Easy Salted Caramel Recipe

homemade salted caramel by sugar and sparrow

When it comes to salted caramel, this recipe is as versatile as can be. I’ve used it to drip cakes, drizzle cupcakes, coat apples, top ice cream, and have even whipped it up into salted caramel buttercream! It’s one of my forever go-to’s that has never let me down. If you’ve ever struggled with salted caramel before, I hope this one becomes your fail-proof friend.

While I’ve tried my hand at some more intricate salted caramel recipes before, this one is my favorite for a few reasons: there are only four ingredients involved, it turns out the same every single time, and it’s the perfect amount of sweet and salty. I have been known to eat it by the spoonful!

salted caramel recipe for cake

salted caramel recipe for apples

One of the keys to success with this recipe is to have your ingredients already pre-measured, room temperature, and ready to go, because you’ll constantly be stirring and whisking. We all know that caramel likes to burn when you stop stirring even for a few seconds (it’s sneaky like that!), so it’s always good to keep those pre-measured ingredients and recipe instructions close by. That’ll keep you cool, calm, and collected throughout the entire process.

four ingredient salted caramel recipe

Another good tip is to have an oven mit or glove handy so you don’t burn your hand while whisking. When certain ingredients are added (butter and heavy whipping cream specifically), the salted caramel will bubble rapidly and send all the steam toward your whisking hand. Trust me on this one.

homemade salted caramel recipe

From start to finish, this salted caramel recipe only takes about fifteen minutes. After you make it, you can leave it out on the counter to cool before using it in a recipe (like this tasty salted caramel buttercream) or put it in an airtight container to store in the fridge for up to two weeks. It reheats just fine in the microwave if you’re a make-ahead type of baker and makes a great gift if you’re looking for some yummy DIY’s for the holidays.

salted caramel from scratch recipe

To add to it’s versatility, you can even use this salted caramel recipe to drip cakes! I’ve used it plenty of times to create a gooey caramel drip effect. Just make sure your buttercream cake is chilled and the salted caramel is room temperature before attempting this (aka follow these tips on creating drip cakes) and you’ll be good to go. Here’s how this salted caramel recipe looks as a drip:

salted caramel drip cake recipe

Whether you gift it, whip it up into buttercream, drizzle your desserts, or dip your apples in it, this salted caramel is sure to please and easy as can be! Just the way I like it.

homemade salted caramel by sugar and sparrow
4.86 from 7 votes
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Salted Caramel

An easy and versatile salted caramel recipe that's perfect for dripping cakes, drizzling over desserts, dipping apples, or eating by the spoonful. 

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup (200g) white granulated sugar
  • 6 Tbsp (85g) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 Cup (120ml) heavy whipping cream, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Have everything pre-measured and ready to go (you’ll be constantly stirring). Place the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, until it melts into an amber-colored liquid and no sugar clumps remain, 5-6 minutes. 

  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Carefully add the butter (it will bubble up when you do) and use a whisk to combine it with the sugar mixture until the butter is fully melted and incorporated, 2-3 minutes. 

  3. Add the heavy whipping cream in a steady stream while whisking. As soon as the cream is incorporated, let the caramel boil for a full minute before removing it from the heat and stirring in the salt. 

  4. Let the caramel cool to room temperature* before using it in a buttercream recipe or as a cake topping. If you're using it to drizzle over ice cream or warm baked goods, you only need to cool it slightly (20 minutes or so). It will thicken as it cools. 

Recipe Notes

Make Ahead Tip: You can make this salted caramel ahead and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you're ready to use it, reheat it in the microwave in 15 second intervals until it reaches room temperature. 

*The term "room temperature" will vary depending on your environment. This caramel should be soft and set at about 70ºF. If it's too firm at room temperature, simply microwave it in 10 second increments until it's runny enough for dripping/pouring but not hot enough to melt buttercream. 

 

29 Comments

    • 5 stars
      Added about an extra tablespoon of cream to make sure it was soft… and also used it in your salted caramel buttercream icing recipe as directed – absolute hit with my banana cake! fab recipe thank you!

      • Hi Selena! Why have I never thought to pair banana and caramel?! That sounds like pure heaven. So happy you loved the recipe!

    • Hi Shamonte! For caramel apples, let the salted caramel come to room temperature before dipping. Let the excess caramel drip off the apple and place each the dipped apples on a sheet of wax paper, then chill them in the fridge for about 15 minutes to set.

  1. Vicki A Raynolds

    4 stars
    Hi! I just made this sauce and it’s delicious. Mine has hardened into a hard candy. What consistency should it be, and what might I correct for next time?

    • Hi Vicki! I’ve never had it harden before – it should be soft enough at room temperature to dip a caramel apple in. My guess is that either the sugar might have been cooked for too long, the stovetop was too hot, or the heavy whipping cream was omitted. You have to really watch it and make sure you move on to adding the butter as soon as all the sugar clumps have melted (stirring constantly), make sure that the heat is on medium-high and not fully high, and be sure to add all of the ingredients at the specified time. At what point did it harden?

      • I experienced the same thing! When it was freshly made, it’s nice and runny. Once it’s turned into room temperature, it’s hard like candy. I tried microwaving it, the oil somehow separated from the sauce. Any idea why?

        • Hi Rosa! If the butter is separating from the sauce after settling that means it wasn’t fully incorporated in the cooking process. When you add the butter to the melted sugar, it will boil rapidly, but you have to whisk it rapidly until it is fully melted and combined with the sugar mixture. The good news is, even though your butter and sauce separated and your caramel is firm, it’s easy to bring back by microwaving it in 10 second increments until it’s runny again, then whisking it all together into a uniform mixture.

