Cook the Book: Revelatory Caramel Cake

Cook the Book: Revelatory Caramel Cake

[Photographs: Caroline Russock]

A classic caramel cake is one of those sugary sweet Southern delicacies that I've read about for years but never actually tasted since they rarely make appearances north of the Mason-Dixon. I had an itch to find out what this caramel cake was all about, especially with "revelatory" in the recipe title.

Adapted by D.C. chef Ann Cashion, this Revelatory Caramel Cake from The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook is just as incredible to bake as it is to behold. The white cake layers are egg white based, similar in flavor to an angel food cake but with a much denser crumb. Once baked and cooled, it can be iced and filled any which way you please.

But being a caramel cake, this one is really all about the icing. It's actually more of a candy coating. The icing is made by slowly cooking sugar, corn syrup, and milk until deeply caramelized. Butter and vanilla are added after and the icing is cooled and then whipped for about 15 minutes in a stand mixer. You're left with a deep brown, super sticky caramel that's slowly drizzled over the cake, coating it with a glossy, tacky caramel glaze. It's a drippy process, sure to make a big mess of your counter with globs of caramel everywhere, but it's worth it.

When the caramel coating has a chance to cool it coats the cake in a crazy thick layer of candy, keeping the cake within super moist and a candy bar caramel chewiness to every bite.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook to give away this week.

Adapted from The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook by John T. Edge and Sara Roahen. Copyright © 2010. Published by University of Georgia Press. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

  • Yield:one 8-inch layer cake
  • Active time: 45 minutes
  • Total time:1 hour 30 minutes


  • For the white cake layers:
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk, divided
  • 2¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ pound plus 4 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, at room temperature
  • For the caramel icing:
  • 3 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. 1.

    To make the cake layers: Preheat the oven to 350ºf. Grease 3 eight-inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with rounds of parchment and grease the parchment. Lightly coat the inside of the pans with flour, tapping out the excess. Set the pans aside.

  2. 2.

    Stir together the egg whites, ¼ cup of the milk, and the vanilla in a small bowl; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Scatter the pieces of butter over the top and pour in the remaining ¾ cup of milk. Use an electric mixer set to low speed to mix the batter until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase the mixer to medium speed and beat the batter for 90 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer set to medium speed, add the egg mixture in 3 additions, beating the batter for 20 seconds after each addition.

  3. 3.

    Divide the batter evenly among the 3 prepared pans and smooth the tops with the spatula. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean and the cakes are just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 20 minutes.

  4. 4.

    The layers will be light golden on top, not browned. Cool the layers in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn out the layers onto the rack to cool to room temperature before making the icing.

  5. 5.

    To make the caramel icing: In a small saucepan, stir together 2½ cups of the sugar, the corn syrup, and the milk; cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Keep warm over low heat. In a deep, heavy saucepan, sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of sugar evenly over the bottom. Cook over medium heat without stirring until the sugar dissolves, caramelizes, and turns the color of amber. Carefully pour the warm milk mixture into the caramel; the mixture will bubble vigorously and hiss, and the caramel will harden. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the caramel loosens from the bottom of the pan and dissolves into the liquid. Cook without stirring until the mixture reaches soft-ball stage (235ºf ) on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer set to medium speed until the icing is no longer shiny and is thick and creamy enough to spread, about 15 minutes.

  6. 6.

    To assemble the cake:Place a cake layer on a serving plate. Pour enough icing over the layer to cover the top. Add the next cake layer and cover the top with icing. Add the final cake layer and slowly pour the rest of the icing over the top, letting it run down the sides. Use an offset spatula to gently spread the icing evenly around the sides of the cake, taking care to not rip the cake. Let the cake rest at room temperature at least 2 hours or until the icing is set before serving.

    Note: You can also bake the cake in 2 nine-inch pans. Increase the baking time to about 30 minutes.