How to make a real 9-layer Southern Caramel Cake

I know, I know, only a few posts ago I announced my success in finally losing 55 pounds and dipping below the obese range on the BMI charts, and here I am posting about making an insanely large caramel cake. Let it be known that there are times of feasting and times of fasting, and my husband’s birthday was a time to celebrate.

DISCLAIMER: To keep from regaining or overindulging in any treat or sweet: have a strategy! We don’t normally keep sweets in our home because of temptation. So my plan for this cake included: having many family members over to help enjoy it, and slicing/freezing leftovers to tuck away in the back of the freezer where I actually forgot about it. Also, while maintaining weight loss, I find it helps accountability to weigh-in every single morning. Knowing that the scale awaits no matter what my choices has helped keep me from seconds many times!

To be clear, I do limit my creation of this massive cake of creamy caramel to once per year. It is my husband’s favorite, and I’ve been working to perfect it for years. Anyone who lives in the Deep South, as we do, knows that this sort of cake is legendary. The boiled caramel icing is very finicky; you’ve got to hover over that candy thermometer. I once got distracted while waiting for it to cool to precisely the right temperature for transfer to the mixer, and missed the temp by a mere 5 degrees. This resulted in having to chisel hardened caramel from my beloved cast-iron pot for quite a while. Not desirable, to say the least. So, if you dare try this, be sure you use an old pot, just in case your caramel gets mad. And I don’t even know what to tell you if you live in high elevations. This southern cake may not take well to Colorado mountains.

There is a little old lady in a small South Carolina town not far from here who makes amazing caramel cakes. She can even make them in 13 layers, from what I hear. There used to me more people who toiled over these cakes and sold them, but I haven’t been able to find any, as the amount of work involved can only be described as a labor of love. Another reason I only make it once a year!

You might hop around the internets searching for a caramel icing. Don’t be fooled by those that don’t involve boiling, or are a caramel version of buttercream. Those, my dear readers, are not actual caramel icings. Real caramel icing is made of cream and brown sugar and butter, tediously boiled and cooled and finally mixed to perfection. We don’t mess around with caramel icings down here.

Also, a note on the thin cake layers. You could pull off these thin layers by either baking a handful of round yellow cake layers and slicing them into thinner layers, or you could just bake a whole pile of thin cake layers and not mess with halving them. I’ve tried it both ways and by far prefer the simplicity of the second method. Yes, I used 9 cake pans for this. Don’t panic; you can buy some disposable aluminum ones and no one knows the difference.

Multi-Layered Southern Caramel Cake


  • Your favorite yellow cake baked in thin layers
  • For the Icing:
  • 2 cups packed packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Dissolve the brown sugar into the cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until dissolved, then place a candy thermometer into the cream/sugar mixture. Allow it to heat, without further stirring, until or just before it hits 240 degrees Farenheit. Removed it from the heat, and stir in 3 Tbs of butter. Stir it for a few minutes, and then allow it to cool. Between 150 and 110 degrees, transfer it to a stand mixer and begin to beat the icing, adding the vanilla. Beat until it is cool, and becomes thick and creamy. This will take a while. Test it to be sure it is a spreadable consistancy. You can add some cream if needed to thin it.

Use icing on the cake layers or refrigerate (covered) for up to 3 weeks. If refridgerated, allow it to come to room temperature before spreading–you might need to beat it in the stand mixer for a few minutes to losen it up.

Enjoy! (In moderation)

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Sue January 24, 2015, 9:45 PM

    How do you make the cake runny enough to make thin layers? I have been trying for yrs to perfect a multi layer caramel cake. Is it a double cake recipe?
    Thank you.

    • Sabrina April 21, 2015, 3:39 PM

      Sue, you would bake 3 round cake layers and then use a knife to cute each into three sections. Wilton also makes a cake slicer you can use for even cutting.

    • Dallis September 19, 2015, 11:46 AM

      If u measure 1/2 cup batter per pan u have to spread it with a spoon then bounce your pans to make them Level


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