Cookies & Cups > Recipes > Dessert > Cakes > Easy Caramel Cake

Easy Caramel Cake

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!

A slice of frosted caramel cake on a white plate with a forkful missing.

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.

The ingredients for caramel poke cake.

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.
  • Salt
  • Flour: Regular all-purpose flour works just fine.
  • Milk
  • 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.
The ingredients for cream cheese 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.
  • Vanilla
  • 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.

If you’re making this caramel cake in the fall, why not try Apple Cider Caramel Sauce or Pumpkin Spice Caramel Sauce for a festive twist.

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.

Top view of frosted caramel cake slices in a pan, with some pieces missing.

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!
A slice of frosted caramel cake on a white plate, with a second serving in the background.

Storage Instructions

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!

Top view of a slice of caramel cake on a plate next to a forkful, next to more slices in a pan and a cup of coffee.

More Drool-Worthy Cakes to Try

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A slice of frosted caramel cake on a white plate with a forkful missing.

Easy Caramel Cake

  • Author: Cookies & Cups
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 20 servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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!


Ingredients

Scale

Cake

  • 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

Frosting

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Frosting

  1. 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.
  2. Turn mixer back up to medium and mix for 1-2 minutes until smooth and creamy.
  3. When the cake is cooled spread the cream cheese frosting on top. Swirl the remaining caramel on top of the frosting.

Notes

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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28 comments on “Easy Caramel Cake”

  1. I made it with some modifications.
    First of all, the cake came out flat, didn’t rise. It was bland, as another person mentioned. It also was very dry. For the frosting, I only used 1/4 cup of regular sugar. I cannot imagine adding 4 cups of powdered sugar there. Maybe a typo in the recipe?
    I will try the cake idea with another cake recipe.

  2. Lillian henderson

    Alternating. The flour and milk is it milk and flour to milk and flour Beating after each

  3. Azariah Benjamin

    Hi Shelly

    What is the measurement of the cup that you’re using for this cake? Is it the normal 250g cup?

  4. Hi! I am excited to make this cake for my son’s birthday! Could it be used in 9 inch cake pans? cooking time would vary of course

  5. I JUST saw this same recipe in a magazine! You made it immediately And you didn’t even give credit! YOU STOLE IT! You even used cream cheese frosting and swirled the top!!!

    1. oh my gosh, what magazine? I actually did not get this recipe from a magazine, but adapted it slightly from an old poke cake recipe from my mom’s recipe box. It was a recipe from the 80’s, no doubt…so it’s certainly possible it has been around for a while. Sorry if you saw a similarity from a magazine, but I can assure you there was no “thievery” involved 🙂

      1. Going to bake this cake today. Will be sharing my pic and rating “your” recipe. Looks Devine!!!

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