My Caramel Cake recipe is a moist vanilla cake soaked in caramel, topped with sweet cream cheese frosting. This classic poke cake recipe is quick and easy to make ahead, and the flavors get better the longer it sits!
Dreamy Caramel Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting
This is an absolutely PERFECT Southern-style caramel poke cake. Firstly, it’s delicious, with all of its moist tenderness and caramel flavor. Secondly, it’s crazy simple. And third, there’s a good chance that the ingredients needed to make this cake are in your pantry anyway! a 9×13 cake is always my preferred choice, no layers, no fancy frosting…plus this one has caramel INFUSED right into the cake by poking holes throughout after baking and pouring delicious caramel on the baked cake even before the frosting.
What You’ll Need
The ingredients for this cake recipe are wonderfully basic. It’s a simple vanilla cake dressed up in caramel sauce, topped with a layer of easy-to-make homemade frosting. Here’s an overview of the ingredients, and be sure to refer to the recipe card for the full amounts.
For the Cake
- Butter: Salted or unsalted, at room temperature.
- Light Brown Sugar: Using light brown sugar gives the vanilla cake extra depth of flavor.
- Eggs: Eggs bind the ingredients and help the cake to rise into a rich texture.
- Vanilla: For the best natural flavor, stick with pure vanilla extract.
- Baking Powder: For leavening.
- Flour: Regular all-purpose flour works just fine.
- Caramel Sauce: You’ll need one cup of caramel sauce for pouring over the baked cake. This is what soaks into the cake to give it that amazing caramel flavor! So use a good quality caramel topping (see below for more details). You’ll also need additional sauce for swirling into the frosting.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cream Cheese: Like the butter in this recipe, you’ll want your cream cheese to be at room temperature.
- Butter: Also at room temperature.
- Powdered Sugar: Also called confectioner’s sugar, this is what gives the frosting its smoothness and sweetness.
What Kind of Caramel Should I Use?
I highly recommend making your own homemade caramel sauce. You can make it easily in the microwave in just 5 minutes! However, if you are extra pressed for time, jarred caramel topping will also work for this recipe.
How to Make Caramel Cake
I can’t think of any occasion that wouldn’t be improved by a slice of this cake. Luckily, it’s incredibly easy to make:
Prepare the Batter: First, make the cake batter. Cream together the butter and brown sugar, then mix in the eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and salt until combined. Alternate adding in the flour and milk until smooth.
Bake: Spread the batter into a baking pan coated in non-stick spray. Bake until the center of the cake is set (a toothpick inserted into the cake should come out clean).
Cover with Caramel: While the cake is still warm, go ahead and poke holes into the top of the cake. I use the back of a wooden spoon to do this, it works great! Next, pour half of your caramel sauce all over the cake. The caramel sinks into the cake as it cools and pools in the holes
Frost the Cake: Once the cake is completely cooled, you’ll make a simple cream cheese frosting by combining the ingredients in your stand mixer. Spread the creamy frosting all over the cake, and swirl in the remaining caramel sauce.
Can I Make It in Advance?
Absolutely. I’d even go so far as to say that my caramel cake is even BETTER when you make it ahead of time! The flavors only get more delicious the longer the caramel has to soak in. This cake can be made up to 1-2 days in advance and kept in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it.
Tips for Success
Here are my tips to get this classic cake recipe looking and tasting its best:
- Use Room Temperature Ingredients: Make sure that ingredients like butter and cream cheese have enough time to come to room temperature before you make the cake. Aim to take them out of the fridge about 30 minutes beforehand. This ensures easy mixing and even baking, for the perfectly textured cake!
- Don’t Over Mix: Over-mixing cake ingredients is a one way ticket to a denser, no-so-fluffy cake. Take care to only mix the batter until the flour and milk is just combined.
- Get the Right Frosting Consistency: If your frosting is on the thicker side, you can add in a spoonful of milk as needed to thin it out a little. On the other hand, if the frosting comes out too thin for one reason or other, add more powdered sugar to thicken it up again.
- Let the Cake Cool: While this cake should be warm when you pour over the caramel topping, it should then be left to cool completely before you frost it. Otherwise you’ll wind up with melted frosting!
Store this homemade caramel airtight for up to 3 days, in the fridge due to the cream cheese in the frosting. I recommend taking the cake out to let it come to room temperature again before serving.
Does This Freeze Well?
I wouldn’t recommend freezing the frosted cake, as the cream cheese frosting tends to separate once it’s thawed. You can, however, freeze the baked, unfrosted cake after the caramel sauce has been poured on. Let the cake cool completely, then store it in a freezer safe container or wrapped tightly with plastic wrap for freezing.
When you’re ready to serve it, thaw the cake in the fridge, frost, and serve!
More Drool-Worthy Cakes to Try
- The Best Coffee Cake Recipe Ever
- Ridiculous Chocolate Cake
- Peanut Butter Sheet Cake
- Coconut Poke Cake
- Chocolate Poke Cake
My easy Caramel Cake recipe is a moist vanilla cake soaked in caramel, topped with sweet cream cheese frosting. This classic poke cake recipe is perfect for making ahead. The flavors get better the longer it sits!
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 cups caramel sauce, divided
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs in one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add in the vanilla, baking powder and salt and mix to combine.
- Turn the mixer speed to low and add in the flour and the milk in alternating additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl to combine evenly.
- Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until the center is set or a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Immediately poke holes into the top of the warm cake, about 1- inch apart. Pour 1 cup of the caramel on top of the cake and allow the cake to sit until it has cooled completely.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth. Turn mixer to low and add in the vanilla and powdered sugar until combined.
- Turn mixer back up to medium and mix for 1-2 minutes until smooth and creamy.
- When the cake is cooled spread the cream cheese frosting on top. Swirl the remaining caramel on top of the frosting.
Store airtight for up to 3 days.
Keywords: cakes with caramel, caramel cake recipe, how to make caramel cake, easy poke cake
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