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Salted-Caramel Six-Layer Chocolate Cake

Yes, you read that right: six decadent layers of salted caramel and chocolate. Dive in.

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 12
  • Yield: Makes one 9-inch cake
Salted-Caramel Six-Layer Chocolate Cake

Photography: Johnny Miller

Source: Martha Stewart Living, November 2011

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pans
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 tablepoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Coarse salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the Caramel

  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

For the Frosting

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped, melted, and cooled
  • Garnish: flaked sea salt, such as Maldon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cake: Butter three 9-inch round cake pans, and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Sift flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt into the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low speed until just combined. Raise speed to medium, and add eggs, buttermilk, 1 1/2 cups warm water, oil, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.

  2. Divide batter among pans. Bake until cakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool in pans set on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks, and let cool completely.

  3. Make the caramel: Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cook, without stirring, until mixture is dark amber, about 14 minutes. Remove from heat, and carefully pour in cream (mixture will spatter); stir until smooth. Return to heat, and cook until a candy thermometer reaches 238 degrees, about 2 minutes. Pour caramel into a medium bowl, stir in 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and let cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Stir in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Let cool completely.

  4. Meanwhile, make the frosting: Whisk together cocoa and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water in a bowl until cocoa dissolves. Beat butter, confectioners' sugar, and a generous pinch of coarse salt in a clean bowl with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in melted chocolate and then cocoa mixture until combined. Let stand for 30 minutes before using.

  5. Trim tops of cakes using a serrated knife to create a level surface. Cut each in half horizontally to form 2 layers. Transfer 1 layer to a serving platter, and spread 3/4 cup caramel over top. Top with another cake layer, and repeat with remaining caramel and cake layers, leaving top uncovered. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

  6. Frost top and sides of cake in a swirling motion. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Cook's Note

To make this cake ahead of time: The caramel can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature before using. Cake layers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days (they actually taste better when refrigerated and have a better texture for stacking). When finished, the frosted cake can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Reviews (61)

  • LexyFL 8 Jun, 2014

    Just a note: The cake recipe directions call for 1 1/2 cups of water, but it's not listed in the ingredient list at the top of the page. I didn't notice it in the directions as I was mixing ingredients, and only saw it as I was looking for the next step -- with the cakes already in the oven. I'm not sure how it will turn out, but I sure hope my beautiful cake doesn't have the texture of a brick!

  • xieouyang 6 Apr, 2014

    The best ever. Although making the cake is a little complex, it was certainly worthwhile going through. The cake turned out really good, nicely moist, delicious taste. I served it to a group of friends, following watching the opera La Boheme in HD, together with champagne (actually it was cava) and it was a most successful party. Everyone loved it and toasted Martha.
    I am planning on making it again when my daughters come visit for Christmas, and treat them to something decadently tasty.

  • Vacagirl 21 Mar, 2014

    Jessica Subedi - you will split each layer which will give you the other 3 layers.

  • Jessica Subedi 21 Mar, 2014

    So I am in the process of making it and said to "divide" evenly into the cake pans. 9 inch standard cake pans is what I am using. I used all the batter and it only divided into 3 of the pans. Where do the other 3 come from?!

  • RhymesWithPolka 30 Dec, 2013

    This cake is delicious and moist. I bake a lot but have never made caramel before. I burned the caramel the first try even though I followed the recipe instructions perfectly. It came out great on the second try because I reduced the heat to medium and the cook time to about 10 minutes instead of 14. I learned it's more important to watch the color and temp. of the carmel than the time. The color of the caramel should never be "dark" as the recipe suggests, but more like light to medium amber.

  • srnhrrs 21 Nov, 2013

    @Lotus - I'd recommend cooking the caramel longer. The recipe said it would take "about two minutes" for it to reach 238 degrees, but it took mine 12 minutes, and it came out correctly.

  • srnhrrs 21 Nov, 2013

    Making this was time-consuming but the results were spectacular, and pleasingly close to the example picture. I'd say refrigerating the cakes overnight is essential, since they were fragile straight from the oven, but sturdy and easy to work with the next day. And whatever you do, don't refrigerate the frosting before applying it! It gets clumpy fast.

  • Lotus 21 Nov, 2013

    Cake was a big hit in spite of the fact that caramel was a runny mess. Not sure what I did wrong. I want to try it again but would love some tips. It looked beautiful and tasted great. Would be fine on ice cream but way too thin for cake. Any suggestions?

