Creamy Caramel Icing makes spice cake sing, chocolate cake a dream and cupcakes do the happy dance. It’s a vintage recipe that should become one of your new classics.

The first thing you need to know about this glorious frosting is that it is vintage. It is! That doesn’t mean it’s old and moldy, it simply means that it might be made using a technique you aren’t familiar with…from olden times. The technique of cooked frosting, or sometimes called a boiled icing has been around for ages, but quite popular in the early and mid 1900s. These classic icing recipes have just a few more steps than mixing butter with confectioners’ sugar. They are simple and straight forward, but must be spread while still warm. Then they set on the cake and become the consistency of smooth fudge!

Spice Cake Caramel Icing

You will need a candy thermometer along with your mixer to make creamy caramel icing. (Get my favorite candy thermometer here). I love this recipe because it’s heavy on the brown sugar, which creates a lovely caramel flavor and color. It’s genius with this light Spice Cake.

The recipe came from Susan LaRosa, one of my favorite bloggers who writes about collected classic and vintage recipes. Her blog A Cake Bakes In Brooklyn came about when Susan found a box of old recipes at an antique store. She began collecting vintage cookbooks and boxes of old, often handwritten recipes. She bakes them one by one and blogs about her favorites!

Here’s cute Susan cooking this awesome frosting!


This vintage recipe stands the test of time!

The Spice Cake I talked about above, along with this boiled caramel icing is one of the recipes she found in her collection. I love that it stands the test of time. It has a nostalgic flavor and texture, while still being a dessert that could trend on any social media channel! Plus this icing is versatile! It doesn’t just have to go with the Spice Cake; use it on a chocolate cake or cupcakes. (If you’re using it on a chocolate cake, try sprinkling the top with a little flaked sea salt just to be super trendy. Salted Caramel Icing y’all!)


5 from 1 vote
Creamy Caramel Icing
Work Time
15 mins
Total Time
15 mins
  • cup plus 1 tbsp shortening
  • ¼ cup hot milk plus ½ cup cold milk
  • cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  1. Combine ⅓ cup shortening, ¼ cup hot milk, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla and beat until smooth, about 2 min.
  2. Boil together 1 tbsp shortening, ½ cup cold milk, corn syrup and brown sugar until temperature reaches 235°F (soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer, about 10 min. Pour over shortening mixture and beat until smooth and creamy, about 2 min. If icing isn't smooth enough, add 1 tbsp hot water.

Recipe courtesy of Susan LaRosa at
Originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal March 2012
Photography Seth Smoot

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Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Orah Goldman says:

    My icing is too thin. Does it thicken up over time and does it need to be refrigerated before spreading. I want it pipeable. It is too runny. What do I do?

    • Tara says:

      It does thicken as it cools! I’ve never piped with it, it’s more of a spreading icing, but let me know how it goes!

  • PEGGY says:

    This taste like pure sugar

    • Tara says:

      It is essentially sugar! It’s a vintage technique called a cooked icing, which uses very little other than sugar, milk and sometimes butter or shortening. I love that the brown sugar gives it a subtle caramel flavor and color.

  • Sandra Schroeder says:

    I added the spices to yellow cake mix, then caramelized a can of sweetened condensed milk (oven method), and added to a half recipe of butter cream icing. It was a hit!

    • Tara says:

      Sandra that sounds delish! I’m so glad you experimented. And I love a good cake mix! Sounds like a keeper for sure!

  • Brittany Smart says:

    I want to put this frosting on everything!

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