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Basic Caramel Sauce

Basic Caramel Sauce

Everyone needs a basic caramel sauce—not only can it be used diversely, but it is adaptable. Though this caramel sauce is really quite wonderful without any alterations, here are just a few ideas for adding a little flair to this basic caramel sauce:

  • Stir in 1/4 cup of your favorite fruit juice or cider to add a unique flavor to your caramel (I used an orange citrus caramel sauce for these tarts).
  • Increase the salt to one teaspoon to make a fabulous salted caramel sauce.
  • Add in half a vanilla bean (or one teaspoon vanilla extract) at the end for a vanilla caramel sauce.
  • Melt in a tablespoon (or three) of unsalted butter when adding the salt to make a rich, buttery caramel.
  • Mix in 1/4 cup of your favorite alcohol to make a boozy caramel sauce (dark rum is my very favorite addition).

The possibilities are really only limited to your imagination.

Basic Caramel Sauce

Once you have created a homemade caramel sauce, there are many ways to use it up (not that I need to tell you that). Nevertheless, here are a few uses off the top of my head:

  • Stir a tablespoon or two into hot coffee and add warm, frothed milk to create a homemade caramel macchiato.
  • Whisk a couple tablespoons into warm apple cider to create a sweet Caramel Apple Cider.
  • Drizzle caramel sauce on top of your favorite breakfast treats (like muffins or scones) to add a decadent twist to your morning.
  • Use as a dip for fresh fruit (especially apples!).
  • Heat up the caramel and spoon it over ice cream to create the perfect ice cream sundae.
  • Add a few large spoonfuls when making buttercream to give the frosting a hint of caramel flavor.
  • Drizzle over pies and cheesecakes to add a unique flair.
  • Spread on the bottom of a cookie and sandwich with another to create a caramel-filled cookie sandwich.

Or, of course, you can always eat it plain and by the spoonful. In fact, I recommend it.

Basic Caramel Sauce

This caramel sauce is smooth and creamy, with a hint of salt to cut the best of the sweetness. Both incredibly adaptable and multipurpose, it is a recipe you should have in your repertoire. While caramel is often considered "tricky" to make, I'd argue otherwise. As long as you devote your full attention to the caramel while it's cooking, it's hard to mess up. In fact, you don't even need a candy thermometer to make a perfect batch. I've added a couple tips below to help you during the process (and a quick fix if the caramel seizes up).

One Year Ago: Meyer Lemon Curd

Basic Caramel Sauce

Yields 1 1/2 cups

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream, warmed
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large saucepan over medium heat, mix together granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water. Scrape down sides of pan and let sugar boil, without stirring, until sugar reaches a golden amber color (if using a candy thermometer, this happens somewhere between 325F to 350F). If the sugar becomes too dark, it may turn the caramel bitter.

Remove sugar from heat and allow to rest for a full minute before pouring in warmed heavy cream. Whisk vigorously to incorporate cream (caramel will bubble up violently so be very careful!). If the caramel seizes up, place caramel back over medium heat and stir until sugar melts once again and caramel becomes smooth (this could take upwards of 5-7 minutes). Stir in salt.

If the caramel is too thin, simmer the caramel on medium heat for 5-10 minutes to thicken it (the caramel will not continue to darken). Keep in mind that the caramel will thicken significantly once cool. Likewise, if the caramel is too thick, thin by stirring a tablespoon or two of heavy cream.

To store, keep refrigerated in an air-tight container. To warm, place in the microwave for 30 seconds to heat through.

Reader Comments (27)

Your pictures are gorgeous. I'm super impressed.
Your photos are gorgeous, as is this caramel sauce. It looks so spectacular and creamy and I want to drizzle it over everything! I just need to work on my candy making skills. I tend to burn sugar way too much.
Your photos make me drool!!! I made a similar batch last week so I could make carmelitas and caramel brownies. My grandchildren used the remaining caramel on apple slices. My five year old grandson told me not to lose the recipe. I loved your suggestions for using the sauce. I am headed to the kitchen now to add some to my coffee. Yum.
02.26.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusanH
mmm so yummy :)
02.26.2012 | Unregistered CommenterVerónica Cake
It's seriously that easy to make caramel sauce? Well, I most definitely will have to try this soon!
I don't think I've ever been this excited for sauce! Yum!
Amazing as always.

