Real Recipes From Real Home Cooks ®

old timey caramel icing

★★★★★ 2
a recipe by
Renae McVay
New Albany, MS

I always had trouble making caramel icing before I got this recipe from a friend's mother. Putting the cold butter in last made all the difference for me. It tastes so good too!

Blue Ribbon Recipe

If you grew up in the South, an older relative most likely made caramel cake for a special occasion. This old-fashioned caramel icing will take you back to your childhood. It's rich and thick. A slight crust forms once a cake is iced, but underneath the frosting is creamy. We paired this caramel frosting with a double-layer yellow cake. But it can be used on things like muffins or cinnamon rolls. This recipe is meant for a seasoned cook and takes a bit of patience, but the outcome is delicious. We do have some tips that we'll include in our notes below.

— The Test Kitchen @kitchencrew
★★★★★ 2
serves 12 or more
prep time 15 Min
cook time 30 Min
method Stove Top

Ingredients For old timey caramel icing

  • 3 c
    white granulated sugar
  • 1 1/3 c
    white whole milk
  • 1 1/2 stick
    cold butter
  • 5 Tbsp
    white granulated sugar

How To Make old timey caramel icing

Test Kitchen Tips
We highly recommend using a candy thermometer to make sure the sugar mixture is cooked to the soft-ball stage. Be patient when caramelizing the sugar and make sure not to burn it. After adding the deep amber sugar to the milk and sugar mixture, you may want to occasionally stir with a spatula to prevent the bottom from scorching. Our frosting took a couple of hours to become cool enough to spread onto a cake. We kept going back to the bowl and mixing a bit with our hand mixer until it was finally stiff enough to spread.
  • Heating sugar and milk in a heavy saucepan.
    Combine 3 cups sugar and milk in a heavy saucepan on medium heat. Stir together for a few minutes. Continue to heat.
  • Cast iron skillet cooking sugar until golden brown.
    While milk and sugar are heating, place a small black cast iron skillet on medium to medium-high heat. Add the 5 tablespoons of sugar. Stir in the skillet until the sugar liquefies and then turns golden brown. It will be bubbling hot.
  • Pouring browned sugar into hot milk.
    Now the milk and sugar should be very hot. Carefully pour in the browned sugar from the skillet.
  • Whisking ingredients until soft-ball stage.
    Whisk together and cook for about 15 minutes or until the mixture reached the very soft-ball stage. (Test by dropping a little off a spoon into a small glass of cool water. When a small soft-ball forms, it's ready.)
  • Dropping butter into the saucepan.
    Remove from heat and drop in 1 1/2 sticks of cold butter... never margarine!
  • Beating frosting until cooled.
    Use an electric mixer and beat until cooled and spreading consistency.
  • Pouring caramel icing on a cake.
    If too thick, you can thin it by beating in milk a tablespoon at a time. Make sure your cake is completely cooled or this heavy icing may cause the top to split. It'll still taste super though!