Gingerbread caramels are a fun and festive twist on classic soft and chewy caramel candy. If you’re looking for a homemade chewy caramel recipe with no corn syrup, this is the recipe for you and it's easier to make than you might think!
I have a family member who is absolutely crazy about my homemade soft and chewy caramels. (I won't mention names to protect the innocent, but she's a certain 15-year-old sugar fiend, lol!).
My homemade caramel is usually only a special treat for the holidays. This year I decided to spice things up with gingerbread caramels! This aromatic soft and chewy caramel is warmly spiced with maple-y caramel notes and buttery richness.
A lot of people have asked me for a homemade soft caramel recipe with no corn syrup. The reason many caramel recipes use corn syrup is because it helps prevent sugar crystallization. However, in this gingerbread caramels recipe I use cream of tartar instead of corn syrup and it works like a charm.
All About Caramel
Caramel can be a little tricky to make, so I wanted demystify the process a bit. It’s actually not hard to make, it just takes some practice. Before you know it you’ll be making perfect soft and chewy caramel in any flavor you fancy. I suggest this gingerbread version for all the festive feels!
What is Caramel?
Caramel is basically burned sugar. When sugar is cooked to 340F, it caramelizes and turns a deep amber color and takes on a rich, complex flavor.
Ingredients in Caramel
When we think of caramel, we’re usually thinking of soft and chewy caramel. The basic ingredients for soft and chewy caramel are sugar and heavy cream.
I like to use cream of tartar for improved texture and to help prevent crystallization.
Also, I find that a touch of salt balances out the sweetness.
Do You Have to Use Corn Syrup When Making Soft Caramels?
A lot of recipes for soft and chewy caramel use corn syrup because it helps give the candy the right texture and helps prevent crystallization. In fact, I have a recipe for Salted Caramels on my blog that uses corn syrup!
However, after a couple rounds of testing I discovered that corn syrup isn’t absolutely necessary.
I use a little bit of cream of tartar in this recipe instead of corn syrup, and the result is perfectly soft and chewy caramel candy.
Can You Substitute Honey for Corn Syrup in Caramel?
In caramel recipes that call for corn syrup, people often ask if they can use honey instead. Not only will the flavor be different, but you also run the risk that your caramel won’t set properly.
For more information on when to use corn syrup, see David Lebovitz’s article When To Use (Or Not Use) Corn Syrup.
Do Homemade Caramels Need to be Refrigerated?
This recipe for gingerbread caramel candy keeps well at cool room temperature (about 72F).
I individually wrap my caramel pieces in parchment paper (it can sometimes stick to wax paper, so go with parchment), and store them in a container in my pantry for up to 1 month.
If it’s really hot in your kitchen and you need to store these in the fridge, let them warm to room temperature before serving for the best texture.
How to Make Soft and Chewy Caramel
There are two basic steps to making soft and chewy caramel:
- Caramelize the sugar.
- Add the butter and/or heavy cream.
Any other add-ins for flavor and improved texture are additional to these two main components. For example, in this recipe I add warm gingerbread spices and a hint of molasses to create a gingerbread flavor profile.
How to Caramelize Sugar
As easy as it is to make caramel, I want to talk about the method for caramelizing the sugar, because there are two different ways to do it.
The first way to caramelize sugar is to cook it alone (without added water) gently until it caramelizes.
The second way to caramelize sugar is to cook it with water.
The benefit of adding water to sugar when making caramel is that it’s harder to scorch the caramel because the water slows down the caramelization process. However, this is also the downside of adding water to sugar when you’re making caramel. It takes a bit longer because the sugar won’t caramelize until the water evaporates out.
What Does Gingerbread Taste Like?
Gingerbread cookies, cakes, etc. are sweets that are usually warmly spiced with ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and other spices. Gingerbread items may be sweetened with honey or sugar and frequently have molasses and/or brown sugar.
Spices in Gingerbread
Many gingerbread recipes include a blend of the following spices:
We use all these spices in this recipe!
The Best Gingerbread Caramel Recipe
You won’t believe how much this caramel actually tastes like gingerbread! Warm gingerbread spices marry beautifully with the complexity of caramel, and these are perfectly soft and chewy.
Ingredients in Gingerbread Caramel
In this section I explain the ingredients. For the full recipe (including ingredient amounts), please see the recipe card below.
- Spices (ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper) - this combination of spices is common in gingerbread
- Sugar - the base of our caramel
- Cream of tartar - to help prevent sugar crystallization
- Salt - to enhance the flavor and create balance
- Water - helps slow down the caramelization process so the sugar doesn't scorch
- Unsalted butter - for richness and soft, chewy texture
- Heavy cream - to help achieve the perfect texture
- Blackstrap molasses - adds robust flavor and helps create a gingerbread flavor profile
How to Make Gingerbread Caramel
- Prep the pan. Line a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with a piece of parchment paper.
- Make the spice mix. Sift together the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper and set aside.
- Caramelize the sugar. Add the sugar, cream of tartar, salt, and water to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the sugar caramelizes; it should be a golden amber color. To help the sugar dissolve, you can gently swirl the pan, but don’t stir. If sugar crystallizes along inside the pan, you can use a wet pastry brush to brush it down.
- Add the butter. Once the sugar is amber-colored, turn off the heat and stir in the butter.
- And then the cream. When the butter is melted in, stir in the cream, molasses, and spices until combined.
- Mold it and let it cool. Carefully pour the caramel into the prepared pan and let it cool to room temperature before cutting (at least 4 hours, but overnight is best).
- Cut it up and enjoy! Cut the caramel into 20 pieces, wrap each in parchment paper, and store at room temperature for up to 1 month.
More Gingerbread Recipe Inspiration
- Gingerbread Snack Cake with Earl Grey Glaze
- Gingerbread Muffins
- Gingerbread Spice Syrup (For Lattes)
Gingerbread Caramels (Homemade Chewy Caramel Without Corn Syrup)
- Line a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with a piece of parchment paper.
- Sift together the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper and set aside.
- Add the sugar, cream of tartar, salt, and water to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the sugar caramelizes; it should be a golden amber color. To help the sugar dissolve, you can gently swirl the pan, but don’t stir. If sugar crystalizes along inside the pan, you can use a wet pastry brush to brush it down.
- Once the sugar is amber-colored, turn off the heat and stir in the butter.
- When the butter is melted in, stir in the cream, molasses, and spices until combined.
- Carefully pour the caramel into the prepared pan and let it cool to room temperature before cutting (at least 4 hours, but overnight is best).
- Carefully cut the caramel into 20 pieces with an oiled knife, wrap each in parchment paper, and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.
- Recipe Yield and Serving Size: This recipe makes 20 pieces of caramel. Each serving is 1 piece of caramel.
- Storage: After wrapping these caramels in parchment paper, store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.
This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on December 17, 2018. I updated it with more information on December 18, 2020.