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Old-Fashioned Caramel Icing Recipe


Welcome to our classic recipes section! Today, we’re sharing a timeless recipe for Old-Fashioned Caramel Icing. This rich and creamy icing is perfect for topping cakes, cupcakes, or any dessert that needs a sweet caramel touch. Let’s get started!



  • 3 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 sticks cold butter (12 tablespoons)
  • 5 tablespoons white granulated sugar


Step 1: Prepare the Ingredients

  1. Measure Ingredients: Ensure all your ingredients are measured and ready to use. Cut the cold butter into small cubes for easier melting.

Step 2: Caramelize the Sugar

  1. Heat Sugar: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the 5 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar melts and turns a light amber color. Be careful not to burn the sugar.

Step 3: Add the Milk and Remaining Sugar

  1. Add Milk and Sugar: Carefully add the whole milk and the remaining 3 cups of granulated sugar to the caramelized sugar. The mixture will bubble up, so pour slowly and stir constantly.

Step 4: Cook the Mixture

  1. Cook to Soft Ball Stage: Continue to cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it reaches the soft ball stage (about 235°F to 240°F or 113°C to 116°C) on a candy thermometer. This stage is achieved when a small amount of the mixture dropped into cold water forms a soft, flexible ball.

Step 5: Add Butter

  1. Add Butter: Once the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, remove it from the heat and immediately add the cubed cold butter. Stir vigorously until the butter is fully melted and incorporated.

Step 6: Beat the Icing

  1. Beat Until Creamy: Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then beat it with an electric mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon until it becomes creamy and spreadable.

Step 7: Use the Icing

  1. Ice Your Cake: Spread the caramel icing over your cooled cake or cupcakes immediately, as it will firm up as it cools. Use a spatula to smooth it evenly.

Cooking Notes and Tips

  • Sugar Caramelization: Watch the sugar carefully while caramelizing, as it can go from perfect to burnt quickly.
  • Soft Ball Stage: Using a candy thermometer ensures you achieve the correct consistency for the icing. If you don’t have a thermometer, use the cold water test to check the stage.
  • Butter Temperature: Using cold butter helps to cool the mixture quickly and achieve a creamy consistency.


Salted Caramel Icing

Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt to the mixture after adding the butter for a salted caramel twist.


Vanilla Caramel Icing

Stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract after adding the butter for a hint of vanilla flavor.

Nutty Caramel Icing

Fold in 1/2 cup of finely chopped pecans or walnuts after beating the icing for added texture and flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I make this icing ahead of time?

Yes, you can make the icing ahead of time. Store it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Reheat gently before using to make it spreadable again.

How do I store leftover icing?

Store any leftover icing in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Reheat gently before using.

Can I freeze this icing?

It’s not recommended to freeze this icing as it can alter the texture. It’s best to use it fresh or store in the refrigerator for short-term use.

What can I use this icing for?

This caramel icing is perfect for topping cakes, cupcakes, brownies, or even as a filling for cookies.

How can I thin out the icing if it gets too thick?

If the icing becomes too thick, you can thin it out by adding a small amount of milk and stirring until you reach the desired consistency.

This Old-Fashioned Caramel Icing is a rich and creamy addition to any dessert. With its deep caramel flavor and smooth texture, it’s sure to be a hit. Enjoy making and sharing this classic icing with your family and friends!