I've been experimenting with making a caramel hot fudge sauce (something like on a McDonalds caramel sundae but better) and want some ideas.

My latest was:

  1. Microwave brown sugar and butter, stirring often, until it's sort of mixed together
  2. Mix in a can of sweetened condensed mix
  3. Microwave again, stirring every 30-60 seconds for 10 minutes or so until it goes a bit (golden) brown (use a very large glass bowl, or it'll boil over - be careful, the mixture gets super hot and will boil your face right off - you have been warned)
  4. mix in a bit of cream or it'll be too chewy

... which produced a thick milk caramel with a rich toffee aftertaste, but it's pretty labour-intensive.

Any tips?

  • I like your idea, especially the sweetened condensed milk!
    – Chad
    Commented Aug 10, 2010 at 2:28
  • The process I gave you below is less labour intensive, will give you a better result, and allows you much more precise control over the degree of caramelization. In addition, I would not use brown sugar for making a caramel, as the presence of molasses within the sugar changes how it behaves.
    – daniel
    Commented Oct 14, 2010 at 8:04
  • If, however, you want to use condensed milk, see below.
    – daniel
    Commented Oct 14, 2010 at 8:05
  • Are you limited to using a microwave? Or is that just a preference? Commented Oct 14, 2010 at 16:12
  • Microwave is preference - when I tried it on the stove, it was even more labourious and time consuming, I had to stir it the whole time, and I still got a lot of lumps.
    – MGOwen
    Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 0:20

1 Answer 1


The classic way to make a caramel sauce is to cook approx (this is what we use at the restaurant, because sometimes we get distracted and have to run away; it's more forgiving. Use less water if you can concentrate) 4:1 sugar:water until the sugar has taken a golden colour. Remove from heat, whisk in cream and butter until you reach your desired consistency, add a pinch or two of salt, just enough so you can taste it. This will get you a nice caramel sauce, keeps a week or so at room temp.

Edited to respond to question:

Honestly, I have no idea what the ideal ratio is. I just do it by feel. There should be a zillion caramel recipes available via google that can be more specific. Offhand I would kind of sort of guess that for three cups sugar I use roughly 3/4c cream and 3tbsp butter. Ish.

Edited to provide another answer:

If you wish to use condensed milk to create something that will be closer to a dulce de leche, do the following. This can be extremely dangerous, please be sure to follow all directions. I am not responsible if you injure yourself:

Fill a large pot with water. Keep another pot boiling for topping off the main pot as water evaporates.

Place a can of condensed milk, still sealed, label removed, into the main pot. Bring up to a hard rolling boil. Top up the water as needed. Ensure that the can is always covered with at least six inches of water. Keep a lid on the pot, just in case.

Boil hard for four hours. Turn off the heat, and allow the water in the pot to come slowly down to room temperature. Do not at this point touch the can.

After cooling, let the pot continue to sit at room temperature for at least one hour. At this point, reach into the pot and gently touch the can with your hand. If it is still warm, leave it to cool further.

Once the can is completely cooled to room temperature, you may open it. If you want to be sure, leave it overnight.

You will have a glorious caramel sauce.

Note: I have intentionally described this process with significant margin for error for safety. There will be significant pressure inside the can, and opening it prematurely can very easily result in life-altering injuries.

  • +1 from me on the salt front. I've had particularly good experiences using coarse sea-salt. There's something very right about a caramel sauce that has a crunch of sharp tangy sea-salt every now and then =)
    – Rob
    Commented Jul 29, 2010 at 8:37
  • +1 for the advice about the water trick. Anything that can help mitigate errors is a good thing. Commented Jul 29, 2010 at 12:15
  • 1
    What ratio of cream and butter should you add?
    – Kyra
    Commented Jul 29, 2010 at 15:32

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