Salted Caramel Icing: 2 test groups + control

I tasted a salted caramel cupcake at a bakery somewhere and I’ve been longing for a fabulous salted caramel icing for quite some time. The scientist in me came out today. There seems to be one standard icing recipe floating around online so that was my control group. I made three batches of icing using an iterative methodology, each one incorporating an n=2 focus group.

The control batch had the right amount of saltiness but not enough caramel flavour. In the end, one small change did the trick. I halved the amount of butter.

And the winner is….


  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup whipping/heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt  (be careful if you’re using an imperial/metric spoon because 2ml vs 1/2 tsp is very different than 3ml vs 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar


1) Briefly stir together granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan. Boil it over a good medium-high heat but do not stir it. (I did, it crumbles into uselessness). Boil it for 4 to 7 minutes until it turns dark amber in color. Here you see the progression from starting out as clear and darkening to amber.

sugar caramelsugar caramel

IMG_3595sugar caramel










2) IMG_3602Remove it from heat. Very slowly, in drips and drops, add in the cream while stirring vigorously. It will go all fluffy and foamy. Add the vanilla. Let it cool about 25 minutes. Here you see the three bowls of caramel I made, excluding the one that turned to garbage. You can see they all turned out exactly the same so there was no issue of one being more or less boiled.

3) In a mixer, mix butter and salt for around 3 minutes until it’s fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, and mix well.
4) Pour the caramel in and mix for another 2 minutes.
5) Refrigerate before using.
6) It’ll do 24 cupcakes. Lick the beater, spatula, mixing bowl, and any other utensils that may have touched the caramel. Oh yum.

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