decorated cake with peonies and blackberries
Layer Cakes

Salted Caramel Cake with Blackberries

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This salted caramel cake is three layers of fluffy vanilla sponge, filled with oozing salted caramel sauce, dreamy and light mascarpone whipping cream (that is so easy to make), and studded with tangy fresh blackberries. The flavours are perfectly balanced: the saltiness in the caramel, the tang in the blackberries, the richness in the mascarpone whipping cream, and the unbelievably light vanilla sponge. It is the perfect, light and airy, not too sweet, salted caramel cake. No wonder I make this every year for my birthday!

This recipe makes a tall 6″ triple layer cake. Options for other size pans are listed below the recipe so you can make it no matter what size pans you have. This salted caramel blackberry cake is best served the day it is assembled because the caramel does not have time to soak through the cake and you will get separate pools of caramel. As it sits, the salted caramel soaks into the sponge cake layers (equally delicious but you don’t get that caramel dripping out).

You will only need to use half of the caramel that this recipe makes because it is easier to make when it isn’t such a tiny batch. You can spoon some caramel over the cake slices when serving. Store the leftover caramel in a jar in your fridge for up to 2 weeks and use to top other desserts, sweeten your coffee, on top of ice cream, or just with a spoon 😉

How to get the fluffiest sponge

The sponge in this blackberry salted caramel cake uses the all-in-one method, meaning that you don’t have to divide the eggs before beating the yolks and whites individually. It is a real lifesaver because you have one less bowl to clean. I use a stand mixer to beat the eggs (it is the easiest method), but you can definitely use an electric hand mixer. It might take a few extra minutes to beat the eggs and sugar to thick ribbon consistency. 

You will know the eggs are beaten properly when they tripled in volume, and fall off the whisk in ribbons. If you draw a figure eight with the ribbon of batter, it should take about 10 seconds to melt back into the rest of the batter. If it melts back in too quickly, beat for another minute and recheck. 

When folding in the flour, make sure that you fold it in gently and stop as soon as streaks of dry flour are gone. It is important that you work fast and bake the layers as soon as you pour them into the pans so that it stays as light and fluffy as possible. 

cut open cake with oozing caramel and peonies

Getting the caramel just right

This recipe has instructions to make a luscious, golden, salted caramel sauce. You will only need to use half of the recipe, leaving you with plenty of leftovers for extra drizzling or for your caramel lattes in the mornings. I did not halve the caramel recipe because it is more foolproof and easier to make when there is more of it.

You can make the salted caramel sauce without a candy thermometer, but it sure does help! It takes the guesswork out of “did I burn my caramel?” or “is my caramel underdone?” or “what on earth is happening to my caramel!” I go through the temperatures that need to be achieved and visual cues you need to watch out for so that you can make the caramel sauce with and without a thermometer.

jar of salted caramel with silver spoon

Tips on how to prevent the caramel from crystallizing 

  1. Once the sugar, honey, and water mixture comes to a simmer, give it a final stir with a spoon and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid. Put your timer on for exactly 1 minute and then remove the lid. The lid locks in the steam and dissolves the sugar crystals on the sides of the pot. This step prevents the need to brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush from time to time. Do not stir the caramel after this step. Just let it do its thing.
  2. The second trick is something I learned from experience. Do not cook anything that will sputter any sort of liquid into the pot with caramel. I have had caramel crystallize many times for seemingly no reason, only to have it turn out perfectly once I removed everything else from the stove top. Caramel is very selfish apparently.
  3. Thirdly, make sure that all pots and utensils are very clean! You don’t want to introduce any other particles that will make your sugar crystals hang onto and crystallize.
  4. The fourth trick is to add an optional 1/2 tsp lemon juice at the beginning. The lemon juice will prevent the sugars from crystallizing by breaking down some of the sucrose into glucose and fructose, essentially inverting the sugars.

What happens if my caramel crystallized?

Here is a great article that talks about what to do to fix grainy caramel.

If the caramel crystallized after you added the cream and butter, all you have to do is continue to heat the caramel until the sugar dissolves again. Don’t worry, you won’t notice a difference! 

Check my other fruity recipes:

eating a slice of fluffy cake with blackberries and caramel

Let’s get to baking!

Vanilla Sponge

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Line the bottoms of three 6” round pans with parchment paper. See below recipe for alternative pans.
  2. Crack the eggs into a clean bowl of a stand mixer. Add the salt and mix on high speed with the whisk attachment. Gradually pour the sugar into the stand mixer while it is running. The eggs will increase in volume and get very foamy. This may take 6-8 minutes. You will know it is ready when you can make a figure eight from the ribbon falling off the whisk onto the rest of the batter. The ribbons should sit on top of the batter for about 10 seconds before dissolving. If it dissolves faster than 10 seconds, continue to beat the eggs. If using an electric handheld mixer, this process may take up to 5 minutes longer.
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl with the beaten eggs. Using a spatula, carefully fold the flour into the egg mixture. Be gentle so as not to deflate the eggs. Stop folding as soon as you stop seeing streaks of flour in the batter. Immediately pour the batter evenly into the prepared baking pans.
  4. Place the layers in the middle of your preheated oven. Bake for 18-20 minutes, checking for doneness at 18 minutes. It is ready once a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool completely in the pans. The vanilla sponge can be made the day before. Cover the pans with plastic wrap and store in the fridge. When ready to use, slide a knife along the edge of the sponge and flip over to release the bottom. Peel the parchment off the bottoms.

