Firm Caramel Sauce for Desserts


This caramel is not as soft as ice cream top­ping, and works well as a layer in bars and pies, as it firms up bet­ter in the refrig­er­a­tor. You will need a candy ther­mome­ter. Cal­i­brate it before you begin so you can adjust the tem­per­a­ture to your altitude.


Firm Caramel Sauce for Desserts


  • 1 1/2 cups gran­u­lated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 tea­spoon kosher salt
  • 1 tea­spoon vanilla extract
  • 2 table­spoons unsalted butter


  1. In a very heavy saucepan or cast iron pan, spread the sugar in an even layer. Slowly cook the sugar over low heat. Watch it very care­fully, slightly push­ing the sugar around with a heat-proof spoon or spat­ula as it liq­ue­fies and starts to darken in color. Don’t over stir or you might make the sugar crystallize.
  2. When all the sugar is melted, (still being care­ful not to let the sugar burn) take the pan off the heat and add half the cream. It will bub­ble up quite a bit. Stir caramel until it begins to mix together (there will be a lump of firm sugar that needs to melt into the cream. Just give it time.)
  3. Add the remain­ing cream and let sauce cook down until all the bits of sugar dissolve.
  4. Return to heat and cook, stir­ring con­stantly until mix­ture reaches 230 degrees F. (sea-level temp. cal­i­brate your ther­mome­ter accordingly)
  5. Add the but­ter, salt, and vanilla. Stir in well.
  6. Put the sauce through a sieve to catch any lit­tle hard bits of sugar.
  7. Pour sauce into a glass jar for storage.


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  1. Hey, your recipe calls for a num­ber of ingre­di­ents other than the Sugar and Cream you list in the instruc­tions. When were we sup­posed to add the salt, but­ter, and vanilla? I think that might help any­one else who attempts this recipe.

    As is, things didn’t go so hot, I’ve had a lot more suc­cess with the fol­low­ing recipe:

    1 cup but­ter, 1.5 cup brown sugar, 1.333 cup Karo syrup, 1 can sweet­ened con­densed milk. Add Every­thing together, boil to 240 (when its a soft ball) prob­lem solved.

    • Thanks for alert­ing me to the step I left out. The salt, but­ter, and vanilla should be added and stirred in right after pulling the fin­ished caramel from the heat.

      The recipe you included sounds like a good one. sim­i­lar to a caramel pop­corn recipe. The recipe above makes a caramel that is darker and more com­plex in fla­vor. More caramely, less sweet, if that makes sense, but it can be a tricky recipe, as watch­ing the sugar takes a bit of undi­vided atten­tion to catch it before it burns.

    • Do you have a recipe that doesn’t use corn syrup?? Just won­der­ing I’ve been search­ing for one and haven’t had any luck. Thanks for the tip on this recipe.

      • This recipe uses no corn syrup. The many recipes that do, do so to help pre­vent crys­tal­liza­tion. I have never had a prob­lem with crys­tal­liza­tion in this recipe even though it relies solely on gran­u­lated sugar as a sweetener.

  2. Would this Caramel sauce work for the stiff caramel layer in Carmel short­bread squares??? Thanks.

    • Should work really well. Espe­cially if the squares are kept cool. (not nec­es­sar­ily chilled…)

      • Ohh would it work if they were chilled?? The recipe i have says to keep them chilled.

  3. It will work great! It’ll be pretty firm but not so much that you can’t cut it. When I used this recipe for Coconut Caramel Candy Bars it worked per­fectly being chilled, but it isn’t required to ‘chill-chill’. Just keep cool enough to keep the sauce from ooz­ing. For your recipe, chill­ing in the refrig­er­a­tor will be just fine. You could even bring the dish out for 20–30 min­utes before serving.

    • Awe­some thank you so much!! I am def­i­nitely going to try this recipe!!

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