This salted caramel cake is ultra moist, fluffy, full of caramel flavor, and has the perfect drip when you want to wow your guests for a special occasion. It’s the perfect cake for anyone who goes crazy for rich caramel sauce because we added it to the batter and to the buttercream frosting.
Whether brown sugar caramel sauce or a dark caramel sauce, you can always find a jar in the refrigerator. We drizzle it over dutch caramel apple pie, pumpkin bread pudding, and it makes a delicious ice cream sundae topping.
A layered cake is another great way to satisfy that salted caramel loving sweet tooth! Don’t let the presentation fool you. I know it looks fancy, but it’s actually a really easy cake recipe and you can decorate however you would like. We do a cake mix hack to cut back on some of the measuring and a packet of instant pudding mix thrown into the batter makes a crazy moist cake!
Next time I think I’m going to use the salted caramel buttercream to turn my classic chocolate sheet cake into a salted caramel chocolate cake. A sheet cake is much less work, and is great if you are on a time crunch.
- Box cake mix – yellow or butter yellow cake mix, a vanilla cake mix could work as well.
- instant vanilla pudding – we are using the powder only, so do not follow the instructions on the box, this adds a ton of moisture to the cake.
- eggs and buttermilk – bring to room temperature before making the batter so it mixes easier and the cake is nice and tender.
- unsalted butter – soften to room temperature.
- vanilla extract – adds the perfect balance to the other flavors.
- salted caramel – we used our homemade dark caramel sauce and added ½ teaspoon of flaked salt. If you use a store-bought caramel sauce, the consistency may be too thin. I would recommend using caramel extract (1 teaspoon) in the cake batter itself instead of jarred caramel sauce. Caramel sauce that is too thin can change the consistency of the cake batter.
- salted butter – be sure to soften to room temperature to get fluffy frosting.
- vanilla extract – adds a subtle hint of vanilla that compliments the caramel well.
- powdered sugar – can be adjusted based on desired consistency.
- salted caramel – one batch of homemade caramel will be enough for the frosting and the batter. If using store bought caramel sauce in the frosting, you may need less cream for the right consistency. A store bought caramel sauce is also going to be pretty thin to drizzle over the top of the cake, so proceed with caution.
- heavy whipping cream – use more if desired to get the frosting to the right consistency.
- flakey sea salt – Maldon’s is our favorite brand. The flaked sea salt is very different from a coarse salt or a regular table salt. The large pieces rest over the top of the caramel rather than dissolving into it. And the thin, flaked texture gives just a hint of salt before dissolving into the mouth without a big crunch.
For a full list of ingredients and their measurements, 📋 please view my printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.
We love topping our southern salted caramel cake with a bit of salt, but only the flakey kind, and a mesmerizing caramel drip.
Substitutions and Variations
- Dark Chocolate ganache frosting – Swap the caramel icing for my whipped chocolate ganache for an intense chocolatey flavor.
- Chocolate cake layers – use a box of chocolate cake mix and swap the vanilla pudding for chocolate.
- Cupcakes – follow my salted caramel cupcake recipe instead.
- Vanilla buttercream – leave the caramel sauce out of the frosting.
- Store-bought caramel sauce – as indicated above, I highly recommend making a thicker, homemade caramel sauce. Typically jarred caramel sauces are quite thin, which will alter the consistency of the cake batter. If you use a jarred sauce to drizzle over the cake, you also may have trouble piping decorative swirls on top of the cake as we did here. If you have trouble, consider skipping the piped decorations or skip the drizzle. OR go ahead and whip up that batch of homemade caramel and you can follow the recipe as is!
PREP: Line two 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Step 1: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cake mix, pudding, softened butter, eggs, vanilla, buttermilk, and homemade caramel at medium speed until combined.
Step 2: Transfer the batter to the prepared pans.
Step 3: Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs and the sides of the cakes pull away from the pan. Transfer to a wire rack for 5-10 minutes, then remove from the pan and finish cooling.
Step 4: Beat the butter and vanilla using a stand or hand mixer at medium-high speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Pro Tip: Because the caramel is in the batter, the cakes will appear darker when baked. Don’t worry, this is the way they are supposed to look!
Step 5: On low speed, add the powdered sugar, half at a time, and mix until combined.
Step 6: With the mixer running, add the salted caramel sauce and whip until smooth. Pour in the heavy cream and continue mixing until fluffy. Add more cream as needed to achieve a very fluffy frosting.
Step 7: Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the cakes. Place the first layer on a stand or platter. Add the frosting to a piping bag and pipe a border around the edge. Fill with a thin layer of caramel and spread to the border.
