This is the Caramel Sheet Cake of your dreams. The sponge in this cake is like eating caramel sponge air. It is SO light and fluffy that you’ll be able to go for a second piece without batting an eye lid. The nutty notes of browned butter cream cheese buttercream compliment that caramel sponge perfectly. Then topped with sweet, juicy figs to freshen up the caramel taste and this will be a winner at any party!
Who loves caramel? Is that you over there I see with your hand up? Oh good, because this recipe is for you.
When researching caramel sheet cakes I didn’t actually come across too many cakes that actually have the caramel throughout the sponge itself, let alone in sheet cake size!
Crazy as sheet cakes are the best way to make a delicious cake for a large number of people but without the faff of layer cakes. Sometimes complicated is too much, and you just want something tasty yet pretty simple to make.
So let's get into this recipe....
My love for Caramel
I have a mild obsession with salted caramel sauce. It literally goes with everything in baking, whether it's chocolate based, fruit based or simple vanilla based. It just works.
When thinking of Autumn flavours, caramel and toffee based desserts are high up there on my list. Whether it's a Caramel Brownie Ice-cream (see this recipe here), or a Apple Cider Caramel Cupcake drizzled in caramel sauce (see this recipe here), or a sticky toffee pudding by Mary Berry (recipe found here), the deep, molasses notes of caramel are the perfect compliment to chilly Autumnal days.
How to make the Caramel Sheet Cake
The most important factor for this sponge cake is the caramel. Now I get that you may not have time to make your own, or you may be nervous about getting behind the stove as you’ve heard nightmare stories.
But here’s the thing. You can make the caramel sauce the day before...actually scratch that, you can make it the week before you actually get down to making this cake. How good is that!
And as for being scared of making it. I’ll be honest, I was nervous that very first time. But I soon learnt that if I had all my ingredients weighed and ready, wasn’t distracted and kept an eagle eye on it there was zero to be worried about. I’ve made it countless number of times since then and if you follow my step by step method with images in my Salted Caramel blog post, found here, you’ll realise how easy it is. I promise!
Tips with my caramel sheet cake.
Being a sheet cake - this needs a lot of batter. So don't be alarmed at the amount of ingredients that you're putting in!
Cream the butter and sugar in the stand of an electric stand mixer for a good three minutes. By beating them for this long you are adding air to the batter that will enable a fluffy sponge.
Make sure the caramel isn’t molten hot when you put it into the batter. If it's piping hot when it touches the egg in the batter, you run the risk of scrambling the eggs and you definitely don't want that! If you’ve made the caramel just before making the cake, i suggest pouring it out of the saucepan and into a bowl with a large surface area. This will allow it to come to room temperature as quickly as possible. If you have the sauce pre-made and refrigerated then scoop out the required amount and microwave it in short ten second bursts for the sauce to loosen. Set aside to cool if it gets too hot.
Browned Butter Cream Cheese Buttercream
To compliment the luxurious, rich taste of caramel, I wanted to add another layer of interest to regular vanilla buttercream. And the simplest way of doing this is to use a combination of browned butter and regular butter.
When you heat up butter for long enough the milk solids in the butter cook and caramelise resulting in a deep, nutty flavour. Pour that golden, melted butter, making sure to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, into a container and refrigerate and let it solidify. You then have browned butter ready to use just like normal butter. Using this technique for anything that needs butter adds another layer of flavour to your dish...and there isn’t anything wrong with that!
How to store the sheet cake
The cake will can be stored at room temperature for three days or in the refrigerator for up to five days. If refrigerated, allow it to come to room temperature prior to serving. I would however, remove the fruit from the buttercream prior to storing as this is the most perishable item and will deteriorate the quickest.
To store the sheet cake, once you have pulled it out from the sheet pan using the edges of the baking paper, place it on a large tray and refrigerate until the buttercream has firmed up, then loosely wrap in cling film. or store in a large enough air tight container.
TIP: Once decorated, I store any left over cake in the sheet cake baking pan and then wrap the pan with cling film.
If you fancy any more Autumnal desserts then checkout the following:
Pecan Maple Shortbread Cookies. Recipe found here
Apple Cider Caramel Cupcakes. Recipe found here
Fruit pavlova with roasted plums and fresh figs. Recipe found here
Caramel Sheet Cake with Browned Butter Frosting
- Rectangular baking pan 23x33cm (9x13-inch)
- 485 g plain flour (all-purpose)
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1½ tsp fine salt
- 240 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 340 g golden granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ cup caramel sauce.
- 360 ml milk, room temp
Browned Butter Cream Cheese Glaze
- 165 g unsalted butter, for browning
- 110 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 180 g cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 tsp salt
- 640 g powdered icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar), sifted
- 1 tbsp milk , only if needed
- 4 figs, quartered
- A couple of sprigs of thyme.
- A drizzle of caramel sauce.
- Make your caramel sauce and allow it to come to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease a 23x33cm (9x13-inch) rectangular baking pan and line with parchment paper. NOTE: allow the paper to overhang the sides so that when it comes to removing the cake from the pan, it can be easily lifted using the paper.
- Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating until fully incorporated after each addition. Add vanilla extract and caramel and mix until combined.
- Alternating between the flour mixture (3 additions) and the milk (2 additions), mix until fully combined.
- Pour the batter into your prepared sheet pan and spread out evenly. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick entered into the centre comes out clean.
- Remove the pan and allow the cake to cool in the pan for 25-30 minutes on a wire rack before lifting the cake out using the baking paper and allowing it to cool completely.
Browned butter cream cheese frosting
- Place 165g/¾cup butter into a saucepan on medium heat and swirl the pan to ensure the butter cooks evenly. As the butter cooks, it will become foamy and will gradually turn from a golden yellow to a rich amber colour and then toasty brown with brown specks in the pan's bottom. Remove the pan from the heat and pour into a container, ensuring to scrape the brown bits in the bottom. Store in the fridge to solidify, then remove and allow to come to room temperature.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the browned butter and 110g/½cup butter for 3 minutes until pale. Add the cream cheese, vanilla bean paste, salt and beat for a further minute. Add the icing sugar and beat until fully combined.
- Spread a thick layer of buttercream on the sheet cake. Swirl the buttercream with an offset spatula, and then top with quartered figs and a couple of sprigs of thyme. Serve immediately with an extra drizzle of caramel sauce.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.