Old-Time Burnt Sugar Cake


This is not a cake; it’s an adventure.

I’m fascinated by old-fashioned recipes, and Burnt Sugar Cake has been on my must-try list for awhile. If you don’t recognize the name of the cake, you would most likely recognize the flavor. It’s a cake you had sometime in your childhood, while visiting older family members or at a church supper somewhere. Burnt Sugar Cake has a unique taste that just spells home and country roads and a day when people spent more time in the kitchen. But there’s a reason Burnt Sugar Cake isn’t so popular anymore–it does take time. There is no cake mix that will give you the flavor of burnt sugar. You have to “burn” the sugar yourself, and make the cake from scratch.

But let me tell you–it’s worth it.

I started out with a recipe from an elderly church lady who has since passed away. The recipe included the list of ingredients, with some measurements (but not all), and directions that were incredibly lacking. (In which she instructs about ingredients that aren’t even mentioned in the list of ingredients and measurements.) You know, it’s one of those recipes–the type where they all knew what they were doing and only halfway wrote it down because you were supposed to know, too. It gave absolutely no instructions about burning the sugar.

Lost, I turned to the internet and studied burnt sugar cake recipes I found online. I chose one and made it…. It was quite different from the “authentic” recipe I had from the elderly lady, but hey, at least it had directions. Unfortunately, the cake was terrible. It baked up dry and dense and just utterly unacceptable.

Not to be deterred, I took what I’d learned from the online recipe and went back to the “authentic” one. Armed with at least a sense of how burnt sugar is created and the process of this cake, I tackled the old-time recipe again, filling in the gaps with my own experience. You know, the experience the incomplete recipe assumed I had to begin with. The two recipes were different in several ways, and by and large my second attempt was based on the old-time recipe. However, where measurements were incomplete in the old-time recipe, I filled in with my own guesses from my baking background, and what I ended up with was a delicious, moist, light cake that fulfilled all my Burnt Sugar Cake dreams.

Printer-Friendly Printer-Friendly
How to make Old-Time Burnt Sugar Cake:

Making Burnt Sugar Syrup–

1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups water

Dump the sugar in a skillet on the stove. Turn the heat to medium-low.

You don’t actually “burn” the sugar–you melt it. The sugar will just…melt. Seriously. Who knew? (Stop laughing. I’m from the suburbs.)

Stir only occasionally. The less you stir, the better. If you can’t restrain yourself, walk away for five to ten minutes and come back. It will look like this.

Now add the hot water, continuing with your heat on medium-low. (The online recipe instructed me to boil the water before adding it. This was not in sync with the old-time recipe and it’s not necessary. (Old church ladies know this stuff!) I made the burnt sugar twice, with each recipe, and I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to boil the water. Just use it hot right out of your tap. That’s good enough.

The melted sugar gets all excited when you add the water and it will bubble up.

Then it will calm down and after another five to ten minutes (again, it doesn’t like to be stirred too much), it will look like this.

Turn off the heat and set it aside to cool to room temperature while you start preparing the cake. The syrup is thin while it’s hot, but as it cools, it thickens. By the way, if you’re ever snowed in and have to have pancakes, this makes a pancake syrup in a pinch. Add a bit of maple flavoring if you have some on hand and it’s make-do maple syrup. Just remember, however much you want to make, use equal parts sugar and water. You know, if you’re snowed in and have to have pancakes. I wouldn’t want anyone to go without pancakes ever again. It’s an unnecessary tragedy. (Never run out of pancake mix again, either–try my Quick Mix.)

Note: Using 1 1/3 cups sugar and 1 1/3 cups water, you’re going to end up with approximately 1 1/4 cups Burnt Sugar Syrup after it cooks down in the process. Your exact mileage may vary.

Making Burnt Sugar Cake–

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs (yolks/whites divided)
1 cup Burnt Sugar Syrup
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In another bowl, combine room temperature butter and the sugar. Cream. Add two egg yolks and beat again.

In a small bowl, beat egg whites till fluffy.

To the bowl with flour, add the creamed butter/sugar/egg yolks, the Burnt Sugar Syrup, and the milk. Beat well. Gently fold in the egg whites. (Do not beat again.) The online recipe didn’t call for the eggs to be separated with the whites beaten then folded in. This is an extra step, but it makes a difference. Trust me.

Divide into two round, greased cake pans.

Bake at 350-degrees for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. (Don’t overbake!)

Cool and frost with Burnt Sugar Icing.

Making Burnt Sugar Icing–

16 ounces powdered sugar
Burnt Sugar Syrup (however much you have left in the skillet! as noted above, your mileage will vary after your syrup cooks down)
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
milk or water as needed

Combine and beat till smooth and spreadable. If your icing is too stiff because you found yourself on the low side with your remaining Burnt Sugar Syrup, add a bit of milk or water. Frost cake and decorate with pecan halves. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Excuse me while I inhale this cake….

P.S. I don’t use cake flour. Ever. If a cake recipe can’t be made with regular flour, it’s just a bad recipe in my book. When I post a cake recipe, I’m using regular flour and it’s a recipe that works.

P.P.S. I don’t use bread flour, either. Ever. If a bread recipe can’t be made with regular flour, it’s just a bad recipe in my book. When I post a bread recipe, I’m using regular flour and it’s a recipe that works.

P.P.P.S. I’m too frugal for that special cake and bread flour nonsense.

P.P.P.P.S. I just wanted to use another P. The extra P’s are free!

See this recipe at Farm Bell Recipes and save it to your recipe box.

