Why you’ll love it
If you love chocolate and caramel then you’ll love this chocolate salted caramel cake. Easy to make yet gorgeous enough to serve up at a birthday party, it’s blissfully decadent without being sickeningly sweet. And if you don’t want all three layers, it’s easy to scale down into a two layer cake too!
It all starts with a super easy one-bowl chocolate cake that’s unbelievably moist and so delicious. The layers are sandwiched with an indulgent salted caramel buttercream frosting and lashings of gooey salted caramel. It’s the stuff of chocolate caramel dreams.
There is just so much to love about this stunning showstopper. Of course, it tastes amazing but that chocolate cake will become your new favourite – so moist and soft yet a little fudgy and chocolatey to the max. It stays moist for days too.
This salted caramel chocolate cake is easier to put together than it looks. The cake batter is all mixed in one bowl using a handheld beater; the frosting is just 3 ingredients beaten together all in one go until fluffy; and decorating it is so simple but still looks so impressive.
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Ingredients for chocolate caramel cake
Jump to the recipe for full ingredients and instructions.
- Flour: Just plain flour aka all purpose flour is all you need.
- Cocoa: For those gorgeous dark chocolate layers stick to Dutch processed cocoa powder. Regular unsweetened cocoa powder will work but won’t give the same smooth chocolate flavour.
- Instant coffee granules: Don’t worry, you won’t taste coffee when you eat this. It’s just enough to enhance the chocolate flavour and it does a great job at that. You can use instant espresso powder but cut it down by 1 teaspoon.
- Baking powder / baking soda: This cake, an adaptation of this black magic cake, has two leaveners and more than you would normally expect but together they work to give you the perfect lift and lightness.
- Sugar: You’ll need caster sugar (superfine sugar) or white granulated sugar for the cake. Then you’ll want icing sugar (powdered sugar) for the salted buttercream frosting.
- Buttermilk: Buttermilk is a must here. It makes the cake so tender and helps keep it moist too.
- Vegetable oil: You want a neutral-flavoured vegetable oil here. It adds unbelievable moisture to the cake.
- Eggs: Stick to large eggs here.
- Pure vanilla extract: The vanilla actually enhances the chocolate flavour but make sure to use extract, not essence; the latter being a synthetic product.
- Salted caramel sauce: I like to use my homemade caramel sauce for this. You can make it 2-3 days in advance. You can also use a shop-bought caramel sauce and stir in some flaky sea salt to your taste.
How to make chocolate salted caramel cake
I think you’ll be surprised at how easy this cake is to make and also to assemble. The chocolate cake batter is all made in one bowl and there is no creaming of sugar and butter – simply mix everything together. The salted caramel frosting is just 3 ingredients that’s all beaten together in one bowl all at once.
Then there’s the decoration. Those of you with less-than-amazing decorating skills (just like myself) will love how spectacular using a piping bag can make this cake look. A simple star tip pretty much does all the work. It’s quick to assemble too. This combination of beauty and simplicity makes this a stellar cake for birthday celebrations.
Jump to the recipe for full ingredients and instructions.
- If you’re making your caramel sauce from scratch, start with that so that it has time to cool down properly.
- Dry ingredients: For the chocolate cake layers, mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl (photo 1) (make sure it’s a large bowl so you can fit everything in).
- Wet ingredients: Add the wet ingredients directly into the same bowl (photo 2).
- Beat: Use a handheld mixer to simply beat the ingredients into a glossy chocolate batter (photo 3)!
- Bake: Pour the runny cake batter evenly between 3 prepped 8-inch round baking pans (photo 4). Bake them for around 27 minutes then as soon as they come out, just press down lightly on the domes with a glass or another pan just to flatten them slightly. This just makes it easier to layer the cakes neatly without having to waste any cake by trimming off the domes.
If you use cake strips on the outside of your cake pans, like those shown here, it will reduce the domes resulting in flatter cakes straight from the oven.
- The salted caramel buttercream: Simply add all the ingredients to a large bowl (photo 5) and beat until it looks thick and whipped (photo 6).
- Assemble the cake: Start with the first cake layer domed side up. Pipe a ring of stars of buttercream around the outside, fill the centre with a little more buttercream leaving a bit of an indentation then add the caramel sauce (photo 7). Repeat that with the second layer then add the third cake layer on top. Now just pipe stars all over the top and smother with more caramel sauce let some fall down the sides to create a caramel drip (photo 8).
I used a Loyal open star 6B piping tip here which is equivalent to the Wilton open star 6B.
This is a large showstopping celebration cake and while beautiful, the decoration is so easy to achieve. For this effect, you just need a large piping bag, a disposable piping bag is fine, and a large star tip and once you’ve done 2 or 3 it’s so easy to pipe the star pattern. This very naked cake style also means the cake is not sickly sweet since it’s not covered all over with frosting.
If you would like a smaller cake, see the notes section for the recipe for just 2 layers.
Tips and tricks
- Make sure to use a large bowl – there’s a lot of batter.
- Always weigh ingredients like flour, cocoa and sugar where a weight is provided. You will get the most accurate results this way. If you don’t have a kitchen scale (super cheap and last forever so go get one), just spoon the ingredient into the cup measure and level it off with the back of a knife without tapping it down.
- Get evenly sized cakes by weighing the batter as you add it to the pans.
- Adjust the consistency of the frosting if you need to by adding more sugar to thicken it or a dash of milk to thin it.
