My Grandmother Crisp’s Caramel Cake

Today, I’m delighted to share one of my favorite recipes with you. It happens to be the only recipe I have from my paternal grandmother, Janie Crisp. But, she certainly did pick a great one to leave to us. Caramel cake is simply one of the most scrumptious desserts I know. I hope you’ll prepare this for your loved ones as we approach these last few weeks of winter.  Enjoy!

Grandmother Crisp’s Caramel Cake


3 sticks butter

3 cups sugar

5 eggs

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 cups whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter, sugar and eggs together and beat well. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, and then add vanilla. Beat in a mixer bowl or with a hand mixer until the batter “ribbons.” Pour batter into three greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Bake for about 30 minutes and use a toothpick to check to see if it is done. This cake can also be made in a 9-inch x 13-inch pan, which will need to be baked for about 45 minutes. Cool layers on a cake rack before icing.

Caramel Icing


2 sticks butter

1 (16 oz.) box of light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup evaporated milk (canned)

2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions: Place butter, brown sugar and salt in a saucepan. Heat, stirring until the brown sugar is well dissolved. Add milk and continue stirring until blended. Let bubble (at an easy boil) for approximately 4 minutes. Stir constantly to avoid sticking. Set hot mixture aside to cool for several minutes. Using mixer, add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. You will see it turn lighter and caramelize. When you’ve reached the desired consistency, ice the cake, placing some of the icing between the layers.

My sweet friend Tobi Fairley is featuring my Caramel Cake as one of her favorite things during her 29 Days of Love. I hope you’ll drop by Tobi’s Blog to see what else is on her list.

Have a lovely day!


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148 Responses to My Grandmother Crisp’s Caramel Cake

  1. Michelle H. says:

    I made this cake tonight. I only got as far as baking the cake. It was horrible… 3 bricks. 🙁 I’ve been baking 35 years and I followed the recipe exactly as printed. Sorry. 🙁

  2. Kathryn says:

    I am soooooooooo sorry that the cake did not work for you! It is a dense cake, but I just can’t imagine what happened. I wonder if you beat the batter long enough, until it “ribboned”? I will do a bit of research, and maybe I can come up with a solution.

  3. Kathryn says:

    Did you boil it for the four minutes? You can always add a bit more of the confectioners sugar if it is too thin. And then beat it until it gets hard enough to to the icing.

  4. Bunny Cooper says:

    Loved it and will make it a favorite in my household

  5. Kathryn says:

    Great Bunny!

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  7. Sharalyn says:

    Kathryn ~ The cake was devine, made even more delightful by the fact it was your grandmother ‘s recipe. I love the tasteful and elegant offerings of your website. You may, however, want to remove Mr Ocegueda’s comments as he has so rudely posted a distasteful link. I look forward to visiting your site most frequently in the future.

  8. Kathryn says:

    Thanks so much Saralyn, will do!

  9. Carol Roy says:

    This is a little far off from the cake recipe but it is very similar to my carmel Iceing recipe but i wonder if your Crisp grandma was from around Memphis, Raleigh Tn. if so you and my husband are cousins to some degree. I beleive the name was Charlie Crisp brother to Eva Crisp who was my husbands grandma. Other names were Warner Crisp and James Crisp etc. Love to hear. I will try the cake recipe, I put my iceing on a chaocolate cake, yummy.

  10. Kathryn says:

    Hi Carol,
    Sorry but my grandmother Crisp was from Western North Carolina (Bryson City). I do hope you will try the cake, even if we are not “cousins”! Enjoy and have a very Happy Mother’s Day!

  11. Kathryn says:

    Great Allison… my Mother always loved to be at my house when I made the caramel cake and always waited to “lick the icing pan”!

  12. Barbara Sell says:

    This sounds wonderful, cant wait to make it!

