What is Hard Sauce?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mint may used as a garnish for hard sauce.
Mint may used as a garnish for hard sauce.

Hard sauce is not really a sauce at all, and could really more accurately be termed a spread. It is a rich combination of butter, sugar, and alcohol that traditionally accompanies heavy desserts such as plum pudding. Many people associate the sauce with the holidays in particular, when it is often offered with an assortment of desserts. In some parts of the world, it is known as brandy butter, a reference to the two primary ingredients.

Rum and brandy are classic flavorings for hard sauce.
Rum and brandy are classic flavorings for hard sauce.

To make hard sauce, butter and sugar are creamed together before a flavoring is added. Rum and brandy are two classic flavorings, although other alcohols or liqueurs could be used as well. Extracts of vanilla, almond, or orange could also be used, for cooks who are trying to avoid the use of alcohol. Some cooks also add accents like lemon or orange zest.

Hard sauce often accompanies plum pudding.
Hard sauce often accompanies plum pudding.

The mixture is chilled so that it is cold before serving. Hard sauce may be offered in a central dish, allowing diners to serve themselves, or it may be individually served on each plate. Some cooks use molds to make fanciful shapes that also look more elegant than simple lumps of butter. Gingerbread, fruitcakes, and other holiday foods all pair well with this spread, which is usually mounded on top of a dessert rather than being spread out like a frosting. It may also be garnished with mint, cloves, or other appropriate ingredients.

Some cooks use granulated white sugar when making hard sauce.
Some cooks use granulated white sugar when making hard sauce.

Any kind of sugar can be used in hard sauce. Many cooks use confectioner's sugar, since it yields a smooth, creamy texture. Granulated white sugar can also be used, although the final product will be more grainy. Some cooks also use brown sugar to make a darker sauce with a molasses-like flavor. This form is more rich and complex in flavor, as a general rule.

Cooks can make this dessert sauce by creaming 0.5 cup (113 g) of butter before slowly adding 1.5 cups of sugar of choice (about 180 g powdered sugar, 300 g granulated sugar, or 330 g packed brown sugar). The mixture should be blended until it is light and fluffy before 2 tablespoons (29.5 ml) of rum, brandy, or a preferred flavoring are added. Once thoroughly combined, the sauce should be chilled until the cook is ready to serve it. It can keep for several days in the refrigerator and many cooks make it ahead of time so that they don't need to worry about it in the flurry of holiday cooking.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

nextcorrea

I have never heard of hard sauce before but honestly it sounds amazing. Sweet creamy rum flavored butter, I could eat that on just about anything. It sounds like it would be really good on a piece of chocolate pound cake.

whiteplane

What kind of liquor do you like to use in your recipe for hard sauce? I usually use rum but I have seen people use whiskey, brandy and various kinds of liqueur. I suppose it is up to the chef.

gravois

I love to eat hard sauce on Christmas pudding. In fact, I associate this dish with Christmas as strongly as I associate the tree or Santa Clause.

Christmas was a huge holiday in my home. The entire house was decorated and on Christmas night the entire extended family would come over. We would have a massive meal, usually ham, and then we would eat the Christmas pudding that my mother was famous for. She always served it with a homemade hard sauce. The sweet butter over the creamy pudding is one of the most amazingly decadent flavors I can think of.

breakofday

Try hard sauce on mincemeat pie, it adds a touch of sweetness that I think goes really well together. Just don't forget the Rum!

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    • Mint may used as a garnish for hard sauce.
      By: margo555
      Mint may used as a garnish for hard sauce.
    • Rum and brandy are classic flavorings for hard sauce.
      By: Gresei
      Rum and brandy are classic flavorings for hard sauce.
    • Hard sauce often accompanies plum pudding.
      By: uckyo
      Hard sauce often accompanies plum pudding.
    • Some cooks use granulated white sugar when making hard sauce.
      By: librakv
      Some cooks use granulated white sugar when making hard sauce.