Salted Caramel Sauce

  1. You want to make the salted caramel sauce at least a few hours before assembling your cake because it needs lots of time to cool completely.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Slowly heat the mixture on medium low, stirring until the sugar mostly dissolves. Once the sugar dissolves, increase the temperature to medium and bring the sugar mixture to a simmer.
  3. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid for exactly one minute (use a timer) and then remove the lid. This helps dissolve the sugar crystals on the sides of the pan so that you don’t need to brush the sides with water. This step is very important as it prevents your caramel from crystallizing. Do not stir after this step.
  4. Insert a candy thermometer into the pot, making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom. Heat the mixture to 300-310°F (149-154°C). If you aren’t using a candy thermometer, you are looking for a deep amber colour and wisps of smoke coming off the top. It will start to foam up a bit too.
  5. Immediately remove the sugar syrup from the heat and carefully add in the butter. Whisk carefully to incorporate. The mixture will bubble and triple in size, so it is important to have a large enough pot and to be very careful. Add the cream and the salt.
  6. Put the caramel back onto the heat and heat just until it comes back to a simmer. Remove from heat and carefully pour into a glass jar and let cool to room temperature. The sauce will be very thin but it will thicken as it cools.

Mascarpone Whipped Cream

  1. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl with electric hand mixer, whip the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla paste until soft peaks. Add the softened mascarpone and whip until the cream is thick and stiff. Do not over whip or it will turn into butter. Refrigerate until ready to use.
fluffy mascarpone whipped cream close up

Assembly

  1. On a large plate or cake board, spread a tablespoon of mascarpone frosting. Place the first cake layer on a large plate or cake board. Using a piping bag fitted with a large piping tip or a large zip top bag with the end cut off, pipe a border of frosting around the edge of the later. Spread a thick layer of caramel into the center. It helps to use one continuous motion, without lifting your spoon off of the sponge. Press whole blackberries into the caramel. Cover with a thick layer of frosting.
  2. Place another cake layer on top and press firmly. Repeat with the caramel, frosting, blackberries, and the last cake layer on top (flipped so the bottom side is up).
  3. Spread the remaining frosting all around the salted caramel cake with a long metal spatula or a bench scraper. To prevent crumbs showing through the frosting, spread the frosting in one continuous motion without lifting the spatula off the cake. Once the blackberry salted caramel cake is fully frosted, smooth out the sides. You can lift your spatula off of the cake when smoothing.
  4. Decorate the blackberry caramel cake with more blackberries and edible flowers (optional). Slice and serve with an extra drizzle of caramel! Keep the cake refrigerated until ready to eat. It can keep in the fridge for up to three days, but is best enjoyed the day that it is made. The caramel melts into the cake the longer it sits, which is still very delicious.
layering caramel and blackberries for the cake

Happy baking! xx

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decorated cake with peonies and blackberries

Salted Caramel Blackberry Cake

Mary
This salted caramel cake is three layers of fluffy vanilla sponge, filled with oozing homemade salted caramel, a dreamy and light mascarpone whipping cream, and studded with tangy fresh blackberries. The flavours are perfectly balanced: the saltiness in the caramel, the tang in the blackberries, the richness in the mascarpone whipping cream, and the unbelievably light vanilla sponge. It is the perfect, light and airy, not too sweet cake.
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 1 hr 5 mins
Course Baking, Dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings 8 people

Equipment

  • stand mixer or electric hand mixer
  • three 6" round pans (see alternatives below recipe)
  • long metal spatula or bench scraper for smoothing down sides
  • candy thermometer (optional)

Ingredients
  

Vanilla Sponge

  • 6 large eggs room temperature
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose white flour (120 g)
  • ½ tsp baking powder

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup heavy cream (at least 35%)
  • ½ cup unsalted butter cubed, room temperature
  • ½ tsp sea salt

Mascarpone Whipped Cream

  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla paste substitute with 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • cup mascarpone cheese (120 g)
  • 1 pint blackberries (475 g)
  • edible flowers to decorate, optional

Instructions
 

Vanilla Sponge

  • Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Line the bottoms of three 6” round pans with parchment paper. See below recipe for alternative pans.
  • Crack the eggs into a clean bowl of a stand mixer. Add the salt and mix on high speed with the whisk attachment. Gradually pour the sugar into the stand mixer while it is running. The eggs will increase in volume and get very foamy. This may take 6-8 minutes. You will know it is ready when you can make a figure eight from the ribbon falling off the whisk onto the rest of the batter. The ribbon should sit on top of the batter for about 10 seconds before dissolving. If it dissolves faster than 10 seconds, continue to beat the eggs. If using an electric handheld mixer, this process may take up to 5 minutes longer. Add vanilla extract.
    6 large eggs, ¼ tsp salt, ⅔ cup granulated sugar, ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl with the beaten eggs. Using a spatula, carefully fold the flour into the egg mixture. Be gentle so as not to deflate the eggs. Stop folding as soon as you stop seeing streaks of flour in the batter. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared baking pans.
    1 cup all-purpose white flour, ½ tsp baking powder
  • Place the layers in the middle of your preheated oven. Bake for 18-20 minutes, checking for doneness at 18 minutes. It is ready once a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven and let cool completely in the pans. The vanilla sponge can be made the day before. Cover the pans with plastic wrap and store in the fridge. When ready to use, slide a knife or spatula along the edge of the sponge and flip over to release the bottom. Peel the parchment off the bottoms.

