My Favorite Cake. Period.

I use the word “favorite” too often. But this time I think I mean it. This cake is the cake I make for myself. I don’t share it. I don’t bring it to work. I don’t even let Bryan have a slice unless he begs or I am feeling particularly enamored with him. It is everything I could want in a sweet. A moist buttermilk cake with a healthy crumb topped with a creamy caramel glaze. The cake is just the right amount of sweet. I’ve made this so many times and each time I fall in love with it all over again.

Of course even as I type this I am thinking of other favorite cakes, which I will eventually get around to sharing— but this is the most important. Make it for yourself and don’t share it with anyone.

GREEN CITY MARKET REMINDER: If you’re in Chicago, don’t forget that the Green City Market is still up and running all winter long! Every other Saturday indoors at the Nature Museum. Lots of great vendors and plenty of chef demonstrations. Recent purchases include: yukon gold potatoes, pecans!, corn meal, goat cheese that looks like a rock!, honey infused with chili, and eggs, eggs, eggs! Get out there and support your farmers and food makers and make a political statement: we want organic local food all year! We care where our food comes from!

Caramel Cake (Gourmet, January 2008)


  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

Caramel Glaze:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8-inch square cake pan and line bottom with a square of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture may look curdled). Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, flip cake so it is right-side up and then cool completely, about 1 hour.

Make glaze:
Bring cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Boil until glaze registers 210 to 212°F on thermometer, 12 to 14 minutes, then stir in vanilla.

Put rack with cake in a shallow baking pan and pour hot glaze over top of cake, allowing it to run down sides. Cool until glaze is set, about 30 minutes.

*** Confession time: I don’t sift the flour first. Instead, I just sift 2 cups of cake flour and call it a day. Bad, I know. But I feel like the lack of sifting is made up for by the 2 tablespoons of flour I am omitting, right?

148 comments to “My Favorite Cake. Period.”

  1. Can this cake be prepared a day ahead? If so, keep in the fridge till serving?

  2. Hey Talia,
    Yes, it can definitely be made the day before. No need to refrigerate, just keep at room temperature. The cake is perfect for the first 2 days and then still totally enjoyable for a couple of more days….

  3. WHOA. This was a pregnant lady’s dream come true. Thank you, sir.

    I used AP Flour (scant 2C), honey instead of corn syrup, and I didn’t have a candy thermometer so I boiled the caramel mixture for about 13 minutes. Next time I will boil for a few minutes less as I think a thinner sauce would coat the cake better. I was so antsy that I even forgot to add in the vanilla (!). So, I pretty much butchered your recipe but It was still delish! Thank you!

  4. i just read the book the help (in which a character makes caramel cake) and i have been in search of a good recipe ever since! thank you :) i can’t wait to make this

    your blog is wonderful by the way, thank you for the good reads!

  5. Hi, Tim,
    I made your favorite cake twice now and it is truly wonderful. The second time that I made it, I used regular flour instead of cake flour. The key is sifting it both times. Could I link the recipe back to your blog? Thanks, Tien

  6. Hi Tim!
    This is the first cake I have ever made from scratch (hangs head in shame). It was FANTASTIC!! I loved it so much and I actually shared with my boyfriend. He loved it too! Thank you so much for a recipe I will use again and again.

  7. Yay, Tammy! So glad you liked the recipe too. Keep baking!

  8. Hi Tim! I just stumbled upon your blog today from the delicious-looking porridge post over on Kitchn. Your food looks AMAZEBALLS. I’m a grad student who’s learning to cook more, and I’m now really looking forward to the holidays since I’ll be getting a electric mixer. This cake looks so yummy that I can’t wait to try baking this. Fortunately, my baking skills is much better than cooking, hehe.

  9. Hey Sarah! Glad you found this little corner of the web, and thanks for the nice message (especially for the use of AMAZEBALLS). This cake really is delicious. If you give it a try with the new mixer, let me know! I hope school is going well.