Step 8: Use an offset spatula to spread a layer of frosting over top of the filling.
Step 9: Place the second cake layer on top, and press gently to seal the two layers together.
Step 10: Use the remaining frosting to cover the tops and the sides of the cake. If you’d like to decorate the top of the cake with some swirls of caramel buttercream, set aside about 2 cups for this.
Step 11: Drizzle the leftover caramel over the top, spreading gently to the edges so the caramel drip goes down the sides.
Step 12: Use reserved icing to dollop or swirl piles of caramel buttercream to decorate the cake.
SERVE: Garnish with a little bit of flakey sea salt, slice, and serve.
- Use a paddle attachment if you are mixing with a stand mixer. The whisk attachment is needed when whipping egg whites or thin batters. You can use it to make the frosting, but it will incorporate a lot of air, which can leave you with bubbles in your cake as you’re trying to smooth the frosting on.
- To keep the frosting pretty, we recommend applying a crumb coat. This is when you add a very thin layer of buttercream to the entire cake so the crumbs get caught it in versus the final coat of frosting. Chill the coated cake in the fridge or freezer for about 15 minutes, then proceed with frosting the entire cake with a crumb-free layer of icing.
- The instant pudding and buttermilk makes the best moist yellow cake and is one of my favorite ways to jazz up a boxed cake mix.
- Some like to use cake strips around their pans to prevent puffing and dome shapes, however, if you follow the exact instructions these aren’t needed.
- Again, because the consistency can vary widely, we highly recommend using our homemade caramel sauce recipe for both the cake batter AND the drizzle over the finished cake. It is thicker and tastes better, too! Add ½ teaspoon flaked sea salt to the recipe to make it salted caramel.
The first hard caramel candies date all the way back to the 17th century! -Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Keep leftover cake in an airtight container or covered on a cake platter in the refrigerator up to 7 days.
This delicious cake will also stay fresh in the freezer for 2 months. Keep slices in an airtight container or freezer bag. To make the layers ahead of time, prepare and bake as directed. Wrap each layer in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until you are ready to decorate.
Yes it can be slightly sweeter than caramel without the salt. When salt is added to baked goods and frosting, it brings out the flavors of the caramel and can make it taste richer and sweeter.
If you tried this Salted Caramel Cake Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you liked it in the 📝 comments below.
Salted Caramel Cake
- 15.25 oz. box yellow or butter yellow cake mix
- 3.4 ounces instant vanilla pudding
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ cup salted caramel
- 1 ½ cups salted butter softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 6 cups powdered sugar
- ⅔ cup salted caramel
- 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- flakey sea salt such as Maldon’s
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper and spray with nonstick baking spray. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl beat together cake mix, instant pudding, eggs, softened butter, buttermilk, vanilla, and caramel until fully combined.
- Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.
- Cool on wire racks for 5-10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely.
- Beat together butter and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy.
- Add powdered sugar, half at a time, and beat until fully mixed (mixture will be thick).
- Add salted caramel while the beater is running and whip until smooth.
- Add heavy cream and continue beating until frosting is fluffy. Add additional cream and beat until desired consistency is achieved.
- Assembly Instructions:
- Level the tops of the cakes with a serrated knife. Place one cake on a serving platter or cake stand.
- Pipe a border around the cake and fill with a layer of caramel, spreading to the border.
- Top the caramel layer with a layer of frosting, spreading gently so that the caramel layer is not displaced.
- Place the second cake layer on top of the filling and press gently.
- Frost the assembled cake.
- Drizzle the remaining caramel over the top of the frosted cake, spreading gently just to the edges so that it drips over the edge and down the sides.
- Decorate as desired with a border and/or swirls of frosting on the top of the cake.
- Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and serve.
Do not use store bought caramel sauce for this recipe. It is too thin and can change the consistency of the cake batter. It also can lead to the frosting decorations sliding off the finished cake. Add ½ teaspoon flaked sea salt to the linked caramel recipe for salted caramel. If you have a thick homemade caramel sauce recipe that you enjoy, that may work in this recipe. The pudding and buttermilk adds moisture to the cake, making it taste even more delicious. Adding salted caramel to the frosting is optional, but the flavor is amazing. Because there is caramel in the batter, the cake layers will appear darker after baking. Bring the butter and eggs to room temperature so they are easy to mix without adding extra air in the batter so the cake stays tender. Our homemade caramel recipe makes 2.5 cups which is just enough to make the caramel cake and frosting.