If you grew up or have spent any time in the south, this caramel cake will look familiar to you – and will probably have you drooling if it’s left in your presence. A true southern-style caramel cake is made up of a moist, lightly sweetened yellow cake that tastes light and fluffy, but that really acts as more of a vehicle for getting the rich, delicious caramel icing into your mouth as quickly as possible. (If some of the caramel icing doesn’t even make it onto the cake, we understand, it’s truly very difficult to resist sneaking some before it even gets close to the cake.)
We digress. So, we all understand the two main counterparts here, right? Lovely yellow cake and silky smooth caramel icing. The first comes together easily, just as you would make any cake, starting with creaming the shortening and sugar together, then mixing in the eggs and alternating between adding the dry ingredients and milk. Easy-breezy.
Next comes the task of making the frosting. Now, some will argue that it’s not an authentic southern caramel cake (hence, “southern-style”) unless you spend (literal) hours making the icing over the stove, but that’s definitely not our kind of baking/dessert making. Our icing comes together in under 15 minutes, so once your cake is cooled you can pour it over and let it drip over the sides until it’s coated to your liking.
A word to the wise: caramel can be a bit finicky, so consider your options when frosting this bad boy. If your icing is on the thinner side it’ll drizzle nicely over the surface of the cake; if it’s on the thicker side, it might need a little help from you. For those of you wanting a perfectly glassy-topped cake, let the icing settle where it settles and don’t touch it. If you’re ok with a slightly more rustic look, feel free to use a rubber or offset spatula to smooth everything out, making sure the sides are evenly coated.
Once you’ve followed these steps, you’ll have an indulgent, decadent cake that’ll bring back memories of all your time spent in the south…and if you haven’t been to the south and tried this cake already, you’ll be thrilled to know about it now and surely plotting the next opportunity for you to make it. Just watch, everyone will go nuts for this!
1 hour 30 minutes to prepare serves 10-12
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups whole milk
6 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 (14 oz.) can condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven to 350º F and lightly grease 2 round cake pans, depending on desired thickness of cake.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl or mixer, beat sugar and shortening together for 2-3 minutes, or until smooth and fluffy.
Beat in eggs and vanilla extract until incorporated, then mix in milk and dry ingredients, being careful not to over-mix.
Pour cakes into greased baking rounds and place in oven.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
Combine brown sugar, sugar, butter and condensed milk in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring continuously until thickened.
Bring to a boil, then lower heat and stir in vanilla extra and sea salt. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until thickened. Let cool slightly until warm and thickened, then assemble bottom cake layer and pour 2/3-3/4 cup icing over.
Top with second cake layer and pour frosting over the top of cake, letting it coat the sides. (If using three layers, divide icing appropriately.)
Slice, serve and enjoy.