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Easy Caramel Buttercream Frosting

2012 September 12

I have a baking arch nemesis and its name is Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It figures that I would have trouble perfecting caramel recipes when it just so happens to be one of my favorite things, ever. Oh, to perfect a batch of salted caramel ice cream or a simple Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream! Who am I kidding? There is nothing simple about Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream, that illusive and nasty beast of a frosting…NOTHING!

After 45 minutes of sweating over hot caramel and Swiss meringue only to end up scraping a chunky batch of my failed attempt into the trashcan, I was over it. Sooo over it in fact that I did something I never do…I made a faux version.Β  The best part was that everyone loved it, raved about it, licked the frosting off the top of the cupcakes! Half easy, no-fail caramel mixed with my favorite vanilla buttercream recipe and I had myself a new invention. Take that arch nemesis…until we meet again.

{photos by Freutcake}

Easy Caramel ButtercreamΒ 

easy caramel
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt

1. In a medium sauce pan, mix sugar, cream and butter.
2. Bring to a boil over medium high heat stirring with a wooden spoon.
3. Continue to boil for 3 minutes stirring constantly.
4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and sea salt. (Be careful, it will bubble!)
5. Cool to room temperature.
5. Beat with a wire whisk until smooth.

1 cup unsalted butter softened
3 cups confectioners sugar sifted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract


1. Cream butter in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed until light and creamy.
2. With mixer on low, slowly add powdered sugar.
3. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract & salt, beat for 3 minutes.
4. With mixer on low, slowly add cooled caramel. Beat until all is incorporated.
Freutcake Note: Caramel Buttercream is best on top of these Mini-Chocolate Devil’s Food Cupcakes
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Leah Bergman

Editor at Freutcake
Designer, blogger, cocktail shaker. Classic with a bit of sparkle. Founder & Editor of Freutcake.

Latest posts by Leah Bergman (see all)

48 Responses Post a comment
  1. September 12, 2012

    genius! i’m so doing it! and are those little gold sprinkles on top?

    • freutcake permalink*
      September 12, 2012

      Yes! They are gold sanding sugar from Williams Sonoma. πŸ˜‰

  2. September 12, 2012

    I suck at making caramel and it is one of my most favorite things ever. I always screw it up somehow. I’m not sure if its the pan I have or what, but it makes me SO angry.

    • freutcake permalink*
      September 12, 2012

      My friend…you are not alone! Just the thought of all my failed caramel attempts has me breaking out in a cold sweat.

  3. September 12, 2012

    Wow, yum, might just have to whip this up this weekend:)


  4. September 12, 2012

    I love how you added a dollop of buttercream instead of a massive amount Leah! I can’t wait to try this recipe.

  5. September 12, 2012

    Last year, I made pumpkin spice latte cupcakes as a Halloween treat for my office. I’m going to try this frosting when I make them again this year!

    Caramel is so tricky to make–and, as I have learned the hard way, it can give you some nasty burns on your fingers!

    • freutcake permalink*
      September 14, 2012

      Yum sounds delicious! I hope you like this frosting. πŸ™‚

  6. September 13, 2012

    I LOVED these. Thanks so much for making them for my birthday!

    • freutcake permalink*
      September 14, 2012

      You are so welcome! Glad you liked em’.

  7. Amanda permalink
    October 19, 2012

    This was perfect for my apple spice cupcakes. Amazing. Thank you for sharing.

  8. November 8, 2012

    How many cupcakes can you ice with this recipe?

  9. Natasja permalink
    November 27, 2012

    Thanks for sharing this AMAZING recipe!!! Do you know if it has to be refrigerated, or can it stand at room temp for 2-3 days?? I plan on making it (again) this weekend to frost a cake that will then be covered in fondant, and it would be best if I don’t have to refrigerate the cake. I would really appreciate any thoughts you may have πŸ™‚

    • freutcake permalink*
      November 29, 2012

      You are so welcome! Glad you are enjoying it. Since regular buttercream is ok at room temp I am sure this will be as well. That being said, I have never left a frosted cake out for 2-3 days without the frosting getting a bit hard on the outside. πŸ™

  10. Carrie permalink
    December 13, 2012

    I made this frosting last week and put it on a heath bar cupcake with chocolate ganache. They were as beautiful as they were delicious. My guests RAVED about it and everyone wants the recipe! I will be making them again for my employees. Thanks!

    • freutcake permalink*
      December 13, 2012

      Carrie- I’m so happy you and your guests liked my recipe! This comment made me smile.

  11. January 8, 2013

    This is literally the best frosting I’ve ever had. My wife asked that I make a caramel frosting for her birthday cake and I’m so happy that I came across this recipe. This one is going into my personal recipe book now…

    • freutcake permalink*
      January 10, 2013

      Thank you so much for coming back and leaving this comment! It makes me so happy to know that you made and enjoyed it πŸ™‚

  12. Claire permalink
    January 8, 2013

    Haha! I was just reading the reviews for Martha Stewart’s Caramel Buttercream and it sounded like everyone was having difficulty. This looks like a great alternative. Any thoughts on if it would be stiff enough to hold a layer cake together?

