Best Ever Caramel Frosting

By Ann Fulton

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Caramel frosting on a chocolate cake has always been my mother-in-law’s preferred birthday dessert. Caramel frosting on a spice cake has long been my dad’s favorite treat. So, over the years, I have had many occasions to try various recipes, and this recipe for caramel frosting always brings rave reviews. It’s the only one I make any more.

Do not let the words “candy thermometer” scare you off. For years, I avoided recipes that required this tool, only to find it is so easy to use and makes for a perfect finished product. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, the baking aisle of your grocery store probably carries an inexpensive one. You will want a thermometer that clips onto the side of the pan.

Click HERE for the recipe for delicious, one-bowl, chocolate cake perfection!

Best Ever Caramel Frosting - utterly delicious and can be prepared well in advance
Best Ever Caramel Frosting
Yield: 2½+ cups
This quintessential recipe can be made well in advance and will make the most of your favorite cake!
  • 2 cups (400g) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons (42g) butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1½ tablespoons rum (optional)
  1. In a heavy saucepan, cook the sugar and cream over medium heat until the mixture begins to simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 2 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the temperature on the candy thermometer reaches 238℉. (After uncovering the pot, you may need to raise the heat to medium-low towards medium, depending on your stove, to maintain a simmer.)
  2. Remove from the heat and drop the butter on top, but do not stir. Let sit for about an hour or until mixture is approximately 110℉. Add vanilla and rum. Beat until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. (If the frosting does not thicken, chill briefly and beat again. If you lost track of time – as I have many times – and the frosting has chilled too much, warm slightly and beat again.)
  3. Store in a container until ready to use, placing plastic wrap directly against surface. Keep at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. If refrigerated, bring to room temperature and stir prior to frosting your cake.

This recipe will make over 2½ cups of frosting, which is plenty to frost a two-layer cake.

Sometimes I decorate the top of the cake with caramel Hershey’s Kisses as a clever tie-in to the cake recipe.

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This is a revised version of a Joy of Cooking recipe.

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  1. Patricia Buell

    My frosting is very light in color. I started beating it with a mixer when my arms gave out was that ok? Also let it sit maybe too long between beatings and when I came back it was light colored and hard looking, but the mixer beat it to a fluffy consistancy but very light in color! The recipe was very easy!

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Patricia, As you can see by the photo, I use a mixer, too. (I admire your effort and imagine you got a great arm workout!) As you beat the frosting, the color does lighten, and as it dries and sets on the cake, the outside layer will look drier. You did it all right, and I hope you enjoy!

  2. Elizabeth Atkins

    Hi, Ann,
    Would this be good on a moist yellow cake as well?

    My mother has made a homemade caramel frosting for almost 50 years, and it is a HIT around our small town, but it is difficult, in my opinion. Some 50-year-old recipes are irreplaceable, but some might be easier to make without sacrificing the taste. So…I’m trying yours! Thanks so much for posting the recipe!

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Elizabeth, The caramel frosting is spectacular on yellow cake. I’m curious to know how this compares to your mother’s recipe. I consider this to be very much like a classic, old-fashioned recipe and the use of a thermometer truly makes it easy and foolproof. I hope you agree!

  3. Heidi Lynn Krug-Myers

    I have made the froisting twice and can’t seem to get it to turn out. Once I go to beat it, it is very thick and only m,akme 1 cup of frosting. I must be missing a trick. I am religious about teh temperatures.

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Heidi, My guess is that you may be mis-measuring the sugar, cream, or possibly both, as even if something went slightly awry, you’d end up with far more than one cup of frosting given the stated amount of ingredients. If you look back and feel certain that couldn’t be the problem, let me know and we can continue to troubleshoot!

  4. Tina

    How much coconut and pecans could be added to make German Chocolate cake frosting? Because this carmel frosting sounds great for that. Thanks

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Tina, That idea never occurred to me, but I like the way you think! German chocolate cake frosting tends to be slightly gooier than this one, so it would likely be delicious, if not totally traditional. I’m attaching a link to a basic German chocolate cake frosting recipe that might serve as a good framework in terms of those additions if you decide to try…and if you do, I’d love to hear how you make out!

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