Let me just state from the very beginning that this is not a clean-eating, healthy-living recipe.
I have plenty of those and I love to share them – roasted veggies, salads, lean proteins, etc. But when your 10 year old asks you for cake with “that really good frosting you made last year,” you deliver, calories/fat/sugar be damned.
So yeah, this definitely qualifies as a “sometimes” food. But sometimes you just need a really great buttercream frosting – the thick, rich stuff that spreads and pipes beautifully and sets up nicely in the fridge and holds its shape.
Per my daughter’s request, I made a white cake with chocolate buttercream frosting for the main cake – it was 4 layers tall and each layer was swirled with a different color to resemble tie-dye. I’ll post the recipe and method for that soon too, because it was majestic and I am absurdly proud of the reactions it garnered from everyone who saw and tasted it. I wanted to provide a little variety though, so I also made chocolate cupcakes and frosted them with caramel buttercream frosting.
It’s a very basic buttercream recipe, but it requires the addition of my salted caramel, made with an extra two tablespoons of cream so that it was more saucy than I make it when I’m molding it for individual candies. (If you don’t want to take this extra step, then you can use store-bought caramel sauce and it will still taste great! I was just dead-set on it being 100% from scratch.)
I usually make this frosting a day or two in advance and store it in a plastic bag (with as much air squeezed out as possible) for a day or two in advance. When it’s time to use it, I plop the mass of chilled frosting back into the bowl of my stand mixer and whip it back up with paddle attachment until it’s fluffy and smooth enough to spread or to spoon into a decorating bag.
Let me know what you think! As always, I welcome feedback. BTW, if you’d like to make this a basic buttercream without the caramel, omit that ingredient and just add a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract instead.
CARAMEL BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
12 ounces (3 sticks) softened (NOT MELTED) butter (I let mine sit at room temp for about an hour before I start)
1 pound confectioners sugar
2-3 tablespoons caramel sauce (store bought is fine, but this caramel recipe made with an extra two tablespoons of cream added to the 1/4 cup it calls for will really elevate the flavor and texture)
Using your stand mixer or an electric hand mixer, beat butter at medium-high speed for about 5 minutes – you want it to be really creamy and fluffy. (I use the paddle attachment in my Kitchenaid stand mixer for the best results.)
Reduce speed to medium and add 1/2 cup of sugar, then crank the speed back up to high for a minute or two until well-combined. Repeat this process, 1/2 cup at a time, slowly incorporating the sugar until it’s all combined with the butter (you’ll need to frequently stop the mixer to scrape down the sides and beater with a spatula).
Turn mixer off and drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of caramel sauce into frosting (you can add a bit more cream by the teaspoon if it’s not thin enough to drizzle in – you want it to be liquidy enough to blend into the frosting completely). Turn the mixer back on and beat until caramel is fully incorporated and frosting is light and fluffy.
From here, you can tint the frosting if you like (I use gel food coloring when I tint mine, adding a teensy bit at a time to the mixer). Spread on cake with an offset spatula or spoon into a decorating bag with a piping tip attached and squeeze to your heart’s content.
BTW, a light sprinkling of sea salt on top of the frosted product is pretty spectacular, especially if you’re frosting something chocolate – I love how the sweet and salty complement each other.