  10. Yay! I certainly will let you know how it goes when I bake it.

  11. I made this tonight and it sunk in the middle. : ( Maybe it’s the blizzard outside.

  12. I had really, really high expectations for this cake… And it totally nailed them! Absolutely fantastic, thanks so much for sharing! I actually made them as mini loaves and had friends asking if they could take home the leftovers, once we were all stuffed!

  13. Lynn, so happy you liked this recipe. Still one of my favorite things…

  14. I have made this a number of times, and everyone loves it. Wiped my computer, and it took forever to find again – finally found and bookmarked and email to myself lol. Thanks for the recipe!

  15. Caramel cake! I’ve never tasted another cake quite like it. I first heard of it from the book “The Help”. I made this for my sister’s birthday so I, unfortunately, had no choice but to share.

  16. Oh god this looks delicious. Mmm, I think I drooled a little on my keyboard. I’m saving this for a day where I don’t feel so lazy to cook.

  17. Cat in Palma says:

    June 30th, 2011 at 10:05 am

    You just made a pregnant lady cry. There may be bloodshed if this cake doesn’t magically appear in my kitchen!!!

  18. Tim! I just made 2 of these—the recipe doubled well! How amazingly moist and delicious the cake turned out. Yum!

  19. Delicious cake, but I cooked the caramel too long and it was like a tasty cake armor. My candy thermometer seems to have disappeared in our last move. I am going to make it again next weekend and get it right. Still delectable, if somewhat hard to chew, LOL. Cake texture and flavor WONDERFUL.

  20. ooooh this cake looks yummy. my boyfriend loves anything caramel so i think this will be a great recipe for us! i ADORE your site and all of your recipes sound delicous! thank you for sharing!

  21. I’m not sure whether pride or shame is the appropriate emotion here: I have made this cake FOUR times in the past three days. No, I haven’t eaten four whole cakes, but I have joined other people in eating multiple pieces. With gusto. This has become “My Favorite Cake. Period.” too. My only gripe (not directed toward you) is my lack of a candy thermometer…maybe that’s why my caramel glaze came out a bit thin? I semi-panicked when it started to boil before 10 minutes and took it off the heat right away.

    Thank you, Tim, for sharing the recipe. This cake rocks my face off!

  22. Tomorrow’s cake
    it MUST be! it looks terrific!
    -just knowing your blog
    (from GRN-Barcelona)

  23. REDÉU!
    You ARE right: the best in the world!!!!!!
    If you hear something…these are my friends tasting one piece (ONLY ONE, for JUST one day!!)
    Thankyou very much for sharing!

  24. If I am baking this night ahead, should I wait to put the glaze on? Oh, also, I assume this doubles okay…right? Thanks!!!! This cake looks perfect for my Dad.

  25. Any suggestions for adapting this to higher altitude?

  26. P. C. Goodman says:

    December 13th, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    A wonderful cake; great texture, not too sweet. I love salted caramel, so added a wee bit of kosher salt to the top of the glaze after pouring on the cooled cake. It was lovely, thank you for sharing.

  27. Mine turned out really good. I made three batches of cake, and two batches of carmel. It was just enough to cover all three cakes perfectly. I used a saute pan for the caramel. I brought it to a boil and removed from heat (alternately) until I got it to where I wanted it to be. It takes about 10-15 minutes. You don’t really need a candy thermometer. You just have to watch the consistency and the color change. It’s similar to a light brown Kraft caramel color.

    The carmel topping turned out just like the picture. I poured it slowly with a gravy ladle, starting at the center and working it to the edge. That way I got the dripping caramel appearance on the sides. I did flip my cakes over and it had a nice, flat surface to work with. hehe I know that’s cheating but if the cake falls a bit in the middle (which happens sometimes in my Caphelon pans) nobody knows it ; )

  28. Arley Canterbury says:

    December 27th, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    I have been looking for this recipe. I recently lost my mother who was from West Viginia, both her and my Grandmother made this cake. As a child I remember that this was always my favorite cake. Thank you so much for sharing, as I am looking forward making this.

