Prepare three 9-inch cake pans by greasing them and adding optional parchment paper.
Beat butter until light and fluffy; then add sugar and beat for about 5 more minutes.
Add eggs, 1 at a time, and mix well after each.
Add flour and buttermilk, alternately, beginning and ending with flour and mix well after each.
Add vanilla and beat well.
Divide among pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until set.
Turn out of pans onto cooling racks and allow to cool completely.
Prepare frosting as cakes are cooling, then frost the cake.
Southern Caramel Frosting
2 cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup shortening
½ cup butter
1 tsp baking soda
Mix all ingredients in a 3-4 quart cast iron dutch oven.
Swirl pan to keep ingredients moving in the pan. Cook to softball stage 235º – 245º on a candy thermometer or when tested in a cup of cold water.
Remove from heat and beat with a wooden spoon until creamy and ready to spread.
No thermometer?Do the cold water test:
Take some of the caramel and drop it into a bowl or cup of cold water. Give it a few seconds to cool. Fish around in the bowl or cup of cold water and try to retrieve the caramel and make a little ball with it.
If you stick your fingers into the bowl, pull out a gooey mess, and you can’t do anything but smear the caramel, you need to boil the caramel some more. There is still too much water in your caramel, and the concentration of sugar is too low. The caramel may even form little threads in the water, but if you cannot get the threads to form into a ball, you have some more boiling to do.