Old Fashioned Southern Burned Caramel Cake is is a guest post written by author, Lee St. John.
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.
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.
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.
Old Fashioned Southern Burned Caramel Cake
A treasured family recipe from the author, Lee St. John's mother (from Georgia).
For the cake
- 1 cup vegetable shortening
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the frosting
- 4 1/2 cups sugar, divided
- 1/2 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.
Don’t forget to share the spatula, beaters, or bowl with batter or icing you set aside for the little ones.
See below for further instructions...
Notes from Lise Ode (Mom Loves Baking):
I made this cake and it's delicious. I just wanted to add a few extra instructions here. And also let you know that the frosting needs to chill overnight in the refrigerator.
Making the icing:
The caramel icing is not easy to make. Put the stove on medium to medium high and add the sugar to a heavy saucepan. Stir constantly until it starts to change color. It will slowly get light brown, then caramel brown, then start to turn into a liquid. Keep stirring and once it's a nice brown (but not too dark), you must act quickly so it doesn't get too dark. Quickly add the boiling water and stir. Then you add the remaining 4 cups of sugar, 2 sticks margarine, and 1 cup milk. You stir constantly as it comes to a boil. Keep stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. It will be very thin at this point. Don't keep cooking it, thinking it will get thicker because it won't. Remove from heat, add vanilla (stir to combine) and let cool. Pour into a mixing bowl and let it chill in the refrigerator overnight. Next day, take it out and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and slightly thickened - about 10-20 minutes. Now it's ready to go on the cake.
Making the cake:
I used 3 (8-inch round) cake pans, sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, lined with parchment paper which I cut in circles to fit into the bottom of each pan and then sprayed them again. This way, they will NOT stick. Don't skip this step.
When icing the cake:
Do not put too much icing in between layers. I put about 1/2 cup in between each layer. Then probably about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of icing for the top and sides. You don't want too much or it will just drip down to the base of the cake and make a puddle. You will have left over frosting which is great to serve with the sliced cake on the side.
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.
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