See All My Recipes
Printer-Friendly Printer-Friendly


  1. LatigoLiz says:

    Ooooh, that sounds (and looks) DIVINE!

  2. Laney says:

    Tho I have never baked a cake directly from scratch, I think I will have to venture out a bit and try this one. It looks SO delicious. I wish I had some right now!!

  3. KathyB. says:

    This cake looks yummy. I printed up the recipe and plan to make it soon ! Thanks Suzanne. I have made a lot of the Grandmother Bread and the recipe has not failed me yet !KathyB.

  4. Patty says:

    Oooh, that definitely looks like one to try out, and then make one for a family reunion. Desserts at my reunions are getting lazy. I miss the old fashioned home made cakes and pies. Mmmm I can almost taste that cake!

  5. Alison says:

    Looks like a great recipe. I will have to try it some time. :hungry:

  6. maddie says:

    Oh, yum! I can taste it! My grandmother used to make this cake and there have been times I’ve wondered how to make it. Thanks, Suzanne.

  7. Carolyn A. says:

    I have eaten burnt sugar cake in Harrisonburg, VA, but yours looks so much more appealing. However did you get it to look that good coming out of the pans? Now I want some! You are just the best at making me want to turn that dadgum oven on before Fall. 🙂 Thanks again for another great recipe! xxoo

  8. Diane says:

    Yummy. I might have to try this. I agree with the flour business. Cant be bothered buying special flower for cakes and breads. lol.

  9. wkf says:

    That looks wonderful!

  10. Pam says:

    What an incredible looking thing to wake up too! 🙂 (Now I’m REALLY hungry.)

  11. jane says:

    It looks good enough for Southern Living Magazine or Paula Dean’s magazine and I think it would put Martha Stewart to shame for sure. Never heard of this before but copied the recipe to make.

    thanks for the forum too – so nice to see what others write and where they are from

  12. Shari C says:

    Oh, it sounds like a lot of work, but worth every minute of it from seeing the photos you took. I just might have to try this as I believe my grandmother used to make it.

  13. Blaze says:

    You know I had no idea that this cake had an offical name.
    My granny used to make this, I thought it was just like a pecan cake, cause I’d always pick them off the outside before I ate it.
    Weird to find out that it had a real “offical” name!

    And you are right its one of those things you just have to have to understand It wasn’t my favorite she’d make though but it was good stuff.

  14. Suzanne McMinn says:

    I bet an extra teaspoon one way or another wouldn’t make any difference. The idea is, apparently, that you add the teaspoon of vanilla to the 1/2 cup of burnt sugar syrup and then fill the cup on up to a full one cup with water, so that makes it a 1/2 cup of water minus one teaspoon! Our grannies probably just did it this way without thinking too much about it cuz you know they weren’t writing the recipe down anyway, LOL.

  15. Pamela-ATL. says:

    That looks delicious. Makes me want cake for breakfast.

  16. Amy says:

    Our fair is coming up, this may just be the perfect cake to enter! My almost 13 wants to enter Grandmother Bread. She hasn’t ever made it on her own, we’ll do that this weekend. This is something the 16 can do (she’s the pancake maker in this house).

  17. IowaCowgirl says:

    I too love old old recipes (receipts as Grandma used to say). Grandma made a burnt sugar cake too and you’ve inspired me to get moving on it again. Thanks!

    I have many old recipes of Grandma’s; I’ll try and post one or two that are “ole-timey”, but not too long – and no really strange ones like “headcheese”.

  18. wammy says:

    I am searching thru the cabinets looking for all the ingredents for this wonderful looking cake. Wish we had smell-a-computer!

  19. J says:

    :hungry: I’m hoping to make it to our reunion next Sunday and if I do… this cake is going to go with me. Thanks Suzanne.

  20. MARY says:

    :butterfly: YUM!!!!!!! Now I am starving!!! Have a great weekend! :treehugger:

  21. Jeremy Welch says:

    Ok… Just stop! If you keep on making these wonderful looking recipes and I make them, then I’m gonna get out of shape and my First Sergeant and Lieutenant will kill me… That looks so good I can almost taste it. I would make it but we don’t exactly have all the ingredients having just moved not to long ago…

  22. Lora says:

    That cake looks wonderful. Suzanne, I love ya, but I have to say you are wrong about cake flour. The reason some recipes call for it is simply because of gluten content and how the gluten reacts with the fats and liquids in a recipe. You can make most recipes that call for “fancy” flour with all purpose flour just fine, but cake flour will make a finer crumb in most cases. I say most cases, because there are always exceptions. Now, sifting flour can be a waste of time…..I won’t geet started on that one!

  23. Suzanne McMinn says:

    That’s okay, Lora! What I mean is that =I= just won’t make a recipe that requires it. If a recipe can’t come out right without special cake or bread flour, then it’s not a recipe that will become a regular in my house and it won’t show up on my blog. Cake flour and bread flour is too expensive. I won’t pay extra for it. I’d rather find another recipe that works without it–it’s just more practical!

  24. heidi says:

    I do have cake and bread and pastry flour- I’m going to use the cake flour and see if it isn’t as light as a feather!:)

    I can’t help it- I teach bread making classes and people want to know the science behind the bread when they are paying for a class. And the wheat does make a difference because of it’s gluten making properties- OK- enough of that! I just wanted to explain why there are so many flours out there. All purpose is exactly that- all purpose and can be used for everything!

    Your cake is beautiful- you should have entered it in the fair!

  25. Beckynsc says:

    That looks delicious!
    I’m with you on the cake and bread flour. They didn’t have that stuff when the Grannies were creating these delicious treats.
    By the way, is the flower, on your daily photo, a Wild Touch-Me-Not?

  26. Abiga/karen says:

    I hope I have all these ingredients cuz this is what I want to make today. Not sure it will come out like yours. My daughter and I in the kitchen seem to have disasters all the time. Yesterday when making zucchini bread she turned on the mixer too high and out it all splattered. So that was that for the zucchini bread but then she made her flax wheat loaf and that was great.
    You did forget one important ingredient for the cake though Rumor has it by you that you are pant-less so maybe I need to try that when baking, not sure that would go over too well with all the grandkids running around. It is a bit chilly oday too.
    And I can just see you on Paula Deans show (or with Martha) with both of you Pant-less talking about your recipes. Oh my Food Network is achangin’ fast now.

  27. Laura says:

    I am going to try this for a pair of October birthdays. Did you grease the cake pans? I love melted sugar.

  28. Nancy says:

    I want some. I don’t bake. I don’t cook. Suzanne, would you please bring a piece of your wonderful cake to my door in Atlanta??? Emma (my cat) and I would love it. :purr:

  29. Suzanne McMinn says:

    I’m not sure what that flower is (in the daily farm photo).

    Laura, yes, I greased the cake pans. Ack, I left that out. I’ll go add it to the post. Thanks!

  30. MMHONEY says:


  31. Lucy says:

    I pulled up your blog a little while ago and totally had a a flashback to the fifties when I saw that cake. My mother used to make that burnt sugar frosting all the time. I remember it because….at the time….I didn’t like it at all. Now who knows….I was an ‘early’ teenager at the time and I didn’t like a lot of thing so I may love it now. But I hadn’t thought of it in years. The only other thing I have used burnt or carmelized sugar for was a pioneer candy recipe from my mother’s line of people. You make it from sugar and evaporated milk burning or carmelizing the sugar first. It’s very good but is very hard to make. They named it “Patience” because that’s what it takes to make it and is what I do not have. But when made well, yummy.

  32. Jill S. says:

    Oh my, does that look delicious.

  33. Sooz in nv says:

    :cattail: That cake is gorgeous. Burning sugar is also how you make flan, one of my favorite desserts.
    Have you ever heard of the Foxfire books? They were really hot in the late 60’s, early 70’s. They will tell you everything from how to scald a hog to playing a dulcimer. And they also have pictures. Lots of Appalachian photos of people making soap and all kinds of good stuff. Great for people wanting to go ‘back to the land’. Check it out! There are volumes and volumes of them.
    Sooz in NV

  34. Kathryn says:

    That looks so good! I love burnt-sugar frosting on a chocolate dump cake. I am going to try your recipe next weekend. Thank you for sharing it!

    You know what else I love? Your hand mixer. I have a stand mixer that I rarely use. I just like my hand mixer.

  35. Jennifer Robin says:

    OMG! You are going to get me in so much trouble. I can tell this one’s a winner!

  36. Karen B says:

    :typing: I need to wipe up the drool on my keyboard……….

  37. Cindy Wright says:

    That looks so yummy!

  38. Jean says:

    It’s been a lot of years since I made Burnt Sugar Cake. My Grandmother used to make it also. Yours looks so light and fluffy I’m just going to have to make one by your recipe right now. Thanks for doing all the experimenting and just giving us the final wonderful recipe.

  39. Beckynsc says:

    I Googled the flower and it looks like a wild touch me not.
    Try Googling it and see for sure.
    The reason I asked is…
    My Dad always told me if you crush the stem and put the juice on poison ivy, it will get rid of it overnight. I cannot find it here in SC. If you ever get poison ivy, it might be worth a try.
    Remember where it grows, you might have a hard time finding it when the flowers die off. I know I did, when I lived in WV.

  40. Crystal B. says:

    That cake looks divine. Thank you for the recipe. 🙂 Have a great weekend.

  41. Belladonna says:

    YUUUUUMMMMMMMM that looks so scrumptions Suzanne!!! When you mentioned you were going to post this, it reminded me of a cake I saw in Maya Angelou’s cookbook “Hallelujah the Welcome Table”, that I have wanted to make for a few years now and never did. When I saw you post this, this am…again, it reminded me of hers, so I am going to post her recipe and see if it is the same. It’s a cookbook of the foods she grew up on and has some WONDERFUL recipes for everything from Hogshead Cheese, to Tomato Rice…Hot Water Cornbread, Spoon bread…all kinds of dishes of every kind.
    Hers is called Caramel Cake

    Caramel Cake
    1 stick of Butter
    1 and 1/4 cups sugar
    1/4 cup Caramel Syrup (recipe follows)
    2 cups sifted all purpose flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 cup milk
    2 large eggs
    Caramel Frosting (recipe follows)

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two 8 inch layer cake pans with greased wax paper.
    In large bowl, beat butter, and add 1 cup sugar gradually until light and fluffy. Beat in syrup.
    In medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add sifted ingredients to creamed mixture, alternating with milk.
    In seperate medium mixing bowl, beat eggs about 3 minutes, until foamy. Add remaining sugar, and beat until there is a fine spongy foam. Stir into cake batter until well blended.
    Divide batter between cake pans. Bake for about 25 minutes. Remove pans from oven. Gently press center of cake with forefinger. Cake should spring back when finger is removed. If it doesn’t, return to oven for 10 minutes. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack, and remove wax paper. Let cakes cool to room temp. before frosting.
    To assemble: Center one cooled cake layer on cake plate. Cover top and sides with generous helping of frosting. Place second layer evenly on frosted layer. Repeat frosting procedure. Make certain that sides are completely frosted. Cool in fridge until ready to serve.

