Sweet and Salty Cake

After only a few seconds perusing its pages at the bookstore several weeks ago, I fell in baking love with Baked, which is brought to us by the bakery of the same name in Brooklyn. I brought it home, poured over its recipes, and marked more than a few as “must-bake.”

Fast forward to a few days before Thanksgiving, when I was having a very hard time deciding what to make in the chocolate category for our dinner. Suddenly, I remembered this cake and became very excited about making it.

Now having made this cake, I will tell you that it is evil. It’s not a simple cake to make, thus making it evil in my book. However, it is so jam-packed with goodness, making it evil in a whole other way.

Sweet and Salty Cake is a rich, delicious chocolate cake with salted caramel, chocolate-caramel frosting, and a sprinkling of salt. Absolutely delicious!

So, let me paint the picture for you. Three layers of chocolate cake soaked with salted caramel and frosted with a caramel chocolate ganache, which was perhaps the most decadent thing I’ve ever put on a cake. With a pound each of butter and chocolate, not to mention all that heavy cream, I think that is a safe assumption. The combination of all that chocolate and salted caramel is just amazing.

I readily admit that I won’t be eager to make this one again, just from an effort standpoint. That being said, it is probably one of the very best cakes I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat. So, for those of you who enjoy making these labor-intensive cakes, you’ll be doubly rewarded with baking it and eating it. Just be sure to save a piece for me.

Sweet and Salty Cake

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 56 minutes

Sweet and Salty Cake


    For the cake:
  • 3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 & 1/4 cups hot water
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 & 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 & 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • For the salted caramel:
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fleur de sel
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • For the whipped caramel ganache frosting:
  • 1 pound dark chocolate (60-70% cacao), chopped
  • 1 & 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • For assembling the cake:
  • 2 teaspoons fleur de sel, plus more for garnish


To make the cake:

Preheat oven to 325°. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust with flour and knock out the excess.

Combine cocoa powder, hot water, and sour cream. Set aside to cool.

Sift flour, baking power, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and shortening on medium speed until ribbon-like, about 5 minutes. Add both sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix well. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix again for 30 seconds.

Add flour mixture, alternating with cocoa mixture, in three portions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Divide batter evenly among prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake 35-40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean.

Cool cakes in pans for 20 minutes on wire racks. Remove from pans and let cool completely. Remove parchment paper.

To make the salted caramel:

In a small saucepan, combine cream and fleur de sel. Bring to a simmer over very low heat until salt has dissolved. Be careful not to let the cream burn.

In a medium saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup, stirring carefully so as not to splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat about 6-8 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reads 350°. Remove from heat and let cool for 1 minute.

Add cream mixture to sugar mixture. Whisk in sour cream. Let caramel cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until time to assemble the cake.

To make the frosting:

Put the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and set aside.

Bring the cream to a simmer over very low heat. Make sure cream does not burn.

In a medium saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup, stirring carefully so as not to splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat for 6-8 minutes until an instant-read thermometer reads 350°. Remove from heat and let caramel cool for 1 minute.

Add cream to the caramel. Stir slowly for 2 minutes. Then, pour caramel over chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute. Then, starting in the center of the bowl, and working out to the edges, slowly stir in a circle until chocolate is completely melted. Let cool, then transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer.

Mix on low speed until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Increase speed to medium-high and gradually add butter, beating until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down sides and beat on high speed until mixture is fluffy.

To assemble the cake:

Place one cake layer on serving platter. Spread 1/4 cup caramel over the top, letting it soak into the cake. Spread 3/4 cup of ganache frosting over the caramel. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon fleur de sel over the frosting. Top with the second cake layer. Spread with frosting and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon fleur de sel. Top with the third cake layer. Spread with caramel. Crumb coat the cake and put cake in refrigerator for 15 minutes. Frost the sides and top with the remaining frosting. Garnish with a sprinkle of fleur de sel.

Cake will keep at room temperature (cool and humidity-free) for up to 3 days. May be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Allow cake to sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.


Recipe adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.


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  1. Sues December 1, 2008 Reply

    Wow, those close-ups are amazing. The salted caramel hot chocolate is all the rage at Starbucks this year. This sounds fabulous!! And probably worth the effort??

