Oh hi, October. You kind of snuck up on me. October’s arrival means many things – changing leaves, Halloween, apple picking, lots of pumpkin desserts – and a lot of other things that I love. I’m kicking off my month of fall baking with this ridiculously good caramel sauce. Let me tell you about this caramel. I first had the idea for it when PSLs and Salted Caramel Mochas made their yearly debut at Starbucks. I thought – what if I could combine my favorite aspects of each of those drinks and turn it into one fabulous concoction? My recipe search yielded many pumpkin desserts topped with caramel and a couple of pumpkin spice caramel sauces but not a single recipe that used actual pumpkin. I wanted pumpkin caramel, not just pumpkin spice, so I decided to create my own.
I had (what I thought was) a brilliant idea to make this caramel sauce using brown sugar. It did not go as planned and ended up tasting almost like a brûlée. That may come in handy later this year (Caramel Brûlée Lattes, anyone?), but it wasn’t what I wanted for this one. I started over, this time with my favorite caramel sauce as the starting point, and it was really simple after that. I first tried subbing a small amount of pumpkin for the cream. When it wasn’t enough, I increased the pumpkin and finally got the perfectly pumpkin-y flavor I was searching for. I still love my homemade pumpkin spice lattes (it’s one of the most popular recipes on this site for a reason), but it’s nice to have another way to make a pumpkin coffee drink without all the spices. You can certainly adapt this recipe by adding spices, but try it without first to see what you think. The earthy flavor of the pumpkin shines through the sweetness of the caramel, giving it a depth of flavor that is different than any other caramel sauce I’ve tried.
- YIELD: about 1½ cups
1 cup sugar
¾ cup heavy cream
½ cup pumpkin puree
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a large, deep, sturdy saucepan, spread the sugar in an even layer and place over low to medium low heat. Watch it carefully. Once it starts to liquefy around the edges, use a rubber spatula to very gently stir it towards the center. Continue gently stirring until all of the sugar is melted, but take care not to over stir.
Once the caramel reaches a deep amber color, immediately remove it from the heat. Carefully whisk in half the cream, which will bubble and steam quite violently. Stir until the cream is thoroughly combined, then whisk in remaining cream and pumpkin. Stir in the salt, cinnamon and vanilla. If any sugar has hardened, place the saucepan over low heat and whisk until smooth. The caramel will be a bit thicker than normal caramel. Whisk in up to ¼ cup more cream, if desired, for a thinner consistency.
Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. The sauce can be rewarmed in the microwave or in a saucepan set over low heat. Add additional cream if the sauce is too thick.