  • SoMK 19 Nov, 2013

    This is a really good cake but please, consider adding a dacqouise layer on the bottom. It turns a good cake into a GREAT cake <3

  • SoMK 19 Nov, 2013

    "dacquoise" even *sigh no edit*

  • philipgrossman 19 Nov, 2013

    also i cant find the print button :-(

  • Brittle 18 Nov, 2013

    So, I bake a LOT! Martha's recipes are either hit or miss, one miss being the Chocolate Ganache Tart, which has major problems with the crust. This is one of the best three cakes I have ever made! The other two being her Lemon Meringue Cake (quite labor intensive!) and Blum's Coffee Crunch Cake (amaazing..but doesn't keep well). This one is quite rich, sweet and soooo satisfying. I did not have any problems, with sliding cake layers...or anything else. I did not add the salt to the top!

  • MrsTree 16 Nov, 2013

    Don't feel bad. The Print feature also had me perplexed. Finally spotted the little Print icon in top right corner of the screen. As you scroll down to Ingredients it appears.

  • Candymindedgirl 16 Nov, 2013

    I can't seem to locate a "print" button. I can't believe Martha Stewart doesn't have a print feature. Yes, I know I can copy and print but there is so much content and the layout contributes to having to print so many pages. Am I totally missing it?

  • bamabob 14 Nov, 2013

    made the Caramel first so it could cool thoroughly. just assembled the 6 layers. They keep sliding and listing. I've wrapped the stacked cake in plastic wrap to hold its shape. Hoping that an overnight stay in the fridge will solidify the caramel enough that it will hold its shape when the plastic is off and it's time to frost it. I sampled the cake I shaved off the dome with a little caramel drizzled on top. YUM.

  • svillen 1 Nov, 2013

    Made cake and caramel ahead of time. Sliced cake and froze layers. Heated caramel slightly to "pourable" but still very thick. Assembled cake and caramel, which "hardened" up on frozen layers = no sliding. Refrigerated. Then made icing, let sit, then frosted. Piped decorative edge, poured some remaining caramel on top, contained by piping. No slips or slides. Put scraps and leftover caramel and frosting in a dish for a preview. Oh my goodness - I predict no leftovers at tonights party!

  • aricelarapoz 1 Nov, 2013

    delicious
    hma pro review

  • HaileeEC 12 Oct, 2013

    This cake was so moist, rich, and tasty! By far the most delicious cake I have ever made! The only concern is, the cake is so moist I had trouble cutting it in half and keeping it from sticking to the cooling racks. I made this last week and my mom gave it all away, I was so upset I just remade the recipe but I halfed it it this time! Hopefully it will turn out just as well as the first time! (Smells like it will)!

  • mersa06 20 Sep, 2013

    If your the baker in your family the benefit is you get to pick your own Birthday cake. I couldn't have picked a better cake! I used all parts of the recipe; just added more time for caramel and and frosting to set. I would make this one again and agree that the batter would be good this any frosting; its just the right amount of chocolaty goodness but not too dense like some other chocolate cake batters.

  • bjane1010 17 Sep, 2013

    This is the best thing I've ever made!! It was a huge hit for a friend's milestone birthday party. I was so relieved each step turned out well...I made the cake and frosting the night before and put them in the fridge. The only changes I made were to add a teaspoon of instant coffee grounds in 1/8 cup of hot water for the cake, and I decreased the butter in the caramel to 1 1/2 sticks. Otherwise I followed the recipe and was very excited about the taste and look.

  • AnnaK 22 Aug, 2013

    I used the batter from this cake, made 4 layer cake with raspberry frosting.
    The cake taste amazing, the dough is light, moist and chocolaty, not too sweet, goes very well with any kind of frosting.
    Next time I'll try it with the original caramel frosting.
    Love it! Thanks!

  • maurainelle 7 Jul, 2013

    This took longer than expected and messed up at each stage. That said, it's a keeper! I used sour cream instead of buttermilk and halved the recipe to yield two 8-in. cakes for 4 total layers. My 2nd caramel attempt (14 mins burned the 1st) absorbed into the cake layers--nice and moist but not beautiful separate layers like pic. My only complaint is the buttercream. I hope to find a less rich frosting for the next time!

  • KaliKeaveny1837 3 Jul, 2013

    I am not a pro but do bake and cook a lot. I think this recipe would be a little easier if the ingredients were broken down by the part of the cake. I was unsure if the cocoa powder or sugar measurements I was using were for the right part of the cake. Also, my first attempt at the caramel was a complete failure with these instructions. I did it to the color stated and even at less time and it still burned. Will try again because I love salted caramel, but not 100% sold yet.

