Recipes Desserts Cakes and Cupcakes Salted Caramel Layer Cake

Salted Caramel Layer Cake

Prep Time: 60 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 12 to 16

How do you make a three-layer yellow cake even more festive? By slathering it with a buttercream frosting infused with delicious salted caramel. The recipe make more salted caramel than you will need, but the leftovers will keep in the fridge for a few weeks. Gently reheated, it’s marvelous drizzled on ice cream or fresh fruit. If you like, you can garnish the cake with a light sprinkling of a large-flake finishing salt.


For the cake:

  • 4 cups (20 oz./630 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 fl. oz./375 ml) buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) canola oil
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) (8 oz./250 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz./375 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz./105 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs

For the frosting:

  • 1 1/2 cup (12 oz./375 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) water
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 fl. oz./375 ml) cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 6 cups (1 1/2 lb./750 g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) (8 oz./250 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 1/2 Tbs. milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract


Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray three 8-inch (20-cm) round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a separate bowl, stir together the buttermilk, canola oil and vanilla extract.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, cream together the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Reduce the speed to low and alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture in three additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the rack and let cool completely.

While the cake is cooking, make the salted caramel for the frosting. In a heavy 4-quart (4-l) saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Cook until the mixture bubbles vigorously and turns a golden amber color, about 9 minutes. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon during the first 2 to 3 minutes of cooking; do not stir after this point, instead swirling the pan to ensure even cooking. Watch the caramel very carefully, and as it will go from amber colored to burned in a few seconds. 

Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the cream very carefully; the mixture will bubble and splatter, so protect your hands and arms with heavy oven mitts and use a long-handled wooden spoon. Stir until the sauce is smooth and blended. Stir in the salt, transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.

To make the frosting, using an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, milk and vanilla and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) of the cooled salted caramel mixture, increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Place 1 cake layer on a serving platter. Spread about a quarter of the frosting over the top of the cake. Place another cake layer on top of the first and spread another quarter of the frosting over the cake. Top with the third cake layer, and spread the remaining frosting decoratively over the top and sides of the cake.

Serve immediately, or cover with a cake dome and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving. Serves 12 to 16.

Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen