Caramel & Milk Chocolate Crunch Cake

March 16, 2021
5 Ratings
Photo by Food52
  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Makes 1 (8-inch) cake
Author Notes

This candy bar–inspired cake starts with one of my favorite styles of cakes: cream cake (aka whipped cream) cake. It contains no oil or butter in the batter; the only source of fat comes from cream that’s whipped into the cake. The resulting cake is dense, with a really rich, moist crumb structure that I adore. It’s also made with dark brown muscovado sugar, which lends its deeply caramel flavor to cake. Then, it’s filled with dulce de leche, and homemade crispy chocolate crunchies (think Crunch bar vibes), and frosted with an easy-to-make milk chocolate and sour cream frosting. When you slice into this cake, there are so many wonderful and contrasting textures. It’s a perfect celebration cake—impressive, but very achievable.

The caramel cake recipe is adapted from my book, The Fearless Baker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Rux Martin Books). —Erin Jeanne McDowell

Test Kitchen Notes

Bake It Up a Notch is a column by Resident Baking BFF Erin Jeanne McDowell. Each month, she'll help take our baking game to the next level, teaching us all the need-to-know tips and techniques and showing us all the mistakes we might make along the way. Today, a very sweet lesson in all things frostings, icings, and glazes. —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Caramel & Milk Chocolate Crunch Cake
  • 4 1/2 cups (542 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 7 large (347 grams) eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups (532 grams) packed dark brown muscovado (or dark brown sugar)
  • 2 3/4 cups (665 grams) heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (88 grams) milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup (88 grams) butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup (30 grams) rice cereal
  • 12 ounces (340 grams) finely chopped milk chocolate (don’t use chips)
  • 6 ounces (170 grams) finely chopped semisweet chocolate (don’t use chips)
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) heavy cream
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) full-fat sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 1/4 cups (720 grams) dulce de leche
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans.
  2. Make the cakes: In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together to combine.
  3. n the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and brown sugar on low speed to combine, then turn the speed to high and whip until the mixture is thick, 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and whip for 1 minute more to stabilize the foam.
  4. Sprinkle about 1/4 of the flour mixture into the mixer and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Add the remaining flour in 3 additions, mixing just until incorporated.
  5. Gradually drizzle the cream into the batter, mixing just until incorporated. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
  6. Divide the batter between the three prepared cake pans and spread into an even layer. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs attached, 24 to 28 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely.
  7. Make the crunchies: In a medium microwave-safe bowl, stir the chocolate chips and butterscotch chips to combine. Microwave in 20 second bursts, stirring after each time, until the mixture is melted and evenly combined. Stir in the rice cereal.
  8. Spread this mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and let set until firm. Chop coarsely into bite size pieces.
  9. Make the frosting: Bring a medium pot of water to a simmer over medium-low heat. In a heat safe bowl that will fit on top of the pot, mix the chopped milk chocolate, semisweet chocolate, and cream to combine. Heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is fully melted.
  10. Remove the bowl from the double boiler, and let cool for 5 minutes. Whisk in the sour cream, vanilla, and salt. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, whisking occasionally, until it’s a spreadable consistency. (If the mixture cools too much, it will firm up—it can be microwaved in 15 to 20 second bursts until it’s spreadable again.) Transfer about 1/4 of the frosting into a pastry bag with 1/2-inch opening cut from the end.
  11. Assemble the cake: Use a serrated knife to remove the domed top of the cakes.
  12. Place one layer on a cake turntable, platter, or cake stand. Pipe a ring of frosting around the outside edge of the cake. Use an ice cream scoop (about 1/4-cup in size) to scoop 3 heaping scoops of the dulce de leche into the center and spread into an even layer. Crumble about 1/3 of the crunchies over the caramel and press in slightly. Place another layer of cake on top, and repeat this process. Continue until you’ve used all the filling and layers.
  13. Apply a thin all over “crumb coat” of the frosting, and chill the cake for 10 to 15 minutes. Frost the cake with the remaining frosting, and garnish with remaining crunchies.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Cooper Sarah
    Cooper Sarah
  • ktaelman
  • daveinermo
  • gbearpark
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

7 Reviews

daveinermo June 20, 2023
I did every step correctly, whipped until the eggs and sugar were thick and glossy, didn't over combine the flour but ended up with layers a little less than an inch high which is disappointing and I am sure the layers in the cake above are more like 1.5 inches...any thoughts? Still cooling so can't comment on density but the cake is very smooth.
Cooper S. April 5, 2021
I made this recipe 3 times and no amount of troubleshooting would yield a light fluffy layer cake. It came out dense, almost brownie texture every time, even after using cake flour, all room temp ingredients, gently folding in dry ingredients. I used the exact size of pan and equipment specified. The frosting was incredible however! Used food colouring to make it black for a friend’s birthday and it came out amazing. Would make the frosting again but find a different cake recipe.
ktaelman December 7, 2021
Hi! In the author notes above it says the cake is supposed to be dense. You're not doing anything wrong. You're actually doing it right!
gbearpark January 22, 2021
This recipe is amazing!! I decided to do smooth frosting rather than swoopy because I thought it would be a little easier, and then decorated with spun sugar, gold glitter and maltesers. My cake had a longer bake time than the recipe said but I think that might just be our oven. Anyway, I highly recommend! Also, the layer cake video was a big help in getting the assembly right
gbearpark January 22, 2021
This recipe is amazing!! I decided to do smooth frosting rather than swoopy because I thought it would be a little easier, and then decorated with spun sugar, gold glitter and maltesers. My cake had a longer bake time than the recipe said but I think that might just be our oven. Anyway, I highly recommend! Also, the layer cake video was a big help in getting the assembly right
Darian October 4, 2020
I made this for my birthday, which sounds sad but is actually awesome because I love to cook so it's almost like a present. It took some time and was a bit of a process, but was simple and easy. The result is stunning visually and made for some great birthday photos, earning plenty of social media envy. When I had my first piece I thought it was good, but not beyond that. I'm pleased to report that it has matured into REALLY GOOD overnight. Definitely better at room temp than out of the fridge, and a little rest seemed to benefit as well. A great special occasion bake without a lot of fussy one-off ingredients or advanced skill requirements.
Koko_Iars September 5, 2020
Wonderful recipe!! This is the second time I make it and my family love it! I can’t get the frosting to the right consistency though. Yours looks like buttery and mine It’s more like a runny dark ganache, nothing like yours and I’m using all the right ingredients. Any idea what could I be doing wrong? Thank you!!