Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Layer Cake

Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel…What a wonderful combination! Without a doubt a couple of my favourites. I am definitely way into the whole salty/sweet thing. So I was very happy to make this Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel layer cake for my friend Erin’s Birthday get-together.

I’m happy to say that this cake turned out great! Let me just describe it for you. There are three layers of moist, tender dark chocolate cake. Nestled between each cake layer you will find a rich, silky layer of salted caramel Swiss Buttercream frosting. ( Have I mentioned that I LOVE Swiss Buttercream Frosting!) The cake is then encased within a decadent dark chocolate frosting. A bit of fleur de sel is sprinkled over the top. I then decorated it with a ring of mini chocolate chips and a malted milk ball. Be still my heart! This cake looked great and was delicious to boot!

The cake and frostings were easy to make, though a bit time-consuming. If you have never made caramel or Swiss Buttercream Frosting previously (OMG! you MUST make some soon…it is fabulous!) it may be a bit more of a challenge, but certainly do able. The directions listed below are very clear and easy to follow. That being said, I consider it time well spent. It was decidedly worth it to have a tasty homemade cake for Erin’s birthday celebration. Next time one of your chocolate, salted caramel loving friends have a birthday, look no further. This is the birthday cake they need!

Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Layer Cake

recipe from: Annie’s Eats


For the cake:

  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2¼ cups sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2¼ tsp. baking soda
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • 6 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. buttermilk
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. brewed coffee
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • Generous pinch of sea salt, such as fleur de sel
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1½ cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the frosting:

  • 12 oz. good quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup very hot water
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. (18 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Fleur de sel, for finishing


To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Grease and flour the edges of 3 8-inch baking pans, shaking out the excess.  Line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Mix on low speed to blend.  Add the vegetable oil, buttermilk, coffee, eggs, and vanilla to the bowl and mix on low speed until well blended and completely incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.  Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the cakes cool in the pans about 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.  Remove the parchment paper.

To make the caramel buttercream filling, place ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a medium saucepan.  Mix in the water.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Stop stirring and let the caramel cook, gently swirling from time to time, until it is a deep amber color (test a drop on a white plate or bowl if necessary), watching it carefully to avoid burning.  Remove the mixture from the heat and slowly whisk in the cream and then the salt.  Set aside and let cool.

Combine the egg whites and the remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  (The bowl should be cool to the touch.)

Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (or longer – don’t worry, it will come together!)  Blend in the cooled caramel until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

To make the frosting, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.  Set aside and let cool to room temperature.  In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and water and stir until smooth.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually blend in the melted and cooled chocolate until well incorporated.  Blend in the cocoa powder-water mixture until smooth.

To assemble the cake, level the cake layers if necessary.  Place one of the cake layers on a cake board or serving platter.  Top with half of the caramel buttercream and smooth in a thick, even layer.  Place a second cake layer on top and smooth the remaining caramel buttercream over that.  Place the final cake layer on top.  Cover the top and sides of the cake with the chocolate frosting and smooth with an offset spatula.  If desired, use additional frosting to pipe decorative accents on the cake.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Before serving, sprinkle with fleur de sel.


30 Responses to Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Layer Cake

  1. Love the set up of all your photographs, looks so professional 🙂

  2. kat says:

    That cake…look at all those layers! OMG YUM!

  3. What a stunning cake! It looks like absolute perfection, and so sinful!

  4. huntfortheverybest says:

    beautiful cake!

  5. oh this looks divine! salted caramel and chocolate is like heaven on a plate..

  6. Angelia Mah says:

    this looks sinfully delicious! what I wouldn’t give for a bite of your cake!

  7. love the pic and the recipe. featured on friday five @Feed Your Soul http://chefpeterskitchen.blogspot.com/2012/08/friday-five.html

  8. Lucie says:

    This cake is amazing! My friend and I made it for his friend’s birthday and she loved it. We did use a different buttercream recipe though- I don’t think this one has enough sugar, ours failed when we tried this one. Here’s a picture 🙂 http://tinypic.com/r/z7gra/6

  9. Tripplehorn says:

    This is the kind of dessert I like

  10. Annie says:

    You did a beautiful job with this!

  11. sassylady41 says:

    This cake looks soooooo good!! Definately going to have to try it!

