Classic Burnt Sugar Caramel Icing
3-1/4 cups of granulated sugar, separated
1 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 cup of boiling water
Do not attempt this icing on a rainy day. In a large saucepan over medium heat combine 3 cups of the sugar with the milk, butter, vanilla and baking soda; bring mixture up to a boil. Meanwhile cook the remaining 1/4 cup of the sugar in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat until melted and browned. Quickly stir in the boiling water; stir until blended. Add some of the milk mixture to the skillet to deglaze, then transfer the contents of the skillet to the saucepan. Boil, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches 240 degrees F (soft-ball stage). Remove saucepan from the heat and beat until thick and creamy. Let cool and ice cake.
This recipe below is not traditional, but it’s easy and it is one that is most commonly used today.
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Easy Caramel Icing
1 (1 pound) box of powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter
2 cups of light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup of heavy cream or milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Sift powdered sugar into a mixing bowl; set aside. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar and stir over medium low heat until blended. Stir in the cream and bring mixture up to a full rolling boil. Immediately remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract and blend. Set aside to cool until lukewarm. When ready to frost the cake, add the mixture to the mixing bowl with the sifted powdered sugar and beat on high until creamy and spreadable. If icing begins to harden, beat in, literally only a drop or two of cream at a time, by hand to loosen it. Don’t add too much, just a drop until it’s spreadable again.