summer fruit sauce caramel

Summer Berry Caramel: A Versatile Recipe and an Embrace of Simple Baking

When I needed a sauce for our most recent dinner party, I drew on my experience from my pastry kitchen days. I used to make a version of this caramel for a cheesecake dessert. I made it with nectarines and served it spooned over a lemon cheesecake with a gingersnap crust. As I think about it now, I'm tempted to pick up some cream cheese the next time I'm at the grocery store and recreate this dessert... but I digress.

This time, I was making this sauce to go with a Wild Rye Olive Oil Cake that I was serving with powdered sugar and whipped cream. Lately, I've been sticking to simple desserts, as Babyland is a very busy place! I love how this sauce enhances everything it touches while maintaining a fresh, bright, and refreshing flavor. I believe that after a long dinner, all we want is a simple sweet bite that won’t put us over the edge and into a food coma.

This recipe creates a perfect sauce for summer that is incredibly easy to make. Essentially, we are making a fruit purée sweetened with caramelized vanilla sugar. The caramelized sugar adds a deeper, less sweet flavor to the sauce and thickens it to a luxurious, spoonable consistency. Lemon juice is added for balance, resulting in a versatile sauce that is suitable for any summer day.

You can make it with nearly any ripe summer fruit. I recommend fruits that are ripe while maintaining a hint of tartness, such as berries, plums, cherries, nectarines, etc.

Another great thing about this sauce is that it pairs well with any of our Wild Rye Cakes! You could make vanilla shortcakes with a strawberry variation of this recipe or a chocolate cake with a cherry caramel. It complements them all beautifully!  I urge you to drizzle this lovely sauce over pancakes in the morning or swirl the leftovers into your yogurt. Ultimately, I have not found a more universally versatile sauce for summer baking, and I am excited to share it with you now.

This recipe can be stored in the refrigerator for weeks and can be made ahead of time or whenever the summer fruits inspire you.


Note: In a pinch, I have also used frozen fruit and found that it yields a similar result, although fresh, in-season fruits have a bit more magic to them.  

If you are using a fruit with a lot of seeds, I recommend straining the blended fruit before adding it to the caramelized sugar. Additionally, if you don't have vanilla beans, vanilla paste is a great substitute. You could also add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to your sugar after it has caramelized and when you're adding the fruit purée. 



  • 1 pound fruit
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or 1/2 vanilla bean (optional)


  1. Wash and prepare your fruit, removing any pits, stems, etc. 
  2. Place them in a blender with the lemon juice and purée until smooth pourable. 
  3. Strain purée using a fine mesh sieve if desired.
  4. Use a paring knife to split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape the seeds into a medium saucepan. Add the vanilla bean pod (or vanilla paste), the sugar, and 1/2 cup water. 
  5. Bring to a boil over medium heat, without stirring. Cook for about 10 minutes, swirling occasionally, until the mixture is a medium to dark amber color. Think about the color of maple syrup. *Don't walk away from your sugar, the caramelization happens fast. 
  6. Slowly and carefully add the fruit purée, whisking constantly. Go slow in the beginning. The sauce has a tendency to sputter a bit when you add the fruit to the hot sugar mixture.
  7. Continue cooking until any sugar that has seized is dissolved and you have a smooth fragrant sauce. 
  8. Let cool and serve or store in the refrigerator. 
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