    Caramel Syrup
    1 cup white sugar
    1 cup boiling water
    Heat sugar in heavy skillet over low heat. Stir constantly until melted to a brown liquid. When it bubbles over entire surface, remove from heat. Slowly add boiling water, stirring constantly. Pour into container and cool.

    The picture looks divine…it has a piece cut out, so you can see the dark brown edges of the cake layers and the icking is more thin looking than yours…she has this syrup drizzled all over the surface of the cake. She also has stories with her recipes, telling how her momma made her this cake when little – the teacher slapped her in the face!!!! SAD! I HOPE TO TRY one day.

    My grandmother cooked like that…she gave me her spongecake recipe and mine did not turn out…she just knew it by heart, for years.

  42. Belladonna says:

    I usually use unsalted butter when I bake..does it matter? Or should I use salted?

    Cake is my FAV dessert..then cookies. LOL I THINK I also saw a similar recipe in my mother’s OLD Betty Crocker cookbook.

  43. Suzanne McMinn says:

    I really don’t know (re the butter). I always use sweet, salted butter. In everything!

  44. Donna says:

    OMG, I forgot the Caramel Frosting…I post it here. Thanks Suzanne…I usually use sweet unsalted butter in all my baking and when I made my shortbread cookies recently with salted, they didn’t taste AS good to me…but I wasn’t sure. I am no baking expert. LOL

    Caramel Frosting
    6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
    One 8-ounce pkg. Confectioners’ sugar
    4 Tablespoons heavy cream
    1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    Pinch of salt

    Brown butter in heavy pot over medium heat – be vigilant or it will burn. Allow butter to cool. In large mixing bowl, add confect.’s sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and salt to the butter, and beat until smooth. If frosting is too stiff, add tablespoon of half-and-half or full cream to thin.

  45. Katie says:

    I think you need to add a photography book into the deal when you start the childrens series and the cookbooks. You photography is always fun to look at and you make food look soooo good. I try a lot of your recipes and I am never disappointed. Thank you for entertaining us and feeding us.

  46. Barb Wilson says:

    :hungry: Boy did that old time burnet sugar cake look good . I have to get one mixed up I can`t wait to bring up u`r site ever day as I see something very interesting , U can`t beat the old time cooking.FOR SURE

  47. hawkswench says:

    Actually there is not much difference between cake flour and all purpose flour. If you want to make a homemade version take 2 cups of all purpose flour minus 2 Tablespoons
    2 Tablespoons of cornstarch
    (or as mom used to do 2Tbs of cornstarch in a 1 cup measuring cup and then fill with flour)
    Then sift it like 10 times to make it lighter and fluffier then reg flour.

  48. Cyndi B says:

    That has to be the move amazing looking cake! I’m trying it this weekend! :snoopy:

  49. catslady says:

    Although I know I’ll never make it, I enjoy hearing how you make these scrumptious deserts.

  50. Kathi says:

    This looks so good. We are having a nice fall day here in Colorado — cool, cloudy. Perfect day for cake baking (er, I mean eating)

  51. Donna says:

    I also love the way you decorated it Suzanne!!! So pretty and I LOVE LOVE LOVE pecans!!!!!

    I am hoping you try my recipe above one day and tell me if they are similar. LOL They sound close. YOurs looks HEAVENLY.

  52. Estella says:

    The cake looks yummy!

  53. Remudamom says:

    What did I do wrong? My icing never did thicken up, it stayed in the dark runny stage. The kids tried it anyway and said it tasted like Dimetapp. Maybe too much stirring?

  54. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Remudamom–I’m confused. It doesn’t sound as if you are talking about the icing–it sounds as if you are talking about the burnt sugar syrup itself? You don’t need to wait for the burnt sugar syrup to thicken unless you are using it as make-do pancake syrup. Otherwise, you add it to the icing ingredients–the powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla, and beat. If it’s too thin, you can add more powdered sugar (or add milk or water if it’s too thick).

  55. Brandy says:

    Does this have a caramel taste? It sounds delicious! Thanks for posting.

  56. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Brandy, yes, the flavor is similar to caramel, though not quite the same.

  57. Susan says:

    Now that is a yummy looking cake! :thumbsup:

  58. Kayis says:

    How delectable-looking! I can’t wait to shed a few more pounds so I can bake this cake and share it with others! I do have a couple of questions. Is the sugar used in the Burnt Sugar Syrup recipe granulated sugar? Can brown sugar be used in its place?

  59. Traci Best says:

    Flash back to my childhood! I miss all those old-timey things that my my Mamaws, Aunts and Mom used to whip up for Sunday get togethers!

    Thank you for the leg work and the recipe!

    Traci :woof:

  60. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Hi, Kayis! The sugar in the recipe is white granulated sugar (just regular sugar). I haven’t tried making the burnt sugar syrup with brown sugar so I really don’t know. If you try it, please come back and tell us how it goes!

  61. Tammy says:

    Hello new friend…
    I just stumbled on your blog and boy am I glad I did….this recipe looks delicious!!
    I have a recipe on my blog for caramel dumplings which my mother and grandmother used to make.
    It has the same burnt sugar syrup, but you drop sweet dumplings into it and it makes it’s own sauce.
    I will be back often.

  62. Lisa L says:

    Wow this looks incredibly yummy! Can you pass me a piece?

