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In Search of the best old fashioned Southern Caramel Cake Recipe

  • m

I know there are a lot of caramel cake recipes floating around, but my grandmother in Louisiana used to make the most amazing caramel cake. It was the icing that was the most amazing and it was simple, but I have never been able to replicate it. Her icing was simply a can of pet milk, sugar and butter. She would cook it until it turned into a rich caramel icing. People came from miles around to eat this cake.

Please share your recipes even if it is not this one. If by chance someone knows how to do the cooked version with pet milk, can you walk me through how long it is supposed to cook to get to the right texture.

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  1. Hello, from a book called "The Cake Club", ("delicious desserts.. from a southern childhood") a recipe for Caramel Glaze to pour over a cake. You put 1/2 cup brown sugar, 3/4 cup heavy cream, 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, and a pinch of salt into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir frequently while it simmers for 7 minutes. (It will thicken.) Cool until lukewarm before pouring on cake.
    Maybe this is close to what you need? I haven't made it myself, just happened to see it. (Oh, it says to use a wooden spoon--I don't know why!)

    1. You may remember a common caramel frosting used in Louisiana and much of the South that used brown sugar, whipping cream, and butter which was cooked to the soft ball stage before beating until it was cool, very thick and fluffy. Sometime a small amount of corn syrup was added. Always a touch of vanilla. Many county cooks used evaporated milk as cream was expensive and not always available.
      Try 1 pound brown sugar, 1 cup Pet or cream, 1/2 stick butter, 1 T corn syrup, pinch of salt.
      Cook to soft ball stage, apx. 236 degrees. Be patient. This may take take 20 minutes. Stir in 2 t. vanilla extract.
      Beat until thick and creamy, about 10 minutes.
      If you use evaporated milk, you may wish to use 1 stick of butter rather than the 1/2 stick. Like all country recipes, the cook adjusts for what's on hand.

      2 Replies
      1. re: MakingSense

        is this for a three layer cake? Do you spread it or pour it over cakes? I assume spread since creamy,but all others say pour.

        1. re: MakingSense

          Yes! That's the one my grandmothers used and it was the most wonderful caramel. Gonna print and save that one, thanks.

        2. I use this caramel icing from an old edition of The Joy of Cooking. It's so good that even on white cake from a mix the result is wonderful: Put in a saucepan 2 cups dark brown sugar packed down hard, 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, and 1/2 cup cream or milk (I use either). Boil gently to the soft ball stage or 238* on candy thermometer. Let cool just a little bit then add 1 tsp vanilla and beat until it starts to look less shiny then quickly dump it onto the cake and spread. Timing is all but once you've done this you'll get a feeling for when the icing is ready to go on the cake, NOW.

          1. The Louisville, KY Courier-Journal printed a recipe for Easy Caramel Cake with Penuche Frosting on the Wednesday before Labor Day. I tried it, and everyone LOVED it, even though I think my butter was a bit old (I just don't use that much during the summer. . .).

            You can probably find the recipe on the Courier-Journal's web site; if not, I'll post it for you!

            1. Your grandmother's recipe sounds like my mother-in-law's. She uses 3 c. GRANULATED sugar (Not brown sugar)and 1 small can evaporated milk (5 oz.). She removes 3 T. of the sugar and places it in a small frying pan and sets aside. Then she melts the remaining sugar, the milk, and a stick of butter. She brings to a slow rolling boil and cooks to soft ball stage or 115*C on a candy thermometer. Then she removes from heat and adds the 3T sugar (browned) to the mixture with a wooden spoon and immediately frosts the cake.
              Hope this helps!