My husband just suffered from an almost massive coronary, the cardiologist said technically he was in vfib due to him being stubborn and thinking he was super man and not taking his blood pressure meds properly. So this being said I am attempting to assist by lowering certain nasty's in our diet...fat, sugars and sodium being the main ones.

Do you think that this caramel sauce could be made with ummm say 2 % milk thickened by using non fat dry milk???? I may attempt to play with it and see how it works using sugar substitutes as well. He would think I was spoiling him and caving on the new diet if i was able to give him a healthier version of caramel sauce over some baked apples. I of course would not tell him the sauce was low in fats and possibly sugars until the next day or week.
02.26.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMechelle
A terrific recipe. I love the multi functional trait of caramel sauce. Additional flavor, cookie/fruit dip...decorative, the list is endless. I would love to eat this by itself too. Thanks for sharing!
02.26.2012 | Unregistered Commentermyfudo
I've been intimidated by caramel for two long. This looks like a very simple recipe. I can't wait to try it.
02.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterNeesha
Yum! The caramel looks super tasty, Ive had a few bad experiences making caramel... I tend to burn myself since I am clumsy...
Oh wow--I've always been hit or miss with my caramel. Will definitely give this a try. The pictures are gorgeous--never thought caramel could be sexy :) Love it.
02.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
Looks very nice! Yummy!
02.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnnunci Italia
I'm so glad you posted this. I'm always looking for a good go-to caramel sauce! Yum!
just a tip: it is useful to have an ice bath ready and place your pot with sugar and water in it for just a couple seconds after you have finished cooking and got it to your nice golden amber colour. This stops the cooking process and makes sure your beautiful caramel doesn't burn!
02.28.2012 | Unregistered Commentersteph
I tried this recipe earlier today, and after hours of refrigeration, my caramel sauce is still very thin. I followed the recipe exactly, so I don't know what went wrong. Do you have any idea why?
03.2.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChau
Well I finally made this sauce and can I just say that this was possibly my best decision ever? Seriously, tastiest, richest, creamiest caramel sauce without it being so thick that I couldn't actually see using it as a sauce. This morning I spooned a rather unhealthy amount into my coffee to stunning, delicious results. Can't wait to try this over home made brownies, still warm, with a big glob of whipped cream on top. Thank you so much for making a caramel sauce that is actually quite easy to make! I didn't use a candy thermometer...just waited for it to change colors. :D
03.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCadence
This sounds delious and I want to try it. I like caramel on apple, ginger, and pear items in particular. This would be good on apple crepes too.
thank you.
05.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBev
Thank you thank you for this simple recipe. I worked myself into a tizzy over making caramel. Your post encouraged me to try again and when I did, it was perfect. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous.
How long does the water and sugar take to go gold? Been waiting for 7minutes now?
It kind of , the sugar set into a hard rock.
we hope to try again some other time.
Thank you =)
07.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeorgia
Christina and Tiaana-- It can take anywhere from 7-15 minutes for the caramel to turn dark, depending on the heat on the stove. Don't worry, as long as it's boiling, it will turn dark. It may just take a little time.

Georgia-- You can save caramel that seizes up (turns into a rock)! Just place it back on the stove and stir it until the caramel melts back into a sauce. It can take 5-7 minutes to do so, but you won't have wasted any ingredients or need to start over.
07.5.2012 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
Well i follewed the recipie exactally and it completly FAILED!
it set into a hard rock of sugar.
Wat happened.
HELP >.<
07.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeorgia
Georgia-- If it sets into hard sugar, it means that the cream wasn't hot enough before adding it. But, you can save it when it turns into a rock. Just place it back on the stove and stir it until the caramel melts back into a sauce. It can take 5-7 minutes to do so, but you won't have wasted any ingredients or need to start over.
07.11.2012 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
I followed the recipe but my caramel sauce is very watery?? Why is it not thickening?
10.21.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeah
Follwed the directions exactly and it is very thin, even after refrigeration. Any ideas as to why?
10.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLori
Leah & Lori-- Sometimes the caramel is a little finicky and does not thicken as much as you would like when boiling. If the caramel is too thin, simmer the caramel on medium heat for 5-10 minutes to thicken it (the caramel will not continue to darken). Keep in mind that the caramel will thicken significantly once cool. I hope that helps!
11.21.2012 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
This is, by far, the easiest way to make caramel sauce, but I must agree with the other Steph - an ice bath is a must lest you burn your precious sauce. (Although if you happen to like a very complex flavor with a lot less sweetness, you might not want the ice bath.)
09.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

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