  63. Donna says:

    Suzanne, Kayis, if it is any help…I was reading in the cookbook I mentioned above by Maya Angelou…on her recipe above…and in her story, she mentioned the women did not have brown sugar, is why they had to make it with the granulated/water…so I am assuming you can. I have not made either cake, so I don’t know.
    She mentioned them making desserts for quilting bees…LOL
    Her book is full of old Southern recipes. Biscuits, tomato rice, fried chicken, shortribs…good tips.

  64. sunnid755 says:

    Yummy looking cake, now I need something sweet. 😆

  65. Foodaholic says:

    That looks soooo good. Great instructions too! I love cooked sugar.

  66. Terri says:

    I have never heard of Burnt Sugar Cake but this recipe looks divine! Can’t wait to try it!

  67. Hairstyle says:

    This looks amazing, I want a slice right now!! :shimmy: :hungry:

  68. lola says:

    this sounds fantastic! i will try asap!

  69. claire geier says:

    Every time I have made Burnt sugar cake, the syrup hardens to candy. What can I do to prevent that?

  70. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Hi, Claire! First I have a question about your burnt sugar syrup recipe–are you using equal parts sugar and water? Second, watch your temperature setting. I use medium-low (right between those two positions). Third, a tip while simmering the syrup–if any of the syrup gets around the edges of the pan (away from the heat) it may harden. Scrape those bits toward the center of the pan. I hope that helps!

  71. carmen says:

    This Burnt Sugar cake looks super delicious :yes: and I couldn’t help smiling whilst reading through your instructions for this cake, you’ve got quite a sense of humor. :clap:

  72. Jacquie says:

    This year my step father has required that I make a cake of sorts for Thanksgiving dinner since I usually just help with the cooking. This looks like a perfect recipe that I am sure he would love as it seems to have the old style taste. I’m going to try it out on my fiancee first and then see how that goes. Thank you so much for posting it. :mrgreen:

  73. roume says:

    This is just so beautiful!
    i am definitely going to do this for my sisters…..:D

  74. Ricki says:

    My Mom was a chemist at a grain brokerage. They used to bake burnt-sugar cookies to test flour. I can’t find a recipe anywhere. They were cut out and hard. They had to be dunked. I miss them sooooo much >

  75. mark stephens says:

    I can almost taste it will try it.will definitely check out any other recipes you post

  76. Hashim says:

    Looks yummy :hungry:
    I’ll have to spend whole day making it, I am not a good cook :wall: Lots of smileys choice here !! :bananadance:

  77. JFS in IL says:

    What a cool recipe! Can’t wait to try it!

  78. Kathleen says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to use pictures. It is always so helpful. I can’t wait to make this cake. I wonder though, if the old-time recipe had been complete, if the cake would have been better, worse, or the exact same! :rotfl:

  79. JMom says:

    Your cake looks delicious! I have a recipe from another ‘old lady’ but I haven’t gotten it to come out right yet. If you don’t mind, I’ll try our your recipe. Thanks!

  80. Megan says:

    This recipe looks like it tastes amazing!!

  81. lovefrom1stbite says:

    Wow that looks delishhhhhhhh! :shimmy:
    & LOVED the picture before last
    those cakes look so perfect..
    Thumbs up!

    The blogger next door 🙂

  82. Pawan says:



    Good to see these images, i likes all the info and there relaed images, good work really great stuff.

  83. tommy says:

    Wow, This looks GREAT! Thanks for posting.

  84. Jennifer says:

    Wow, this looks amazing! Definitely a must try 🙂 Love your blog!

  85. Laura says:

    Good God! That looks absolutely delectable. My mouth began watering as soon as the photo popped up.
    And you have done a fantastic job writing up the recipe. I am definitely going to attempt this at home and take it to the next family gathering. Bakeries have stopped making burnt sugar cakes in my area. Thank you!

  86. janeyb says:

    this recipe (& the foto) looks fantastic, silly question, don’t s’pose there is a low fat version!!??????

  87. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Hi, Janey! Well, I suppose you could make it with margerine and low-fat milk, though I’m afraid you might sacrifice the richness that makes this cake such an old-fashioned classic!

    Remember, life is short. Eat more dessert. 🙂

  88. Lexis says:

    Looks delicious.Make sure you try yoga poses to burn the fat

  89. Janice says:

    My dad had (its now mine since i moved out) a cook book called Prize Winning Cakes with a burnt sugar cake recipe in it.. i used to make it a lot when i was like 10 or 11.. you made me want to get that book out!!

  90. Kristina says:

    Oh. My. Goodness. I am now so hungry for that cake I’m probably going to attempt to make it tomorrow. Thanks for posting the recipe! I’m so excited because besides the nuts, I have all the other ingredients so if I have time I am definitely going to be baking that.

  91. eg says:

    I just want to point out that walking away from melting sugar is an incredible bad idea. Sugar (like chocolate) has a very narrow range of heat between the beginnings of caramelization and being a blackened husk which requires a chisel to remove from your pan.

    Of course if you’re caramelizing at an incredibly low heat as this method seems to call for then this shouldn’t be to much of a problem. However keep an eye on the sugar if you’re in a rush.

  92. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Yes, this is sugar melted at a relatively low heat. Walking away for a few minutes isn’t going to hurt anything. I recommend that if you’re impatient (like me) and can’t resist stirring, as too much stirring really isn’t helpful. I’ve made this cake several times and walking away from the sugar for a few minutes while it melts is no problem at all.

  93. Caroline says:

    My dad loves this cake. I remember that he always requested it for his birthday. The taste was wonderful, but the cake was always dry to me. I’d like to try your recipe to see if it’s better… I haven’t had this in over 28 years, but I can still taste it. The flavor is like no other. Thanks for sharing the recipe!!

