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Salted Caramel Cake (Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free)

Sweet and salty has never been so darn tasty as this delicious gluten-free and dairy-free Salted Caramel Cake. I will always be that girl who goes for the decadent cake flavors that precariously walk the yummy line between a little bit salty and a little bit sweet. The best of both worlds, me thinks! And this amazing salted caramel cake is exactly that!


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A close up picture of a salted caramel cake covered in white frosting and a golden amber caramel drip. There's a slice cut and it's being taken out of the cake.

Salted Caramel Cake (Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free)

Homemade salted caramel sauce that packs a heavenly punch of warm and scrumptious caramel flavor. Each fluffy gluten-free and dairy-free vanilla cake layer is marvelously marbled with the caramel sauce for a hit of deep caramel goodness in each bite. Whipped salted caramel buttercream made from that very same caramel sauce wrapped gloriously around each cake layer will leave you licking your plate clean and asking for seconds. This is a true salted caramel cake masterpiece.

A close up picture of a white frosted cake with white buttercream swirls on top, a cookie between each swirl, and a caramel drip going down the sides.

How To Make Salted Caramel

Caramel, in all its tasty goodness, can often feel a bit intimidating to make. But I’m here to walk you through this easy homemade dairy-free salted caramel sauce so don’t start sweating yet. The key to caramel sauce is having everything measured and ready to go before you start. Therefore, you don’t have a mad scramble for ingredients and can focus on getting that perfect caramelization.

First, start by adding the granulated sugar to a medium pot and begin to cook over medium-high heat. Do not stir the sugar. Stirring will cause the sugar to crystalize and leave you with a grainy caramel sauce. No bueno! If needed, you can gently swirl the sugar in the pot by the handle but do so very sparingly. Allow the sugar to melt and begin to boil.

The top view of a salted caramel cake. The frosting is white and the top has frosting swirls around it with a cookie between each swirl. A slice is cut out of the cake.

Next, continue to let the sugar boil until it begins to change color. This can happen quite quickly so keep your eye on it. Now is not the time to call your aunt Susan for a chat or take a bathroom break. As the color starts to change give the pot a gentle swirl but refrain from stirring or vigorously shaking it. It should start to smell like caramelized heaven.

When you get that deep amber color take the pot off the heat and slowly, very slowly, whisk in the room temperature dairy-free milk. Be careful at this point because the caramel will bubble up and might possibly spit. Once the milk has been incorporated, add in the room temperature dairy-free butter and again, whisk until combined. Return this mixture to the heat and allow to simmer for another 2 minutes.

A salted caramel cake inside slice shot that shows caramel sauce marbled in each vanilla cake layer.

Salted Caramel Sauce Vs. Regular Caramel Sauce

Now for the last step, after 2 minutes of simmering, take the caramel off the heat and stir in the salt. I’m a salty kind of gal and seeing as this is a salted caramel cake, I highly recommend adding the salt but if you prefer a plain caramel cake, skip this step. Pour the caramel into a heatproof container, I love me a mason jar for this, and allow it to cool to room temperature. As the salted caramel sauce cools, it will begin to thicken.

How To Store Caramel Sauce

I typically make the salted caramel sauce the day before and keep it covered at room temperature overnight but you can absolutely store it in the fridge for up to 14 days. Give it a quick little blast in the microwave to heat it back up slightly before you use it if needed.

A slice of salted caramel cake. it's laying on a white plate and has salted caramel sauce marbled into each vanilla cake layer. There's a large bitetaken out of the cake slice.

How To Make Gluten-Free Salted Caramel Cake Layers

This is my first gluten-free cake recipe since the celiac diagnosis my oldest daughter received late this past spring. I spent most of the summer getting comfortable with gluten-free flours and figuring out how to make a delicious cake that would fool even the most gluten and dairy-loving palettes. And I think I’ve finally got it.

Using my beloved reverse creaming method, I used a gluten-free all-purpose flour 1:1 baking blend (make sure it has xantham gum in it) and combined it with the dry ingredients. Second, slowly add the dairy-free butter piece by piece until a sand-like texture is achieved. The last step is to combine the wet ingredients and add them into the sand-like mixture in two separate additions. This is going to create a fluffy, smooth, and incredibly delicious gluten-free and dairy-free vanilla cake.

Hey, wait…I thought this was supposed to be a salted caramel cake?! Well, that’s what this fourth and final step is for! Divide the cake batter evenly into the prepared cake pans and drizzle approximately 1 tablespoon worth of salted caramel sauce on each cake batter layer. With a butter knife or toothpick, gingerly drag the point through the caramel sauce and cake batter creating a haphazard marbling effect. This is going to make the most beautiful salted caramel ribbons throughout each cake layer. Gorgeous and so totally scrumptious!

