Southern Caramel Cake with Peach Conserve

I spent 20 years in Georgia, first in college at the University of Georgia, and then in Atlanta as food editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Along the way I met wonderful people and picked up some of my favorite recipes. Gwen Bentley and her husband, the late Jimmy Bentley, were friends of mine in Atlanta. Jimmy was known in political circles, in the real estate world, and to all who loved good food. One of my favorite of his recipes was his caramel cake, which he made by stacking two 9 by 13-inch yellow cakes on top of one another, and frosting with his burnt sugar icing. I had forgotten until recently that Jimmy also folded in a peach and orange marmalade conserve into the bottom cake layer just before it baked. This was such a Southern twist on a simple cake – to fancy up one layer, not both, so you have this beautiful contrast of flavor and texture when you take a bite of cake. Conserves are similar to preserves but they usually have nuts added, and in this case it is chopped pecans. I have scaled down the cake to 9-inch layers, and I have added my mother’s recipe for Caramel Frosting, which is easier to prepare than the old-fashioned method of caramelizing white sugar. This cake will take you through the holidays into the winter and into spring and summer. It is seasonless and lovely.

Southern Caramel Cake with Peach Conserve
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 16 servings
For the peach conserve:
  • ¼ cup peach preserves
  • 2 heaping tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
For the cake:
  • 1 package yellow cake mix (see Note)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons instant vanilla pudding mix, if desired
  • 3 large eggs
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1⅓ cups milk, warmed
Quick Caramel Frosting:
  • 12 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  1. For the peach conserve, place the peach preserves, orange marmalade, and pecans in a small bowl and stir to combine. Set the conserve aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch cake layer pans and set aside.
  3. For the cake, place the cake mix and pudding mix in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the eggs, butter, and milk, and blend on low with an electric mixer until the ingredients are combined, then increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until smooth and thickened, 1½ to 2 minutes. Turn half of the batter into one of the layer pans. Fold the conserve into the remaining batter and turn this batter into the other layer pan. Place the pans in the oven side by side. Bake until the tops are golden, the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, about 32 to 38 minutes. The layer with the conserve added will take several minutes longer to cook than the plain layer.
  4. Remove the pans to a rack to cool 10 to 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, shake the pan to loosen the cake, then invert the layers once, then again, onto the rack to cool right-side up.
  5. While the cakes are cooling, assemble the frosting ingredients. When the cakes are cool to the touch, you can begin making the frosting. Place the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, stir in the brown sugars until well combined and bubbly. Add the milk and reduce the heat to low. Add the vanilla. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.
  6. To assemble and frost the cake, place the layer with the conserve on a cake stand. Spoon a generous layer of caramel frosting over this layer and spread evenly to the edge of the cake. Immediately place the second layer on top of the first, and with generous spoonfuls, ladle warm frosting over the top of the cake. It will set as you spread it. Frost the sides of the cake, working quickly as the frosting sets as it is spread onto the cake. If the frosting gets too hard to spread, place it back over low heat and add a dribble of milk to thin it slightly. This cake will keep at room temperature for three days.

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  • Leah

    Amazing!! Easy and delicious!

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