Bold Baking Basics

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

4.50 from 2 votes
Whip up this Decadent Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting and elevate cakes, cupcakes, or cookies with rich caramel and airy, velvety butter.
A big bowl of smooth Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting is next to three round cake layers.

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Hi Bold Bakers!

WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE: Our Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting is so outrageously great that your biggest challenge will be to stop sampling it and save enough for the cake! With a prep time of just an hour and only six ingredients, this new recipe for salty-sweet caramel buttercream will elevate any cake to superstar status.

  • Even if you’ve never made caramel, our clear and straightforward instructions will have you making up a homemade batch like a pro!
  • The salted caramel sauce is whipped with butter and powdered sugar to make a fluffy, beautifully spreadable frosting.

Salted caramel hits the perfect spot, bringing together sweetness, salt, richness, and a slight smokiness. That’s why Bigger Bolder Bakers always want more of it! We’re here to satisfy your cravings with desserts like Salted Caramel and Peanut Chocolate Tart, Old Fashioned Salted Caramel Fudge, Homemade Starbucks Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, and Salted Caramel & Chocolate Brownie Trifle Recipe.

Table of Contents

A big bowl of smooth Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting is next to two round cake layers. One has been frosted.

What is Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting?

  • Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting is butter and powdered sugar frosting whipped with homemade salted caramel. The salted caramel makes this frosting slightly less sweet than typical vanilla buttercream, with a more nuanced flavor.
  • Homemade caramel is made by heating sugar until it dissolves, melts, and becomes a deep amber color, and its molecules start to break down. As the heat continues, different types of compounds start producing liquid sugar to form a smooth caramel.
  • Quick and easy American buttercream is a streamlined version of European buttercream that is often made with meringue. American buttercream gained popularity in the mid-20th century as a deliciously simple way to frost and pipe decorations on layer cakes for family celebrations.

Tools You Need

Key Ingredients and Why

  • Granulated sugar

    • Cooked granulated sugar is the base of caramel
    • As the sugar caramelizes, its flavor changes from sharply sugary-sweet to a more profound, intense sweetness like butterscotch or toffee, and it transforms from a white solid to an amber-colored syrup.
    • Check out my troubleshooting guide, How to Make Caramel (Troubleshooting Guide and Video), for detailed pro tips to set you up for success.
  • Heavy whipping cream

    • Heavy cream (FRESH CREAM with a fat content of around 36%) enriches the sauce.
    • The cream’s high-fat content contributes to caramel’s velvety texture, enhances flavor complexity, and stabilizes caramel without curdling.
    • The cream needs to be hot in this recipe. Heat it on the stovetop on low, or heat in the microwave in 30-second increments.
  • Salt

    • It’s just a half-teaspoon, but the salt takes this buttercream from purely sweet to addictively nuanced.
    • Some recipes call for sea salt, but you can use regular salt here.
  • Butter

    • Butter is the foundation of the frosting’s luxurious texture and taste.
    • Butter has to be softened correctly to get the right consistency for frosting. You know your butter is at the right temperature when you push it, and your finger makes an indent, but it doesn’t easily squish right through.
    • I prefer salted over unsalted butter here for extra flavor.
  • Powdered sugar

    • Powdered sugar (confectioners or icing sugar) sweetens frosting and gives it a smooth consistency gives it a smooth consistency to frost cakes and use in a piping bag.
    • Powdered sugar rubs against fat from softened butter during creaming, creating air pockets to incorporate air. Meanwhile, icing sugar also coats air pockets to prevent them from drying out, retaining air to stabilize frosting.
    • Always sieve the powdered sugar to remove lumps and make the frosting fluffier.

How to Make Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

  • Make the caramel: 
    • In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir sugar and water together over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
    • When the mixture comes to a simmer, stop stirring.
    • Watch sugar carefully. When it turns deep amber and starts to smell a bit smokey, immediately turn off the heat and add hot cream and salt. It will bubble up.
    • When the caramel stops bubbling, return it to low heat and stir until smooth.
    • Transfer to a heat-proof bowl and let thicken for about 30 minutes until it has a paste-like consistency.
  • Whip the buttercream:
    • In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a mixing bowl and a hand-held mixer, whip the softened butter on high for about five minutes until light and fluffy.
    • Add the cooled caramel and whip until incorporated.
    • On low speed, add the powdered sugar one spoonful at a time.
    • Finish by whipping the frosting on high speed for two minutes.

A close-up shot at a big bowl of smooth Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting shows its creamy texture. Two round cake layers are on the cooling rack. One has been frosted.

Can I Make Salted Caramel Buttercream in Advance?

Yes, you can make Salted Caramel Buttercream in advance.

