Gingerbread Caramel Recipe

Gingerbread caramels are a fun twist on a classic caramel recipe. Caramel pairs awesomely with hints of molasses and ginger.

homemade caramels with sea salt next to pine branches

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Homemade Caramel Recipe

One of my all time favorite things to do this time of year is to make homemade sea salt caramels. And one of my absolute favorite recipes for homemade salted caramels is this recipe for gingerbread caramels. We make this recipe every year, or at least we every year since I first shared the recipe on Good Life Eats six years ago.

We’ve already made them twice this month. I had to hide the first batch from the kids just so I would have enough to snap a few photos of. Otherwise they would have inhaled them in about 2 seconds. That has pretty much been the problem with every single Christmas candy or cookie that I have made since Thanksgiving.

I had all of these great plans to test and photograph new recipes to share. And instead, the kids are eating them before I even have the chance!

We make homemade caramels, like this recipe for Gingerbread Caramels, so often that I have become pretty adept at caramel making. But it wasn’t always that way. When I first learned how to make caramels several years ago, I was very intimidated.

soft caramel recipe

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Sometimes when I made homemade caramels they were too soft to hold their shape as caramels. But other batches turned out more like hard candy. In a moment of frustration, I googled something like “why are my caramels turning out like hard candy?” I did some reading.

Then I googled “high altitude candy making.” And then “soft caramels high altitude.” After many failed batches, I finally discovered that the problem was actually relatively simple.

All I needed to do was to adjust my final temperature due to living at higher than sea level elevation. What a difference adjusting the temperature for altitude made! Now I could make soft, chewy sea salt caramels in my own home.

Living significantly above sea level will result in hard candy rather than soft, chewy caramels if you don’t adjust the temperature in the recipe. For best results, you are definitely going to want to adjust the recipe for these gingerbread caramels.

Once you figure out the best method for where you live, making caramels becomes easier and easier every time. This last time I made them, it actually took me twice as long to untangle all of the dang fairy lights I wanted to use in the photos than it did to make the recipe.

sea salt caramels next to pine branches

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Gingerbread Caramel Ingredients

To make this soft caramel candy recipe, you’ll need:

  • Heavy cream
  • Butter
  • Granulated sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Molasses
  • Water
  • Vanilla extract
  • Spices
  • Sea salt

How to Make Caramels

Here’s the basic rundown of how to make this soft caramel recipe:

  1. In a saucepan, bring the butter and cream to a boil. Remove from heat.
  2. In a separate saucepan, combine the sugar, molasses, and water.
  3. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil and cook until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is deep amber in color.
  4. Carefully stir in the cream mixture.
  5. Continue cooking until the caramel registers no higher than 248°F.
  6. Remove from heat and immediately stir in vanilla, salt, and spices.
  7. Pour into parchment paper-lined baking pan and sprinkle with sea salt.
  8. Allow homemade caramels to cool completely before slicing.
gingerbread caramels recipe

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Can I Make Chocolate-Covered Caramels?

Of course! You’d need to let the gingerbread caramels cool completely, then dip them in chocolate after they’ve been sliced.

The best type of chocolate to use for dipping is tempered chocolate. Tempered chocolate will cool into a hardened state with a shiny appearance. When broken or bitten into, it will break with a snap.

Learn how to temper chocolate properly – it is essential when you want to dip homemade caramels in chocolate for a chocolate covered caramel. Follow my how-to for all you need to know about tempering chocolate.

What Type of Molasses Should I Use?

Anything but blackstrap molasses will work! Blackstrap molasses is too bitter for making caramels from scratch.

Making Caramel at High Altitudes

If you’ve never made homemade caramels before, I hope that these high altitude caramel making instructions make it just a bit easier when you make this recipe for Gingerbread Caramels for the first time. This recipe is definitely worth it!

With higher altitudes, you are going to bring the final cook temperature up lower if you live above sea level to achieve the same soft, chewy caramels.

1. First you will need to know out what your local altitude is.

We’ll use my location as an example. We are just over 5,000 ft. elevation.

If you don’t already know your local altitude, just google your zip code and the world altitude and you’ll be able to find the information you need.

2. For every 1,000 feet above sea level you will subtract 2 degrees from the target temperature of the recipe.

  • 5,000 divided by 1,000 is 5.
  • I will take 2 degrees off 5 times.
  • Final result 5 x 2 = 10.

3. Subtract the number of degrees you calculated previously from the recipe’s original temperature.

  • In this recipe, the target temperature is 248 degrees F.
  • 248 – 10 degrees for altitude adjustment = 238 degrees F.
  • 238 degrees F is my new high altitude adjusted temperature for this recipe.

Conversion Instructions for High Altitude Candy Making

To calculate your new temperature for this Gingerbread Caramel recipe, use this formula:

248 – (your elevation in feet / 1000) x 2 = YOUR NEW TEMPERATURE

gingerbread caramels topped with sea salt

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Tips for Making This Caramel Recipe

Caramel making can be really finicky. I recommend a good, accurate candy thermometer and total focused attention. This Instant Read Candy Thermometer is great!