A salted caramel cake topped with white buttercream swirls and a cookie between each swirl. There is caramel sauce dripping over the edge all the way aound the cake.

Dairy-Free Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Much like the salted caramel cake layers, this frosting begins as my regular go-to Dairy-Free Vanilla Buttercream, but with the addition of the glorious salted caramel sauce we just made, it becomes a smooth and sinfully delicious salted caramel frosting.

A quick word on salt…I said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a salty gal. It’s no secret and I am the first to admit that I favor a tad more salt than the average joe. I used a whole 3 teaspoons of fine sea salt in the salted caramel buttercream. That said, I highly encourage you to start with 1 teaspoon of salt and taste your way from there. No shame if you’re not as salty of a simpleton as I am. Salt the frosting according to your tastebuds.

Salted Caramel Cake

And there you have it my sweet and salty friends, a gluten-free and dairy-free salted caramel cake that will knock your salty (or not so salty) boots off! Seriously! My kids ate their “Sunday Family Cake” slices in a ravenous manner that would lead a stranger to believe I had not fed them all week. On a special occasion, a family dinner, or a cozy weekend baking project, I promise that this amazing gluten-free and dairy-free salted caramel cake will not disappoint you!

The inside shot of a salted caramel cake. There are 4 cake layers marbled with salted caramel sauce and stacked with white salted caramel buttercream frosting. Topped with frosting swirls and a cookie between each swirl.

Delicious Sweet & Salty Baking Recipes

If you’re like me and can’t get enough of that splendid sweet and salty combo, check these recipes out!

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A salted caramel cake topped with white buttercream swirls and a cookie between each swirl. There is caramel sauce dripping over the edge all the way aound the cake.

Salted Caramel Cake (GF & DF)


5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 15 reviews

  • Author: Katie Stymiest
  • Total Time: 1 Hour 45 Minutes
  • Yield: 12 Slices 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Fluffy vanilla cake layers marbled with homemade salted caramel sauce and smothered with whipped salted caramel buttercream that will knock your socks off. The best part: everything is gluten-free and dairy-free. But even the most discerning palette won’t be able to tell because this Salted Caramel Cake is 100% delicious.


Ingredients

Scale

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup (83ml) dairy-free milk, room temperature
  • ¾ cup (180g) dairy-free salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Salted Caramel Cake

  • ¾ cup (180ml) dairy-free milk, room temperature
  • ¼ cup (60ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cup (280g) gluten-free flour 1:1 baking blend *
  • 1 ½ cup (300g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅔ cup (160g) dairy-free salted butter, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons salted caramel sauce

Salted Caramel Buttercream

  • 1 cup (240g) dairy-free salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (240g) all-vegetable shortening
  • 6 ¼ cups (750g) icing sugar
  • 1 cup (347g) salted caramel sauce
  • 13 teaspoons fine sea salt **
  • optional: cookies for decor

Instructions

Salted Caramel Sauce

  1. Place the granulated sugar into a medium pot and begin to cook over medium-high heat. Be careful not to stir as this will form sugar crystals.
  2. Cook the sugar until it turns a deep amber color and immediately remove it from heat.
  3. Very slowly pour in the milk while whisking. Be careful as the mixture will bubble up and may spit.
  4. Add in the butter and whisk together until fully melted and smooth.
  5. Return the caramel to the heat and allow it to simmer gently for 2 minutes while whisking continually.
  6. Remove the caramel sauce from the heat, stir in the salt, and let it cool to room temperature. As it cools it will thicken.
  7. Store the salted caramel sauce at room temperature overnight or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Salted Caramel Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF degrees and spray and parchment line four 6-inch round cake pans.
  2. In a small mixing bowl whisk together the milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer and with the flat beater attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and give it a quick mix together for approximately 1 minute.
  4. Add in the butter, in small pieces, to the dry ingredients and mix on low until it looks like coarse sand.
  5. Slowly pour in approximately half the liquid mixture from step 1 and mix on low for 2 minutes.
  6. Add in the remaining liquid mixture and mix on medium for another 2 minutes. Scrap the sides of the bowl when necessary.
  7. Divide the cake batter into the four prepared cake pans and drizzle on approximately 1 tablespoon of salted caramel sauce in each cake pan. With a butter knife or toothpick, swirl the two together.
  8. Bake for approximately 23-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs and the cake edges begin to pull away from the cake pans.
  9. Allow the cake layers to cool for 10 minutes and then invert them on a cooling rack to fully cool.

Salted Caramel Buttercream

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment cream the butter and shortening on high speed until light and fluffy. Approximately 10 minutes.

  2. Add in the salted caramel sauce and mix on high for another 2 minutes. ***
  3. Add the icing sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt and mix on low until combined. Continue to add salt according to your taste preference.

  4. Turn the mixer up to high and let mix for 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Scrape the sides of the bowl when necessary.