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Slowly heat the mixture on medium low, stirring until the sugar mostly dissolves. Once the sugar dissolves, increase the temperature to medium and bring the sugar mixture to a simmer.
    2 cups granulated sugar, ½ cup water
  • Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid for exactly one minute (use a timer) and then remove the lid. This helps dissolve the sugar crystals on the sides of the pan so that you don’t need to brush the sides with water. This step is very important as it prevents your caramel from crystallizing. Do not stir after this step.
  • Insert a candy thermometer into the pot, making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom. Heat the mixture to 300-310°F (149-154°C). Visual cues to look out for are a deep amber colour, slight foaming, and a few wisps of smoke.
  • Remove the sugar syrup from the heat and carefully add in the butter. Whisk carefully to incorporate. The mixture will bubble and triple in size, so it is important to have a large enough pot and to be very careful. Add the cream and salt.
    1 cup heavy cream (at least 35%), ½ cup unsalted butter, ½ tsp sea salt
  • Put the caramel back onto the heat and heat just until it comes back to a simmer. Remove from heat and carefully pour into a glass jar and let cool to room temperature.

Mascarpone Whipped Cream

  • In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl with electric hand mixer, whip the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla paste until soft peaks. Add the softened mascarpone and whip until the cream is thick and stiff. Do not over whip or it will turn into butter. Refrigerate until ready to use.
    3 cups whipping cream, ⅔ cup powdered sugar, ⅔ cup mascarpone cheese, 2 tsp vanilla paste

Assembly

  • On a large plate or cake board, spread a tablespoon of mascarpone frosting. Place the first cake layer on a large plate or cake board. With a pastry brush, brush a few tablespoons of the simple syrup onto the layer. Using a piping bag fitted with a large piping tip or a large zip top bag with the end cut off, pipe a border of frosting around the edge of the later. Spread a thick layer of caramel into the center. It helps to use one continuous motion, without lifting your spoon off of the sponge. Press whole blackberries into the surface. Repeat with the rest of the layers, caramel, frosting, blackberries, and the last cake layer on top (flipped so the bottom side is up).
    1 pint blackberries
  • Spread the remaining frosting all around the cake with a long metal spatula or a bench scraper. To prevent crumbs showing through the frosting, spread the cream in one continuous motion without lifting the spatula off the cake. Once the cake is fully frosted, smooth out the sides. You can lift your spatula off of the cake when smoothing.
  • Decorate the cake with more blackberries and edible flowers. Slice and serve with an extra drizzle of caramel. Keep the cake refrigerated until ready to eat. It can keep in the fridge for up to three days, but is best enjoyed the day that it is made.
    1 pint blackberries, edible flowers

Notes

How far in advance can I start making this cake?
The cake layers and caramel sauce can be made the day before and kept refrigerated until use. If the caramel is too thick, heat it up a bit (in the microwave or in a water bath) until it loosens up just a bit.
This cake is best served the day it is assembled, because the caramel does not have time to soak through the cake and you will get separate pools of caramel. As it sits, it soaks into the cake layers and is incredibly delicious too.
Alternative pans:
  • Three 7” round pans: Check on the layers at 17 minutes, they will cook a little faster. Fill and stack following the rest of the recipe.
  • 9”x13” pan: Bake for 18-20 minutes. Cut in half to make two 9” by 7.5” layers. Fill and stack following the rest of the recipe. Or you can make it a sheet cake: spread with caramel, frosting, blackberries, and another healthy drizzle of caramel.
  • Two 8” pans: Bake for 18-20 minutes. Fill and stack following the rest of the recipe.
  • One 9” round pan: Bake for 19-21 minutes. Cut in half to make two round layers. Fill and stack following the rest of the recipe.
I don’t want to make homemade caramel, what do I use?
This recipe shows you how to easily make salted caramel, just try it! If you’re strapped for time, you can swap it for store bought dulce de leche. I would not recommend buying store bought caramel sauce (unless it is a homemade store bought sauce) because it just doesn’t taste as good.
Do I need to cover the sides with frosting?
Not a problem, just leave the sides uncovered! Naked cakes are all the rage anyways. Spoon the leftover frosting onto each piece when serving.
What do I do with the leftover caramel
Store the leftover caramel in a jar in your fridge for up to 2 weeks and use to top other desserts, sweeten your coffee, on top of ice cream, or just with a spoon 😉
Keyword Blackberry, Cake, caramel, Sponge

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