A simple caramel sauce recipe requires only sugar, water, whipping cream, vanilla extract and butter. After just two minutes of prep work and 12 minutes of cooking, you have a sauce that's ready to serve.
Combine 1/3 cup water and 1 1/4 cups sugar in a large heavy saucepan, and cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves. When the sugar is no longer visible, turn the heat up to medium-high, and warm until it gently boils and the syrup becomes amber in color. Use a wet pastry brush to apply the sauce down the sides of the pan, and swirl the pan gently for about eight minutes. Swirling leads to more evenness with cooking than stirring. Add 3/4 cup whipping cream gradually, and add 1/3 cup butter. Stir slowly until the mixture has a smooth texture. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir the vanilla in.
Alternatively, a salted caramel sauce only needs four ingredients: sugar, heavy cream, salted butter and salt. Heat 1 cup of granulated sugar over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. Watch the sugar clump and then melt into a brown, thick liquid. As soon as it's melted, add 6 tablespoons salted butter, divided into 6 pieces. Stir the butter for about two minutes until the butter all melts. Drizzle 1/2 cup of heavy cream into the mixture while stirring. Watch for spattering or bubbling because of the temperature difference. Bring the mixture to a boil for a minute. Take off the heat, and stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Let the sauce cool before using. Cover tightly and store quickly if not serving immediately.