For years, I’ve wanted to master the perfect Southern Caramel Cake. Betty Irving, who makes the best caramel cake in West Point, Mississippi, won’t give me her recipe. She just tells me that the secret is the heavy cream. And the decade that we spent in the Chicago area was virtually caramel cake-less due to the fact that it just didn’t exist in that part of the country. What fun it was to discover, upon arrival in Winston-Salem, NC, that I could order a delicious three-tiered caramel cake from Cherries Cafe in Lewisville any time we wanted. So that’s what we did for birthdays and special occasions until 2006 when Cherries Cafe published a book of recipes that included Ollie’s Caramel Cake. Hurrah! Problem solved, right? Not so fast… Here is what it says at the bottom of the page, “Note: This is a great old-fashioned cake but a bit difficult to make.” My attempts were tasty enough…. but sloppy and lopsided, real “cake wrecks” if you will.
The recipe below is my solution for satisfying the caramel cake lovers in our family and it has been a huge success. I use a tried and true yellow cupcake recipe formula from noted pastry chef Gail Gand, the caramel icing recipe from Cherries Cafe Secrets, and a healthy pinch of flakey sea salt which takes this desert to a whole new level. Cupcakes, being infinitely easier to frost with the warm, candy-like icing, were the answer. Now we have a family argument over how many cupcakes constitute a serving. I say one, and I’m confident that I am correct. Others insist that 2 cupcakes equal one slice of a traditional layered cake. You be the judge.