As part of my annual holiday baking extravaganza I decided to mix it up a bit, and include a candy amidst the dozens of cookies I’m shipping out to friends and family. I figured I had made caramels once before, so why not?
Talk about pressure.
Luckily, they turned out beautifully. Especially considering the two pints of cream, 4 cups of sugar, and entire bottle of corn syrup that went into them – I would have been mighty bummed if I had to throw the whole thing out.
In true holiday spirit, these are gingerbread caramels: with a hearty dose of molasses and spices mixed in. I increased the spices from the original recipe, and added allspice to more closely mimic my grandmothers’s gingerbread recipe. And while the gingerbread flavor comes through loud and clear, if I made these again, I’d add even more. Just for good measure. Maybe a smidge more molasses as well.
Well, that’s one way to conquer your fear of boiling sugar: with a massive, bubbling vat of it. Seriously, use your biggest pot for this one.
Be warned – this recipe makes A LOT of candy. Which may sound like a good idea until you start wrapping them all. Individually. One. At. A time. Despite the tedium, it’s a perfect recipe if you’re planning to give out a dozen boxes of treats, there’s no crazy math needed to get a whole boatload of candy. However, for just an everyday treat, you may want to start by halving or even quartering this recipe. Half would be just about perfect in a 9-by-13-inch pan, a quarter of the recipe (your middle school math skills will surely come in handy here) would fill an 8-by-8-inch pan.
If caramel still makes your heart palpitate, in my (two) attempts thus far I think I’ve learned a few things. Namely:
- Get a good candy thermometer (I like this one), and calibrate it before you start (stick it in boiling water and make sure it reads 212ºF). Also – if you live above 1,000 feet in elevation, you will need to adjust your temperature goal, about 2º lower per 1000 feet.
- Temperature matters. The time approximations in candy recipes are just that – approximations. Trust your thermometer above all else. (For example, Martha’s original recipe says it’ll reach the desired temperature in 20 minutes. Yeah right. With that much liquid in the pot it took me more like 40, and other reviews of the recipe mentioned it taking upwards of an hour).
- Respect the sugar. It’s hot, so don’t be careless, and don’t leave it unattended. But be confident, not fearful (sugar can smell fear, apparently). You can do this!
Finally, just go for it. You’re never going to get over your fear if you don’t try. I know – I let my fear prevent me from making caramel for years, and now? Well, now I’m a caramel-making FIEND. Peach, gingerbread… what’s next? We shall see!
- 4 cups (2 pints) heavy cream
- 2 cups light corn syrup
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup light/unsulfured molasses
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Line a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. If needed, use a few dabs of corn syrup to keep the paper firmly in place. In a small bowl, whisk together ginger, cinnamon, allspice, salt, cloves, and pepper until evenly combined; set aside.
- In a large pot (emphasis on large here – you want a pot at least twice the volume of the ingredients inside as the mixture will bubble up) combine cream, corn syrup, sugar, butter, and molasses. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Reduce heat to medium-high and continue to boil, stirring frequently, until mixture reaches 246 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 30 to 40 minutes.
- Remove from heat; sprinkle spices over top of caramel, stirring until evenly incorporated. Stir in vanilla extract. Immediately pour into prepared pan. Let sit at room temperature, uncovered, for 24 hours without disturbing.
- Lifting the caramel out of the pan using the parchment paper as a handle. Using a sharp knife or rotary cutter (lightly buttered or sprayed with cooking spray if needed), cut caramel into 1 1/4-inch strips, and then crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces. Wrap each piece individually in cellophane or waxed paper. Caramels can be stored up to 1 month in airtight containers.
Adapted from Martha Stewart.All images and text © Lindsay Landis / Love & Olive Oil
Did you make this recipe?
Let us know what you think!
Leave a Comment below or share a photo and tag me on Instagram with the hashtag #loveandoliveoil.
Bonus! These gingerbread caramels make fantastic holiday gifts; even better when they’re sporting fancy packaging.
If you’d like to use these labels I designed for your own sweet favors, simply download the printable file below, then print onto full-sheet sticker paper. The clear pillow boxes I used here are perfect caramel containers and can be purchased from ClearBags.com, but you could also use these on small boxes or as a folded header card on a clear cello bag.
Disclaimer: Copyright Love & Olive Oil. For personal use only. If you post about or share these labels, please credit appropriately and do not link directly to the downloadable file but rather to this post. Please do not distribute these downloadable files. Thank you much!
These are INCREDIBLE! I just made a batch and am waiting for them to cool overnight before cutting and wrapping. I licked the spatula (after it had cooled) and wow yum! The only change I made was to add about 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg and about 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger for a little added spice. This is going to be a coworker gift and will definitely become a yearly tradition as it will be such a fun addition to a traditional Christmas cookie plate.
Hi Lindsay, I’m trying to recreate a treat we always got when we went to the beach as kids, called molasses paddles; they uses molasses caramel dipped in dark chocolate. I want to omit the spices but I think I would need to add a lot more molasses to the recipe to get a stronger molasses flavor. If I increase the molasses to one full bottle (2 cups) would that compromise the final consistency of the caramels if I still cook to 246 degrees? Thanks!
Sorry I can’t say whether this would work or not with more molasses as I haven’t tried it personally. Maybe try a small batch and see what happens?
Are these soft or hard caramels? Could you dip them in Chocolate as well or would they melt while coating?
