Caramel Sauce Cockaigne

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Mmm...c-a-r-a-m-e-l.  Say it again... c-a-r-a-m-e-l. *drool* Rarely is my kitchen without it.  At this time of year it is a staple and it must be shared.  I use it as a sauce for desserts like apple galette, a schmear on graham crackers for pumpkin pie marshmallow s'mores, a drizzle on vanilla ice cream, as a dip for sliced apples, or even a spoonful stirred into my morning coffee☺.  It is also great gift to share during the holidays.

I have several caramel sauce recipes, but this is the one, the pièce de résistance, the crème de la crème.  No brown sugar, no corn syrup, no sour cream-- just sugar, water, butter and cream that is seasoned with a good vanilla extract and sea salt.  It is hard to believe that something so wonderful comes from such simple ingredients.

If you are new to making caramel, here are a few tips and step-by-steps:

*Use a heavy-bottomed saucepan, preferably copper or copper lined.  Stay away from thin pans that are uneven on the bottom.

*Make sure the sugar is completely dissolved before you bring it to a boil.

*Placing the lid on the syrup creates condensation of the sides of the pan, keeping crystallization from forming.

*At this point do not take your eyes of the caramel.  It can go from this...

to this in a few short minutes.

*Once the syrup begins to caramelize, you will notice puffs of smoke coming from the surface.  Cook it just beyond this point until it reaches a deep amber, but not burnt.

*When the butter is added to the hot caramel, it is slightly browned for a nutty flavor.  Browned butter + salted caramel = YUM!

*When adding the butter and cream to the hot caramel, the mixture will bubble vigorously.

*If any hard lumps form, cook over low heat until smooth.

End result-- liquid gold or the best thang you ever tasted.  (Pardon the internal Southern dialogue☺.)
Printable Recipe

Caramel Sauce Cockaigne
makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
8 Tablespoons (4-ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream, not ultra-pasturized
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes (kosher salt can be substituted)

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan add the sugar and evenly pour the water over top.  Place the pan over medium-high heat and swirl the pan gently until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is clear.  Avoid letting the syrup boil.  Increase the heat to high, cover the saucepan with a tight fitting lid, and boil the syrup for 2 minutes.  Uncover the saucepan and continue to boil the syrup until it begins to darken around the edges.  Gently swirl the pan until the syrup turns a deep amber and begins to smoke.  Remove from the heat and add the butter.  Gently stir the mixture until the butter is incorporated.  Add the cream and stir to combine.  If the sauce becomes lumpy with hard clumps, set the pan over low heat and stir until smooth.  Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  The sauce can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 month; it will become solid.  Reheat or set out at room temperature before using.  Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from The Joy of Cooking, 1997


  1. Waahhhhh! I don't wanna try making caramel again! I have never had it turn out. Pure torture I tell you. Alton Brown's dulce de leche - yes - simmering milk on the stove for hours I can do. Keeping caramel from crystalizing, I cannot do. But, I must try again after seeing your post. I need to find my copper lined pan out in the garage. Maybe that will make a difference (fingers crossed). Anyway, I'm making your pumpkin roll this weekend so I'll report back when I give the caramel a go!

  2. Hi there,

    I was wondering if you think this would be a suitable caramel for making caramel apples. Every caramel apple recipe I find has corn syrup and I'm wondering if that helps the caramel set up differently. Any thoughts? Thanks!!

    1. This caramel is probably a little too soft for caramel apples.

  3. Would this work with non-dairy ingredients like coconut cream and coconut oil?

  4. How long does this last? If I were to give it as a gift do you have any recommendations on how I store and present it?

    1. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month. To give as gifts you can present it in canning jars that you can find at your local grocery or hardware store. For more decorative jars you can find some at places like Crate and Barrel or The Container Store. Including a baked good, fresh fruit, or a favorite recipe to use the caramel sauce with would also be well received by the recipient.

  5. Any advice regarding re-crystallization?? I got to the allowing it boil it part twice and the sugar syrup thickened and then turned back into sugar crystals. Totally ruined it all and made it grainy. I have made caramel before before with no issue but can't find the recipe anymore.

    1. It is very important to make sure that the sugar is completely dissolved before bringing to a boil. You can wash down the sides of the pan lightly with a wet pastry brush before placing the lid on. This will help dissolve any crystals that may have formed.

  6. Very good, kids love it for dipping apples and their finger in.

  7. AnonymousJuly 03, 2023

    A tablespoon or two of corn syrup can help prevent crystallization. That's how I made it and it turned out fabulous.


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