There are few things more classically Southern, in my opinion, than a delicious caramel cake. Southern grandmothers have been turning out this often challenging confection for generations – each with their own little twist or tweak to achieve the perfect, most delectable icing. And because of the chemistry involved, many have attempted the icing and failed… I’ll admit to that myself.
And let’s take a minute to talk about icing versus frosting. Technically, frosting is the light and fluffy whipped coating that goes on a cake and icing was traditionally more of a hard sugar glaze. The truth is, those lines are a bit blurred today. I grew up calling all that stuff that you smear on cakes icing – so that’s what I call it here… just because. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard my mama say the word frosting. Regardless of what you call it, this caramel icing is super easy and amazingly delicious. And the cake… oh my! It’s one of my favorite cake recipes because it’s so easy. The light buttery flavor is the perfect complement to the icing.
One thing that I mention in this recipe is how to tell when the cake is done. For me, I’ve always used the toothpick test. You know, where you stick a toothpick in the center and it’s done when the toothpick comes out clean. Well, lately, I’ve seen lots of recipes mention the cake “pulling away from the sides” as a method to determine doneness. Personally, I’m still a fan of the toothpick test, but just to show you, the image above shows how the cake is pulling away from the sides of the pan. Either way, you need to make sure the cake is set in the middle.
Another thing I wanted to show you was what I call boiling caramel. In the recipe, I say boil for 2 minutes and there’s been some confusion about what exactly boiling is. This is what your caramel should look like for the 2 minutes – small consistent bubbles all the way throughout the liquid.
There you go… Easy Yellow Cake and Easy Caramel Icing. Don’t be intimidated – get in the kitchen and try it! Your family will love you for it!
Easy Yellow Sheet Cake
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and mix well.
- In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 1/2 of the dry mixture to the butter mixture and mix well. Add 1/2 of the milk and mix well. Add the other half of the dry mixture and mix well. Add the other half of the milk and mix well. Add the vanilla and mix well.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until set and the cake starts to pull away from the sides. You can also check the doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done. Cool completely before icing.
Easy Caramel Icing
- 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- Combine the brown sugar, salt, butter, and milk in a small pot. Heat over medium-low heat until boiling, stirring very frequently to prevent scorching. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Using a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, combine the cooled caramel with the powdered sugar and beat until combined and fluffy. You may find it necessary to add a little more powdered sugar if it's too runny or a few drops of milk if it's too thick to spread.