Old Fashioned Southern Burned Caramel Cake is a homemade yellow cake with a cooked caramel frosting made on the stovetop. Author Lee St. John is sharing this post and special recipe handed down from her mother.
The Story Behind This Burned Caramel Cake
My mother and my long-time next door neighbor’s mother had the same MO (Method of Operation) one early summer morning in the 1950s. Maybe it was because these two women ended up living next door to each other for fifty-something years. They were in sync this morning both creating Burned Caramel Cakes.
Cake Baking is a Big Part of Southern Living
My friend, Jane, three years older, is my surrogate big sister. That morning when I was around six, we both awoke to the smell of cakes in the oven, checked out our own kitchens, found out this morning they were both baking the same flavor of cake, and connected before the second round of cake batter was placed in pans and then in Jane’s mother’s oven. You know what we wanted: to lick the batter off the spatulas and beaters this time around.
This was a ritual for both of us while the women were baking, so there we stood, still in our pajamas, near the mixer staring like puppies waiting for someone to drop a morsel from the dinner table. When the mixing ended, we saw her scrape just about every bit of batter into her pans and then slid them into the oven. What was left to lick? Not much.
Licking the Spatula of the Caramel Frosting
Barefooted, we ran across both yards to see if we were going to have better luck at my house. And sure enough, we always did. There stood my mother in her cream colored cotton apron with red piping. It was cross-stitched with chickens pecking corn, a red barn, and ducks waddling. Tied at the waist, it held deep pockets to hold utensils or such. She not only let us share the spatula, but also gave us each a beater, (which we licked clean), and a spoon to gobble up the remaining cake batter in the bowl.
But it’s all about the icing, too, right? And we were able to get a taste of it also.
I miss my mother.
See below for a more detailed recipe with notes from Lise (Mom Loves Baking) who tested this Old Fashioned Southern Burned Caramel Cake in her kitchen.
TOOLS FOR SUCCESS
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Old Fashioned Southern Burned Caramel Cake
For the cake
- 1 cup vegetable shortening
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole milk room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the frosting
- 4 ½ cups sugar divided
- ½ cup boiling water
- 2 sticks margarine 1 cup
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cake
- Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each.
- Sift flour and baking powder and salt together three times. Add alternately with milk to creamed mixture.
- Bake in greased and floured pans at 350 about 30 – 35 minutes. Cool before frosting.
For the frosting
- Burn ½ cup sugar in iron skillet. Add ½ cup boiling water to make syrup.
- Add 4 cups sugar, 2 sticks margarine, and 1 cup milk.
- Cook until soft ball stage. Remove from heat. Add 1 tsp. vanilla.
- Set pan in cold water and beat until thick enough to spread.
This recipe is featured on Meal Plan Monday over at the Southern Plate blog!
Old Fashioned Southern Burned Caramel Cake is perfect for the holidays!
About Lee St. John...
Lee St. John started writing in 1970 for her hometown paper by delivering the School News events from the only high school in the county. Impressed by her writing skills, her publisher mentioned that she should one day write a book.
Hold on to your pantyhose - here it is: SHE’S A KEEPER! Cockamamie Memoirs from a Hot Southern Mess by Bienvenue Press.
Cotillion-and-etiquette-classes didn’t stick. This Southern Belle, gone rogue, doesn’t apologize one iota for it. She’s a proud maverick who creates mayhem in her wake. As a storyteller, she has been compared to family funny woman, Erma Bombeck, with an edge; Southern humorist, Lewis Grizzard, with PG-13 rated twists; genuine tell-all, Ali Wentworth, fearlessly describing her secrets; and any frisky Seinfeld TV episode. No wonder she ranked #1 on Amazon’s Humorous Short Reads.
A sought-after international speaker, Lee has been regarded in several state, southeastern, and national publications, including being a guest host on Alabama’s Charter Cable TV and a Georgia and Alabama FM radio host. She can be found in several Georgia newspapers and on almost every dang social media.
A retired teacher, she has been married to her Southern gentleman for 35 years, has two millennial sons, and a tater-tot-looking white schnauzer, OBie, who is her co-host on her two live Facebook programs, Monday’s SPILLING THE BEANS BOOK CLUB and Friday’s OBITUARIES WITH OBIE which can be found on https://www.facebook.com/leestjohnauthor.
Lee’s second book, SHE’S A KEEPER! Funny Teacher Stories from Real Southern Classrooms, is also a hoot and like her cockamamie memoirs, all the stories are also true.
Lee is a member of:
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
Atlanta Writers Club
Humorous Writers of America
On the THE FRONT PORCH Board of Southern Living Magazine.
Can be found on Amazon.com
Note: This article contains affiliate links.
If you liked this cake, you might also like Alabama Lane Cake.
If you enjoyed this Old Fashioned Southern Burned Caramel Cake recipe, please PIN on Pinterest with the image below.
All text and images © Lise Ode for Mom Loves Baking. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe. Disclaimer: Nutrition information shown is not guaranteed to be accurate. This post may contain affiliate links.
Peggy Brady says
Does this Caramel Icing sort of feel hard when you tap it on the cake. My Grandmother made one like that and this reads like it would but I don't want a "buttercream" like texture.
Lise Ode says
Hi Peggy, This frosting is not hard when it sets. It's has a very slight crust but soft when you cut into it, sort of like the boiled chocolate icing that you would find on Texas sheet cake.
Hello dear thank you for this recipe looks soooo yummy, I just want to ask if the caramel won’t be thick to apply easily on the cake, your caramel looks so smooth on the cake,did you put after it gets cold. Thank you
Lise Ode says
This caramel frosting is not thick at all. It's more of a glaze.
Thank you for for old fashioned cake recipe! I have one question, the cake recipe calls for vegetable shortening. I’m assuming this is crisco? My question is, do you use crisco, vegetable oil, or butter? I know my Granny Dimple used to use crisco, but I don’t use it much. Just curious what you’ve used.
Lise Ode says
Yes, I used Crisco for this cake recipe as it calls for it.
Can you make in 9x13 instead?
Lise Ode says
I'm not sure, I haven't tested the recipe in that size pan.
THIS IS MY GRANDMOTHER'S EXACT RECIPE!! I CAN'T BELIEVE I HAVE RUN ACROSS THIS!! THERE IS NOT ANOTHER CARAMEL CAKE LIKE IT!! I HAVE MADE IT 2 X- BUT WE ALWAYS WERE THERE TO LICK THE SPATUAL!!!
Lise Ode says
That's incredible! How cool is that! I'm glad you found this post!
I first came to your website for the upside-down ice cream cake for my 3yr old granddaughter's birthday. I came back to see what other recipes I could find. I ran across the recipe for the Burned Caramel Cake. My grandmother used to make this and it was one of my favorites as a little girl. I haven't tried it yet but it looks just my "MoMo's". I had not thought about it in years. I plan to make this weekend. Thanks for bringing back lost memories.
Brenda Seevcik says
I'm going to make this cake! It looks wonderful! I use butter rather than margarine, but I'm assuming that's fine. Keep sharing!
Mom Loves Baking says
Hi Brenda, This is Lise - Mom Loves Baking, I'll tell Lee about your comment and also wanted to let you know that you can definitely substitute butter for margarine in this recipe. Enjoy!