  94. Paul Rodgers says:

    is this like a country carmel cake?

  95. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Hi, Paul! Yes, this is very much like what is called a country caramel cake.

  96. VesnaVK says:

    I made this cake for my husband’s birthday per his request. He put his order in a month ago, after finding this article through StumbleUpon.

    Terrific! Thanks for the recipe! Definitely an adventure, as you say. Moist and almost chewy, with a wonderful finish. A little slice goes a long way.

  97. Rosangela says:

    I liked your style! Made me smile! I’ll try this “adventure-cake” soon! ;o)

    I used to live on a farm in Wisconsin… your pages brought me good memories…

    I also write… I have a big collection but I’m not published yet…

    Good to know you!

  98. katie says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I was talking to my grandmother today and she told me about a cake that her mother used to make. She didn’t have the recipe but said she knew that her mother called it burnt sugar cake. I found your recipe online. We also saw your pepperoni roll article and knew that you must be from WV. My grandmother is also from WV and our family has lived there many generations. We are in FL now but my grandmother still owns her home in Salem and is there for 6 months out of the year. Thank you for your site!

  99. Brenda's Barbecue Delights says:

    This looks great! I can’t wait to try it for myself. Thanks so much for posting it.

  100. Aileen says:

    I’ve found this recipe and it very much resembles our version of ginger bread (just add ground cinnamon, nutmeg, honey and a bit of rum and that’s “sweet flat cake” or ginger bread. I don’t know if you use burnt sugar syrup in ginger bread but we do and in our old cook books there’s no ginger in the recipe! :)) odd national difference…anyway, your cake looks great, I’m more than happy to find such love for cooking. Cheers!

  101. Linda says:

    This is a beautiful recipe. I would like to make it into a sheet cake, 9 x 17. What do you think? Will it work out? I will probably have to bake it a few minutes longer, say about 5-7 minutes.

  102. PatW says:

    Glad I thought to search for “burnt sugar cake” instead of caramel cake. I recently tried the Daring Bakers caramel cake recipe and found it wanting, although I did like the frosting. This recipe should be much better. I’ll combine the two and probably have much better results.

  103. UK Foodie says:

    Looks fantastic, they’re great photos – will definately try this recipe some time – thanks!

  104. Debbie Gooden says:

    I recently tried making burnt sugar icing and had four flops in a row just trying to melt the sugar. I felt like a fool as I cook A LOT! All four times I had the heat on low and I stirred it constantly as that is what the recipe I was using said to do.It just all of a sudden went into a hard glob with no way of ever melting down. It was as hard as rock candy. I have been doing some research on my family and in talking with my dad about his grandmother who was a wonderful ccok, this is the kind of cake he most remebered and has craved over the years so it is important for me to master one. If there are any ideas, please let me know. Debbie

  105. jEn says:

    I made this cake the other night everyone loved it. I will be making this one many more times. I just need to get the icing right. it was to thin.

  106. Christine says:

    I made the cake as well and ran into a few problems – The sugar took an HOUR to melt because I wasn’t using a heavy cast iron pan but a little t-fal skillet (not recommended) I finally had to cover it to get the heat required to do the job. Once the sugar melted I cooked it too long {hard ball crack stage) so it didn’t dissolve well into the water. Then when it did it was thin, and made for thin gloppy icing… Still it was delicious.

    Moral of the story – use your old fashioned pan!!

  107. Habibe says:

    Hi. My name’s habibe nameley mutfakteyze :)I’ve a blog on foods. And I’m following you. This cake is very delicious. I can say that My mouth began watering as soon as the photo popped up.Have good luck 🙂 See you

  108. Pigpigscorner says:

    I’ve never tried burnt sugar cake but it looks and sounds rally delicious! THe flavour must be wonderful with the burnt sugar!

  109. Sarah says:

    Yay, thanks for this! I plan to try it tomorrow to take to a potluck on Wednesday night (lots of lovely, old church ladies to impress.)

  110. Tanya says:

    Wow this looks delicious, as usual. I’ll for sure have to make this cake. Thanks for the great recipe.

  111. mamawolf says:

    :fairy: While searching for burnt sugar cake recipe I came across your site. My husband’s grandmother used to make this cake and it was his favorite. After we married I tried to make it for his birthday. Alas, like your first attempt it could have been used for a boat anchor; dry, and heavy. Several years later attempted another with same results. Once again I will attempt one. The pictures and comoplete directions are great. Will let you know the outcome. Thanks for a wonderful site, Be sure I will return not only for recipes but for a daily dose of humor, stories and common sense. Mamawolf

  112. Robert Hubbard says:

    Suzanne, thanks so much for this FANTASTIC recipe. I’ve never had luck with carmelizing sugar (making Burnt Sugar Syrup) before and your process works great! Not stirring much really makes a huge difference!

    Thanks also for the icing recipe–it is indeed rich, but it’s a little too much for my taste when put over the whole cake. I have an alternative for those who want a slightly different experience.

    I made the icing recipe you suggested and used this thick, carmelly stuff as the filling on my layer cake. For the outside I used an old family recipe which we simply call, “Creamy Frosting.” It’s a simple recipe and is probably familiar to many or is printed somewhere, but I’ve never found it. My mom and aunts were using it back in the 50s, but I don’t know where it came from before that. I come from a long line of Colorado farmers, so this recipe likely came from a country kitchen somewhere.

