How to make Homemade Caramel like a pastry chef! Making caramel was my least favourite thing to do when working as a pastry chef. That’s because half the time it turned to a crystalized mess if I just looked at it the wrong way. That all changed when I finally discovered THIS RECIPE! The recipe used to make this caramel uses the wet caramel method and it works every time without fail.
This homemade caramel sauce recipe makes the most delicious rich caramel sauce you have ever tasted. It’s perfect poured over desserts and ice cream, and it can also be used for tart and cake fillings or making caramel buttercream. It’s so versatile!
Knowing how to work with sugar and making foolproof caramel will level up any home baker’s confidence and is a must for aspiring pastry chefs. That’s why this caramel sauce recipe is included in Module Two: Sugar and Fillings of the Kira Bakes Gluten Free Pastry School.
What is Caramel?
Caramel is a rich and sweet confection that is made by heating sugar until it melts, turning a deep golden hue, then adding heavy cream. Often it is finished with butter and salt.
What is the difference between Wet vs Dry Caramel?
The caramelization process occurs when sugar molecules break down and recombine, resulting in a complex mixture of compounds that give caramel its unique taste and colour. To achieve this, you can use either the ‘Dry’ or ‘Wet’ caramel cooking methods.
Dry Caramel is made by slowly cooking down sugar until it melts. This technique is the trickiest as the sugar can more easily crystalize before the caramelization occurs.
- This method is best used when making Clear Caramel. Clear Caramels have a slightly bitter and intense flavour profile. You can add flavour to Clear Caramel by introducing a clear liquid such as liquor, or fruit juice once the sugar turns a dark amber colour.
- Best for: custards, flans and plated desserts.
Wet Caramel combines sugar with water, cream and/or glucose which helps protect the sugars from crystalizing.
- This method is best used for making Enriched Caramel. Enriched Caramels have a smoother, creamier texture and as well as a milder and more balanced flavour. Water and glucose (or clear corn syrup) are added to the sugar during the initial caramelization process. Then heavy cream, butter and salt are added to finish the caramel.
Best for: toppings for desserts, ice cream and fillings for pies, tarts and cakes. It also flavours buttercream beautifully.
Tips for making perfect Homemade Caramel
- Use Heavy Cream. Heavy cream, which is also called whipping cream in North America, is roughly 36% milk fat. If you are in the UK, you can use double cream instead which is roughly 48% milk fat. Never use milk as it contains too much water and will leave you with a runny, loose caramel that won’t set.
- Never take your eyes off the prize. Once the sugar starts to caramelize it will go from pale, to golden brown to dark amber quickly. It will then move quickly to burnt territory even faster ,so watch it like a hawk!
- Good quality butter. You only need a small amount in this caramel recipe, but it is worth the splurge. You will taste it and the higher the butter fat content the better as it will contribute to the smooth texture and shine of the final caramel.
- Strain the caramel sauce. Once you have added the butter, you can strain the caramel through a fine mesh sieve to remove any fine bits of crystalized sugar to ensure a smooth, flawless sauce.
What can you do with Homemade Caramel?
- Homemade caramel sauce can be drizzled over ice cream, pie and cheesecake.
- It adds flavour to buttercream and works well as a tart filling or layered in cakes.
- This recipe makes a delicious filling for chocolate truffles or candy bars.
- Swirled on top of brownies right before you bake them for an extra sweet twist.
- Make brunch a little more exciting by serving this as a pancake or waffle topping.
- I personally like to stir a spoonful in my morning coffee for a homemade caramel latte.
- Drizzle warm caramel over freshly popped popcorn and make movie night extra special.
How to make Homemade Caramel Sauce
Lets get baking! (Step-by-Step Instructions)
Mis en Place
Going back to the Kira Bakes Gluten Free Pastry Principals, this is always our first step when baking as it not only helps ensure accuracy during the mixing process, but it also makes the whole baking process a lot more relaxing and enjoyable. It’s a win/win!
If I’ve said it 100 times, I’ll say it again. Measuring ingredients by weight not volume is the magic sauce to gluten free baking! I always do my best to provide the cup (volume) measurements where possible. If you are going to measure by volume, click this link for tips on the correct way to measure by volume.
Scale the following ingredients
Homemade Caramel Sauce Ingredients:
185g Granulated Sugar
100g Light Corn Syrup or Glucose (1)
40g Light Corn Syrup or Glucose (2)
240ml Heavy Cream
40g Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
½ tsp Kosher Salt
Prepare the equipment
- Medium heavy bottomed saucepan
- Small saucepan
- Small to Medium stainless steel or heat resistant bowl
- Fine mesh sieve
In a small saucepan, warm the heavy cream and 40g of light corn syrup. Leave over a low heat to keep warm while the sugar cooks.
Ina medium saucepan, add the sugar and 100g of light corn syrup and heat gradually over medium heat. Whisk constantly to dissolve the sugar.
When the sugar is a golden-amber colour, remove the pot from the heat and carefully stream in the warm cream in 2-3 portions while constantly whisking. Be careful as it will bubble and sputter.
Add the butter and salt and using a spatula, stir until every is combined.
Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the caramel into a heat resistant bowl or container to cool. Allow to cool for 1-2 hours.
For caramel you can pipe, place it in the fridge overnight.
Storing Homemade Caramel Sauce
Once the caramel sauce has cooled completely, you can store it in an airtight container such as a glass jar or plastic container. The caramel sauce will keep in the fridge for 1 month or in the freezer for 3 months. If frozen, allow to defrost in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
Note that caramel will thicken as it cools and sets so if you want it more fluid you can gently heat the sauce in the microwave or in a saucepan before serving.
Homemade Caramel Q&A
Question: Is caramel gluten free?
It is gluten free! Because this caramel sauce recipe only incorporates 4 ingredients. Sugar, light corn syrup, heavy cream and butter. It is naturally gluten free and safe for anyone who is celiac or can’t tolerate gluten.
When it comes to bought caramel sauce that’s a different story. Some products do use wheat or other gluten containing flours and starches as a thickening agent. If you are buying your caramel sauce, always make sure to check the ingredient list.
Question: Why does my caramel look lumpy?
Sometimes no matter how hard we try, our caramel will begin to crystalize. Often times it can be saved by adding an additional tablespoon of water and bringing the caramel back up to a simmer, whisking constantly until the crystals dissolve again. Once the caramel looks smooth again, strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve so you get a smooth, lump free caramel sauce.
Question: Do I need to use a candy or digital thermometer?
Not for this recipe! This caramel sauce recipe is cooked until a specific colour is achieved. I prefer to take my caramel further than most because I like it to be slightly bitter and rich. As long as the colour is somewhere between golden-brown and dark amber you can add the heavy cream and the caramel sauce will taste great and have a smooth texture.
If you are keen to use a thermometer just to be safe, then I would cook the sugar until reaches a temperature between 320-340F/160-171C.Print
The next lesson is Module Three: Cream and Custard. Modules launch the last Monday of each month. Make sure to sign up to my newsletter for reminders and other gluten free recipes and tips.