- 1/2 cup (1 stick or 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 equal pieces
- 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar (I like to use 1/2 cup of each)
- 5 Tablespoons (75ml) heavy cream, divided*
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (240g) confectioners’ sugar
- optional garnish: salted caramel sauce
- Make the caramel: Combine the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir constantly as the butter melts. Once butter has melted, switch to a whisk to make sure the two are really combined. (Otherwise, you might see an oily layer around the edges where they’re still a bit separated; you do not want that.)
- Once melted butter and brown sugar are combined, add 3 Tablespoons (45ml) of heavy cream and the salt. Whisk to combine, then stop whisking and attach a candy thermometer to your pan, making sure the bulb is not touching the bottom of the pan (as you’ll get an inaccurate reading).
- Let the caramel boil, giving it a quick whisk every 30 seconds or so, until the temperature reaches 230°F (110°C). On my stove, it takes just under 2 minutes.
- Remove the saucepan from heat, give it another quick whisk, and let cool for a minute. Carefully transfer the salted caramel to a heat-proof mixing bowl set on a cooling rack and cool for just 20 minutes before continuing. The caramel sauce thickens during this time.
- Finish the frosting: Sift in confectioners’ sugar and add remaining 2 Tablespoons (30ml) of heavy cream. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat on medium-low speed until the ingredients are incorporated. Turn mixer up to high speed and beat for 1 minute. If frosting is very thick, beat in 1 more Tablespoon of heavy cream. Avoid over-mixing or the frosting will begin to “break” and separate.
- Use it right away as a thin glaze or icing, or let it sit and thicken. It’s going to crust a bit as it sits, which is fine—simply give it a stir when you’re ready to use it. If you want to pipe this frosting, let it sit for at least 20–30 minutes before filling your piping bag, to give it a chance to thicken up to a pipeable consistency.
- Frost cake or cupcakes and garnish with a drizzle of salted caramel sauce, if desired.
- Make Ahead Instructions: You can store this frosting covered in the refrigerator until ready to use, up to 3-4 days. It will be quite firm, so you’ll want to warm it in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. (Or use a double boiler.) Stir constantly until it’s smooth and room temperature. This frosting isn’t ideal for freezing, unless it’s already used on a cake/cupcakes. The frosting as a whole, in bulk, doesn’t thaw very nicely.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Candy Thermometer | Sieve/Sifter | Handheld or Stand Mixer | Silicone Whisk | Glass Mixing Bowls | Reusable Piping Bag or Disposable Piping Bags | Wilton 2A or Wilton #12 piping tips
- Quantity: This recipe is enough to frost 12–16 cupcakes or one 9×13-quarter sheet cake. 1.5x the recipe for more cupcakes or a double layer cake. (Doubling the recipe would be far too much.)
- Heavy Cream: Heavy cream or heavy whipping cream works best in this recipe, but you can use whole milk or half-and-half if that’s what you have instead. Nothing lighter or the caramel and/or frosting will separate. I do not know any nondairy alternatives that work successfully. I strongly encourage you to use heavy cream.
- Piping Tip: The best piping tip for this frosting is a round tip such as Wilton 2A or Wilton #12. If you pipe this salted caramel frosting with star tips, it will not hold its shape as nicely, because the frosting is creamy and thinner than buttercream. So I recommend a simple round tip.
Keywords: salted caramel frosting