Cake Assembly

  1. Level each fully cooled salted caramel cake layer with a cake leveler or knife if needed.

  2. Place one leveled layer of cake on a cake board, plate, and/or cake turntable and top with approximately 1 cup of salted caramel buttercream.

  3. Repeat with the remaining layers and apply a thin coat of buttercream all over the cake. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

  4. Cover the cake with another layer of salted caramel buttercream and smooth the sides with a cake smoother. Refrigerate the cake while you prepare the salted caramel sauce for the drip.

  5. Warm the remaining salted caramel sauce in the microwave until smooth and pourable. Be careful it is not hot though.
  6. On a well-chilled cake, with a spoon or a piping bag, drip the warm salted caramel sauce over the edges of the chilled cake and put it back in the refrigerator to cool. ****

  7. Decorate the cake as you please. I used a Wilton 1m piping tip and piped swirls around the top and placed a cookie between each swirl. Enjoy!

  8. Store leftover cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Notes

* I use and love Kinnikinnick gluten-free all-purpose baking blend. Results can vary depending on what gluten-free flour blend you use.

** Begin with 1 teaspoon of salt and increase according to your preferred taste. I used the entire 3 teaspoons.

*** If the caramel sauce is too firm or has been refrigerated warm it up in the microwave (short 5 second bursts) until it reaches a slow but pourable consistency.

**** Caramel drips will never fully set like a chocolate ganache drip. If you want the drip to firm up like a ganache add some white chocolate chips to the sauce when warming it up and stir until fully melted and smooth.

  • Prep Time: 80 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 Minutes
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 Slice
  • Calories: 952
  • Sugar: 74 Grams
  • Sodium: 301 Miligrams
  • Fat: 65 Grams
  • Saturated Fat: 41 Grams
  • Unsaturated Fat: 12 Grams
  • Trans Fat: 3 Grams
  • Carbohydrates: 95 Grams
  • Fiber: 3 Grams
  • Protein: 7 Grams
  • Cholesterol: 222 Miligrams

 

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67 Comments

  1. This is an incredible recipe for an incredibly delicious cake! The texture of the cake was amazing, and my caramel turned out perfectly by following the directions (so thank you for walking me through it! I’ve made caramel before, and I’ve tried a couple different methods and probably have a first time success rate of 75%). My frosting was a bit too soft, but I’m not convinced it isn’t my shortening. I used 3 tsp of sea salt, and it tasted just perfect. Adding more powdered sugar might help my issue, but I didn’t want to mess with the amazing taste. Everyone that had a slice raved about how delicious the cake was. I will definitely be saving this recipe to make again!






      1. Looking forward to baking this tomorrow. I don’t have a stand alone mixer just a hand mixer or a blender. Would either work as well?






      2. Didn’t have 6 inch cake pans so I used 2 8 or 9 inch pans…I am going to buy the 6 inch pans tomorrow and making it again, lol. The batter alone was awesome and the cake itself was fabulous, cant wait to get it all together! This was perfect for the girls only daughters team who either vegan, vegetarian, celiac or whatever, all in one cake!






          1. I would start checking them at the 30-minute mark. You want golden edges pulling away from the pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean.

    1. Yes, you totally can. I would suggest using regular cake flour though. It will keep the crumb nice and fluffy.

          1. I have not personally tried it but I would start testing egg-free with an egg replacer like just egg.

      1. No, cake flour should not contain either of those things. Perhaps you are thinking of self-raising flour?

  2. Hi Katie, this is the second recipe I follow of your page and I loved both of them so much. The instructions of making the most delicious home made caramel sauce and cake was so easy to follow. Thank you for sharing your recepies with us.






  3. I made this for my sister-in-law who is a celiac and she said it was the best gluten-free cake she has ever had. Thanks for the recipe.






  4. Made this, and with Katie’s help, made it totally vegan too. It was sooo good and easy! I added some apple compote between the cake layers and it tasted just like apple pie. Got rave reviews from my coworkers






      1. Hey Katie,
        This cake looks incredible, I’ve been baking vegan cakes for a number of weeks now and have had positive feedback so far ??. It is my mother in laws birthday this weekend and I would love to make this vegan by replacing the eggs in the recipe, can you share how you and Casey got it right ? Method and substitute etc. thank you ??

        1. Hi Matt, you can replace the eggs with 1/4 cup of vegan yogurt or sour cream. Incorporate it exactly as the recipe does with the eggs. The cake will be a touch denser but vegan and so totally scrumptious. Happy baking!

          1. Fantastic, thanks Kate, can’t wait to bake, just for clarity, do I replace each egg with 1/4 cup (in essence 1/2 a cup) of dairy free yoghurt or the 2 large eggs are replaced by 1/4 cup as a whole. Sorry for being a pain but cannot wait to try your recipe and thank you for your no doubt tireless effort spent creating such a masterpiece ??

