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Today is the beginning of a new recipe series I’m dubbing Fundamentals. I get a lot of emails from new bakers asking for basic recipes, tips, and product recommendations that will get them started with their newly acquired baking addiction.

While I can’t guarantee rock star status, I can provide you with some practical tips and simple tested recipes that work for me in my kitchen. The first recipe I am going to try and demystify is caramel, more specifically homemade caramel sauce.

I have a confession. Making caramel scares me. I love caramel, whether it’s by itself, sprinkled with sea salt, covered in peanuts, enrobed with nougat…well you get point. Although my love for caramel has been present for many, many years, I just recently started to make my own.

There have been some serious failures along one of which required the disposal of a pan. Yep, I tried to clean that sucker for days, so I ended up chucking it into the trash. Bottom line, caramel is finicky, it goes from perfect to a burnt mess in the blink of eye, but when you nail it, the outcome is extraordinary. Plus, you’ll never have to buy that overly sweet jarred stuff again!

On Friday, I’ll combine this luxurious caramel sauce with my Fleur de Sel Caramels to create one heck of a dessert!

Fundamental Information:

  • Caramel is essentially melted sugar.
  • There are two basic ways to make caramel: the dry method and the wet method. The dry method involves slowly heating sugar until it melts and is deemed as a bit more difficult. The wet method is more common and is what you will find in today’s recipe.
  • In the wet method, granulated sugar is dissolved in water and then boiled until the water starts to evaporate. As the water escapes, the mixture goes through a series of stages that indicates the ratio of water and sugar.

Fundamental Gear:

  • Heat safe spatula or wooden spoon
  • Heavy bottomed pot (non-stick is easier to clean) – If using non-stick, it may be difficult to know if your caramel has reached the desired shade of amber. Simply use a heat safe utensil to remove a few drops of caramel to a white plate.
  • Reliable candy thermometer – you will risk burning your sugar if you don’t have an absolutely accurate thermometer; cheapos from the supermarket typically don’t cut it.

Fundamental Safety:

  • Give your undivided attention to the caramel sauce while you are preparing it.
  • Caramel is HOT! Be careful. For reference- Water boils at 212°F, we are taking this sugar mixture over 350 degrees, so it’s incredibly hot.
  • When you add the heavy cream to the pot of molten sugar, it will bubble violently and steam will escape. Stand back and keep your face away from the pot!
  • Avoid a caramel catastrophe by making sure your heavy bottomed pot is large enough. Trust me; you do not want this caramel sauce to boil over onto your stove. It will bring you to tears. When you’re done, be sure to soak your pot and tools with hot water to help the cleaning process.
  • Make sure your stirring utensil is heat proof. I typically use a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula.

Uses for Homemade Caramel Sauce:

  • Eat it with a spoon
  • Spoon it over your favorite ice cream
  • Drizzle it over your favorite baked goods
  • Stir it into your morning latte to create a homemade caramel macchiato
  • Use it as a dip for fresh apple slices
  • Jar these up and pass along to friends and family; just be sure to tell them it needs to be stored in the refrigerator

Homemade Caramel Sauce


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 liquid cup water
  • 1/2 liquid cup heavy cream, heated until warm
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. In a heavy saucepan (at least 5 cup capacity), stir together the sugar, syrup, and water until the sugar is completely moistened. Place your candy thermometer into the pot taking care that it is tip in immersed into the sugar mixture.
  2. Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling.
  3. Stop stirring completely and allow it to boil undisturbed until it turns a deep amber (like the color of Bass Ale) (see notes below).
  4. Immediately remove it from the heat and slowly and carefully pour the hot cream into the caramel. It will bubble up furiously.
  5. Use a high-temperature heat-resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon to stir the mixture until smooth, scraping up the thicker part that settles on the bottom. If any lumps develop, return the pan to the heat and stir until they dissolve.
  6. Stir in the butter and salt. The mixture will be streaky but become uniform after cooling slightly and stirring.
  7. Allow the sauce to cool for 3 minutes. Gently stir in the vanilla extract.


