Caramel Cake Melt Down

Debi’s Disaster

This is my contribution to Wanderfood Wednesday.

Classic Southern desserts include Pecan pie, bourbon balls, cobblers, pralines and Caramel Cake. Not to be smug, but I’ve mastered Pecan pie and pralines. Never attempted the cake. So, last weekend presented the right time for me to try. Then again perhaps not!

I baked the white cake on Friday evening which filled my kitchen with marvelous sweet vapors. All three layers looked fluffy and turned out of the pan with ease.

On Saturday morning I assembled the ingredients for the frosting and let the butter soften.  I read and reread the directions as the process was tricky and tedious, but I was ready to attempt.

I carefully heated the sugar in a heavy saucepan until it turned a brownish color.  Then I added the warm milk and cooked the saucy mix (as directed) until my candy thermometer registered 235 degrees. I then stirred in the butter, vanilla and some of the heavy cream and let it cool for 15 minutes–using a timer to be exact. Next, I beat the caramel mixture while adding the last of the cream, and continued beating for 15 minutes. Alas, my caramel frosting never thickened up. 

Oh well…I let it set a while, then decided to follow the directions and poured it onto the layers. That’s when the melt down occurred and created a mess all over the counter!

In an effort to salvage my project, I added confectioner’s sugar to the frosting until it thickened and became spreadable. Looked better, but still pretty disastrous. Sure enough, the frosting tasted sweet and caramelly, but wasn’t the traditional rich amber.

What did I do wrong??  I live in Florida, suffering through some very humid days, but my house is air-conditioned.  Did I not beat it long enough?  I’m clueless.  Perhaps my dear readers can help.  I would appreciate any and all hints.

In the meantime, I don’t think I will be trying the recipe again, just sticking to pralines!

Here’s the recipe for  Caramel Cake Frosting, but I’m warning– try at your own risk.

Carmel Cake Frosting


  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream


To Make the Icing:

  1. In a saucepan, stir 2 1/2 cups of the sugar with the corn syrup and milk.
  2. Cook over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. 
  3. Keep warm.
  4. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a deep, heavy saucepan.
  5. Cook the sugar over moderate heat, swirling occasionally, until an amber caramel forms.
  6. Carefully pour the warm milk mixture over the caramel.
  7. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the caramel dissolves.
  8. Stop stirring and cook until the caramel registers 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
  9. Remove from the heat.
  10. Stir in the butter, vanilla and 1/4 cup of the heavy cream.
  11. Strain the caramel into the bowl a standing mixer.
  12. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  13. Beat the caramel at medium speed, gradually adding the remaining 1/4 cup of cream, until creamy, about 15 minutes.
  14. Set 1 cake layer on a plate.
  15. Pour enough icing over the layer to cover the top.
  16. Top with a second layer and repeat.
  17. Add the final cake layer and pour the rest of the icing over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides.
  18. Working quickly, use an offset spatula to spread the icing gently around the cake. 
  19. Let the cake stand for 2 hours to set the icing before serving.

6 thoughts on “Caramel Cake Melt Down

  1. Good for you for attempting it!! I love caramel but it can be so finicky. I'm so glad it at least tasted good. 🙂

  2. I’m sorry to hear that it didn’t come out as you expected it but I have no clue of how to fix it.

  3. I have no clue how to fix it either…we buy our caramel cake at a lovely local southern bakery!! 🙂 I might have to give it a try though!

  4. Beautiful! It's so sad that it didn't turn out, but you could always claim that it was supposed to be that way… 🙂 It looks absolutely delicious!

  5. It still looks pretty delicious to me! I like what Julia Child said: "The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-[heck] attitude."

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