    What I like about it is that it’s lighter, fluffy and compliments almost any cake. It can take flavor and color well (adding cocoa to it makes a great, light chocolate frosting). So, for this recipe I simply made a little extra burnt sugar syrup and added that as my flavoring. The result was wonderful. Here’s the recipe:

    1/2 C Butter (or margarine)
    1/2 C Vegetable Shortening
    1 C Sugar
    3 TBL. Flour
    1/2 C. Milk (at Room Temp.)
    2 tsp. Vanilla
    Optional: Other flavoring as desired

    Cream together butter, shortening and sugar. Alternately add flour and milk. Beat at high speed until sugar is no longer grainy. Add vanilla. Add other flavorings to taste.

    I’m enjoying this cake immensely. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe and experience!

    Robert Hubbard
    [email protected]

  113. Veronica M. says:

    I had so much fun reading this b/c I’ve had an old-fashioned burnt sugar cake experience myself, though I only tried it once and my recipe was complete (got it out of a 1954 magazine). I posted it a while back if you feel like reading–I included pics of some of the old ads in the mag–fun stuff! Your cake sounds a lot better than how mine turned out and I’ve been wanting to make another so I’m bookmarking this. BTW, I love your PS’s! I used to use cake flour and bread flour but have gotten to the point where I also refuse to use it. I was initially convinced that cake flour made the best cakes and bread flour the best bread but after a lot of baking, I have found that using all-purpose is actually BETTER for cakes and just as good for bread. You go, sister!

  114. Lisa Micali says:

    I asked my mother what kind of cake she wanted for her 90th (!) birthday and she said a burnt sugar cake. I remembered one from my childhood but didn’t have a recipe, and found yours after searching. I made it yesterday and frosted it today, brought it over to celebrate at her assisted living residence, and it was truly delicious! Thank you for sharing a memory and a tradition, which made a very elderly and very ill lady very happy today, as well as her children and grandchildren. I am afraid that this will be her last birthday, but I will always feel better knowing that it was a good one.

  115. Kathy Wilson says:

    The cast iron skillet and not stirring was key!The batter is awesome. The cake is moist. I did find my frosting with 3/4 syrup was too runny, so I used less syrup the nest time. Thank you so much for the pictures and instructions. I am a hero for making this cake for someone who wanted it for their birthday!

  116. Paul says:

    This was my favorite cake when I was a child in the late 40’s and early 50’s.My wife had never had this, so I made it for my 63rd birthday tomorrow. Tasted just like I remember it as a child. I agree folding the egg whites gives it a nice light and spongy texture.The kids are no longer in the nest so I am going to share it with the neighbors, before I eat the whole cake.

  117. Marina says:

    I was sent this link to your burnt sugar cake from CaCynthia from Taste of Home. I love your site..great sense of humor… :purpleflower:

  118. Linda says:

    Several months later! I was going thru my Aunts recipe box to find family recipes especially those from Grandma Jane. Before I copied Burnt Sugar Cake I thought “this must be on the internet” and VIola! the first link on this list was your delightful rendering of this experience. It certainly brought back memories of my trying to make this for my Daddy’s birthday. I will look forward to making this again for the next family birthday!

  119. Robert Brand says:

    I have a copy of the Culinary arts institute published 1964 that has a variant on this.
    If you want I can email you a copy.

  120. Sherry Ashberger says:

    Yep, we live 20 miles from the nearest grocery store. Hubby just HAD to have PANCAKES one morning… So I had to TRY to remember how my mother used to make burnt sugar… And I did it!! OK. It took TWO tries! But the syrup was MARVELOUS on pancakes!! Why would you want ANYTHING else!! My mother used to make APPLESAUCE cake with raisins or chopped up dates and black walnuts when we had them. Then made the burnt sugar frosting for it … Oh, my goodness, that is truly the “fruit of the Gods”!!! Thanks for showing all the photos so people who haven’t done this CAN SEE that the process is going OK when it looks so WEIRD!! I just found this site and will send a link for it to a BUNCH of my friends!!
    Thanks for Sharing! Sherry A in Kansas

  121. Abby L. says:

    Love your recipes!

    P.P.P.P.P.S You are hilarious

  122. Linda says:

    This is the best Burnt sugar cake recipe around. It is as delicious as it looks. Follow directions carefully and do not over bake. Thanks for a recipe that I have been looking months for.

  123. Sheila says:

    Can you use splenda or splenda sugar blend or does it have to be regular sugar? I want to make this but unfortunately I’m on a diet and am trying to watch what I eat. (but I’d really love to try this LOL). And if it comes out ok , I may make for when my hubby comes home from guam. :hungry:

  124. Sheila says:

    I’ll try that thx 🙂 :hungry:

  125. Michelle says:

    Suzanne… I have been looking for a Burnt Sugar Cake recipe ever since I moved, because the bakeries where we now live, don’t sell that type of cake. It is my husband’s favorite type of cake and his birthday is on the 27th. All the recipes I have found since I began my search all seemed very time consuming and confusing. I decided to give my search one last shot and see what I could find. I found your recipe, which seems very easy to follow & not very time consuming. I am going to give it a shot on Monday morning after the kids go to school and the husband heads off to work. I told him that I have had no luck finding a recipe and that he may have to settle for another type of cake. So I will keep this finding as a surprise for him. Since he hasn’t been able to have burnt sugar cake for 2 1/2 years now. Thanks so much for posting this. I’ll let ya know how it turned out on Monday! Thanks Again!!

  126. Ramona Naiskar says:

    I am so thrilled to find this recipe. I had this amazing date and walnut cake recipe from my mum (who passed away now) and like u said it was like in main point form , many details were missing. there was a note to make the burnt sugar , but no clue when to add or how to make. and also no clue when to add the egg whites. Your recipe has cleared that up. Thanks a ton.

