Cooking with Bebe

Caramel Icing

When I think of Mother’s recipes, this one comes first to my mind. It was eventually on all of our birthday cakes and showed up for the July 4th celebration she hosted every year. We would grill steaks or hot dogs or hamburgers. She made potato salad and always chilled a watermelon. Without fail there was Chocolate Cake with Caramel Icing.

This icing is cooked. Boiled! Yes, I know. But it is so worth it. It makes a smooth sheet over the top of the cake. A sheet you will want to just peel off the top and eat with your fingers when no one is looking. I mean, they do it, too! But still…

She also iced a round layer cake with this gorgeous stuff, but we kind of evolved and started making a sheet cake so we could pour the icing over the top. A layer cake was kind of tricky. With a layer cake, the consistency had to be perfect or the top layer could slip ‘n slide, making a cake that kind of looked liked the Leaning Tower of Pisa. A really short one.

I never ate this icing anywhere outside the family. I was watching Tricia Yearwood cook one Saturday morning when she made a special cake from her childhood. It was our cake! I was amazed! Years later, Southern Living made a list of classic Southern cakes, and there again was Caramel Cake! Only the cake wasn’t chocolate. But the icing was the same. I haven’t baked it yet, but I’m going to. It’s pretty.

I guess Southern Living doesn’t have to worry about their cakes slipping and sliding. They will show you how to make it here.

I want to try that pretty sour cream based cake with mother’s icing recipe. The one they share is our original one. We used to beat the mixture for twenty minutes to thicken it up. Not any more! Our updated recipe uses powdered sugar, makes a delicious, creamy icing, and is pretty darned easy. I hope you love it. We sure do.

Oh! One of the best parts of making a sheet cake is that the icing runs up to the edge of the pan and over the sides of the cake. Be sure to get one of the edge pieces. You will wind up with a nice, thick icing layer. Yum.

So, here we go!

This is the original. It came with a fresh apple cake recipe that never was our favorite. But, oh! That icing!

Mother’s Caramel Icing


  • 1 stick oleo
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


  1. In a heavy saucepan, heat margarine, brown sugar, and evaporated milk. Stir it and bring to a boil. Boil gently for exactly six minutes, stirring constantly.
  2. Remove from the burner and allow the hot mixture to cool about 10 minutes. While you are waiting, measure your powdered sugar and put it in the bowl of your stand mixer.
  3. Pour the cooled mixture over the powdered sugar and beat well. Add the vanilla and beat some more. Icing should be thick but pourable.
  4. Pour the icing over the sheet cake and spread it to the edges. Allow the cake to set up. Don’t plan to serve it until later. You want that icing to be a slab on the cake, soft but not at all runny.

We learned a long time ago to make at least 1 1/2 batches to pour on our cake. You sure don’t want it thin

By the way, if your icing is too thin, you can add more powdered sugar to thicken it up. And if it doesn’t turn out perfectly the first time, don’t give up on it. Master this icing! You will be glad you did.

The Chocolate Cake

So. We always used a Devils Food cake mix. Duncan Hines. Then as mother entered her seventies, she got fancy on us and started baking her cake from scratch. There was no reason for it. That Duncan Hines was soft and tender. It was a lot easier. And no one paid attention to the cake anyway. We were just there for the icing. It’s that good!

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