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Try adding salted caramel frosting to your next cake for an extraordinary dessert experience. The sweet and salty combination is purely magical. It stands out from vanilla and chocolate frosting.

salted caramel frosting swirled on top of a chocolate cupcake with a drizzle of caramel sauce

Salted caramel pairs well with so many flavors. Chocolate, vanilla, apple, and pumpkin to name a few. It’s also the perfect addition to homemade fudgy brownies.

Homemade caramel sauce is what gives this frosting such an incredible flavor and texture. Prepare the caramel ahead of time and you’ll be able to whip up this frosting in a snap.

The addition of salt balances out the extreme sweetness. Let’s face it, American buttercream and caramel are plenty sweet on their own. Combining the two is sugar overload. But in this frosting recipe, the salt makes them work beautifully together.

Once you give this light and fluffy caramel icing a try, you will turn to it time and time again.

Why this recipe works

  • You don’t need heavy cream for this recipe! The caramel sauce is pretty thin and will make the frosting thinner than usual. Adding cream will cause it to be too runny.
  • Adjust the salt level to suit your taste. Mix in a little at a time until it’s perfect for you!
  • While the recipe calls for homemade caramel sauce, you can use storebought. It will work just fine.
overhead view of salted caramel frosting in glass bowl next to purple cloth and chocolate cupcakes with frosting swirled on top

Salted caramel frosting recipe

I have become obsessed with coming up with the best frosting recipes. My latest favorites include strawberry frosting, peanut butter frosting, and Swiss meringue frosting. And today, I’m adding salted caramel frosting to the list.

The caramel flavor really comes through and the texture is so silky. I used the same technique as my vanilla buttercream to make the base.

The powdered sugar is whipped in very well to make the frosting smooth and light. The caramel is added last. If you add the caramel before the sugar is well incorporated, you’ll end up with a grainy frosting that’s hard to fix.

My caramel frosting will crust over slightly so keep that in mind if you plan to let it sit out for a while.


Salted caramel frosting ingredients

You only need four ingredients for salted caramel buttercream. But, you’ll need more to make the caramel sauce so be sure to head over to that post and grab the recipe.

  • Butter: Use unsalted butter so you can control how much salt is in the recipe. And make sure it is softened to room temperature. It shouldn’t be oily or melty.
  • Powdered sugar: I always look for confectioners’ sugar that contains cornstarch as the anticaking agent. It’s the best for American buttercream.
  • Caramel sauce: Make the caramel sauce from scratch or you can use storebought.
  • Salt: I prefer to use fine sea salt. And you may not need the full amount called for in the recipe. Adjust it to your taste.

To make this icing you’ll need:


How to make salted caramel frosting

This buttercream frosting is astonishingly easy to make. The most difficult part is making the caramel. Those steps are included in my homemade caramel recipe.

The Caramel – The caramel is made with my tried and true recipe. I suggest making it a day in advance. It needs to cool completely before using it.

The Frosting – I used my vanilla buttercream as a base but modified it slightly. You just whip the butter and powdered sugar together until it no longer feels gritty.

hand piping salted caramel frosting over a chocolate cupcake with purple cloth and more cupcakes in the background

Step 1: Beat the butter

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl with a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes.

It should be pale in color and creamy.

Step 2: Add the sugar

Add half the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed just until the sugar has fully moistened, then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed just until the sugar has fully moistened, then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.

Allowing this extended mixing time will ensure the sugar is well mixed in. Otherwise, the frosting will have a gritty mouthfeel.

Step 3: Add the caramel

Add the caramel and beat on medium-high speed until well incorporated. Stop to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Step 4: Add the salt

The recipe calls for 1.5 teaspoons of salt. You may not need all this. It’s going to depend on your palate.

Start by adding ¼ teaspoon. Beat it into the frosting on medium speed.

Stop and taste the frosting. If it’s not salted caramel-y enough, add ¼ teaspoon more salt. Continue to do this until you have the flavor you desire.

angled view of caramel frosting in large glass mixing bowl with purple cloth next to it

If the frosting has too many air bubbles, mix it on low speed or by hand to knock them out. You may not be able to get all the bubbles out but this method will help reduce them.

four chocolate cupcakes topped with a swirl of salted caramel frosting with purple cloth to the side and colorful flowers in the background

If you like this salted caramel frosting, you’ll love these other tasty caramel recipes:

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salted caramel frosting swirled on top of a chocolate cupcake with a drizzle of caramel sauce

Salted Caramel Frosting

Yield: 3 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

The best recipe for salted caramel frosting is light, fluffy, and incredibly addictive. It requires only 4 ingredients to make!