  127. Alison says:

    This is my 91-year-old father’s favorite cake. Last year I tried 3 times to make the burned sugar syrup and got rocks twice (it set up solid in the jar). The third time I didn’t let it get very dark and it was rather bland. I’m going to try your version of the syrup and maybe I can make him a cake for Christmas.

  128. Robert Teesdale says:

    I have .jpg of a Burnt Sugar Cake with cream cheese filling recipe from the 1941 edition of the “Sealtest Food Adviser” if you are interested.

  129. Tom Maroun says:

    Suzanne- What size pans do you use? I’ve got 8″, 9″ and 10″. I’m at a point of no return now, so I’ll use the 9″….but I don’t want to lost any ‘spring’.


  130. Brennan says:

    Thank you for this post. My grandmother made this cake and I have attempted it once from an online recipe that wasn’t very clear. The pictures are very helpful. I’ll be making this next week when my father comes to visit.

  131. Barb says:

    My mother used to make this cake. I have tried to do it without much success. My daughter found this recipe and i plan to try it as soon as possible. Thanks.

  132. keppers says:

    Oh my! This looks awesome! This is on my list of cakes to try.

  133. dwlovelace2 says:

    Hi, I have been making Burnt Caramel Cake for my family for the last few years. My frosting is the old fashioned cooked frosting. I like it a lot better than the powdered sugar version. You cook butter, half & half, sugar, and some of the burnt sugar syrup as for fudge then beat it until spreadable.

  134. stuff8458 says:

    I made this cake for my daughter’s Caroline American Girl Party since Caroline wanted her grandmother to make a Burnt Sugar Cake for her birthday. Thanks for the pictures!!! I was too scared to stir so I think that caused problems with the icing. There was some sugar stuck to the pan when I poured off the syrup. I put the icing in the fridge overnight, but it still slid off the cake. Otherwise it looks yummy! – thanks!!!

  135. kay1980 says:

    when i use burnt sugar, why doesn’t my cake have a black or dark brown color? what can i do to give it that color?

  136. trf27 says:

    This cake is definitely a lot of work, but worth the effort. Thanks for a great recipe.

    One caveat, however: don’t walk away from the sugar in the skillet because it will burn. (I learned the hard way). I used a copper skillet on medium low heat when I made the mess. It took awhile to get the burned mess out of the skillet but I did. On my second try, again I used a copper skillet but this time I hovered over the sugar as it melted, adjusting the gas burner as necessary. That worked for me and I was successful in getting the right color and consistency.

  137. teresajoy says:

    My daughter just got Caroline, the American Girl doll, in the book they had Burnt Sugar Cake. My daughter wanted to try it, so I was excited when I searched the internet and found the recipe on your site! :woof: We made this today and it was quite good! I think we cooked the cake a tad too long though, the edges were a bit hard. I didn’t have two round cake pans, so we used one rectangular one, not sure if that made a difference or not. But, overall it was fun to make and we all enjoyed it! Thank you. :snoopy:

    (after eating it though, I made the mistake of figuring out the fat and calories…. don’t do that, trust me. 😉 )

  138. Sweet Lucy says:

    Hello, wanted to let you know I’ve made this cake a few times and I absolutely love it! I referenced it on my blog in case you want to check it out. I used custard between the layers instead of frosting and added fresh raspberries to the top. DIVINE. https://sweetlucyculinarycreations.blogspot.com/2015/07/burnt-sugar-cake.html

  139. Luvtacook says:

    Your recipe is very straightforward! Thank you for posting it! I had looked for years for a recipe for burnt sugar cake, which my mother used to make in the 40s and 50s in Colorado, and I haven’t had it since. Taste memories after 60 years can be deceptive, but my first reaction was that the burnt sugar taste wasn’t as strong as I remember. I’m thinking that next time, I’ll use more of the sugar called for in the batter to “burn” which would give the same sugar content but more of it would be burned. I don’t think my mother used the burnt sugar frosting but probably a butter cream for some contrast / complementary flavors. (Hmmm… wonder how a pecan marzipan would work as the filling…?)

  140. Sheriwood says:

    Reading this post makes my mouth water.This was a family favorite when my grandmother was alive. The rule in her kitchen was the sugar needs to smoke– so yes, we literally burn it… and keep a close eye on it. I’m inspired to include this in our staff baking contest tomorrow. Off to the kitchen!! :hungry:

  141. amyndietz says:

    I legitimately just registered for this page just so I could leave a comment! So happy to find this recipe. My father just handed over his grandmother’s hand written recipe, missing crucial instructions, for her burnt sugar cake for me to try to bake for him. I also cruised through Pinterest to see if I could find one similar in order to get a better idea of how to do it. Yours is the first out of many that called for separating the eggs and folding in the beaten whites and also the specific use of the same syrup pan to make the icing!. I will use my great grandma’s measurements and your instructions. Thanks so much – really excited to try it out now!.

  142. oceanbirdie says:

    I made the burnt sugar cake. It was delicious!! I didn’t have a skillet so used a large Teflon pot. Do follow the instructions & don’t stir! It does take longer fir the process without a cast iron skillet (30-40 minutes) but it does work. If you stir too soon; when melting the sugar or after you add water you get something that is more like rock candy on the spoon. Not good. I made it in a bundt pan & cooked for 50 minutes at 325 degrees. Thanks for the recipe; just like my relatives cake she made for our family reunions.

Add Your Thoughts