  29. I had it.. I don’t like sweets , this cake is fu**ing bomb.. Jesus Christ…thanks for the recipe…allie

  30. Hey Tim, just added this to my “to-make” list (directed over here from bon appetempt). You’ve completely sold me on this cake. But I’m wondering–what’s that cake you mention in your post that’s your other “favorite”? I’m curious now!

  31. Hi Tim!

    This is the Sarah who uses AMAZEBALLS. Anyhoo, I finally got around to baking this cake for the first time last month, and now I’m making it for the third time in a month. It’s now one of my favorite cakes ever, and my friends rave about it. I just wanted to thank you for the recipe, and I was wondering about one thing – do you let the caramel glaze cool for a little bit before pouring it over the cake? I can’t seem to make it as pretty as yours!

  32. Amazeballs! Glad you like the cake. To be honest, I have made this cake many times and the glaze always turns out the same way for me. I wish I knew what I did. If the glaze isn’t setting up, you could try cooking a little longer. In the end, I doubt it matters much because it probably tastes the same. Next time I make this, I’ll try to pay more attention and update the post.

  33. Oh yes. This cake is divine.

  34. made this cake a few weeks ago and everyone loved the small slivers they got after i devoured most of the thing myself. kid wants it for her birthday party– can i double it and put it in a 13×9 inch pan and let it cool in there, or should i just make two separate square cakes? thanks for the deliciousness!

  35. There is NOTHING better than homemade caramel sauce! This is going in my need-to-make-this-soon pile!

  36. Fanatastic looking cake can I use dulce de leche instead of the glaze because from what I understand they are one in the same thing? Caramel sauce and dulce de leche!

  37. Rufusmak, They are similar, but they are definitely not the same. I wouldn’t use dulce de leche here. The caramel glaze is pretty special, you wont get the same flavor.

  38. I loved this cake the first time I made it! The 2nd two times, it was “crunchy” around the edges/outside when I took it out of the pan. Is this “normal”. I watched the baking time really closely to make sure I didn’t overbake. I checked it in the middle at the “earliest” time, but the fork did not come out clean, so I left it in another 2-3 min. ??? I would love to get this down pat, as my husband loves it.

  39. I made this cake and the carmel was way too hard. It was like I laid cement on the cake and it hardened up. Can you help me for next time? Cake part was great, caramel was unedible.

  40. Hey Matt, Were you using a thermometer? As long as you are staying under like, 230 F you should be fine. It sounds like you simply cooked it too long.

  41. Wow! I made this last night, to serve tonight. It was delicious! Nice and moist, great flavor. Caramel is not too sugary sweet. I can def see why you make it for yourself! I’m tempted to do the same.

  42. I’ve made the cake three times now, and each time it was fantastic. My parents aren’t huge caramel fans though, so I skipped the sauce the second two cakes.

    @Tim As an aside, have you tried adding the finely minced zest from an orange into the cake? If not, you need to give it a try!

  43. Oh my goodness, this looks too delicious! My husband loves caramel and it’s his birthday nect week so despite not being the best cook I’m going to give this one a try and keep my fingers crossed that it turns out as well as the one in the photo!

  44. So, I made this last night but split into two smaller pans (bake time about 26 mins) so hubby and I could try it and I could give one to a friend. We ate ours in about 12 minutes, and I’m making another (full-size) one tonight. Highly addictive!

  45. Kate- yes! that is what I like to hear.

  46. Hi Tim,

    I think you are fantastic. All of your recipes are so inspired – I adore your writing, stories, and the way you portray your life through your fabulous photos. This is – hands down – my favorite blog. Ever.

    I know this is an old recipe, but I just had to tell you that this is the most simple, delicious cake I have ever had. Thank you, thank you, thank you for introducing me to so many unbelievable dishes. I am so happy you, your Bryan and this blog exist.


  47. Josie! That is the nicest comment ever. Thanks so much for taking the time to write. I am really glad you like this cake, too. It is the best!

  48. MUST. MAKE. EAT. THIS. CAKE. but what is this ‘healthy crumb’ that you mention in your opening paragraph?? Please tell me