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (77 g) homemade caramel sauce, cooled to room temperature - SEE NOTE 1
  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups (360 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon fine sea salt - SEE NOTE 2

Instructions

  1. Make the caramel according to the recipe instructions. Set aside and allow it to cool completely before moving to the next step.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl with a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, until creamy and pale in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Add half the confectioners' sugar and beat on low speed just until the sugar has fully moistened, then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining confectioners' sugar and beat on low speed just until the sugar has fully moistened, then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add the cooled caramel and beat on medium-high speed until well incorporated.
  6. Gradually add the salt, ¼ teaspoon at a time until it reaches your desired saltiness. Turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Notes

  1. Storebought caramel sauce can be used in place of homemade. Bring it to room temperature before using it.
  2. You may not need all the salt called for in the recipe. Add a little at a time as instructed until you achieve the taste you desire.
  3. If the frosting has too many air bubbles for your liking, you can knock some of them out by mixing on low speed or by hand.

Make ahead tip

  1. Frosting will keep for up to 2 weeks stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. You must let the buttercream come to room temperature by setting it out on the counter for a couple of hours, then beat it with an electric mixer if needed.
  2. Or it can be frozen for up to 3 months. When ready to use, place in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. Let stand at room temperature to soften before use.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 34 Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 138Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 163mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 1gSugar: 15gProtein: 1g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.

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Originally published August 2015. Post updated August 2020 with new photos and a video. A slight change to the recipe was made to create a silkier texture.

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33 Comments

  1. I’m not normally a big fan of frosting but this frosting is delicious! I beat the butter first then added the sugar and beat that for several minutes before adding the caramel mainly because I made the caramel the same day and it had really only just cooled down. Will definitely be using this recipe again for future birthday cakes.

    1. That’s so great to hear! I’m happy you enjoyed the frosting, Deirdre!

  2. Your caramel sauce is amazing. Easy to make, and tastes wonderful. However, this frosting was a HUGE fail. The large amount of powdered sugar caused it to be too grainy and too sweet. I couldn’t use it on my cakes and had to make something new. It looked nothing like your pictures. It was almost curdled looking and after sitting for about 5 minutes started separating. I frequently bake and followed your instructions, but this did not turn out and is painful to have to throw away good ingredients. Especially since the caramel sauce was so good! So sorry for the negative review….maker beware….find another option… 🙁

    1. I’m sorry to hear the recipe didn’t work for you. I make this frosting all the time and have never had an issue with it being grainy or separating. There’s even a video in the post of me making it and it’s far from separated. I’m not sure where you went wrong but it’s important to make sure the butter and caramel sauce are at room temperature before using them in the recipe.

  3. I’ll be honest, I was afraid to try Salted Caramel for years. I am so happy I did and now it’s a little bit of an obsession of mine. My boyfriend’s birthday is today so I’m making chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel filling and this frosting will go nicely with that!!! Yummy!

  4. This sounds delicious! Do you think boiling/simmering an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a saucepan of water for the prescribed time to turn it into a caramel or butterscotch would work in place of the sauce called for in the ingredient list?

    1. That’s actually a really great idea! It would work wonderfully since it has a thicker consistency than my homemade caramel sauce. You may not need as much confectioners’ to stiffen the frosting.

      1. Thanks, Jen…going for it!

  5. Can I use salted butter? Is all I have right now. 🙁

    1. I would not recommend using salted butter.

  6. This looks delicious! I’m going to try it on vanilla bean chocolate marble cupcakes. It says the yield is 3, I’m assuming that is cups. Do you know approximately how many cupcakes that would frost? Thanks so much. I cannot wait to try this recipe.

    1. Yes, the recipe makes 3 cups. It should be enough to frost a two layer cake or 24 cupcakes.

  7. Shanda Douglas says:

    can you freeze this frosting?

    1. Yes, you can freeze frosting. Put it in an airtight container and it will keep for up to 3 months. To thaw it by letting it come to room temperature then whip it with an electric mixer for a couple of seconds to give it body once again. Enjoy!

  8. I love finding great recipes for delicious frostings and with holiday season to be soon here, I am going to make sure I use this!! Looks so awesome!