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Chocolate Cake with Milk-Chocolate Crunch and Caramel Sauce

Layers of chocolate cake get stacked with luscious caramel sauce, crisped-rice crunch, and a rich chocolate frosting for this fully loaded indulgence.

  • prep: 50 mins
    total time: 3 hours 45 mins
  • yield: Serves 8 to 10




  • For the cake:
  • Unsalted butter, for pan
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the Milk-Chocolate Crunch:
  • 1 cup crisped-rice cereal
  • 6 ounces milk chocolate, melted
  • For the caramel sauce:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Salt
  • For the frosting:
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • Salt
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled


  1. Step 1

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cake: Butter and flour a 7-inch round cake pan (3 inches deep). Sift flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

  2. Step 2

    Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Let cool completely in pan.

  3. Step 3

    Meanwhile, make the milk-chocolate crunch: Fold crisped-rice cereal into melted milk chocolate until completely coated. Spread mixture about 1/4 inch thick onto a baking sheet lined with a nonstick baking mat. Freeze until set, about 45 minutes. Chop into small pieces. Refrigerate until ready to use.

  4. Step 4

    Make the caramel sauce: Bring granulated sugar, cream, corn syrup, and butter to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until mixture registers 236 degrees on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from heat, and stir in vanilla and a pinch of salt. Transfer to a bowl, and let cool.

  5. Step 5

    Make the frosting: Place cocoa powder in a small bowl, and stir in hot water to create a thick paste. Beat butter, confectioners' sugar, and a pinch of salt until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in melted semisweet chocolate and cocoa paste. If frosting doesn't seem firm enough, refrigerate for 10 to 12 minutes, whisking every few minutes. Let stand at room temperature until ready to use.

  6. Step 6

    Assemble the cake: Turn out cake from pan, and trim top. Slice into 3 even rounds. Place bottom layer on a rotating cake stand or a large plate, and spread 1/2 cup milk-chocolate crunch on top. Gently spread 3/4 cup caramel sauce on top, and cover with another 1/2 cup crunch. Top with middle cake layer, and repeat, finishing with top cake layer.

  7. Step 7

    Frost cake with a crumb coat (a thin layer of frosting to seal in stray crumbs): Gently sweep away any loose crumbs with a pastry brush, then use a small offset spatula to cover the top and sides a with a thin layer of frosting. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

  8. Step 8

    Let crumb-coated cake stand at room temperature for 45 minutes. Frost entire cake with remaining frosting in a swirling motion using a large offset spatula. Let stand at room temperature until ready to serve (up to 8 hours).

    Frosting can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Martha Stewart Living, October 2010



Reviews (14)

  • 10 Nov, 2013

    whenever I make a time consuming cake like this I always do it over two days. I made the frosting, chocolate crunch and caramel the first day and the next day I made the cake and then assembled it. I did not have a 7 inch cake pan so I used three 8 inch pans which worked out as it is a 3 layer cake. Drastically reduced the bake time. Had no trouble with the caramel. I don't have a candy thermometer so I went with my gut and the color. A light amber. Cake was delicious. A do again!

  • 19 Sep, 2011

    Honestly to make this easier on myself due to time issues I used a boxed chocolate cake mix. Spread the crispy rice cereal mixture between the layers, frosted with a chocolate sour cream frosting and topped with a store bought caramel sauce. It was fantastic. I plan on making it again for a Halloween dinner party I'm having and topping with the marshmallow ghosts from a recipe on this site.

  • 22 Jul, 2011

    I adjusted the recipe to make a 9 inch cake. Not sure why but my cake blew up into a huge dome during the baking process. I baked for less than the suggested time (50 vs 55-60 mins) but my cake still turned out dry. 45 mins probably would've been right. Like others, my caramel didn't set at room temp, so I threw it in the fridge and it got to the right consistency after an hour or so. I halved the frosting recipe and it was still too much frosting for my larger cake. This cake is very rich.

  • 24 Apr, 2011

    Great cake but caramel didn't set. Next time I will freeze the caramel briefly before adding tehn freeze agin before putting on lid.

  • 4 Feb, 2011

    My sister made this cake and she said it was no problem at all! Could be because she bakes all the time .
    I have to say this is one of the best chocolate cake I have ever eaten and trust me i have eaten alot !!!!

  • 26 Nov, 2010

    If you're caramel is too hard, you cooked it for too long. Either cook it to a lower temperature, about 5-10 degrees less, or calibrate your candy thermometer! Boil a pot of water and stick the thermometer in. If it doesn't say 212, it's off. or you live at not sea level. Adjust what you cook to by how many degrees off of 212 it was. I cooked mine to about 224 and it was great. (I live at 3000 ft elevation.)

  • 15 Nov, 2010

    I wouldn't eat smth that caloric if it's messy and completely mashed and going all over the place. I just throw it away. My mother just taste a bit of frosting and cake on the corner, it was all the caramel's fault cause the other components were really good.I'm used to bake and to use Martha Stewart recipes everyday, it certainly wasn't my first layer cake. But I'm angry about it cause it took me so much time and it cost me so much money! I hope I will be read by the one who wrote the recipe!

  • 15 Nov, 2010

    with a candy thermometer; but as the "sauce" cooled down it became a rock! A hard work to separe it from the bowl... But then I tried to make the sauce again (maybe I cooked it too much? maybe there were too much sugar?) with an average cup of sugar (204g); and I didn't wait it to cool too much cause I saw it was firming up a lot. I assembled the cake yesterday evening. When I tried to cut it this morning, I discovered 2 layers of caramel rock and the cake was impossible to serve.

  • 15 Nov, 2010

    I made the cake yesterday. Same good chocolate cake recipe, but it rose pretty much... I didn't want to waste all of that by trimming the top so I just frosted the cake with its dome, though making the top smooth. Milk-chocolate crunch was also easy and well achieved. The frosting, as I said, has'nt made any problem either. But the big issue was the caramel sauce. IT AIN'T A SAUCE!!! I made it properly and as I feared it would be runny, I put a packed cup of sugar (228g), followed the recipe ->

  • 5 Nov, 2010

    That was the only way I could get it to the right consistency, and it came out great. I had a lot left over, too, so I cut up some apples, threw them in a pie crust, and poured the leftover caramel on top and it was really yummy.
    The cake is delicious and even though the "crunch" doesn't stay "crunchy" for 2 days, the cake itself was a huge hit, beautiful to look at, and divine to eat. Best frosting I've ever made! Definitely will make again for special occasions.

  • 1 Nov, 2010

    I made this caramel three times, and finally gave up and used store-bought Fran's caramel sauce. I had the same issue with it that Pegeen2 had; the caramel is too chewy and too firm at room temperature. The rest of the recipe is great! I think the chocolate frosting recipe will be my go-to recipe from now on. Give it a go, and if anyone can figure out the caramel, please enlighten me!

  • 26 Oct, 2010

    I made this last night. It was super yummy, but it totally lost its shape when we cut it. It basically broke into it's different parts (caramel, chocolate crunch, cake). What did I do wrong? The icing was fine, but the caramel - while it tasted great - was very chewy and firm at room temperature. I'd like to make this again, but I need to figure out how to make it less messy.

  • 24 Oct, 2010

    A stick of unsalted butter weighs 110 grams. Brit's double cream is virtually the same as US's heavy cream, except yours has more fat by percent. It shouldn't be an issue, it might just add richness.

  • 23 Oct, 2010

    can't wait to make this, but forgive a poor Brit - Please can you tell me - what does a STICK of unsalted butter weigh? and is Heavy Cream our Double Cream?
    thanks in anticipation
    Pollyapple xx