  • Sheffsl 13 Jun, 2013

    I am making this cake for the 2nd time because it was so good!! This time for the family. The only thing I will do different is not cooking the caramel to dark amber....light to med. I do not understand why someone (Pat) would make a recipe that is so laden with garbage.....were we not aware of the ingredient list *before* the cake was attempted?? Just sayin....

  • Love5t0cook 11 Jun, 2013

    Well, I'm a diabetic who loves to cook so I couldn't eat any of it myself but I made it following the directions exactly and had no problems. I made it for a party at work and everyone there loved it and ate all of it so it was a hit.

  • Pat Guillory 10 Jun, 2013

    I made this cake. It is so laden with unhealthy garbage. It is full of Caffeine, White Flour, Gobs of White Sugar, Extremes of Butter and so much Chocolate it can give you a caffeine and/or sugar high. It took so much time to complete, it was quite costly to make, it is way too sweet. 'way too much chocolate'. No one wanted it after the first bite. It is clogged arteries, a heart attack waiting to happen, and it looked like Black 'Tar' in a Glob. I threw more than 3/4 of it in the garbage.

  • Happy baker 3 May, 2013

    After my sister had this cake at a party, she suggested I try it knowing I'm a huge Martha fan! I made it for my daughters birthday and we loved it! I do agree you must use a pan at least five inches high so the caramel doesn't boil over. I boiled to 238 degrees however the consistency was like spreading peanut butter, therefore I had no trouble filling layers. The chocolate frosting is definitely for chocoholics! Very rich! I would love to make this again. Thanks Martha!

  • Michelle_28 18 Apr, 2013

    Trying to replicate this recipe in the UK meant making a fair few substitions - golden syrup in place of corn syrup, low fat natural yoghurt in place of buttermilk - and my measurements were a little shaky but so far it's been pretty damn good! All the constituent parts are ready for assembly, just waiting for the cakes to cool before the fun begins but taste-wise everything's turned out spot on.

  • ATXLDY 15 Mar, 2013

    Soooo delicious! Took this to a dinner party and everyone raved!

    The water was perfect/ratio in my cake. However, I stirred my caramel (tsk tsk) and had to throw it out due to granules/crystals. Took three cans of dulce de leche from the store, heated it up with a stick of butter, salt to taste (more than this recipe called for) and it was perfect.

    I did find this frosting a bit difficult to work with-either too soft or too firm but it worked out and was delicious. Yum!

  • Ashleigh Barrett 12 Mar, 2013

    I tried this recipe caramel first and I didn't cook it for the full 14 but it looked a dark amber color to me. when all was said and done it had a funky burnt taste? I am wondering if that is because I didn't cook it for the full time or something else? Any Suggestions? Do you really not stir it when it is on the high heat? and is it on high high heat or like med high?

  • donnam 10 Mar, 2013

    WOW!...but as usuall I find the instructions lacking. The cake is great but the carmel piece is a nightmare Runny even after going against the instructions and refrigerating. Made the carmel the day before with the cake layers and found what should have ben a simple frost and layer to be quite and excercise in frustration1 I would definitely use the trader joes the other reviewer mentioned and save your self some grief! Don't make frosting till you have layerd the cake up and refrigerated it

  • KLCCakes 24 Feb, 2013

    One of my favorite cakes ever! I used the water amounts as shown with perfect results. Liquidy batter is normal for a lot of good chocolate cake recipes. I used three 8" pans & baked a few minutes longer -- no problems. Temp is everything for this recipe, in my 66 degree kitchen using "room temp" butter the frosting was ready immediately and was lovely to work with. I halved the caramel recipe but then ran out so if you cook it to the proper temp/thickness don't halve it.

  • Jennifer Fuselier 21 Feb, 2013

    If you pipe a small ring of frosting around the outer edge of each layer before adding the caramel you won't have caramel running down the sides of it. I do this with all of my "fillings". It also helps cut down on slippage.

  • mamasteg 21 Feb, 2013

    This cake is now a staple at our Christmas table - yes, it does call for a lot of butter, and makes extra caramel - which is perfect for cake assembly time, when bits are left over from flattening the tops of the layers. Everyone runs to the kitchen to have 'leftovers'. Truly delicious, and special.

  • Marina Hiterer 17 Feb, 2013

    The volume is totally out of whack. I had half of caramel left over and half of frosting. Frosting needs to be appled rigt away, otherwise it hardens. 4sticks of butter for this cake?!
    3 cups of sugar for the dough - give me a break....

