Caramel Frosting is exactly as it sounds — it starts with a quick & easy homemade caramel sauce that is whipped into a thick, creamy, sumptuous frosting! Similar to a brown sugar frosting, this Caramel Frosting has fabulous flavor and depth, and it can adorn so many different treats!
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I don’t create many frosting-only posts, but when a frosting or buttercream is extra special, it warrants its own moment in the spotlight. Caramel Frosting is that, it’s special.
I started giving frostings their own blog space when a friend told me that she doesn’t necessarily want to make cupcakes or brownies from scratch, but she will search out a homemade frosting to jazz them up. That’s where she’ll invest her time and effort — a good frosting.
I agree. I would rather have homemade frosting on boxed brownies or cake than have canned, store-bought frosting on from-scratch baked goods. Right??
It goes like this: combine brown sugar, butter, and heavy cream in a saucepan, and heat until sugar is entirely dissolved. You’ve nearly made caramel sauce! We won’t cook it so far as to achieve caramelization, but it’s edging on caramel sauce. Add vanilla, let it cool, then whip it with powdered sugar into a brown sugar-based, caramel-flavored frosting. Yay!
I’ve included a lot of process photos. Please excuse the poor lighting in some of these shots! Sometimes I have to make things when I can, and sometimes that includes early mornings or evenings when lighting is not optimal. 🙂
What desserts and baked treats pair with Caramel Frosting or brown sugar frosting?
Some of my favorite ideas are:
- Banana Cake: So moist and banana-y, very soft and sweet. With a brown sugar-based frosting, it would have a Bananas Foster-like flavor profile!
- Amish Sugar Cookies: Because they go with anything.
- Cinnamon Streusel Zucchini Cake: A cake crammed with spice and streusel is begging for a brown sugar frosting.
- Pumpkin Carrot Cake: I typically use cream cheese frosting here, but Caramel Frosting would complement beautifully.
- Pumpkin Zucchini Bread: I love this bread with brown butter icing, but brown sugar frosting would be fab too.
Caramel Frosting substitutions:
Frankly, there’s little room to substitute, but every ingredient is easy-to-find and accessible. A few notes though —
- Recipe requires butter, not margarine. Butter is a must.
- In a pinch, you can swap whole milk or evaporated milk for heavy cream, but it’s not ideal.
Ways to add variation to Caramel Frosting? Two big ones come to mind:
- Add spices. A teaspoon of cinnamon and/or a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice could really add another layer of verve to this brown sugar frosting recipe.
- Add booze. I would start with 2-3 tablespoons of dark rum, bourbon, or whiskey (perhaps Fireball!), give a taste, and add another tablespoon or two, according to preference. Keep extra powdered sugar on hand to thicken it back up, if needed.
Storage and Freezing notes for Caramel Frosting:
Store in a tightly-sealed container for 3-4 days at room temperature, up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, and up to 3 months in the freezer.
If freezing, thaw frosting to room temperature, and it may still be firmer than it would be if never frozen. If that’s the case, pop it in the microwave for 7-10 seconds to warm it, stir well, and then microwave an additional few seconds, if needed. It seriously only takes a few seconds, so do not microwave beyond 7-10 second intervals.
Looking for other interesting and unique frostings? Here’s some rockstars:
- Peanut Butter Frosting
- Nutella Buttercream
- Brown Butter Frosting (fluffy buttercream, pipable) and Brown Butter Icing (thinner than buttercream, more spreadable, sets and “crusts”, but not pipable)
- Cookie Butter Frosting
- Pistachio Frosting
- Strawberry Frosting
- Chocolate Frosting
- Maple Frosting
What about glazes? Thinner than frosting or buttercream, and drizzleable! –>
Caramel Frosting recipe
- 1 cup butter cut into pats or cubes, cannot use margarine
- 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup heavy cream in a pinch, can substitute whole milk or evaporated milk
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 4 - 5 cups powdered sugar
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, brown sugar, and heavy cream.
- Bring to a boil, stirring regularly. It's fine to stir occasionally as the mixture is melting and heating up, but be sure to stir constantly as it begins to simmer, and as it turns to a rolling boil.
- Once it reaches a boil, continuing cooking for 1-2 minutes, or until sugar is dissolved. When it loses it's grittiness, and sugar granules are no longer visible, remove from heat.
- After removing from heat, whisk in vanilla extract.
- Cool mixture to room temperature.
- Transfer the caramel mixture to a large mixing bowl. Fit your mixer with a whisk attachment.
- With the mixer set to low speed, gradually add 4 cups powdered sugar.
- Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
- Add additional powdered sugar, as needed, to achieve desired consistency, and beat for 1 minute on medium speed before settling on consistency.
- Frost anything!
- Store in a tightly-sealed container for 3-4 days at room temperature, up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, and up to 3 months in the freezer.