Butterscotch Is the Star of This Sweet Treat

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Long before we fell in love with salted caramel, butterscotch reigned. Sure, the hard candies in clear, lidded jars on Auntie’s counter tempt. But it’s the sleek, shiny warm butterscotch sauce swirled into vanilla ice cream that we adore. Ditto for luscious whipped butterscotch pudding and nut-studded butterscotch fudge.

Butterscotch typically is made by cooking brown sugar, which contains dark, slightly bitter molasses, with butter. Caramel, on the other hand, starts with white granulated sugar that is melted until golden. Both can contain cream, vanilla and salt.

Butterscotch does not always contain scotch, but the bitter complexity of whiskey complements the cooked sugar and butter flavors beautifully. We always add a splash!

The salted butterscotch sauce recipe that follows tastes great served warm over vanilla ice cream with sliced bananas. You can use it as a pancake syrup or stir it into hot oatmeal for a morning treat. Use the sauce as a glaze over the pound cake that follows or on homemade donuts or muffins. No judgment if you enjoy it straight from the jar.

The buttery cake recipe that follows gets its butterscotch flavor from dark brown sugar and scotch. The loaf looks prettiest made in an 8-by 4-inch loaf pan. However, a standard 9-by-5-inch pan works well too; the cake will not be quite as tall. The recipe can be doubled to make two loaves — one for you and one for a gift. Add a jar of the butterscotch sauce to your gift and all will be golden.

Salted Butterscotch Sauce and Glaze

Makes about 2/3 cup

Note: Dark brown sugar makes a deeply golden, richly flavored sauce. Light brown sugar can be substituted for a lighter-tasting sauce if you wish.

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 pinches coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon Scotch whisky or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Put cream, brown sugar, butter and salt into a deep, small saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Stir in whiskey and vanilla. Reduce heat to low and boil gently until smooth and thick, about 5 minutes. Cool.

2. Refrigerate in a tightly covered jar for several days. Serve slightly warm.

Butterscotch-Glazed Butterscotch Pound Cake

Makes one loaf

  • 1 1/2 cups flour, preferable cake flour, plus 1 or 2 tablespoons for pan
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon Scotch whiskey OR 1 additional teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • About 1/4 cup Salted Butterscotch Sauce and Glaze, see recipe

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan (or a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan) on all sides; add a tablespoon or two of flour and shake pan to coat it with flour. Tap out excess flour.

2 Mix 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium-size bowl. Mix cream, whiskey and vanilla in a small bowl.

3. Beat butter in a large bowl of electric mixer until light. Beat in sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until smooth and light, about 3 minutes. One low speed, beat in flour mixture alternately with cream mixture, just until flour is evenly moistened.

4. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven until cake is golden brown, has pulled away from sides of pan and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then remove cake from pan and let cool on rack.

5. Put cake onto a cutting board or serving plate. Pour glaze over warm cake. Let cake cool completely. Use a serrated knife to slice.

JeanMarie Brownson


JeanMarie Brownson is a James Beard Award-winning author and the recipient of the IACP Cookbook Award for her latest cookbook, “Dinner at Home.” JeanMarie, a chef and authority on home cooking, Mexican cooking and specialty food, is one of the founding partners of Frontera Foods. She co-authored three cookbooks with chef Rick Bayless, including “Mexico: One Plate at a Time.” JeanMarie has enjoyed developing recipes and writing about food, travel and dining for more than four decades.

©2022 JeanMarie Brownson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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