  • lynnemans 2 Feb, 2013

    ToThis recipe is great! I made a half recipe of the caramel and cooked it a bit longer to make it firmer. I baked the cake the day before and kept it the fridge. I sliced it when it was cold. It sliced well. I layered the caramel and cake. It seemed a bit unstable so I used 4 bamboo skewers run through the top of the cake and put it back in the fridge to chill. The caramel firmed up and soaked in. When it was all firm, I took it out of the fridge, pulled out the skewersand iced it.

  • Lou-Ann Archer 27 Jan, 2013

    I have wanted to try this recipe and today was my daughter's birthday. We all enjoyed sampling the cake, caramel and frosting as I was making it. It turned out great! I think I cooked the caramel a little long so it was not as runny in the cake but I think that made assembly easy. Fantastic cake!

  • ali_2 19 Jan, 2013

    This is the best cake I've ever made - it was really incredible. I cheated and used Trader Joe's jarred salted caramel. And to really put it over the top, I also put homemade chocolate buttercream between each layer. So delicious.

  • Emma Rose 25 Dec, 2012

    This cake is very disappointing. It tastes delicious, but assembly is a nightmare. The chocolate cake bakes incredibly uneven in the oven,and the recipe is so moist and delicate that slicing them in half is messy and crumbly. The caramel recipe makes far more than you can fit between the layers, and the layers really slide around, even in the refrigerator. The flavors of this cake are delicious, but next time I will use my own, better quality recipes for the chocolate cake and caramel.

  • Kathryn1960 23 Nov, 2012

    I made this cake last year for Thanksgiving and again several times over the following year. RAVE reviews every time. I even had someone ask me at work "what bakery did it come from."
    Looking for a special treat for a birthday buddy? Bake this for them and give them the extra caramel that is left over for their coffee =)

  • hauteartist 2 Oct, 2012

    I've made this cake several times, it's absolutely wonderful. I did not use the full 1 1/2 cups water in the cake, but about half the amount. I also substituted the icing since my husband didn't really like the chocolate ganache, instead I used a simple peanut butter icing and it is delish. It literally tastes like a giant peanut butter cup, sooo goood. Also I always get about five times too much caramel so you could probably halve the recipe and still have extra.

  • amanh13 20 Aug, 2012

    Just made this cake last night and took it to work - my colleagues absolutely love it! I halved the recipe and made a 9-inch and a 4-inch cake, both two layers each. The caramel does melt and run over the sides but before I poured the caramel on the cake I poked small holes into it with a skewer, which seemed to help the caramel distribute evenly. Otherwise, definitely an easy cake to make and absolutely delicious!!

  • Linn_Norway 3 Aug, 2012

    This cake is wonderful!
    Loved by children – and adults!

    Next time I’ll try to make a smaller version – for Sunday brunch with the girls.

    The cake is even better after a day in the fridge. Very moist, but it is the the salt that make this cake!

  • llewis10 29 Jul, 2012

    Enter your review...

  • llewis10 28 Jul, 2012

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  • cuznvin 17 Jul, 2012

    Check out the recipe from BAKED for their Salted caramel chocolate cake...

  • judyb 16 Jul, 2012

    I think this will be our family's new favorite, since we are divided between Chocolate and Caramel Loving Cake people. I "really need" some verification about the water amounts which were left off the ingredient list. Did most people use the full 1 1/2 cups in the cake batter? Also is the water for the frosting correct, the amount is exactly the same as the cocoa???. 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. Please help, although I think the web site should correct the recipe.

  • CupcakeFanatic 25 Feb, 2012

    I have made a lot of cakes in my day and this one is truly one of the best that I have made. While there are many steps, they are easy. Just follow the recipe exactly. After reading some of the comments, I decided to insert 3 bamboo skewers into the cake before I frosted it. I had to transport the cake and was nervous that the cake would shift- it certainly stayed in place. Although the recipe says that it makes 12 servings, the cake is so rich that it could easily serve up to 18 people.

  • mia05 19 Dec, 2011

    I made this cake for a friends birthday, it was a hit! I was even asked to make one for another friends birthday. My only concern is that the caramel seeped out of the cake a bit, which no one else noticed, but I did. I also used 10 inch cake pans, so my cakes were thinner making it a 3 layer cake. Since I had less layers, I have extra caramel, which I intend to use in cupcakes. Instead of making Christmas Cookies this year, I'm going to make cupcakes, I'm sure they will be enjoyed by all...