  12. I want this right now instead of breakfast lunch and dinner. Please and thank you.

  13. […] want to direct your attention to this very simple little blog.  It doesn’t have fancy graphics or anything.  It’s lots of photos and recipes for […]

  14. Kelly says:

    I saw this on a Pinterest board named “now drooling” and that’s so appropriate. That’s what I’m doing looking at this cake. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  15. Susan says:

    I attempted this cake for Christmas. Could you explain the caramel buttercream part a little more thoroughly? After it boiled it just basically turned back to sugar, I cooked it for probably 20 min and it never changed color. Finally gave up and finished the recipe. It was ok, but the buttercream layer just tasted like butter. Any idea how long it should have to cook?

    • liadh1 says:

      Hi Susan- Sorry it has taken me so long to reply. And sorry that you had difficulty with the caramel buttercream. Making caramel is definitely tricky. I usually don’t have a problem with it, but one day I tried to make some caramel for cupcakes for my husband’s birthday and it was a total fiasco. I just kept failing. (see entry: https://leaandjay.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/salted-caramel-apple-pie-cupcakes/). The next time I had to make it for a recipe, I was dreading it, but viola, it came out perfect the first time. To make caramel, you put the sugar and water in your saucepan and put it over the heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Then you stop stirring it and let the sugar water cook. You can occasionally pick your pan up by the handle and swirl the mixture around, but don’t stir. You will notice the mixture will begin to turn an light yellow colour. It will continue to darken until it reaches a darker amber shade. At that point you take it off the heat and add the other ingredients. It’s difficult to say how long it will take it to reach that dark amber colour. I’ve had it happen as fast as 5 minutes after I stopped stirring and then again I’ve had it take 10-12 minutes. You really have to just do it by sight each time. I can’t imagine why your sugar water never changed colour at all. Give it a try again and just keep the caramel around as a dessert sauce. It does get easier the more practiced you are. Good luck!

  16. Rebekah says:

    I just made the cake for my sisters birthday and it was a HUGE success. Everyone loved it and it was just as beautiful as your pictures. I did have a problem with the caramel buttercream. The first time I did the sugar and water, it turned to a rock and I figured I let it cook too long even though it never turned to a caramel color. So I did it again and this time just watched it, for me personally, it never got an amber color but I took it off a lot sooner and said I’d just go with it and see what happens. Once my buttercream was done it tasted only like butter to me so I had a crap load of vanilla and way more sea salt and THEN it was perfect. I wanted to eat the cream by the spoonful. The dark chocolate cake was amazing and melted in our mouths. Took me about 3 hours to do from start to finish but it was WAY worth it.

    • liadh1 says:

      I’m so glad that you had a good experience making the cake and that everyone enjoyed it. Making caramel is certainly quite tricky. I will do it easily one time and then the next time I try it, I crash and burn. It is definitely a challenge. Sounds like you were able to adapt quickly though and come up with a great tasting solution. Congrats!

  17. Emily says:

    I think there is definitely something wrong with the buttercream part of the recipe…… Mine was just sweet butter when I was finished and was totally gross. I added powdered sugar and it was a lot better.

    • liadh1 says:

      Sorry you were not pleased with the salted caramel portion of the recipe. I actually went back and checked the recipe I had written on my blog against the original source in case I had made a typo or some such error, but the recipe is correct as written. I’ve made the cake a couple of times and haven’t had a problem with it. I will say that Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting is not as sweet as traditional American buttercreams and does taste more of butter, however you should still be able to taste a subtle caramel and salty flavour. Since you felt the addition of powdered sugar improved the taste, perhaps you just prefer traditional buttercream to SMBF. Again, sorry you had trouble with the recipe.

  18. […] Layer Cake is worth the extra work, and guaranteed to impress everyone at the party.  Thank you to Lea and Jay for the […]

  19. Sierra Ludwig says:

    I am one of those rare people who hates coffee and I was wondering if you can taste the coffee in this cake. Thanks

    • liadh1 says:

      Hi Sierra- I couldn’t really taste the coffee. It just serves to enhance the chocolate flavour. Best wishes-Lea

  20. […] chocolate cake I used is a Dark Chocolate Cake and is used in the Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel cake, which is to die for…But I love the […]

  21. […] The cake can be found here Dark Chocolate Cake . […]

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