You definitely don’t want to turn your back for even a couple of minutes because you can ruin your homemade caramels that easily. Gingerbread caramel making is something I like to do best when the kids are either at school, not home, or asleep. That leaves me with way less chance of interruption and distraction.

My personal preference is to take the boiling gingerbread caramel mixture off the stove when I see that the thermometer reads 1 degree lower than the recipe temperature. This helps me to ensure that I don’t accidentally go from chewy caramels to hard candy in those last few seconds. Because that has definitely happened way too many times when making caramels!

More Edible Christmas Gifts:

‘Tis the season for holiday gifting, and for our family that means homemade candies! Homemade gifts from the kitchen, like these Gingerbread Caramels, make great holiday gifts for friends, teachers, and neighbors.

Do you love chewy caramel, crunchy rice krispies, and milk chocolate? These Milk Chocolate Caramel Crunch Bars are like Homemade 100 Grand Bars, but even better!

For classic chocolate-covered caramels, try these Chocolate-Covered Vanilla Fleur de Sel Caramels.

Chocolate Raspberry Vanilla Bean Marshmallows are a great gift paired with homemade cocoa mix and a fun new mug. You can never go wrong with another recipe for chocolate bark.

Dark Chocolate Turtle Pretzel Bark is a fun treat for kids to help make for a teacher gift. Classic Pecan Christmas Turtles meet Dark Chocolate Bark with the crunchy, salty addition of mini pretzels for a delicious sweet and salty Christmas candy treat.

Try this Bittersweet Chocolate Swirl Fruit and Nut Bark. Bittersweet chocolate, white chocolate, almonds, raspberries, strawberries, pumpkin and chia seeds combine for a delectable and colorful holiday treat.

Homemade Chocolate Dipped Candy Cane Marshmallows are easy to make! Pair a bag of these goodies with a mug or hot cocoa mix for an inexpensive (and yummy) holiday gift.

Do you like making candied nuts? Cinnamon Vanilla Glazed Walnuts and Sweet and Spicy Rosemary Bar Nuts are both simple to make and nice additions to a candy and nut gift box.

Do you know someone who loves chocolate paired with peppermint?This Triple Chocolate Candy Cane Hot Cocoa Bark would be a hit with them! Dark chocolate pairs white chocolate, milk chocolate chips, marshmallows, and mini candy canes in this Candy Cane Hot Cocoa Bark for a fun holiday treat.

What’s your favorite homemade gift you’ve ever received?

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Gingerbread Caramels

Gingerbread Caramels

Yield: one 9x9 inch pan
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Setting Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

Gingerbread Caramels are a fun twist on a classic caramel recipe. Caramel pairs awesomely with hints of molasses and ginger.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or Maldon Sea Salt Flakes

Instructions

  1. Line bottom and sides of an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly oil parchment. (Related: Kitchen Tip: Lining Pans with Parchment)
  2. Bring cream and butter to a simmer in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Pre-measure the spices and salt out into a small bowl. Pre-measure the vanilla into another small bowl. You will need to access these ingredients very quickly at the end of the recipe.
  4. Combine the sugar, molasses, and water in a 4 to 5-quart heavy saucepan over medium high heat.
  5. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until all of the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is a deep amber color.
  6. Turn heat to low. Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up).
  7. Return heat to medium to medium-high and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel temperature registers no higher than 248°F on thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes.
  8. Turn off the heat and immediately whisk in the vanilla, salt and spices. Pour into baking pan.
  9. Once the mixture has cooled slightly but is still tacky to the touch, sprinkle the tops very lightly with additional sea salt, if desired.
  10. Then, allow the caramels to completely cool before cutting.
  11. Remove caramels from pan and cut into 1 inch pieces.

Notes

ABOVE SEA LEVEL INSTRUCTIONS 

Before you start this project you will also need find out what your elevation is and adjust the temperatures accordingly. 

  • For every 1,000 feet above sea level, you will need to subtract 2 degrees from the final cook temperature.
  • For example, I live at 5,000 ft. above sea level, so I subtract a total of 10 degrees from the temperature indicated in the recipe, cooking until the candy thermometer reaches 238 degrees F.

Recommended Products

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Other Homemade Gift Ideas:

Homemade BBQ Chicken Rub features a mix of brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, and smoked paprika for a flavorful homemade spice rubI love that this BBQ Chicken Rub stores well in a jar so that you can make a large batch ahead of time and use it throughout the year.

Homemade Pancake Mix Jars are a fun way to gift a delicious and healthy breakfast recipe. Pair it with a cute mixing bowl and a wooden spoon or a nice spatula, or a bottle of your favorite maple syrup.

If you’re looking for a fun family Christmas craft that can also serve as a homemade gift, Salt Dough Ornaments are the sweetest!

Still want more ideas? Check out these 35 Homemade Christmas Gift Ideas if you’re looking for homemade gift ideas this holiday season.

Be sure to follow Good Life Eats on Instagram. Tag @goodlifeeats and include the hashtag #goodlifeeatsrecipes so I can see what you’re cooking up in YOUR kitchen!

Let me know if you try this recipe and what you think of it by leaving a comment below.

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