For ease of browsing, see all my icing and frosting recipes here.
Let me tell you about this burnt caramel buttercream frosting, you guys.
It’s not very sweet. It’s not the kind of frosting you’d want to eat off a spoon.
No, this buttercream’s main reason for being is for spreading on chocolate stout cake. On this cake, this buttercream is magical and perfect.
It’s also the combination I served to Anthony Bourdain back in 2008. Check out the stout cake recipe to hear that story.
The Best Caramel Buttercream
There’s a very short ingredient list for this buttercream.
It does require a bit of finesse, and you have to play chicken with a pan of molten sugar, taking it as dark as you possibly can.
Some people might not be up for those shenanigans, and that’s totally fine. I think ermine frosting would be a great compliment to the chocolate stout cake. Here’s the recipe for my basic ermine buttercream.
Do You Really Burn the Caramel?
No, but you do take it to a dark mahogany color.
The caramel will smoke some, so it may burn your eyes, but the caramel itself doesn’t burn because once you get it to the right color, you set the bottom of the pan down in a bowl of ice water for a few seconds.
That knocks the heat in the pan back enough to keep it from continuing to cook while you pour it into your mixer.
So make sure if you’re going to make this caramel buttercream that you have an ice bath ready.
Making the Buttercream, Long Form Video
Here’s a video I made via Google + Hangouts on Air. I made this buttercream live and in real time.
You may enjoy watching the whole process from start to finish. If not, I also have added a shorter video that just hits the highlights.
I actually got an email from a guy a few hours before I was going live. He had had some issues making this buttercream, so I addressed his questions in the video.
I heard back from him afterwards, and this is part of what he wrote:
A huge thank-you for the incredibly helpful video demonstrating how to make the burnt caramel buttercream. All the tricks and techniques were extremely helpful. And I especially appreciate your answering some of my specific questions during the demo. About a week ago, I came across your website and your recipe for the chocolate stout cake while I was Googling for some St. Patrick’s Day desserts, and so it really was crazily serendipitous timing that I e-mailed you with questions literally an hour or two before your demo….
…Again, many, many thanks for your incredibly helpful tips and for the excellent demo video. I really appreciate it and look forward to making this buttercream work next time!–David from Montana
Pretty cool, huh?!
How To Make This Frosting, Step by Step
As I said earlier, this burnt caramel buttercream has a fairly short list of ingredients. Let’s meet them, shall we?
- 7-8 egg yolks (you’re looking for 4 oz)
- both corn syrup and sugar (a little water is mixed in with the sugar in the image up there)
- vanilla extract mixed with espresso powder
- salt (not pictured)
Here is a basic outline of how to make this caramel buttercream:
The video will be more instructive, but in broad strokes, you
- whip the eggs and salt together
- stream in boiling corn syrup
- stream in the dark caramel
- whip until just warm
- add the butter a bit at a time.
You’ll end up with an incredibly smooth caramel version of French buttercream.
If you have any questions about this post or anything else cooking- and baking-related, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
You can leave a comment here, and I will be back in touch in about 24 hours.
If your question in more urgent, you can email me and I answer within about 4 hours.
Either way, I promise to help!
More Delicious Buttercream Recipes
If you love European-style buttercream, you may want to check out my Swiss mint buttercream. It is smooth and silky, and it tastes like a buttermint in icing form!
Another great buttercream to try is ermine frosting. It’s the traditional frosting for red velvet cake, and it’s one of my favorites for any chocolate cake.
This mocha frosting is also an excellent option for chocolate cake.
Please note that all measurements are by weight, not volume. Invest in a kitchen scale. I got mine for around $25 and have had it for years. This is the scale I use and wholeheartedly recommend:
I really hope you love this recipe, you guys!
A star rating and a review is also really helpful to readers, so if you make this recipe, please rate and review it!
And leave me a comment, too. I love to hear from you guys, and am always working to make the site better!
I’d also love to have you join my PCO newsletter, The Inbox Pastry Chef!
Thanks, and enjoy!
- 4 ounces egg yolks (7-8)
- 5.5 oz granulated sugar
- 5.5 oz light corn syrup
- 1 pound butter (4 sticks), cool but soft, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional but awesome)
- Have a bowl of ice water ready, large enough to dip the pan you caramelize the sugar in. Set aside.
- Place yolks and the salt in your mixer bowl fitted with the whip attachment.
- Beat the yolks and salt on medium speed.
- Bring corn syrup to a full rolling boil, and then slowly stream it into your beating yolks. Pour it slowly right down the inside of the bowl. Try to keep it off the whisk so it ends up in the icing, not on the sides of your bowl. Increase speed to high.
- Heat sugar and about 1/4 cup of water to a boil, stirring to dissolve all the sugar.
- Bring it up to a boil, slap on the lid and let the steam wash any sugar crystals off the side of the pan.
- Remove the lid and turn the heat to high. Once the sugar starts to color, you can swirl the pan to keep the color even.
- When the sugar is very light amber, turn the heat down to medium. At this point, you can stir the caramel with a wooden spoon (most of the crystals have broken down sufficiently that they won't recrystallize). Take the sugar to a dark caramel. It will start to smoke a little and your eyes will sting. That's how you know it's done.
- Take the pan off the stove and briefly (no more than 3 seconds or so) dunk the pan into ice water. This should cool things off enough to keep your sugar from continuing to cook while you're doing the next step.
- Once you've dunked your pan, slowly pour the caramel into the still-beating yolk/corn syrup mixture. Pour it in a thin stream right down the inner surface of the bowl so you don't sling it all over the sides of your pan. Whip until just about body temperature.
- Add in the cool butter, a bit at a time, along with the espresso powder.
- Beat until light and fluffy.
- This frosting is enough to generously frost the top and sides of a 9" cake with about 1 cup leftover. You can also choose to torte, fill and frost your cake, in which case you'll probably use all the frosting.
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Nutrition InformationYield 20 Serving Size 1/4 cup
Amount Per Serving Calories 233Total Fat 20gSaturated Fat 12gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 110mgSodium 233mgCarbohydrates 14gFiber 0gSugar 14gProtein 1g
The stated nutritional information is provided as a courtesy. It is calculated through third party software and is intended as a guideline only.
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And there you have it. Enjoy this caramel buttercream friends.
Thank you for spending some time with me today. Take care, and have a lovely day.