I think they could be dipped, sure! Just be sure they’ve completely set up, and maybe chill or even freeze them for a bit first before dipping. Great idea!
Made these and they are delicious! Makes perfect Christmas gifts!
Oops, I was measuring sugar and put the spices in with it! Will these turn out or will cooking the spices with the sugar ruin the outcome? Thanks!
Just made these! I halved the recipe, but kept API cr measurements the same (essentially doubling the spice)…and it turned out really good. The spice was still too subtle for me. Do you have suggestions for really getting a spicy, hit you over the head with gingerbread flavor in the caramels?
I knew this recipe was going to be one of my best caramel recipes by the listed ingredients
I halved the recipe and I have to say it
Is absolutely amazing
Can’t wait to give them
Out as gifts ??
Can I make 1/2 the recipe
Definitely! You’d just need a quarter sheet pan (or something like a 13×9). Keep an eye on the cook time too as it’ll likely be quite a bit quicker with less caramel to cook.
oops found the peach! yum!
can’t wait to try this version. but by the way Peach? Can’t wait.
I have always used honey instead of corn syrup. :)
Do you need to grease the parchment paper before pouring the caramel on it?
Nope! Parchment on its own won’t stick to these caramels. :)
Do you know of a substitute for the corn syrup?
Golden syrup or another invert sugar would work, but it cannot be omitted as it is what keeps the caramels soft.
Yup – definitely going to make these! I don’t even care that the holidays are over.
I also found these from Pinterest and was eager to try! They’re settling now (it’s been about 20 hours) and they still seem like they’re… Unfinished? They’re barely firm and are at room temp. Any ideas?
This is my first attempt at making candy and I just want to face plant the pans because they smell soooo good!
Unfortunately, if they’re not set now I don’t think they’ll get any better. Could be a number of factors, humidity maybe, or they weren’t cooked to a high enough temp. If they’re just a bit soft, pop them in the fridge. That’ll at least get them firm enough to eat. Or if they’re too soft for that, melt them down and make caramel sauce! Definitely not a complete waste. :)
I found you via Pinterest. Just wanted to let you know that your recipe turned out perfectly, and I’m in the midst of wrapping up the little bastards. I especially appreciated the reminder to use a large pot (I used a stockpot) and to line my pan with parchment, which works so much better than greased tinfoil. Thank you!
I am so glad they turned out and you enjoyed them! :) And yes – no quick way to wrap that many, unfortunately, but it’s worth it in the end!
I love this idea :) gingerbread caramels sound so amazing!
I’ve made caramels once, and they were delicious. Considering the gingerbread kick I have been on, I bet these are DIVINE!
This is such a great idea! So delicious! I’m not crazy about wrapping a ton of little candies though.
Love love love it! I so want to try this :)
Okay so they’re cooling in their baking sheet as I type… I MAY have snuck a piece… DELISH!! I am curious though, why do we need to wait 24 hrs. before wrapping? Couldn’t I do it once they’re completely cooled? Thank you so much for posting this recipe! It went exactly as you described.
I assume the 24 hours is just to be sure they are completely set. Even when cooled they may be softer than they should be, which would make them hard to cut. It’s hard to wait, I know!! :)
What adorable little packages! The recipients should know how lucky they are.
I was in the mood to make a seasonal caramel (I’m done with apple cider caramels for the year!) and these inspired me. I made a quarter batch (in an 8×8 pan) and they turned out wonderfully. I grew up making caramels with my mom who always used the ice water method for figuring out when they’re done (when they form a softball in the water) and I can’t really adjust to making caramels any other way (i.e. I’m always thermometer-less). These were done to perfection in about 8-10minutes. I’ll be making these again and again in the coming month…thanks for the recipe!
Oh, these look insanely delicious…
They look yummy and so professional when finished. Thanks for the recipe. Carol
I need these in my life!
These are adorable and your packaging looks so professional. Such a good idea to mix in with all of the cookies and I love your gingerbread spin on caramels.
These sounds like a brilliant idea! And maybe a great present aswell!
Oh gosh these are cute. I love this recipe and have made it before- it sure is delicious huh? I adore those labels as well- I would love to be one of the lucky recipients of these beauties!!
I always make vanilla caramels for Christmas but I think I might to make these too now.
Oh, these are so pretty! I love the extra dash of allspice; I bet they make the kitchen smell delicious while cooking! I’ve been slowly conquering a deadly fear of sugar, so I applaud your use of a ginormous pot of boiling sugar; I think that would have made me break out in hives!
OH MY HEAVENS! This is a Christmas candy dream come true. :)
I loooooved your other caramels. Your recipe was the only one I tried that worked. I am not afraid!
I wouldn’t mind getting a bag of these lovelies for the holidays. Yum!
They’re like….So PERFECT! See’s Candies called and wants this recipe! They’re more perfect than theirs! And gingerbread. Wow! Pinned!
These are SO beautiful Lindsay! Just love them–so creative and fun. And definitely the perfect holiday present.
I don’t know if it gets any better than this!
this is GENIUS!
Oh my gosh, there are GORGEOUS!! I think I need to be on your shipping list ;)
I make pecan pralines every year and was looking for something different. These look gorgeous. Thanks for helping me find a new holiday treat to try!
Oh what delightful little parcels! And what a clever idea to flavour the caramels with gingerbread! I made everyone Christmas cakes this year, but next year I want to branch out to something a little more exciting… These are so gorgeous – I think that I might have to make caramels :)