  13. Sandi says:

    For those of us (Canadian) who buy brown sugar in bags, not boxes, would the 16 ounces be the same as 2 cups? Or would I have to weigh it (do not have a scale). Do you happen to know?

  14. Kathryn says:

    Yes, it is 16 ounces (2 cups)! Enjoy,

  15. Emily W. says:

    I am making this cake for the second time this weekend- my dad’s birthday request. I’ve shared the recipe around. Nothing like an “old fashion,” poured icing, caramel cake! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Kathryn says:

    My pleasure Emily! I made it yesterday for a special cousin’s 65th birthday. It never fails to please. And Happy Birthday to your dad!

  17. Dianne Turner says:

    I made this cake in 13 x 9 pan. Iced the next day because I did not have enough brown sugar. It was delicious and when my husband came he was delighted. A teenager (14) was here and saw ingredients out and said he would help me make it, but by the time we got through with chores we were both to tired. I had a very bad fall last month and need help with things. I rested then made cake. I went out early and got brown sugar and made icing. The young man texted me from bottom driveway as husband pulled in top. He wanted to know if he could have some cake. He thought it was delicious and had never had icing like that. So I got it right and it was an absolute hit. 🙂 Dianne

  18. Kathryn says:

    Excellent Dianne!

  19. LaVetta says:

    Can I assume that this cake is almost like a BUTTER cake that can be transformed into many different flavored cakes because of the frosting?

  20. Kathryn says:

    I suppose it could, however, I have never added any additional flavors.

  21. Michele says:

    I made your cake for my school’s end-of-year potluck luncheon, and it was devoured. There were many other desserts, but everyone was asking for the recipe. Turned out great! Making it now for my daughter’s birthday. Thank you for posting such a great recipe!

  22. Kathryn says:

    It is my pleasure to share this old family recipe! Enjoy!

  23. Jennifer says:

    Best thing I’ve found on pinterest so far. I made it yesterday and it’s divine!

  24. Kathryn says:

    SO glad that you love the cake! I made it last weekend for a friend’s birthday and it is ALWAYS a hit!

  25. Tina says:

    I want to make this cake for a bake sale, I want to know if the icing is soft or hard. I made a caramel cake years ago and I remember you had to be quick to spread the icing because it got hard fast. Is this icing the same way?

  26. Kathryn says:

    The icing does get a bit hard, but only slightly. Hope that is helpful!

  27. Sally says:

    It is the HARD/crunchy caramel icing I remember as child that was so delicious and what I hope your icing would be like. When I make it, what would I do more of or less to make sure it the icing turns out crunchy/crunchy? Thanks !

  28. Kathryn says:

    Well, not sure, the less milk and the more confectioners sugar would make it harder, but not sure about “crunchier”?!

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  30. JoAndra Neal says:

    Oh my goodness. I made this cake for christmas 2013, and it turned out absolutely delicious. I also made one for a girlfriend of mine and she and her family enjoyed it as well. I used softasilk cake flour and sifted it twice. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I’m taking out the ingredients to make one tomorrow morning…Happy New Year 2014!! 😉

  31. Kathryn says:

    I am thrilled that you loved the cake! It is just a favorite of almost everyone.
    Happy New Year to you also!

  32. Eloise Jordan says:

    I made this cake 3 times in one week and it was delicious!!!!.

  33. Eloise Jordan says:

    I made this cake 3 times in one week and it was delicious!!!!

  34. Kuwanna says:

    Admiring your Grandma Crisp Caramel Cake Recipe !! 🙂

  35. Kathryn says:

    It’s the best Kuwanna!

  36. Kathryn says:

    Great Eloise, it is the best!

