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Caramel cake frosting is icing used to decorate cakes and cupcakes that has been flavored to taste like caramel. This unique taste is achieved by cooking brown sugar and butter until the mixture has begun to brown and crystallize. These foods may be combined in any amount to create a thick fluffy icing, or a thin, pourable glaze that hardens easily.
The frosting can be whipped together using brown sugar, butter, heavy whipping cream, and confectioner's sugar. The butter and brown sugar can be melted together over a hot stove top until bubbling. While this mixture is cooking, it is important to stir it constantly with a wooden spoon. This prevents the sugar from burning on the bottom of the pan, while still allowing the ingredients to maintain a high heat and obtain their signature caramel flavor.
Once the sugar and butter have adequately blended together, additional ingredients may be added. The heavy whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla may be mixed together with the melted sugars using an electric stand mixer. Only the whisk shaped attachment should be used to beat the frosting to allow air to penetrate the mixture and create a light, fluffy confection. This type of caramel cake frosting should be used immediately because the ingredients tend to harden quickly once mixing has been completed. It can be poured over cake layers and spread evenly using a plastic spatula or cake knife.
To create a quick version of caramel cake frosting, cooks can combine chewy caramel candies and heavy whipping cream together in the microwave. This mixture should be stirred every 30 seconds until both ingredients have completely melted and combined. Alternating with confectioner's sugar, this caramel base can be poured into a mixing bowl with softened butter and beat on a medium speed until blended. This type of frosting tends to maintain a thicker stiffness than traditional caramel frosting, and can be piped onto cupcakes or used as trimmed edging along cakes.
Caramel cake frosting can be turned into a glaze for bundt and pound cakes by thinning it slightly. The amounts of butter and brown sugar are reduced by two-thirds, and the heavy whipping cream is replaced with milk. The sugar, butter, and milk are brought to a boil, similarly to the standard cake variety of frosting, and blended together by hand with vanilla and confectioner's sugar using a flexible scraping spoon. Once all ingredients have been combined, they should be poured immediately over the cooled bundt or pound cake in gentle back and forth motions so that the glaze drips slightly over the sides.
While brown sugar gives a nice color to a frosting, and does it more quickly, a *real* caramel cake frosting is made with white cane sugar. I've used the brown sugar version, which does make a nice frosting, but there is no substitute for the white sugar variety.
Some caramel frostings combine white and brown sugar for taste purposes. Real caramel frosting, though, is an exercise in patience and diligence, because it can burn in a heartbeat and you have to beat the devil out of it to get the right consistency.
Caramel frosting is nearly as time consuming as a seven-minute frosting, but if you like caramel cake, the rich, buttery results are worth the extra effort.