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Jun 13, 2008 08:41 AM

Burnt Sugar Cake

My grandmother used to make this all the time, and she unfortunately departed this world having never written down a recipe. It haunts my dreams. It was a pretty basic cake with burnt sugar in the cake itself and also in the icing. the cake may have also had some ginger bread type spices in it. Anyone have a recipe, or an idea where I might find one? I think she was raised in Iowa, could it be a regional specialty?

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  1. I took my recipe from a southern food cookbook, approx 20 years ago.

    Burnt Sugar Syrup:
    3/4 cup sugar
    3/4 cup boiling water

    Burnt Sugar Cake:
    3 cups sifted cake flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3/4 cup sweet butter, room temp
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp nutmeg
    1/4 tsp ginger
    1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
    3 eggs, room temp
    1/2 cup Burnt Sugar Syrup (recipe follows)
    1 teaspoon vanilla

    Burnt Sugar Frosting (recipe follows)
    pecan halves
    Burnt Sugar Frosting:
    1/4 cup unsalted butter
    1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup Burnt Sugar Syrup (recipe follows)
    1 teaspoon vanilla

    Burnt Sugar Syrup:
    Melt 3/4 cup sugar in a skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it turns into an amber-colored liquid. Turn off heat, and very carefully add boiling water. Mixture will spatter at first. Return the caramel to low heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the sugar and water are thoroughly mixed and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
    Burnt Sugar Cake:
    Adjust rack to lower third of oven; preheat at oven to 350°. Grease and flour two 9-inch layer cake pans. Line pans with parchment or waxed paper rounds.

    Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. Cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and continue creaming until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until well blended. To the 1/2 cup of burnt sugar syrup add enough water to make 1 cup; stir in the vanilla.

    Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the burnt sugar syrup mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients, until well blended and smooth. Divide the batter between the 2 cake pans.

    Bake about 25 minutes, or until the surface springs back slightly when lightly touched in the center, and the cakes con- tract from the pans. Cool 10 minutes on wire racks, then invert on racks, carefully peel off paper liners, turn baked side up, and cool completely before frosting. Fill and frost with Burnt Sugar Frosting. Decorate with whole pecan halves.

    Burnt Sugar Frosting:
    Cream 1/4 cup unsalted butter until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 1 pound (1 box) powdered sugar, sifted with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup Burnt Sugar Syrup and 1 teaspoon vanilla until creamy smooth and spreadable. If mixture is stiff, add water, a teaspoon at a time.

    1 Reply
    1. here is one that came originally from the (sadly) now out-of print Farm Journal Cookbook. It is easier and less elaborate than some, but equally good.


      1/2 c. white sugar
      1/2 c. boiling water
      2/3 c. butter
      1 c. sugar
      1 tsp. vanilla
      2 eggs, separated
      3 c. sifted cake flour
      3 tsp. double acting baking powder
      1 tsp. salt
      1 c. milk
      Pecan halves

      All ingredients at room temperature.
      Heat 1/2 cup sugar slowly in small saucepan or skillet, stirring constantly. When sugar is melted and begins to smoke, add boiling water slowly, stirring constantly. (Watch carefull!) Continue cooking until syrup measures 1/2 cup, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.

      Meanwhile, cream butter well, add one cup sugar gradually, beating until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and then egg yolks, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Stir in cooled caramel syrup; add sifted dry ingredients alternately with milk, beating until smooth. Beat egg whites at high speed until stiff but not dry. Fold into mixture.

      Pour batter into three round 9" layer pans lined on the bottom with brown paper and greased. Bake in moderate oven, 375 degrees, for about 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, then turn out on rack to cool. Spread caramel frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Garnish with pecan halves.


      2 tbsp. butter
      1/3 c. heavy cream
      2/3 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
      1/8 tsp. salt
      3 c. confectioners' sugar
      Few drops vanilla

      Mix butter, cream, brown sugar and salt in saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add vanilla, then gradually add confectioners' sugar to make frosting of spreading consistency.

      4 Replies
      1. re: LJS

        thanks. now i just need to work up the nerve to try it, burning the sugar sound like one of those things that could go real wrong real fast!

        1. re: EastRocker

          M-m-m, its not so bad as long as you have your wits about you...easier with a gas stove than electric range...however, I have done it successfully on both. Just don't answer the phone during this part.

          1. re: LJS

            be very careful when adding the water, as this will quickly lead to 2-3rd degree burn if it gets on your skin. Browned sugar is approx 330°+ and sticks like glue to anything that it touches. I've been burned by this a few times, and now I wear long sleeves when I am making it.

            There is a reason that bakers call caramel "edible napalm".

            1. re: Kelli2006

              To mitigate splatter-burns, I do it differently. I fill a large pan or the sink with about an inch of water. When the sugar has melted and browned and is smoking, I take the pan off the heat and place it in the large pan or sink. The water sizzles and the sugar seizes up with no splattering. Then, I take the sugar pan out of the larger pan or sink, add water to the seized sugar, and heat it gently until the seized sugar melts and dissolves into the added water.

      2. I just love old time recipes. Never heard of burnt sugar cake, but gonna try it out on the hubby this weekend. They both sound so good.

        1 Reply
        1. re: thecountryrose

          if it is done right it is amazing, hence my craving one even though I haven't had it in 15 years. good luck!