  37. Paulette says:

    Made this cake last night and frosted today. Haven’t tasted it yet, that comes tonight at my daughters birthday. Admit I’m a bit cautious about serving it. First, the cake took much longer to bake. It might have been my oven. I put the batter in 3-8″ pans. Second, once done the cakes did feel very heavy. Because I never seem to bake a cake with even tops, I did level the tops before icing and the cake seems more of a pound cake consistency than light and fluffy. It tasted good though so I persevered with finishing it. Made the icing this morning. Make sure you beat it a good bit before using it. The cooler the icing gets, the more it will thicken. Two minutes will not be enough for this icing. The icing is delicious. More butterscotch to my taste but still good. Because I had 3 layers to ice I was really stretching it to get enough. You may want to be less generous between layers. Thankfully I found some tucked in a ladle I had used to scoop icing in the layers and was able to salvage enough to finish the cake. If you like generous icing either make a batch and a half or don’t do three layers! Also, I got interrupted while doing the icing and I will warn you it gets harder to spread the longer it sets. If you leave it too long you may need to add a little milk to make it spread better.
    So, cake looks lovely. Nearly as good as the picture except mine leans a bit (another quality of my multi-layer cakes!) real taste test later. Crossing my fingers.

  38. Kathryn says:

    I am certain that it will be fabulous. It is not an easy cake to do and it will get easier with practice! Happy Birthday to your daughter.

  39. Excellent site. Plenty of helpful information here. I’m sending it to several friends ans also sharing in delicious.

    And naturally, thanks to your effort!

  40. Caitlyn Malone says:

    I would love to have this caramel cake to add to my recipe book. I have to admit, this looks extremely tempting but I have my reservations about trying what seems to be a challenging recipe. If you could answer a few questions for me I think I would feel much more confident. First, what do you mean by when the batter “ribbons”? Second, when making the icing, what temperature should my burner be (low, medium, high)? I look forward to your return email and giving this recipe a go! 🙂

  41. Kathryn says:

    You must give it a try! It took me several attempts to perfect this recipe! Ribbon is a cooking term describing the texture of an egg and sugar mixture that has been beaten until pale and extremely thick. When the beater or whisk is lifted, the batter falls slowly back onto the surface of the mixture, forming a ribbonlike pattern that, after a few seconds, sinks back into the batter. I would recommend a medium-low temperature when making the icing. Hope this information is helpful!!

  42. Cathy Ashley says:

    I am a private nurse for an eighty-nine year old woman who loves to reminisce about her life growing up in Tonkawa and Ponca City OK. I made this cake for her this evening and we laughed and smacked together as we watched Turner Classic Movies. It was, “OUT-OF THIS-WORLD-GOOD!” Thank you for sharing a slice of your life thru this recipe and making a little old lady’s eyes twinkle with delight! God Bless

  43. Kathryn says:

    You warm my heart from this comment! It makes me think of my sweet grandmother. I am so happy that this cake brought comfort and joy to her. And God bless both of you!

  44. Brenda D. Davis-Shelton says:

    This cake is fabulous!!! I’ve made it twice and it was perfect each time. I am a southern girl to my core and this is truly a real southern cake. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  45. Kathryn says:

    So glad you like it! I have a real emotion connection with this cake because of my grandmother!

  46. Terry Grow says:

    I didn’t make the cake part of this recipe only the icing (for my Dad’s birthday) and it came out perfectly. I’ve always been afraid to do a caramel icing but this was THE EASIEST recipe to follow. Thanks for sharing it!!

  47. Kathryn says:

    so glad you liked it Terry!

  48. Jackie Burrell says:

    I found this recipe when I was looking for a caramel cake like my grandmother’s to make for my husband’s birthday 2 years ago. It was so good that I have been asked to make it many other times. I have finally gotten it “perfected” after many “almosts” and it is better than any caramel around. My husband and his family have even said it is better than his grandmothers cake. This is very high praise indeed! Thank you for sharing this!

  49. Kathryn says:

    I am so pleased that you and your family enjoy this delicious cake. It does take a bit of practice, but it never disappoints!
    Happy Fall!

  50. georgia says:

    been making this since i found the recipe 3 years ago! there is absolutely nothing like it ! AMAZING!

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