With or without salt, you need a small-batch recipe for caramel in your life. You already know everything that it wants to be poured on--ice cream, cupcake frosting, whipped cream, your spoon. Heck, even your morning coffee is staring longingly in the direction of the jar.
I used to be intimidated by homemade caramel sauce, and so I would buy it pre-made from the store. Then, I read the ingredient list on that stuff. Um, no thanks. I vowed to figure it out on my own. How hard could it be?--just sugar, water, cream, butter, and vanilla. I always have all of those things in my fridge, so I needed to figure it out. How great would life be if caramel sauce was always within reach? Answer: SO great.
Before I figured out a handy little caramel trick, I made it quite a few times and ended up with lumps. (Delicious little lumps that I ate out with a spoon when the mixture cooled, but so not the goal). Every recipe states that if you have lumps, just put the mixture back on the stove and stir until they melt. The problem with that is that the caramel keeps cooking, and the longer you cook caramel, the closer it gets to the temperature where it turns hard. I wanted soft, supple, pourable caramel. (All I've ever asked for in life).
I made homemade caramels in cooking school once (at the now-closed Tante Marie, sniff, sniff), and they were the soft, chewy caramels that you make around the holidays. I actually have a small batch recipe for homemade caramels. But again, I was looking for pour-ability. Drizzle-ability. Drink-ability.
My tip is to warm the cream before pouring it into the molten sugar and water. When the cream is hot, the temperature gap is bridged slightly and lumps are less likely to form. Revolutionary, right? I know. I try.
I actually got this little nugget of advice from the new book Ice Box Cakes. And after we make this batch of salty caramel, we're going to make an ice box cake with it. Stay tuned, friends!
Small-batch Caramel Sauce
A small pot of homemade caramel sauce, for ice cream, drizzling over cakes, and more!
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
- In a deep saucepan (at least 2 quarts--no smaller, because the mixture bubbles up!), add the sugar and water. Whisk to combine.
- Turn the heat to medium-high and let the sugar melt and dissolve without stirring. If you see sugar crystals on the sides of the pan, use a pastry brush dipped in water to gently push them back in the pan. Do not stir.
- Once the sugar is dissolved, crank the heat to high and watch it turn an amber color. Watch it closely, it happens quickly! You can swirl the pan gently to evenly brown the caramel.
- Meanwhile, heat the heavy cream until it's steaming, and small bubbles are forming around the edges.
- Turn off the heat to the sugar mixture, and add the heavy cream all at once. Be careful--it bubbles up triple the size! It is very hot!
- Next, whisk in the butter, salt and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.
- Pour the mixture into a jar to cool and use as you like.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 495Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 32mgSodium: 1065mgCarbohydrates: 101gFiber: 0gSugar: 101gProtein: 0g
This is the only caramel recipe that has ever worked for me - and on the first try too! I was a bit reluctant to try after having multiple pots go bust with other recipes but I’m so glad I did! Cannot wait to mix it with my coffee for an afternoon latte!
Derin K says
My only regret is not making this sooner. I've always been intimidated by caramel sauce but these instructions were easy to follow, especially since I had all the ingredients. Thank you, Christina, for demystifying this classic! I won't be going back to store-bought.
This is so freaking delicious! First attempt went perfectly using your directions! Now, do I put it in the fridge or will it be okay on the counter overnight while cooling?
Nicole R says
Can this be used between cake layers?
I made it!!! I cant believe how easy this is, and how amazing this tastes!!!! Ive tried so many other recipes and its always a disaster and somehow i end up w a burn. True story, got 2nd degree once from it. Was in er for hours.
But ur recipe is easy, safe, and yummy. Id like to use it between my chocolate cakes. What do u think?