  • Prepare and keep at room temperature: 
    • If you want to make the buttercream the day before using it, you can keep it at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 24 hours.
    • If it’s warm in your kitchen, it’s best to keep it in the fridge.
  • Prepare and keep in the fridge:
    • For longer storage, put the frosting in an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator for up to one week.
    • Let it come to room temperature naturally before you use it. If needed, re-whip it until smooth.
  • Prepare and freeze:
    • Put buttercream in an airtight container and store in the freezer for up to eight weeks.
    • Let it come to room temperature naturally before you use it. Re-whip it until smooth again if needed.

How to Store Leftovers

Store leftover salted caramel frosting in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.

FAQs

  • Can I make this buttercream if I’ve never made caramel before?

    • Yes! Caramel making is not as complicated as you might think, and homemade is so much better than store-bought caramel sauce. This is a straightforward recipe with no need for special equipment like a candy thermometer, but you do need to follow a few simple rules:
    • Use a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
    • Unless specified in the recipe, DO NOT stir your caramel once it has started to simmer
    • Cook until you get a rich brown color, but don’t allow the caramel to smoke.
    • For a deeper dive into caramel making, check out How to Make Caramel (Troubleshooting Guide and Video).
  • How do I get really fluffy buttercream?

    • The key to the best caramel buttercream frosting is perfectly softened butter. Over-softened butter can not retain air well, which leads to a flat, runny frosting. Under-softened butter will have lumps, leading to a grainy, over-whipped, split frosting.
    • The easiest way to soften butter is to leave it out at room temperature for around three hours.
    • Whip butter (use the whisk attachment and not a paddle attachment) until light and fluffy to build a structure to hold the sugar.  Otherwise, sugar will weigh down the butter leading to a flat heavy frosting.
    • Add the powdered sugar slowly, a spoon at a time so it gets fully incorporated.
    • If you see air bubbles, run your mixer at a low speed at the end of mixing. This will help to smooth out the frosting and remove big air bubbles.

The cake is frosted with Salted Caramel Buttercream frosting on the outside and layered with it on the inside, and topped with chopped toasted peanuts. The close-up shot at the slice shows the soft cake and the creamy Salted Caramel Buttercream filling.

Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips

  • Watch the sugar very carefully as it caramelizes. You want it to get dark so the flavor holds up once the butter and powdered sugar are added, but you don’t want it to burn. It’s literally a matter of seconds between perfect and too far.
  • Have the cream ready so you can stop the cooking immediately at the perfect moment.
  • Be very careful when pouring in the cream (and be sure to use a high-sided pot). The steam from the bubbling can cause burns.
  • Don’t let the caramel get too cold before making the buttercream. It can get too solid and be difficult to incorporate into the butter. It’s best to go by texture over temperature.
  • Use this to frost my Best Ever Chocolate Cake or Vanilla Birthday Cake, chocolate cupcakes, pumpkin cake or cupcakes, or cookies!
  • For more caramel tips, check out my post How to Make Caramel: Troubleshooting Guide and Video.

More Buttercream Recipes

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting Recipe

4.50 from 2 votes
Whip up this Decadent Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting and elevate cakes, cupcakes, or cookies with rich caramel and airy, velvety butter.
Author: Gemma Stafford
Servings: 3 cups
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Whip up this Decadent Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting and elevate cakes, cupcakes, or cookies with rich caramel and airy, velvety butter.
Author: Gemma Stafford
Servings: 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (8 oz/225 g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) water
  • ½ cup (4 fl oz/120 ml) heavy whipping cream, hot
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (16 oz/450 g) butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups (12 oz/340 g) powdered sugar, sifted

Instructions

Make the Caramel

  • In a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan, stir the granulated sugar and water together over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Once the mix comes to a simmer, stop stirring and watch carefully – once the sugar turns a deep amber and starts to smell ever so slightly smoky, turn off the heat and immediately add in the hot cream and salt.
  • Once the caramel stops bubbling, return to low heat and stir until smooth. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and let cool until room temperature and thickened to a thick, paste-like consistency, about 30 minutes.

Whipping the Buttercream

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or with a handheld electric mixer and large bowl) whip the butter on High speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  • Add in the cooled caramel and continue whipping until incorporated.
  • Turn the mixer to low and gradually add in the powdered sugar a spoon at a time. Once the sugar is mixed in, turn the mixer up to High for another 2 minutes to fully aerate the frosting.
  • Store in a covered container at room temperature for up to one day, or refrigerate for up to 1 week.

 

 

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1 month ago

What do you mean by heavy, hot whipping cream? How hot does it need to be? How is this best achieved? On the hob or in a microwave. Sorry, I’ve never heard of this before.

About Us

Meet Gemma

About Us

Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, a cookbook author, and the creator of Bigger Bolder Baking. I want to help you bake with confidence anytime, anywhere with my trusted and tested recipes and baking tips. You may have seen one of my 500+ videos on YouTube & TikTok or as a guest judge on Nailed It! on Netflix or the Best Baker in America on Food Network. No matter your skills, my Bold Baking Team & I want to be your #1 go-to baking authority.

 

Weeknight Family Favorites Chapter from the Bigger Bolder Baking Every Day Cookbook