Make your own caramel (or salted caramel) at home with this easy tutorial! This easy Caramel Sauce recipe takes only four simple ingredients and 15 minutes to make.
It’s been a while since my last post. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and are back in the swing of things now that we’re halfway through January.
I’m going to be sharing some tutorials for the first part of the year covering common cake components. Focussing on things that people may struggle with, get intimidated by, or just want to learn how to make.
Today, I’m kicking it all off with this Caramel Sauce Recipe & Tutorial!
There are a variety of different ways that you can make caramel sauce, but I’m going to tell you about my favorite way to do it. It requires very few ingredients that you probably already have in your fridge/pantry, and just a bit of patience.
What is Caramel?
These are the ingredients I use to make my caramel. There are other caramel sauce recipes out there that use slightly different ingredients, but this one is my favorite.
- granulated sugar
- heavy cream (room temperature)
- butter (room temperature)
- flavorings (optional – vanilla, sea salt, bourbon, maple, etc.)
It’s critical that your cream and butter are at room temperature — or even warmed a bit. Caramel does not react well to drastic changes in temperature, and can seize or separate.
Leave your butter out overnight if you can, and if your cream is cold then warm it slightly in the microwave.
How to Make Caramel Sauce
I’m going to take you through how to make this caramel sauce recipe step by step, covering everything you need to know so that you can feel confident making it at home.
It really is easy to do, it just requires a bit of focused time. It’s not something you can really step away from while you’re making it, but it only takes about 15mins start to finish.
Here are some basic tools you’ll need to make this recipe:
- med-large pot
- pastry brush
- glass jar or container
Step #1 – Place Sugar & Water in a Pot
Place the granulated sugar and water into a pot and stir to combine, but do not stir from this point forward. Stirring will cause the sugar to crystallize which will ruin your caramel.
It’s best to use a light-colored or white pot so you can easily see the color of the sugar as it’s cooking.
Step #2 – Brush Sugar from the Sides of the Pot
Dip a pastry brush into water and brush down the sugar crystals from the sides of the pot (this also prevents crystallization).
Step #3 – Bring the Sugar to a Boil
Place the pot over med-high heat and bring the sugar mixture to a boil. Occasionally brush down the sides of the pot with water to prevent crystals from forming.
Brush sugar crystals from the sides of the pot periodically if needed. Be careful not to dip the pastry brush into the boiling sugar.
Step #4 – Cook Sugar Until it Starts to Caramelize
Continue cooking the sugar until it starts to change color. This can take anywhere from 5-10mins depending on the amount of sugar, size of the pot, temperature, etc.
Again, it’s best to use a light-colored pot, as it will be harder to see the sugar changing color in a dark pot and harder to tell when it’s ready.
I recommend watching the sugar the entire time — once it starts to color it can burn very quickly. I never take my eyes off the pot while it’s cooking. Okay, maybe I do for the first couple minutes or so, but I watch it like a hawk after that.
When the sugar starts to caramelize and turn a bit yellow, you can swirl the pot a bit to mix it around. Continue cooking until the sugar is a nice amber color (see below). It will start to smell AMAZING.
Don’t let it get too dark, as it will burn and taste bitter.
Step #5 – Whisk in the Heavy Cream
Once the sugar is a nice amber color, immediately remove the pot from the heat and carefully whisk in the (room temperature) heavy cream (pour slowly, whisk quickly).
It will bubble up a LOT, so be prepared.
Step #6 – Add the Butter & Simmer
Once all the cream is whisked in, add the (room temperature) butter and whisk until incorporated.
Step #7 – Add Flavourings (optional)
If you’re making salted caramel, or vanilla, or adding bourbon or other flavorings, this is when you’d do it. Add the flavor and whisk it in.
I forgot to take a pic here, so you’ll just have to imagine it!
Step #8 – Return to Heat and Simmer
Return to heat and simmer the caramel on low for a minute or two. Don’t boil it too furiously or cook it for too long, as it will thicken too much.
Step #9 – Cool Completely
At this point, remove the pot from the heat and set it aside to cool. The caramel will thicken as it cools.
Once it has cooled you can transfer it to a glass or plastic container. You can leave it at room temperature overnight or place it in the fridge if storing for longer. If you store it in the fridge, you may need to warm it up a bit in the microwave before using it.
There are a couple of ways you can flavor your caramel depending on what you’re using. Something like sea salt, vanilla, bourbon, etc. can be added at the end with the butter before you bring it back to a simmer.
If you wanted to make a lavender or earl grey flavored caramel (for example), I recommend infusing the cream first by doing the following:
- Place the cream into a small pot with the lavender or tea
- Cook over low-medium heat until just before it starts to simmer (you can see bubbles along the edges of the pot)
- Remove from heat and steep for 15-30mins
- Strain through a fine mesh sieve
How to Store It
If you’re like me and like to spread out your baking, you’ll be happy to know you can make the caramel well in advance. I pour mine into a glass container once it’s cooled. The one I used here is a small glass jar, or I like this one for larger amounts. You can use any glass or plastic storage container though.
Store as follows:
- Room temperature – a day or two
- Fridge – up to two weeks
- Freezer – up to 3 months
I like to warm my caramel in the microwave a bit before use. This helps thin it out if it’s a little on the thicker side too.
Do’s and Don’ts of Making Caramel
A few key things for success when making homemade caramel:
- Do use a larger pot than you think you’ll need. The caramel bubbles a LOT when the cream is added. At least 4-5x the volume.
- Do brush down the sides of the pot. This helps prevent your sugar from crystallizing and ruining the caramel.
- Don’t take your eyes off the sugar. Once it starts to turn color it can burn very quickly. Watch the sugar like a hawk once it’s cooking.
- Do not attempt to make the caramel with cold cream or butter. They must be at room temperature. Caramel does not react well to drastic changes in temperature, so it’s important that the cream and butter are added slowly and are room temperature or warmer.
- Don’t boil the caramel furiously once the cream and butter are added. This can cause the caramel to separate and/or make it too thick.
- Do handle with care. The caramel will be HOT, so please be careful. If you’re making salted caramel or flavored caramel, be sure to let it cool before tasting it! Dip a spoon into the hot caramel, let it cool, taste, add more flavor as needed.
I hope all that didn’t scare you away from making your own caramel sauce at home. It’s really very easy, it just requires a bit of focus and attention for 15mins or so. And carefully following directions.
This caramel sauce is seriously SO good and so versatile. You could use it as a topping for other desserts or ice cream or pancakes… the list goes on! You’ll never look to get store-bought caramel again after you try this.
Recipes that use Homemade Caramel Sauce
- Caramel Cake (Salted Caramel Cake)
- Caramel Apple Cake
- Caramel Cookie Cups
- Caramel Gingerbread Cake
- Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 225 ml heavy cream room temperature
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- flavoring optional, to taste
- Place sugar and water into a medium pot, stir to combine, but do not stir from this point forward. Cook over high heat, washing down the sides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in water as needed to prevent crystals.
- Cook until desired color of caramel is reached (amber) and immediately remove from heat. Very slowly pour in (room temperature) heavy cream while whisking quickly. The mixture will bubble up (a lot) and boil. Add (room temperature) butter and whisk in.
- If you want to make this a flavored caramel, add your flavoring at this point. Whisk it in (start with less than you think you'll need), dip a spoon into the caramel, let it cool, taste it, add more as needed.
- Return to heat and simmer gently for 1-2 minutes while whisking constantly.
- Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature (about 2 hours). Transfer to a container and allow to thicken.
- Store at room temperature for a day or two, in the fridge for 2 weeks, or the freezer for 3 months.