Real Caramel Sauce

January 25, 2015
2 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Makes 3 to 4 cups
Author Notes

Adapted From Pure Dessert (Artisan Publishers, 2007) by Alice Medrich

Flavor variations:

Honey Caramel Sauce: Substitute 1/4 to 1/3 cup honey for an equal amount of the golden syrup or corn syrup.
Lavender Caramel Sauce: Stir 1 tablespoon of dried lavender into the cream. Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours. Strain the cream, pressing on the lavender to extract as much liquid as possible. Use the infused cream in place of the cream in the recipe.
Cardamom Caramel Sauce: Omit the vanilla in the recipe. Add 1/2 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.
Salted Caramel Sauce: Add extra salt to the finished caramel, carefully, to taste. I like the sauce salted, not salty -- but it’s your sauce! —Alice Medrich

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup golden syrup or light corn syrup
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Equipment:
  • Candy thermometer
  • A long-handled silicone spatula or wooden spoon
  1. Combine the syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture simmers around the edges.
  2. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon for use again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more.
  3. Attach the candy thermometer to the saucepan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered, without stirring until the mixture reaches 305° F. Meanwhile, heat the cream in a small saucepan until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and cover it to keep the cream hot. When the sugar mixture is at 305° F, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter chunks.
  4. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically. Put the pan back on the burner and adjust the heat so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 225° F (or 228° F for a sauce that thickens like fudge when poured over ice cream). Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  5. Serve the sauce warm or hot. Store in the refrigerator (it keeps for ages) and reheat it gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce (after reheating) becomes too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Clay Horste
    Clay Horste
  • Christine Moore Gill
    Christine Moore Gill
  • Gina Block
    Gina Block
  • Chris Howard
    Chris Howard
  • Guida
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).

12 Reviews

Clay H. October 12, 2016
I think the 305 temp is a bit too high. It was way too dark and bitter for a caramel sauce IMHO. I will use this in a burnt sugar ice cream. That should be divine.

Oh, and to the person complaining about HFCS and sugar; If you are trying to make a 'diet' caramel, you will never be healthy nor happy. 'Diet' foods are bad for you and an occasional treat should always be full fat and sugar, otherwise you are having way too much snacks and sweets. Moderation is key.
lighthouse6 October 1, 2016
I see why is a community pick! Great sauce, I think it is more of a butterscotch as the sugar doesn't get hot enough to really caramelize into a nice deep flavour - but I realize you run the risk of getting candy. Either way it tastes great and is so fluid due to the corn syrup. People should not make such rude remarks when they have not done their research and just jump on the media bandwagon. And, you can most certainly use a silicon spatula in the recipe - it is rated to at least 500 degrees. The max temp of this recipe is only 305. I just think it is sad when people feel they need to jump in and criticize a great recipe, especially when the info is not even fact based and most importantly they have not made it and tried it. We like it and the US Embassy in the country I live in will be giving this out as gifts : )
Christine M. January 21, 2016
These ingredients are so very unhealthy; HFCS and sugar... Wow!
SilverSage September 7, 2016
Obviously, you know not of what you speak. Nowhere does she call for HFCS. You apparently don't know the difference between corn syrup and HFCS.
Gina B. December 8, 2015
How much does one batch make? Was thinking of filling up jars as holiday gifts but I'm unsure how many batches that would require.
Chris H. February 22, 2015
I would suggest using a wooden spoon/spatula. The interaction between the high temperature and the silicon may cause the caramel sauce to take on a foul taste. Been there, done that.
Janet February 3, 2015
Guida, Hello my name is Janet and I read your comments. I am looking to make carmel but would like to use it in cookies (filling) after they are baked. Any suggestions on how I can firm it up. I do not want it to be pourable. Thanks Janet
Guida February 2, 2015
I make carmel all the time ..candies and carmel for ice cream n coffee just like the picture and it never crystalizes. Keep the carmel in the frig.. 3 ingredients butter cream sugar and vanilla if u want extra richness
Jennifer L. February 2, 2015
The corn syrup helps keep the caramel from crystalizing. Without the caramel with form crystals after a week weeks. If you plan on eating the caramel soon, then you can omit the syrup, but if you want to keep it for a while it helps stabilize it.
lora789 January 29, 2015
It's so appitizing!
Guida January 29, 2015
No need for the corn syrup ..u can make carmel without it
yogie February 1, 2015
@Guida Gross right !
No Way would I serve that to my family!!!!