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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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. Here’s a quick video of the process before you read all about it below:
PS: If you’re into recipe videos like this one, be sure to check out my YouTube Channel! You’ll find more of my favorite recipes, cake decorating tutorials, and so much more. Click the Subscribe button while you’re there so you never miss a new video!
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
I use the same recipe! Has never failed me. It’s delicious!
Fantastic! Thanks so much for being so generous and sharing it
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!
Can you freeze it?
Hi Kendra! Although I’ve never tried it before, I hear you can freeze this recipe in an airtight container for up to three months. When you’re ready to use it, thaw at room temp and then reheat it slightly in the microwave before using. Hope that helps!
For caramel apples do we dip right away?
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.
Emma Rhodes says
Tha I you so much I was going to ask the same exact question.
Vicki A Raynolds says
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.
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 Whitney, can you use brown sugar in this recipe instead of white?
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!
Just a wonderful caramel sauce, my go to forever more!!
So happy to hear that, Wendylou!
Mary Jo Stewart says
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
Just tried this recipe, it’s my first time making caramel sauce ever…! I always dread melting sugar… But I found this recipe to be very helpful with instructions! Thanks!
One question: everything went smoothly untill I decided to scrape the crystallized sugar off my wooden spoon after the rest of the sugar had melted. Melting those bits took forever…also, I ended up with a line of crystallized sugar along the pot wall…do you have any tip or advice on how to avoid that?
Hi Linda! So happy you enjoyed this recipe and found it to be easy! I wouldn’t worry about the crystallized sugar on the spoon/pot wall. It happens to me every time and never seems to affect the overall outcome of the recipe.
Teresa King says
use a pastry brush dipped in water to “rinse” them off as your caramel is cooking. It should also prevent it from happening if you do it throughout the boiling process.
Same as when you are making hard candies
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!
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!
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!
Marie LeMond says
Hi! I just made this recipe! Looks delish, but I have a question…. do you just let the mixture with the whipping cream boil on its own or do you stir it while it’s boiling? I didn’t stir while boiling, but I was nervous that it would burn. Thank you!
Hi Marie! Yes that’s correct, the mixture should boil for a full minute without stirring after you add the whipping cream. I hope you loved this recipe!
Margaret Graciano says
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 says
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!
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❣
Oh my word, Shannon! That sounds AMAZING! Totally need to try that. So happy you loved the salted caramel buttercream!
I love this recipe super easy top make and tastes amazing… however I have a question when I want to use it as a drip for things its too warm and makes the buttercream melt, if I let it cool it gets too hard to be a drip and I would have to heat it to get our runny again but then have the same issue. Is there any way top make it remain runny at room temperature? Or am I possible doing something wrong and it should be like that at room temp? As I know in your post you mention you have used it for cake drips.
Hi Kirst! If the salted caramel is too thick at room temp you can always add a couple drops of room temperature water and stir it up until it’s drip consistency. I’ve definitely done that before and it works like a charm!
Susan hoseman says
How can I turn this wonderful sauce into soft caramel candies?
Hi Susan! I have actually never tried turning the sauce into candy, and I think since it is a sauce recipe the consistency would be too runny for candies. I would recommend this recipe for candies instead (only involves a few more ingredients and is just as easy!): https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/sea-salt-vanilla-caramels/
melanie Bishop says
Oh my, this is absolutely delicious! So easy! This is the first time I made bbn caramel without burning it. If I can stop eating it I’m going to make the salted caramel frosting
Thanks for sharing
So happy you love the recipe, Melanie!!
WHOA….I’ve only just found you. This recipe is just….WHOA. It’s not your fault, but I’m going to get diabetes…..just keep eating by the spoonful.
Haha I’m so happy you love the recipe, Nancy!!
I just made this caramel to add to buttercream for some cupcakes. It goes from what is seemingly perfect to having a burnt aftertaste in a matter of seconds. I’ll try another batch before I give up and go buy some caramel.
Hi Richelle! If the caramel has a burnt aftertaste, it means it’s been burnt in the cooking process, particularly the part where you melt the sugar. Next time, try melting the sugar over medium instead of medium-high, stir constantly in the melting process, and add the butter as soon as there are no lumps remaining in the amber liquid. Let me know how it goes!
Jes H says
Great recipe! We used this to make your salted caramel frosting and it was AMAZING! Thank you!
Yay, Jes! So happy you love this recipe and used it to make my salted caramel buttercream! Thanks for taking the time to let me know 🙂
Made this tonight and so far it looks and tastes good. Going to use it in the buttercream to spread over an apple spice cake tomorrow. I used Himalayan pink salt and the saltiness really cuts through the sweetness of the caramel. The only thing i didnt do was stop stirring it for the minute boil at the end. All the other directions were saying whisk or stir so i just kept on. Hoping it won’t make any difference.
Hi Vicky! So happy that the salted caramel sauce seems to have worked out beautifully. I bet it’ll taste amazing on apple spice cake!
If I only have salted butter should I omit some of the salt? If so, how much? Thanks so much!
Hi Bridget! You can use salted butter and just half the amount of salt at the end. Enjoy!
Does this freeze well? I’m hoping to make it to use In your buttercream recipe for my Macarons but don’t The excess want to go to waste! Thanks!
Hi Desiree! I’ve never frozen this recipe before, but it will store wonderfully in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
This salted caramel came out beautifully! It is cooling now because I am using it for the salted caramel buttercream recipe you have posted on here. Thank you for a wonderful recipe. I can’t wait to make the butter cream in a couple hours. Going to let this caramel cool while I bake the cakes now!