- Flatten the cakes slightly: When the cakes come out of the oven they will be a little domed in the centre. This is normal. To flatten them a little, just press lightly down on the tops with a glass or another baking pan. You don’t want to press hard, just enough to flatten the top a bit. You could wait for them to cool and slice off the tops but that just equates to wasted cake. Or use cake strips when you bake them for flatter tops.
- The salted caramel can be made ahead by a few days so you have it ready to go without having to rush to make it the same day as the cake. That being said it can all be made in one day, even one morning very easily. Make the sauce first so that it has time to cool then make and bake the cakes. While the cakes bake, you can make the salted buttercream frosting and then have it all ready to go once the cakes are cool.
This chocolate salted caramel cake keeps well for 2-3 days in cool spot like the pantry. If it’s warm where you are, store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week but make sure to take it out of the fridge at least an hour before serving. This will help it soften and cake always tastes better at room temperature.
This cake freezes well too. It’s probably best to cut it into slices first and lay them on pieces of baking paper on a baking tray. Place the tray in the freezer and once the cake slices are solid, transfer them to an airtight container, each slice wrapped well with plastic wrap, and freeze for up to 3 months.
Did you try this chocolate salted caramel cake recipe?
Leaving a rating and comment below the recipe is so helpful!
FOR THE CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYERS
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules dissolved in 1 ½ cups hot water (375ml) (notes 1)
- 390 g plain flour (all purpose flour) (3 cups / 13.8oz)
- 105 g dutch processed cocoa powder (1 cup / 3.7oz)
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking soda (bicarb soda)
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 500 g granulated white sugar (2 ½ cups / 17.6oz)
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk (375ml)
- ¾ cup vegetable oil (like canola oil or light flavoured olive oil) (180ml)
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
FOR THE SALTED CARAMEL BUTTERCREAM
- 340 g unsalted butter, softened (1 ½ cups / 12oz)
- ⅔ cup salted caramel sauce (160ml)
- 3 cups icing sugar (powdered sugar) (390g / ~14oz)
- ½ cup salted caramel sauce, extra for filling and topping
For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided
- First, if making the salted caramel sauce from scratch, make 1 ½ times this recipe so that you have plenty. It can be made up to 3 days ahead.
- FOR THE CHOCOLATE CAKE:Preheat your oven to 180C (160C fan forced) / 350F. Line the base of 3 x 8 inch cake pans with baking paper. Grease the sides and dust with cocoa powder.
- Combine the boiling water and coffee powder and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the sugar and whisk to combine.
- Make a well in the centre and add the coffee, buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla.
- Divide the cake batter evenly between the 3 cake pans (if you want to get them perfect, use a kitchen scale to weigh each cake pan as you add the batter).
- Bake for 27-30 minutes, turning the pans at the 20 minute mark, until a toothpick inserted comes out with just a couple of sticky crumbs.
- Remove them from the oven and using the base of another cake pan or a glass, just gently press down on the dome in the center. You don’t want to press it right down but just to flatten it a little. Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire cooling rack.
- Beat until lightened and fluffy (4-5 minutes) starting on low until combined, then turning up to high speed thereafter. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Taste and beat in a touch more salt if you want a more pronounced salted caramel flavour.
- Transfer all but 3/4 cup of buttercream to a piping bag with a large star tip, if you have one. The piping bag is not necessary but does make for a pretty cake.
- ASSEMBLING THE CAKE:Place one of the chocolate cakes domed side up onto a cake platter.
- Pipe a ring of stars around the edge of the cake making sure there are no gaps then spread half of the set aside ¾ cup of buttercream in the middle. If you aren’t using a piping bag, just spread ⅓ of the buttercream over the cake, making the outside inch a little higher than the middle.
- Pour about 2 ½ tablespoons of caramel sauce over the center portion of the buttercream so that it doesn’t leak out the sides.
- Place a second chocolate cake on top, dome side down. Repeat the previous two steps.
- Place the last cake on top, flat side up, the pipe stars of buttercream all over the top or spread the remaining buttercream so that you have pretty swirls all over the top.
- Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of caramel (or more if you like) around the top edge so that it drips down the sides in places, then add a little drizzle over all over the middle as well.
- Serve or chill until required, taking out of the fridge at least 1 hour before serving.
- Please take a moment to leave a comment & rating. It's appreciated and so helpful.
- Tablespoons: I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (equal to 4 teaspoons). Check yours before measuring.
- Salted caramel sauce: I use this homemade caramel sauce recipe. Whether you make it or buy it, taste it first and make sure it’s salty enough to your liking. If you want more salt add just a little at a time to the caramel sauce. It’s best to do this while heating the caramel so that the salt dissolves in properly.
- TO CUT IT DOWN TO 2 LAYERS
- CAKE PORTION:
- 260g plain flour (all purpose flour) (2 cups)
- 70g dutch processed cocoa powder (¾ cup)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda (bicarb soda)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 250 g granulated white sugar (1 ¼ cups)
- 1 cup buttermilk (250ml)
- ½ cup vegetable oil (like canola oil or light flavoured olive oil) (180ml)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 cup hot water
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- FROSTING PORTION
- 226g unsalted butter, softened (1 cup / 8oz)
- ½ cup salted caramel sauce (125ml)
- 2 cups icing sugar (powdered sugar) (260g / 9.2oz)
- ⅓ cup salted caramel sauce for filling and topping
- Nutrition details are approximate only – scroll below the recipe to find the full nutritional information.
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