  2. deb December 1, 2008 Reply

    It was going to happen sooner or later… I was going to blog this tomorrow!

    I made this for my friend Joc’s bday two weekends ago and it was, indeed, insane. I am still recovering from the POUND of butter, just in the frosting. Did you have any trouble with your caramel oozing out the sides? It kept popping through the frosting, decoratively, of course.

  3. Myrnie December 1, 2008 Reply

    Oh, but what a way to kill an afternoon! Looks amazing :)

  4. Amanda December 1, 2008 Reply

    was it a long tedious process? I don’t know if I am up for that. Even though this looks delicious, I have a very short attention span, especially when baking!

  5. Nick December 1, 2008 Reply

    Praise the chocolate gods this looks incredible. It reminds me of my favorite chocolate bar by Chocopologie, 71% cocoa squares filled with burnt caramel and hawaiin sea salt…. it’s pretty much this cake packed into a 1″x1″ confection.

  6. Hayley December 1, 2008 Reply

    Chocolate cake is my sister’s favorite, and I’ve been looking for a recipe to impress her with…looks like this is the one!

    Lovely as always,

  7. Milly December 2, 2008 Reply

    That looks seriously delicious. Your photography is beautiful!

  8. Your photos look amazing! I’m a huge fan of salty/sweet combos, so I’m for sure trying this one!

  9. Jennifer December 2, 2008 Reply

    I have htis cookbook, but have yet to make this cake…it looks AMAZING! You must try the banana espresso chocolate chip mufiins…they are SO good!!!!!

  10. Jennifer December 2, 2008 Reply


  11. Culinarywannabe December 2, 2008 Reply

    It looks well worth the effort!! Wish I had a piece!

  12. Ayankeeinasouthernkitchen December 2, 2008 Reply

    This looks wonderful, the caramel alone I could eat! They just moved into Charleston and I have yet to visit them or look at their book. You have so tempted me!

  13. jennifer December 2, 2008 Reply

    Thanks, everyone!

    Deb, I suppose you’re right. This was sure to happen eventually. I’ll look forward to reading about and seeing your cake. As for the caramel, I didn’t really have problems with it, but then again the cake didn’t last long with our Thanksgiving crowd, otherwise it might have happened evevtually.

    Amanda, nothing about making it was really that hard. There are just many, many steps. I think you can make parts of this over a couple of days and then put it all together. That would at least help some. I don’t have a lot of baking patience either, which is why Quinn is the official cake froster in our house.

  14. Kimberly Yates December 2, 2008 Reply

    That top picture is stunning. My dropped when I saw it. I so wish I had taken that picture :)

  15. Melissa December 2, 2008 Reply

    Wow, I can just taste that picture. Looks fantastic!

  16. Amy December 2, 2008 Reply

    Hmmm… sounds like a delicious challenge to me! Wow… “whipped caramel ganache frosting?” thats like my 4 favorite words in one title.

    This is going into my MUST Bake file. And… I hear good things about that cookbook, I should pick it up.

  17. Kimberly Yates December 2, 2008 Reply

    My jaw dropped, that is.

  18. Jodie December 2, 2008 Reply

    oh! I’ve been wanting to make this cake. Cakespy interview the guys from Baked recently and this cake sounds wonderful!! Judging by your description, I’ll have to make it!

  19. Ashley December 2, 2008 Reply

    Ooo this cake looks delicious and sounds even better! I still have to check out this cookbook.

  20. Maria December 2, 2008 Reply

    This one has my name written all over it. I wish I could have a bite now!

  21. birdyy December 2, 2008 Reply

    oh my – taht cake looks absolutely decadent! I just found your blog – love it! I was also inspired by and loved to bake with my grandfather. I’m so glad I found this blog – thanks!

  22. Josephine Tomato December 2, 2008 Reply

    I can’t seem to find the number of servings. I am in charge of Christmas dessert and need to feed about 16, would this work?

  23. zestycook December 2, 2008 Reply

    WOW – I just licked my screen! This is amazing. Great cake


  24. My Sweet & Saucy December 2, 2008 Reply

    I made this cake too and agree…it is sinfully delicious! The salted caramel sauce by itself is to die for!

  25. Katrina December 2, 2008 Reply

    This is true porn in my opinion! It should be illegal. But seriously, thanks for sharing the amazing photos and graphic descriptions! 😉

  26. katy December 2, 2008 Reply

    looks amazing! also, your photographs are unbelievably wonderful. what lens do you use, if you don’t mind my asking?