    • freutcake permalink*
      January 10, 2013

      Hi Claire, Yes I think it would be stiff enough for a layer cake. It is a little bit thicker than your standard buttercream. πŸ™‚

      • January 11, 2013

        It absolutely was sufficient for a layer cake. I actually had quite a bit left over and I put it on thick on two 8″ rounds.

        BTW, we just finished the cake last night. I’m already missing it. I might have to make it again just so I can have more of this delicious frosting.

  13. January 25, 2013

    I’ve spent the better part of 2 days looking for a recipe like this! I have a buttermilk cake recipe that I love – but I hate all caramel frostings I have topped it with thus far. They are either too runny, too difficult, or use a ton of egg whites (I can’t stand breaking up my eggs unless I have a use for both parts πŸ˜‰

    I am baking cakes today, and I’m excited to try this frosting!!

  14. mehlawncawlee permalink
    January 27, 2013

    Sooooo good. I made Guinness chocolate cupcakes. The frosting complimented them perfectly. I think I may take the challenge of your nemesis, it’s been a while since I’ve had a good baking challenge! Thanks so much for this fantastic recipe!

    • freutcake permalink*
      January 29, 2013

      You are so welcome! Glad you enjoyed the recipe. Guinness chocolate cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream sound decadent!

  15. Carrisa V permalink
    April 21, 2013

    Looks delish! I was wondering though how many cupcakes the recipe will frost?

  16. Belinda permalink
    August 5, 2013

    After two failed attempts to make caramel fillings for my macarons I stumbled across your recipe. It was perfect!! I left a little bit of the caramel mixture out and put a small dollop on each macaron and then covered in the buttercream.

    • August 8, 2013

      Hi Belinda- I understand the caramel frustration! I’m so happy to hear that my recipe worked for you!:)

  17. Michelle permalink
    September 4, 2013

    Hi, thanks for sharing this great recipe.

    Quick question on the caramel, it looks great when I add the vanilla and salt but then when it cools down, it goes hard and then I cant seem to break it up or make it smooth with a whisk. What am I doing wrong?

  18. Michelle permalink
    December 4, 2013

    I have the same problem as Michelle above. What should the consistency be after you add vanilla and salt?and after it cools? Mine is quite set, a bit sandy. Should it be a liquid caramel when you add to the buttercream? Thanks for any advice!

  19. Stephanie permalink
    March 16, 2014

    Do you use light or dark brown sugar?

  20. Rach permalink
    March 26, 2014

    Hands down best caramel buttercream I have ever tasted. It goes with everything, caramel mud cake, devils food cake and even make banana cake super decadent. You can’t mess it up if you try, absolutely fool proof. Thanks for a wonderful recipe.

  21. Kirsten permalink
    June 5, 2014

    How many cupcake will this frost? Thanks!

    • June 23, 2014

      I would say about 1 dozen standard cupcakes.

      • Jenny permalink
        October 6, 2015

        Eeekk – only saw now to cook only till sugar disolves, recipe says boil for 3 minutes, mine also cooling grainy πŸ™

  22. Marci Byrd permalink
    June 23, 2014

    I have had the same problem at both Michelle’s above after three attempts tonight. It’s perfect until I let it cool and then it hardens and turns into a sandy mess! I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong?

    • June 23, 2014

      Marci- that’s so odd! If it’s hardening up I would say that you may have overcooked the caramel. Try cooking only until the sugar dissolves. I’m sorry to hear that it isn’t working for you!

  23. Carrie MacDonald permalink
    July 4, 2014

    I’m back again! I have you bookmarked and I wanted this frosting for my son’s birthday “Twix” cupcakes. Once again, you’ve outdone yourself. They were delish!

  24. barbara permalink
    July 14, 2014

    I just made a banana cake with banana cream filling, going to top it with this caramel frosting. I hope the guys my husband works with like it!!

  25. Jesika permalink
    September 14, 2014

    This recipe is amazing! Thanks for sharing

  26. Femi Saleem permalink
    August 6, 2015

    thanks for sharing

  27. Aroha Upritchard permalink
    July 12, 2016

    These are so cute! πŸ™‚ Do you think the buttercream would be stiff enough to do frosting roses with?

    • July 12, 2016

      Thank you! Probably not the right consistency for frosting roses. It’s a bit soft.

  28. July 25, 2016

    This frosting is the best buttercream frosting I’ve ever tasted. I did dial the back the confectioners sugar – I only used 75% of the suggested amount of sugar, while also doubling the salt. I usually find buttercream cloyingly sweet and crunchy in texture so made the mods I mentioned to have a result that suits my tastes. I absolutely love the quick and easy caramel recipe. No candy thermometer needed. Yay! Thank you for sharing this genius recipe.

  29. teresa permalink
    September 28, 2016

    i added melted caramel pieces to buttercream icing turned out didnt want to try to make own caramel lol

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