  • Keep at room temperature for up to 3 days; refrigerated, about 3 weeks. To reheat, simply place in a microwave safe container and heat for about 45-60 seconds. Stir well.
  • I have 3 thermometers and they all register different temperatures. In my opinion, it's best to rely on the color of the caramel as opposed to the temperature. You want to look for a dark dark amber color. However, dark amber goes to burnt in a matter of seconds. If using a thermometer, start paying close attention at about 340 degrees. Once the color deepens, pull the mixture from the heat.

Tempting Twist:

  • Use fresh vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract. Simply scrape the seeds from inside ½ vanilla bean. Place the seeds and pod into the cream while it’s warming. Remove pod from the cream before adding to the hot sugar mixture.
{Edited: 12/17/11}
All images and text ©

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  1. Janet says:

    I’ve made this and the salted caramel sauce recipe several times and have share the recipe with friends!! Delicious and easy!
    My question is this: can I use this caramel sauce in a flan recipe? Thanks!

    1. Jamie says:

      So glad you enjoy it, Janey! I’ve honestly never made flan, so I’m not really sure. If you give it a try, let me know how it goes.

  2. smriti chawla says:

    hi. what indian brand of sugar can be used? i tried making it once with some locally sourced brand, and it recrystallized.

    1. Jamie says:

      Unfortunately, I am not knowledgable on Indian brands of sugar, but maybe someone will chime in to help you out. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

  3. Doug B says:

    Your instructions say to use a candy thermometer, but no where in the recipe does it say what temperature you need to let the mixture reach. Thanks!

    1. Jamie says:

      Hi, Doug! You’ll find temperature information at the bottom of the recipe. Here’s the info:

      I have 3 thermometers and they all register different temperatures. In my opinion, it’s best to rely on the color of the caramel as opposed to the temperature. You want to look for a dark dark amber color. However, dark amber goes to burnt in a matter of seconds. If using a thermometer, start paying close attention at about 340 degrees. Once the color deepens, pull the mixture from the heat.

      I hope this helps!

  4. Amit Sharma says:

    Superb Jamie!!

    I have tried this sauce in my kitchen and it was delicious. I love caramel.

    1. Jamie says:

      Wonderful, Amit! I love caramel, too!

  5. Sarah says:

    Made this today to use on top of bread pudding.  Texture and consistency was spot on but I found it way too sweet.  Would try it again omitting at least 1/4 cup of the sugar.


    1. Jamie says:

      I’m glad you liked it, Sarah! The amount of sweetness should definitely be adjusted to your personal preference. Take care!

  6. plasterer bristol says:

    Mm delicious, this turned out just right. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Jamie says:

      I’m so glad, Simon!

  7. Aakriti says:

    I tried the recipe twice and after i added the cream the whole caramel became a huge lump …. i was so disappointed. D you have any sugesstions?

    1. Jamie says:

      I’m so sorry, Aakriti! Try heating the caramel on low and see if it comes back to life, stirring very little. I hope this helps!

  8. Princesses Dad says:

    I love this caramel, the best flavor.  Mine turned out pretty hard, perfect for dipping apple slices, but it becomes rock hard when I put it on ice cream.  How do I thin it or make it not freeze on ice cream like in your picture?

    1. Jamie says:

      Typically if caramel becomes too hard, it could mean that it was overcooked. Caramel is super easy but can be a little tricky, but I promise, you’ll get the hang of it. I’m so glad you like the flavor of it!

  9. Audrey says:

    How about just putting a can of sweetened milk in a crock pot for 6-8 hours? It turns out fantastic and a lot easier than you can imagine. 

    1. Jamie says:

      I’ve done this before, Audrey and while it is definitely delicious, I prefer the flavor of this caramel sauce. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Joann podgurski says:

    Can this be made with trivia, and how much?