making the sauce. We’d like to can some and send it to various family members for Christmas! Thanks so much!

    • Hi Joe~
      I usually use salted butter. It is probably against all baking rules but honestly, I often buy salted butter so that is what I have on hand. Isn’t it fabulous? I love using it for gifts- as well as on popcorn or for dipping apples.
      I’m so happy you like it! Thanks for telling me,

    • Well, as I didn’t see this until now- I bet you know more than me! :) I would love to know how it worked out as I never knew why it was called for in the first place~

      • I think it’s fine; the icing turned out great and I ate the leftover caramel with some apples before anyone in my family even got a taste. I did have some trouble with the salt, though: it didn’t dissolve well. I used Fleur de Sel, from France, and it clumped up & stuck on the bottom of the caramel pan. I made some salted caramels for Christmas presents, and that recipe called for the salt to be dissolved along with the heavy cream & butter mixture before adding these items to the sugar/corn syrup/water, which worked well. Here’s a link to that recipe, if you’re interested:

        The cakes turned out beautifully; can’t wait to try it all together!

  43. For Kady – Kosher salt is hollow, which makes it behave differently from solid-core salts like the Fleur. The Fleur salt also has a higher moisture content which may have contributed to the clumping.

    This chocolate cake recipe sounds absolutely delish and I am putting on my list of must-makes. Oh – the salted caramel icing sounds absolutely scrumptious!! Thx for this!!

  44. I am wanting to make 1 6in cake with this, and the rest cupcakes. Will that work, do you think? And do you have an idea on the time I would need to bake the cupcakes for vs. the cake? Thanks so much!!

    • As I don’t have a definitive answer for you, I would say begin using a toothpick to check the status of the cupcakes at around 13 minutes. I would check them every few minutes after that based on what you see on the toothpick, and when it comes out clean you are done! You may want to make extra salted caramel- it is addictive!

  45. Wow this was amazing! I made this into cupcakes for my husband’s birthday! Everyone loved them and they were georgous! I made the cupcakes the night before and made extra caramel to use as filling as well. Thanks for the amazing recipe.

    • You said you made them as cupcakes? I’m looking to do the same thing, how long did you bake them for? Thanks!

  46. I made this today and the icing is THE. BEST. ICING. EVER. I couldn’t stop eating the caramel. Sadly, all I had was two 9 inch pans and I don’t think there is enough batter for two pans that size. The cakes were a little thin. But, that’s okay. I’m making it again next weekend for a friend’s birthday and I will just increase the recipe by half. Should be great!!! Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe!

  47. THANK YOU for this icing recipe! I needed a non-chocolate cake for a party tomorrow but didn’t want to make another vanilla buttercream frosted cake. I just finished frosting an almond vanilla cake with this salted caramel frosting, and I want to tell our guests that we didn’t make cake and eat it all with a fork right now.

  48. This recipe sounds delicious. I’d love to try it but I had one question. Does the icing need to be refrigerated because of the cream cheese? How long will it last out on the counter?

  49. Looks awesome! Seems like more work than I normally put in, but I’ll give it a shot.. Seems worth it. Thanks!

  50. Thanks for the recipe I’m trying it right now and hoping it turns out ok I was wondering I know it’s difficult and might change with different stoves but is there anyway to give approximate time for the Salted Carmel??
    My gas burner goes from 1-9 then has a high mark I set it at 6 and combined the first 3 ingredients and it seemed like it started to boil before I thought the sugar was all dissolved and i never really got a good amber color after 5 minutes of swirling. I’m fairly new to baking so approximate would really help – thanks

    • Hi Lynn,

      I wish I could be more help but all I can say is that I err on the side of lower and slower, and so it takes me a good 10-15 minutes to get it amber. I think it takes longer than people anticipate it will!

      Good luck!

  51. Hi,
    I’m in love with everything caramel and salted right now and I can’t wait to try this recipe. I’m curious though – why the lemon juice in the caramel? Is it intended to cut down on the sweetness? Or chemically does it do something else to/for the caramel?

    • dw- I wish I could give you an answer. I doubt it has to do with cutting down the sweetness but more likely some sort of chemical reaction that allows it to be the amazing caramel that it is! Let me know how it goes~ x

  52. Sounds like a great one to try! I know you said you’re not into decorating, but do you feel that this buttercream would stand up well to piping etc?

  53. hi! I’m going to use your frosting on another cake I’m making, and was wondering if I could make the icing the day before I make the cake? I would guess that if I do make it beforehand, I just store the icing in the fridge?

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