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Antique Caramel Cake Recipe

This old-fashioned caramel birthday cake recipe has been passed down from my Great-Grandmother.


Single Burner, Oven, and an Egg-beater or Stand Mixer



Caramel birthday cake served with blueberries onon an antique plate

A birthday cake recipe through the generations.

As I was going through my mom's recipe cards, I found this gem. It was a nearly illegible photocopy of a stained, old, poorly-written cursive cake recipe, but had a note in my Grandmother's more recent handwriting that said "My mother made this every year for my birthday!"

Baking this caramel cake makes the house smell just like my Grandmother's kitchen!

This caramel cake recipe makes a very rustic, nostalgic flavor for a simple, no-fuss, homemade birthday cake. I will include the original ingredients and instructions below the recipe. Some modifications have been made for clarity or simplicity.

Here is the original cake recipe from my Great-Grandmother:

Caramel Cake

3X10" layers

Cook at 300F 20-30 minutes

1 stick of butter, softened

1 1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 cup flour

1 cup buttermilk

3 eggs, separated

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp lemon extract

Cream butter thoroughly, add sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time. Cream again. I add soda to buttermilk. Add alternately with flour which has been sifted three times with baking powder. Add vanilla and lemon extract and fold in beaten egg whites lightly.

You can also see the original recipe for the Antique Caramel Icing on its own page.


Substitution for lemon extract: You can use 1/2 tsp lemon juice, or you can omit it.

Substitution for vanilla: You can use maple syrup, or even whiskey!

Substitute for baking powder: You can use 1/2 tsp lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar) and 1/4 tsp baking soda.

Substitute for baking soda: You can use 1 Tbs baking powder.

Let's Begin Making the Cake:

butter, flour, sugar, eggs, and other cake ingredients arranged on a counter

Gather the cake ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

8 inch cake pans that have been prepared with oil and flour

Prepare three 8in (20cm) cake pans with oil and flour.

flour sifted three times with baking powder sitting in a glass bowl

Sift 2 1/2 cup flour with 1 tsp baking powder three times.

softened butter being creamed in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment

Cream 1 (115g) softened stick of butter thoroughly using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or egg beater.

butter and sugar being creamed together in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment

Add 1 1/2 cup sugar and cream again until light and fluffy.

egg yolk sitting with creamed butter and sugar in a stand mixer

Add the 3 egg yolks, one at a time, while creaming.

Add 1 tsp baking soda to 1 cup buttermilk.

flour being alternately added with buttermilk to the cake batter

Add flour to the creamed mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, while mixing slowly, until just blended.

vanilla, salt, and lemon extract added to a caramel cake batter in a stand mixer

Stir in 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 1/2 tsp lemon extract.

eggs that have been whipped until peaks form

Whisk the egg whites from the three eggs to stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites gently into the batter.

homemade cake batter poured into a 8 inch round baking pan

Pour even amounts into the three cake pans. Use a spatula to gently try to even out the batter to the edges in the pan.

cake layers that have finished baking and are cooling on a wire rack

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Turn the layers out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature before icing.

Now let's make the Icing:

If you want the more thorough page with the original recipe for making this caramel icing, you can click this link.

sugar, butter, cream, and agave syrup in bowls ready to become caramel icing

Gather the ingredients.

butter, sugar, cream, and agave syrup being melted together in a pot

Place 2 1/2 cups sugar, 1 cup pure cream or sour cream, 2 Tbs corn syrup or agave syrup, and 1 (115g) stick butter or margarine together in a sauce pan over medium-low heat.

butter, sugar, cream, and agave syrup melted and being whisked into caramel icing

Warm slowly, occasionally whisking it lightly.

bowl of ice water with drips of caramel checking for soft ball stage

Cook to soft ball stage: You can use a candy thermometer for this if you have one. If not, continue with these instructions: Prepare the bowl of ice water before the icing starts to simmer. As soon as the icing begins to simmer test the heat once a minute by dripping a drop of icing into the ice water until soft ball stage. You know you have reached soft ball stage when a drip dropped into the ice water forms a small pliable ball that you can pick up with your fingers, and that flattens automatically when removed from the water.

bowl of ice water with a soft drip of caramel on a finger showing soft ball stage

This means the pan of icing is done and must be immediately removed from the heat. If you keep heating the icing past this stage it may form hard caramel candy when it cools.

homemade cake being iced with homemade caramel icing

Let the icing cool until it thickens enough to be applied to your cake, but is still pliable. If the icing is too hot it will simply melt off the sides of the cake. If the icing is too cool it will set up and not spread. Stir the icing occasionally while it cools so it cools evenly. You can speed up the cooling process by setting the bottom of the sauce pan of icing in a shallow bath of cold water, stirring the icing constantly, and changing the water bath whenever it starts to get warm.

Now you can ice your cake and enjoy! Be sure to ice between the layers, stacking the cakes, as well as on top and around the sides. Don't worry about making it perfect. This is a rustic, homespun cake, after all!

a final caramel cake on a silver serving tray that is iced and ready to be eaten

Happy birthday (or dessert time) from the 1920s!

What should I serve with this caramel cake recipe?

This cake was originally a birthday cake, so it would go nicely with any sort of festive spread! I suggest pairing it with things such as;


This cake is good covered on the countertop for 3 days and in the fridge for a week.



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