      • Torah-Yah

        Mine was great but now that it is in the refrigerator it’s hardened as well. I can’t scoop it out of the container easily. It’s like the texture of a caramel chew…. any advice? I followed the recipe to a T. The only thing that was different is you said melting the sugar would take about 6 mins but mine took about 12. I did add my sugar to a cold pot though so I think everything was just heating up. It was about 6 mins from when it started getting clumpy until it was fully melted. Any advice is much appreciated! I was going to bring carrot cake with caramel filling and cream cheese frosting to an wasyernparty tomorrow!

        • Hi Torah-Yah, the caramel will be hard when it’s cold. To bring it back to gooey caramel consistency, you’ll need to microwave it in 15 second increments, stirring after each time, until you’ve reached your ideal consistency.

    • Hi Pamela! I’ve never tried this recipe with brown sugar before, but I know that some caramel recipes call for brown sugar instead of white so it’s totally worth a try. If you decide to substitute brown sugar let me know how it goes!

  2. Mary Jo Stewart

    This sounds wonderful. I do have a question. Are you supposed to continue to stir after you add the whipping cream and let it boil? Thanks

    • Hi Mary Jo! After adding the whipping cream, let it boil for a full minute without stirring, then stir in the salt after that

  3. jasmine

    could you use sea salt bits instead of kosher salt? pls reply asap

    • Hi Jasmine! I have tried it with sea salt and I prefer the taste of kosher salt, but the recipe does work with sea salt. Hope that helps!

  4. 5 stars
    Hi Whitney, Love your recipes! We can tolerate butter but I don’t buy or use cow milk/cream. I would love to make this using the butter but need a suggestion for an alternative that you think would work instead of heavy cream. I’ve made things before with coconut milk and don’t care for the taste it adds to things like this. Do you think homemade cashew cream (or another nut milk) that has the consistency of heavy cream would work or would it curdle? I am going to use this sauce to make your caramel buttercream. I’m a little concerned to experiment due to waste because the ingredients we buy (grass fed, pastured etc) are hard to find where we live and suuuuuper expensive. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Holly! So happy to hear you’re loving the recipes! Since I’ve never tried substituting the heavy whipping cream with anything else, I’m not confident that it will turn out with something like cashew cream, etc. After searching for dairy free/vegan versions it looks like a lot of bakers substitute with coconut milk or almond milk, so it seems worth a try with cashew cream but I can’t guarantee that it will turn out since I haven’t tried it. You can always search for a caramel recipe that’s vegan/dairy free and use that in this salted caramel buttercream recipe though. Let me know what you end up doing! I’m curious now!

  5. Do you let the butter melt and boil for a full minute then add the whipping cream or do you melt the butter, adding whipping cream then let it boil to a full minute?
    I’d appreciate a response.
    Thank you for your time.

    • Hi Ann! The butter should be fully melted and incorporated with the sugar mixture (takes 2-3 minutes as detailed in step 2 of the recipe) before adding the whipping cream, after which you let the mixture boil for a full minute. Hope that helps!

  6. Margaret Graciano

    Hi Whitney,
    I love this recipe and have had great success with it on its own and in making your salted caramel buttercream. However, I am really struggling with the drip. I’m making a four tiered wedding cake next weekend that is supposed to have caramel drip on every tier, and my practice cakes are not going according to plan. The drip looks stunning when I apply it, but by the next morning, the drips have totally run to the base of the cake. (And the cake is in the fridge overnight.)
    Worst case scenario, I can apply the caramel immediately before the wedding ceremony, but I thought it would work to do it ahead of time. Is 24 hours just the shelf like of drip? Or is there something wrong with my method? The buttercream on the cakes is chilled when I apply it, and the caramel is just slightly warmer than room temp. Is the caramel too warm? Or something wrong with the buttercream? I just want a lovely gorgeous drip and not a cake surrounded by puddles. I’m in wedding countdown mode so any insight you can give me would be SO appreciated. THank you so much!`

    • Hi Margaret! So happy you love the recipe and sorry to hear about your struggles with the drip. I’ve never had the caramel drip run after it’s set, and after reading about your method here’s what I do differently: 1) make sure the cake is chilled and also that the caramel is room temp, not even slightly warmer. If the caramel is too warm it will drip too much/far. 2) If the caramel is too thick at room temperature (aka not ideal for dripping), add a few drops of room temperature water and stir it all together to thin it out just slightly before dripping. 3) Be sure to do a test drip on the cake. If the drip stops completely before reaching the bottom, it shouldn’t run any farther and you should be able to keep dripping, assured that the drips will stay put 4) Make sure your refrigerator temperature isn’t too warm somehow. The ideal fridge temp is between 35 and 39 degrees. The caramel should set perfectly in that environment.

      I hope any or all of that info helps!! Good luck with your wedding cake!

      • Margaret Graciano

        Thank you so so much for the extra tips, Whitney! My drips are completely stopped before hitting the bottom, but maybe the extra heat from my quick microwave burst is throwing it off after the fact. The water might just do the trick! Also, fridge temp…that could be part of it. I work in a scratch bakery and had been keeping the cakes in a frequently opened fridge. I’ve got one week to nail this! I’ll let you know how it goes! And thank you thank you!

  7. 5 stars
    Hi Whitney!! My ABSOLUTE favorite flavor of “anything ” is salted caramel❣ I put your buttercream on a poke cake that has canned apple pie filling in it. (recipe is here on Pinterest). All I can say is, OMG❣

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