  • nanook92 16 Dec, 2011

    Definitely use a large saucepan when making the caramel. It expands a lot once cream is added! The flavors are absolutely wonderful! My cake did slide all over but I didn't level the cake layers. I am making again for Christmas so hope that will help!

  • mwade 30 Nov, 2011

    I made this for Thanksgiving which also happened to be my son's 8th b-day. I baked the cake and made the caramel on Tuesday. I think that makes ALL the difference! I assembled the cake on Thanksgiving (left the caramel out most of the afternoon so it could come to room temperature.) I had no problems with the layers sliding. The frosting sets up fast so keep that in mind. The cake is beautiful and delish! Very rich and decadent. I definitely recommend making the cakes and caramel in advance!

  • QueenSweetTooth 25 Nov, 2011

    I feel like a professional baker now that I've made this cake. O-My...What a wonderful cake this turned out to be. It was made for Thanksgiving and brought it w/me to a friends house, and lets just say, "We're the best of friends now". Although the caramel had the cake slightly sliding, next time, I'll use the caramel directly from the fridge. It'll be easier to spread and keep in place. But this is a devine chocolate cake that is out of this world. A must keep for my recipe box ;)

  • Sweet-Ballantyne 25 Nov, 2011

    I made this for Thanksgiving and it is delicious! The textures and perfect sweet-salt ratio made this recipe a keeper. My cake did not have stacking problems like other reviews and I think it's because I refrigerated the cake and caramel overnight and assembled in the morning. Delightful!

  • julieruble 25 Nov, 2011

    My cake looked pretty solid going into the fridge, but I still used skewers to stabilize it. Despite my best efforts, the cake layers slid into a lopsided pile. Thus, I turned my cake into a trifle. It was still delicious, but disappointing. I'd offer the following advice: use dowels to stabilize the cake and wrap it tightly before refrigerating it for an hour. You can also use utensils sprayed with cooking spray to manipulate the caramel.

  • grissypop 25 Nov, 2011

    This cake is delicious!! I didn't add the whole 1 1/2 cups of water it called for because it already seemed too liquid to me. I only added 1/2 cup and it came out delicious! Perfect cake! Its light and moist in texture but very rich chocolate flavor. Perfect cake! Instead of filling with caramel I used Dulce de Leche from La Lechera with a pinch of salt, delicious! and very sticky so layers didn't slide.

  • NWTXgirl 24 Nov, 2011

    Love this cake! The carmel takes longer to cool than implied in the recipe. Once the layers were stacked, I needed to skewer the cake while chilling to set the carmel.
    Everyone loved this one!

  • teatime123 23 Nov, 2011

    cake is delicious BUT, the cake layers start sliding once you add the caramel. I had to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap before putting in the fridge. Also, this is not a traditional buttercream, it's actually more like a ganache. Pretty thin, and then it hardens quickly when you put it on the cake. I learned that the hard way! Also noticed that the water is missing from both the cake and frosting ingredient lists. Only caught it in the instructions so make sure you read thoroughly!

  • mwade 22 Nov, 2011

    I'm attempting to make this for my son's Thanksgiving day/8th birthday. I just wondered what kind of coarse salt you used in the recipe? Or did anyone use table salt for the cake mix? I read a review that mentioned their cake was too salty!

  • Lainey82 21 Nov, 2011

    This recipe is amazing! It was the perfect amount of rich chocolate, sweet caramel and a hint of saltiness. I would highly recommend reading the recipe thoroughly before starting; it's an all day project but you can make any of the 3 parts in-advance. I think the cake was tastier on day 2 and 3. I had lots of left over caramel & frosting as well, I'm making the cake again for Christmas and this time I'm going to make some cupcakes and use up all the leftover caramel and frosting.

  • gventre 19 Nov, 2011

    This cake is wonderful, but be careful making the caramel. It expands quite dramatically when returned to the heat after adding the cream. Gas stove and boiling caramel ...not a good thing! However, flavor was worth the clean-up issues.

  • ashleyjewelry 17 Nov, 2011

    Delicious and a big hit! Just the right amount of salty to sweet. I made the cake layers three days ahead as well as the caramel. I made the frosting and put the cake together the day of my party. I had trouble with the layers sliding off of each other, but not too terribly bad. I think next time I would make the whole cake three days ahead and refrigerate as it is really good cold! The frosting is more of a ganache and pretty thin. I didn't use all of the caramel or frosting.

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