Yay!! So happy you love the caramel recipe and I can’t wait for you to try the salted caramel buttercream!
How does it end up tasting like caramel when the ingredients don’t list caramel?
Hi Andrea! Cooking these ingredients together is how you make caramel from scratch. I hope you give it a try sometime!
I’ve made this twice now but vegan-ized it (used earth balance butter and almond milk) and it came out perfectly! Thank you for this excellent recipe!
That’s amazing, Wanda! I need to try the vegan version now!!
This was my first attempt at anything caramel. I was scared to death to heat a pile of sugar and was sure it was going to burn. I did what you suggested and had everything pre-measured and room temperature. Step by step when just as you said and at the end … once cooled a bit … I ventured a taste. AMAZING! I was stunned!
Thank you for taking the fear out of caramel for me!
Yay!! I’m so happy to hear that, Hilary!
Hi there! Have you ever tried this with adding browned butter instead? Super curious as I’ve been loving anything and everything with browned butter lately.
Hi Jordanne! I haven’t tried this with browned butter but that sounds amazing!
Patty Woodard says
Do I have to keep cake refrigerated if I use this Carmel recipe in the buttercream and drip?
Hi Patty! The cake should be totally fine to leave out at room temp for a day or two. After that I would refrigerate the leftovers just to keep the cake fresh. Hope that helps!
Would this amount be enough to use it as a filling in a 3 layer 6 inch cake as well as a drip for the top?
Hi Mary! I would make two batches just to be safe.
I tried a different recipe before I tried yours, the first one didn’t work but yours worked perfectly. I’m currently stopping myself from eating anymore as I need some for a drip tomorrow! I also made your salted caramel buttercream and Oh My God! I could sit in it, it is so delicious! Thank you for both recipes!
Yay, Franziska! I’m so happy to hear that both this recipe + the salted caramel buttercream went so well! I feel the same way about both of these recipes – could totally eat them by the spoonful!
I made this recipe TIMES 5 for the first time ever making caramel and everything went perfectly. I will say the exact measurements for 5x recipe is very VERY salted but when using it for the buttercream recipe it leaves it perfectly salted without being too overpowering. (That being said I did not add the suggested salt amount into the buttercream recipe and left it out completely.) Absolutely in love with this and it will forever be the only recipe ill ever use. Thank you so much!
Yay, Gisela! I’m so happy to hear that this recipe was a hit and it worked to scale it up that much!
I have made this recipe twice and came out beautifully both times! I have always had a fear of caramel as it failed more often than not. This recipe is simple, delicious and I haven’t had any form of crystallization at all even after several days. Thank you very much!
I’m so happy to hear that, Tosin! Thanks for taking the time to let me know!
Hi. Can it be left out overnight at room temperature before using in buttercream? I don’t have a microwave to reheat after refrigeration. Thank you!
Hi Stacy! I don’t think leaving it out for one night will be a problem, so long as it’s in an airtight container. Enjoy!
Ashley Perry says
OMG this was so easy! It came out perfectly and in an hour or two it will go into the salted caramel buttercream recipe!
Yay, Ashley!! I’m so happy to hear that and I hope you love the salted caramel buttercream 🙂
Ok, you are my hero. I had my heart set on a salted caramel buttercream for my birthday cake and had tried a different recipe and, while the caramel worked, the frosting was rubbish. I ended up trying it again, but the caramel wouldn’t set up. ARGH! Then I tried this caramel (and subsequent buttercream recipe) and it was perfect and exactly what I wanted. Now, I am planning out 1000 more recipes that I can use this for. My boyfriend has used up all the extra caramel on his Peanut butter sandwiches lol I have been pouring over your recipes and tutorials for the last week. I am obsessed.
I’m so happy to hear that you found your new go-to caramel recipe, Dereth! Also I laughed out loud when I read that your boyfriend put the caramel on his peanut butter sandwiches! Thanks so much for letting me know it was a hit 🙂
Roughly how much salted caramel does this make volume-wise (in cups)? I plan on making a 4 layer 8in cake, with a double batch of your salted caramel buttercream (so I’ll need 1 cup of caramel for that), plus a caramel drip on top, and possibly caramel in the layers as well, if that wouldn’t be overkill!
I’d like to make several batches. Can you please advise on whether i can just do6bke or triple this without running into problems with the sugar not melting properly? If so do I need to start with clean utensils for each batch or can I just restart with the ones I just used? Sorry if this seems ridiculous, but I saw something about this with making caramels.
Hi Diane! That is a great question! Caramel does get finicky when scaling it up because of the sugar not melting evenly. That said, I do recommend making one batch at a time for best results, with clean utensils for each batch. Hope that helps!
Nicole Gosselin says
This is my go to recipe now, it is amazing and so easy.
I was just about to make a batch this morning and realized I only have half & half cream and no whip cream. Do you know if it’s possible to use half & half instead?
Hi Nicole! I’m so happy this recipe has become your go-to! I’ve never tried it with half and half so it would definitely be an experiment. I can only recommend heavy whipping cream at this point. Let me know if you try the half and half though!
Yonna Helgerson says
I just finished making this recipe for the second time and as I forgot to comment the first time, I’ll do both now!!
I absolutely love this recipe. Both times I have followed the recipe to a T and it turns out perfect! Thank you!
First time was a drizzle and this time I’ll be using it for your salted Carmel buttercream recipe!
Yay, Yonna! Thanks so much for letting me know 🙂 I’m so happy it was a hit!