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Salted-Caramel Six-Layer Chocolate Cake


If you don't own a candy thermometer, this cake offers a good excuse to buy one. It sounds a little nitpicky, but the caramel should reach exactly 238 degrees. (Any less and the cake layers wont hold together properly; any more and the caramel will turn hard.) Precision will also pay off with the chocolate frosting: It achieves its ideal spreading texture after standing for 30 minutes.

  • 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


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


  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 Notes

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 Add a comment

  • MS10342917
    5 APR, 2017
    Yes, a labor-intensive cake, but ultimately amazing. Only slightly annoyed about lack of mention of water in the ingredients list...not a deal-breaker for me. And the frosting for this has become my go-to chocolate frosting. It's stupendously delicious!
  • jennifermartine2
    8 MAY, 2016
    If you have unlimited resources and time, then make this recipe. I was really disappointed with it. I was happy with my Carmel and good thing since I have like a pound of it left over. Save yourself and make a box cake or a much simpler recipe and buy the Carmel in jars... Just like everyone else says here in the comments.
  • MS10870407
    24 FEB, 2016
    I have not made this cake, nor will I as have noticed errors in the ingredients list. Directions for both cake and caramel call for water. Water is not listed in the ingredients list. Is there someone from Martha Stewart who reads these comments and can correct the problem? Some similar comments are from 2015 and still no correction nor clarification.
  • bgmitchell444
    30 AUG, 2015
    There is an error in the directions. The first step says add 1 1/2 cups warm water. It should say 1 1/2 c of buttermilk!
  • chifle36
    29 AUG, 2015
    Hello Martha, I have made this cake twice and love it. Easy to follow instructions, plus I watched the show when you make the cake so got some great pointers. Although the cake is expensive what do you expect chocolate, sea salt, and caramel. My caramel turned out great cooked it to the exact time and turned out great, love the flavor of it. And I am making it for a friend for her birthday, she loves the cake and can't wait to have it. Thank you again for the great recipe.
  • jimmyfox
    17 MAY, 2015
    Ok. I made it. Here is what I suggest to save you a lot of time and frustration!I tried making that caramel two times! Both times it was a disaster.I tried cutting in half. Still came out bad. Just go buy either Hershey's or Smucker's caramel sauce in a jar.You will need 3, 14 oz. jars. Put in the refridge to thicken and add salt to taste. It's fine.The cakes came out fine. Moist. They sunk a bit. Caramel and layer did not slide. Put in fridge to set. Do a crumb coat. Then frost. Perfect.
  • collw62
    16 MAY, 2015
    I am in the process of making this cake as I am writing this and although water is just water, when it is used in a recipe it is an ingredient so this recipe needs to be corrected~~I am adding it and hoping for the best. Will come back and rate this later but it will loose stars because of the ingredient mistake~~~
  • MS12081581
    10 MAY, 2015
    I made this recipe twice. First time I didn't have Dutch Cocoa, but it came out great. I actually made the cake a day ahead and put in fridge. The next day I made the caramel and frosting. The only problem I had was that I had to cook the caramel longer than said,because my candy thermometer never reached the temperature of 238. I kept cooking to a rolling boil for an extra 10 minutes and it still turned out great. Everyone loved the cake! Thank you Martha! I never go wrong with your recipes.
  • jomo782
    18 APR, 2015
    All I can say is SEVEN CUPS OF SUGAR. And that doesn't count the frosting.
  • terrielee616
    30 MAR, 2015
    I made this recipe last night & I am very disappointed. When making the caramel, the first bubble was BLACK. I turned the heat down to med-high & only cooked for 12 min. instead of the suggested 14.With those 2 exceptions, I followed the recipe exactly. Cake came out ok but the caramel was very burnt. I just tried a piece for "breakfast" & it's terrible. The burnt taste totally ruined the whole cake. This was a very expensive cake to make. Not happy with it at all! Water not listed in ingredient