          2. Never a pain! I should have clarified better. You will want 1/4 cup vegan yogurt total. Can’t wait to hear!

  5. I made this cake for my best friend, it just screamed her name so naturally I had to make it for her bday. Friggin D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S. We ate it all before she could take any leftovers. I’ll definitely be making this again. Thank you for the recipe!






  6. I made this cake for my best friend’s birthday because he is obsessed with caramel! I used regular ingredients and it turned out so so good! Really loved it!






  7. Okay wow. So if you are on a journey of testing recipe after recipe in an attempt to find your new go-to gluten-free cake, SERIOUSLY look no further. I have been a pastry chef for 11 years and am always trialling and testing new recipes to find the perfect one that is versatile and especially in the field of gluten-free baking: forgiving. This was the 3rd gluten-free cake I tested this week and after all others failed, this one hands down is the best cake I’ve ever tasted!
    No floury texture, No gumminess and not dangerously delicate when in the oven.
    I will say after testing many recipes, a super important note is to let your batter rest for 30minutes after mixing to allow the starches to absorb all the moisture for a better texture and mouthfeel. also if you arent having success, the type of GF blend you use is key!
    for example, the “white wings” blend that’s available here in Australia is rubbish, so I always make my own. you want a blend that has a protein and 2 starches. eg. rice flour+potato starch+ tapioca/cornstarch.

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, Katie! it’s one for the arsenal.

    1. Yay! I can’t tell you how darn excited I am to hear this Brooke. I am totally going to try your tip for letting the batter rest. I’ve never heard of that before and am super excited to test. Thank you so much for sharing!

      1. Hi! I really want to make this cake for a birthday at the weekend – I only have 2 8 inch cake pans though. Could I make two wider layers instead of four smaller ones? Do you know how much I’d need to adjust the cooking time and temperature? Thanks!

        1. Yes, you can absolutely bake this in two 8-inch pans. Keep the same oven temperature and baking time will increase a bit.

    2. Hey Brook, what ratio of flours do you use for you gf blend? And do you use xantham gum as well? Cheers.

  8. So good! Really great caramel flavour, especially the buttercream! I also made it with regular cake flour not gf and it turned out great!
    I made the mistake of putting the cake layers in plastic wrap and assembling it the next day, but buttercream came to the rescue.
    This is going in the make again pile 🙂






    1. That is so wonderful to hear Heidi. Caramel cake is good year-round, right?! ? Thanks for sharing!

    1. I haven’t tried this recipe in cupcakes yet but in theory yes, it should work! I recommend only filling the cupcake liners 2/3 full max.

  9. Hi Katie. This cake looks A-M-A-Z-I-N-G, and all the reviews just make me want to eat it right now. 🙂

    Is there anything you would change, or maybe some decoration tips, to make this suitable for a wedding cake?

  10. I am so excited to try out this fantastic recipe! It has been so hard to find a cake recipe with literal caramel swirls in it.
    Is it possible to make this in 3 – 8in pans? And if so what is the recommended baking time?

    Thanks!!

    1. You can but the layers will be quite thin. I would probably go with 2 8inch pans instead and the bake time will increase.

      1. I made this recipe for my husbands birthday and for my uncle’s wedding cake. It was fantastic and such a huge hit!!!






  11. It seems lots of people are having luck with the caramel sauce, but I followed directions exactly and both times my sugar was too dark by them time all the granules even dissolved. I wanted it to work but I had to try a different recipe for the sauce… going to try this cake with it though.

  12. This cake did not turn out at all for me. Used King Arthur cup for cup followed recipe to the letter. The cakes sunk in the middle and stuck to the parchment. What a mess. The batter wasn’t fluffy either more gloppy. Was hoping this would work☹️

    1. Hi Anne, I’m so sorry to hear this. What a total disapointment. Sinking is generally caused by underbaking and/or undermixing. You want to look for golden brown edges that are pulling away from the pan, a middle center that springs back to a gentle pat, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If this is not the case, then turn the mixer up to high while creaming together the two liquid additions. I also have had horrible results with King Arthur flour for cakes. It’s much too dense of a blend. I highly recommend Kinnikinnick, XO Baking, or GF Jules for cakes.

  13. My daughter is making this with friends. Which dairy free options did you use? And have you successfully substituted anything for the vegetable oil? Thank you!

    1. Hi Rachelle, I used becel plant based bricks and unsweetened almond milk. Any dairy free milk substitute will work and them same with butter as long as it’s in brick/block form. I have not tried substituting anything for the oil but any nuetral tasting oil would work and perhaps even sour cream or yogurt but that will change the cake texture.

    1. I used Kinnikinnick. If you can’t find that one I’d recommend XO Baking, GF Jules, Bobs, or Primal Palate.

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