1-2-3-4 Cake with Caramel Frosting

Have you ever made a 1-2-3-4 cake?  I hadn’t, or maybe just not noticed that I had, until yesterday.  “What is a 1-2-3-4 cake?” you ask.  It’s simple really.

1- cup of butter

2- cups of sugar

3- cups of flour

4- eggs

Of course there are other ingredients that accompany these 4, such as baking powder, salt, vanilla and milk.  What a great way to remember a recipe.  It reminds me of pound cake, in its original form, where you are to use a pound of each ingredient; butter, sugar, flour and eggs.  I have never made pound cake this way, but I feel like I should just to say that I’ve tried it.

I searched a bit into each of these cakes, and both seem to have arrived on the culinary scene in the mid to late 1700’s.  At this time, many people could not read, and so recipes that had easy to memorize ratios were perfect.  Originally the other ingredients were not used.  It was just the butter, sugar, flour and eggs.  I think the milk adds some moisture, the baking powder helps the rise, of course, and the vanilla is a lovely flavoring.  I used vanilla paste, so you can see little specks of vanilla bean in the cake layers.

The frosting recipe below is 150% of the original.  I found the original amount to be a little stingy, but I like frosting, so you may want to use the recipe here if you are not quite the frosting nut that I am.  There is a rich caramel flavor in this frosting that I think would be good on chocolate cake or cupcakes as well.

I found the cake and frosting recipe on recipeland.com, a site I just stumbled upon the other day.  It has TONS of recipes that make it a little daunting to sift through.  This recipe had no reviews, so I was a little hesitant to try it.  I am glad that I did because it was not only easy, but pretty tasty as well.  The cake was pretty crumbly, but it was sturdy and had good flavor.  The frosting is delicious, but very sweet, so its not the kind of frosting you just lick off the spoon.  Other people do that, right?  Anyway…good cake.  Try it.

1-2-3-4 Cake with Caramel Frosting



  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups flour, all-purpose
  • 4 large eggs well beaten
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract pure


  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 cups powdered sugar


  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer till smooth, add the eggs and continue beating till smooth.
  3. In a bowl, mix the flour and baking powder together and add alternately with the milk to the butter mixture, beating steadily till smooth.
  4. Add the vanilla and beat till well blended.
  5. Grease and flour three 9 inch cake pans, divide the batter evenly among the pans, and bake till a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.  Tops should spring back when pressed lightly.
  6. Let cool completely.
  7. Meanwhile, to make the icing: melt the butter over low heat in a saucepan, add the brown sugar and milk, bring to a boil, and remove from the heat to cool to room temperature.
  8. Add the powdered sugar and mix till well blended.
  9. When the cake layers are cooled, remove from the pans, place one layer on a cake plate, and spread one third of the icing on the layer.
  10. Place a second layer over the icing and spread with more icing.
  11. Top with the third layer and spread icing over the top and around the sides.