This is the best Caramel Frosting recipe! It makes a pipeable, perfectly thick caramel buttercream that’s perfect for cakes and cupcakes. Recipe includes a how-to video!
A Caramel Frosting Recipe That Holds Its Shape!
Today I’m sharing one of my favorite frosting recipes! This caramel frosting is made with a homemade caramel sauce whipped into butter and sugar to create the best caramel buttercream you’ve ever had. Unlike many recipes, mine produces a frosting that is thick, pipeable, and holds its shape!
This recipe is a bit different than the frosting on my caramel cake (in both ingredients and preparation), so it’s totally new to the blog. It is quite a sweet frosting! While it works nicely on vanilla or yellow cake, I personally prefer to pair it with something less sweet, like chocolate cake or dark chocolate cupcakes and highly recommend topping everything off with a sprinkle of fine sea salt!
While this isn’t the quickest frosting to make, it is most certainly worth the time and effort because the results are simply fantastic. I am including some troubleshooting and tips since this frosting does start on the stove, so definitely check those out if you’re new to making caramel.
What You Need
A few key ingredients make this the best caramel frosting recipe:
- Brown sugar. I like to use a blend of light and dark brown sugar. All light brown sugar will work if that’s all you have, but the blend gives your caramel buttercream a richer, deeper flavor. I know purists may comment that “true” caramel sauce is made with just granulated sugar; however, I am extremely satisfied with the authentic taste, the perfect consistency, and the overall ease of making it this way.
- Heavy cream & milk. Using all heavy cream makes the caramel sauce too thick to be usable, while all milk makes it too thin. A blend of the two creates a perfectly balanced consistency.
- Corn syrup. Corn syrup prevents our caramel frosting from becoming grainy. Don’t skip it!
- Salt. Without salt, caramel has a flat, much too sweet flavor, so salt is a necessity! I talk a bit more about using salt in (and on top of) this frosting in the FAQ section below.
SAM’S TIP: A candy thermometer isn’t required for this recipe but it helps and I recommend one, especially if you’re dealing with a humid climate or haven’t made caramel sauce like this before.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Caramel Buttercream
- Cook the sugars, butter, cream, milk, corn syrup, and salt until butter is melted and sugar dissolves, then increase the heat.
- Once the mixture reaches a full boil, continue cooking for 4 minutes or until the sauce reaches 230F.
- Remove the pot from the heat and pour your caramel into a heatproof bowl to cool completely.
- Once the caramel has cooled (completely!), begin preparing the frosting.
- Beat the butter until smooth and creamy.
- Gradually add half of the powdered sugar.
- Drizzle in the caramel (it should be completely cooled and quite thick), then gradually add the remaining sugar.
- Stir in the vanilla extract, then pipe or spread on cupcakes/cake.
SAM’S TIP: Sometimes I prepare the caramel the night before I intend to make the frosting to make sure it has plenty of time to cool. It can also be refrigerated, but I recommend letting it sit at room temperature a bit before stirring it into the butter (I don’t like it to be very cold straight from the fridge).
Troubleshooting Runny Caramel Frosting
When done properly, the caramel should be thick after cooling and the finished caramel buttercream should be sturdy and pipeable.
The best way to avoid a runny caramel frosting is to prevent it from happening in the first place:
- Make sure you’ve cooked your caramel long enough (by using a thermometer or timer, both detailed in the recipe below).
- Let your caramel cool completely after cooking; it shouldn’t be at all warm when you add it to your butter mixture!
- Be mindful of humidity; if you live in a particularly humid environment, you may need to cook your caramel a bit longer. I definitely recommend using a thermometer in this situation!
If it’s too late and your frosting is too thin after being prepared, you can try thickening it with more powdered sugar, adding a tablespoon or two of cornstarch, or popping it in the fridge.
Frequently Asked Questions
Definitely! I highly recommend sprinkling salt over your frosting after you pipe or spread it on your cake/cupcakes. If you won’t be sprinkling it on after, I recommend increasing the salt in the recipe by a pinch or so.
As with most of my frosting recipes, I’m personally comfortable leaving this caramel buttercream out of refrigeration for about two days; beyond that, I refrigerate in an airtight container.
In this recipe, using corn syrup is key to prevent your caramel from crystallizing and becoming grainy. If you use this, you shouldn’t have any issues with a grainy frosting.
Since this caramel buttercream is so sweet, I tend to pipe it in small rosettes (shown on the right) versus large swirls (shown on the left), but I wanted to showcase in my photos how sturdy and pipeable it really is with some big, gorgeous swirls.
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
Caramel Frosting Recipe
For Caramel Sauce
- ½ cup (100 g) light brown sugar firmly packed
- ½ cup (100 g) dark brown sugar firmly packed (may substitute an additional ½ cup light brown sugar if needed)
- ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter cut into 8 pieces
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Combine brown sugars, butter, cream, milk, corn syrup, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the butter is melted and sugar has dissolved.½ cup (100 g) light brown sugar, ½ cup (100 g) dark brown sugar, ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, ¼ cup heavy cream, ¼ cup whole milk, 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Increase heat to medium and bring mixture to a full boil, stirring constantly.
- Once mixture reaches a full boil, set a timer for 4 minutes and stir occasionally while caramel cooks (or use a candy thermometer and cook until caramel sauce reaches 230F/110C).
- Remove from heat and pour into a large heatproof bowl. Allow caramel to cool completely before proceeding.
- Place softened butter in a large mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to beat until smooth and creamy.¾ cup (170 g) unsalted butter
- With mixer on low-speed, gradually add about half of the powdered sugar until combined. Drizzle in caramel and stir until completely incorporated, then gradually add remaining powdered sugar.4 cups (500 g) powdered sugar
- Stir in vanilla extract.1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Spread or pipe over cake or cupcakes, sprinkle with fine sea salt if desired.Fine sea salt
Making in advanceThe caramel sauce may be made up to 3 days in advance of using. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. The frosting may also be made a day or two in advance of using. It will become quite firm stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container and will need to sit at room temperature and be stirred well before using.
RefrigerationI am personally comfortable leaving cake/cupcakes that have been frosted with this caramel buttercream out at room temperature (72F or below) for up to 48 hours. Beyond that I refrigerate, always in an airtight container..
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.