  27. icelandicchef December 2, 2008 Reply

    looks good in closeup. Love the combination of flur de sel in chockolate……


  28. megan December 2, 2008 Reply

    You take the best pictures!!! You always having me drooling over your latest creation. The picture alone is enough to make me want this cake. I want cake! Salty caramely chocolate cake!!!

  29. Nan (and Jim) December 2, 2008 Reply

    Oh, the cake is evil alright….like sinful! THE BEST chocolate cake ever!! This was so good and was a definite hit at Thanksgiving! I regret not taking some with us when we divided the leftovers. What was I thinking?!

  30. jennifer December 2, 2008 Reply

    Josephine, this cake should be plenty for 16 people. :-)

    katy, we have a Nikon D200 and a 60mm macro lens.

  31. katy December 3, 2008 Reply

    thanks! i have a canon, but i’m sure there’s something comparable.

    funny story — one of my friends emailed this post to me after i’d already commented, which she hadn’t realized! obviously this recipe is right up my alley. :-)

  32. dawn December 3, 2008 Reply

    good lord woman!

    I am sooooo getting this book, everyone raves about it.

  33. Dani December 3, 2008 Reply

    evil, maybe if you are on a diet, but heavenly in the taste department i am sure :)

  34. kimberleyblue December 3, 2008 Reply

    If ever a dessert is orgasmic, this would be the dessert. I can’t even believe how good this looks.

    Am I dreaming?

  35. Holly December 3, 2008 Reply

    I need that book desperately!! This looks insanely good!!

  36. ruby December 4, 2008 Reply

    Oh I might have just drooled on my keyboard…that looks AMAZING!

  37. brilynn December 5, 2008 Reply

    That cake sounds like something I would undertake, thinking I felt like make a grand cake and about half way through I’d just want the whole thing to be over! It looks great thought.

  38. Paula December 5, 2008 Reply

    Oh.My.God. I need this cake..now! Wow that cake looks so sinfully delish!

  39. the caked crusader December 8, 2008 Reply

    I had sea salt and caramel for the first time this week – it’s delicious. Lovely looking cake

  40. Indigo December 8, 2008 Reply

    Oh my days, I want that book so much! I’ve heard so much about it, and this is just the icing on the cake… or, er, the salted caramel chocolate ganache on the cake…

  41. Stacey December 8, 2008 Reply

    I’m not quite sure I know what “crumb coat the cake” means?

  42. jennifer December 8, 2008 Reply

    Stacey, a crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting applied all over the cake. Then, the final layer of frosting is spread on top of that. It keeps crumbs from showing up in the top layer of frosting, making your cake all the more lovely!

  43. vandana rajesh December 9, 2008 Reply

    First time here…this cake looks absolutely delicious..a real treat.

  44. ellen December 9, 2008 Reply

    I just bought this book and love it! This cake keeps calling to me every time I leaf through. Glad to hear it tastes as good as it sounds. I agree with Jennifer about the muffins – they’re great.

  45. deeba December 11, 2008 Reply

    Devilishly decadent…that’s what it is! SWOON!!

  46. Erika January 28, 2009 Reply

    This looks amazing! Worth ditching my diet for!

  47. Wendy February 5, 2009 Reply

    That is one crazy cake. I love salted caramel. All other “death by chocolate” cakes are amateurs compared to this!

  48. Beverly February 14, 2009 Reply

    I’m not sure if I can find fleur de sel around here – what else will work? OR is that just a fancy name for sea salt?

  49. jennifer February 15, 2009 Reply

    Beverly, sea salt is just fine. Enjoy the cake!

  50. Phillip February 25, 2009 Reply

    I’m in the process of making this cake (the cake is already made and in the freezer). I just finished the caramel sauce and plan to do the frosting tomorrow and put it together for my sister’s birthday. I have a question – for the icing, the recipe says “dark chocolate” – I’m a little confused about this – does this mean bittersweet, unsweetened or semi-sweet chocolate?

  51. jennifer February 25, 2009 Reply

    Phillip, it’s really your preference. I would go with either semi-sweet or bittersweet. If I remember correctly, I used semi-sweet.

  52. courtney February 26, 2009 Reply

    i am DYING to make this cake. the thing is, the crowd i roll with does not take well to things like salt on cake. i would make it for myself, but death by cake consumption is not in my 5 year plan. how would this fare without the salt? how much do you notice it when you eat the cake and do you think i’d be able to get away with putting it between the layers (not as a garnish on top)?

  53. jennifer February 26, 2009 Reply

    Courtney, you can certainly leave the salt off the top of the cake. The caramel layer is salty, but not too heavy. You might be able to sneak it past them. Good luck!

  54. marie March 21, 2009 Reply

    I made this cake today and had the hardest time with the syrup/sugar mixture. At 350 it was definitely burnt. I tried again and burned it at 300. Finally I just cooked it for the 6 minutes, let it rest for a minute and then added the cream, but portions of the syrup solidified and what I ended up doing was mixing it the best I could and then just putting it through a sieve to salvage what I had. The cake turned out very rich and was loved by all, but please tell me what I did wrong!!!!

  55. jennifer March 23, 2009 Reply

    marie, I wish I knew the magic trick to getting that part right, but it took a couple of tries in my kitchen, too. Candy-making is not my strongest area, by any stretch. There’s a lot of trial and error on my part. I do have one bit of advice. If you’re using a pan that carries over heat, then try taking it off the heat before it’s done. That carry-over can cause disaster. Stopping at a lower temperature may help, especially considering that 320-350° or so is the usual temperature for making caramel.

  56. mariah April 14, 2009 Reply

    I made this cake and took it to my in laws house Easter weekend.

    EVERYONE LOVED IT! It is so amazing, describing its perfectness is impossible.

    Thanks so much for posting this recipe! Well worth the time and effort!

  57. Taylor July 21, 2009 Reply

    I made this cake a couple of days ago it took about 3 hours to make. is it good?? Yes it is but i probably won’t be making it again any time soon! I will use the actual chocolate cake recipe from now on though…it is moist and rich..just delicious!

  58. Hannah September 23, 2009 Reply

    I made this the other day and it took a long time granted but it tasted amazing! It was really moist and the caramel worked perfectly but the ganache I had to throw in the fridge for a bit. But all in all, delicious!

  59. Mariela January 31, 2010 Reply

    i love this cake.

  60. roxy April 10, 2010 Reply

    I made this cake for my birthday and really did not like it. There was a lot of labor involved – I made it over three nights – which would have been fine if the cake had been spectacular. Instead, the cake itself was dry and nothing special, despite the fussy steps involved, and the frosting was so over-the-top-rich that it was barely edible.

    The salted caramel under the frosting was delicious, though. I will definitely use that with a different cake and frosting recipe next time.

  61. Katie June 14, 2010 Reply

    I absolutely love everything about your blog- your presentation, the way the pictures make you want to take a bite out of your computer screen, the easy access to your recipes- just everything! This particular recipe caught my eye and I can’t wait to try it. Keep up the inspiring work!

  62. Isabel Lee August 11, 2010 Reply

    Cake recipes are the specialty of my best friend, my favorite ones are those exotic fruit cakes.;.

  63. Baking is my Zen August 13, 2010 Reply

    Hi! I’ve linked your post to my Sweet and Salty Cake post. You’re welcome to join my cookbook giveaway.

    Baking is my Zen will be having a
    from August 8 through August 14, 2010.

    The giveaway will be the ‘not yet released’ cookbook,
    Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented
    By Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

    Carmen of Baking is my Zen

  64. Christina_Cookie Gifts February 15, 2011 Reply

    I like that the cake is made with different layers. Makes its look so tasty. I’m baking cookies tonight and plan on basing them off of this sweet and salty cake.

  65. Luci March 28, 2011 Reply

    thinking about making just a one or 2 layer version of this!

  66. Elizabeth Kellett December 29, 2012 Reply

    I somehow lost the link to this cake .. I normally make it every year on Christmas Eve because my extended family of 40 raves over it every year at our get together ..I’ve done it the past 3 years and just couldn’t locate it this year.. I just stumbled across your website and a little light bulb went off in my head.. Ahhhh.. Writing this link everywhere :) this cake is amazing.. And I’m going to need to find another reason to make it ha :) New Years!

  67. online June 8, 2014 Reply


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