Hard Sauce for Bread Pudding and Other Desserts

pudding with hard sauce
Georgina Palmer / Getty Images
  • Total: 10 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Servings: 8 servings

Contrary to its name, hard sauce is not actually a sauce at all—nor is it actually hard. This traditional old-fashioned British recipe calls for creaming softened butter with sugar, creating more of a spreadable consistency than a smooth, pourable one. This delectable accompaniment is often flavored with rum or brandy but can be made with extract instead, making the dessert condiment ideal for little ones.

Hard sauce is often served with warm desserts, such as bread pudding, plum pudding, or hasty pudding, as well as other sweets like gingerbread and fruitcake. When rum or brandy are used (in which case the sauce may be referred to as "rum butter" or "brandy butter" respectively), hard sauce is commonly part of the Christmas and New Year's dessert buffet alongside Christmas pudding and mince pie.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened slightly

  • 1 cup powdered sugar

  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 2 tablespoons brandy, rum, or whiskey

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • Allspice to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. With a standing or hand-held mixer, beat the softened butter until creamy.

  3. Add the powdered sugar and mix while scraping the sides of the bowl, so the sugar and butter come together evenly.

  4. Add the vanilla extract, brandy, rum, or whiskey, and spices.

  5. Mix, scraping the sides again, to combine.

  6. Spoon the sauce into a bowl.

  7. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Tips

  • For this recipe, it is very important that your butter is soft (but not mushy). If your butter is still somewhat hard, it won't blend properly and can't become creamy and spreadable; if it is too soft, it will create a consistency that is too smooth to be characteristic of hard sauce.
  • The sauce will last in the refrigerator, covered in plastic wrap, for months. However, it will harden when in the fridge, so remove it and let it come to room temperature 2 hours before serving.
  • For a special holiday dessert, press the sauce into a decorative mold before chilling. Turn it out of the mold onto a plate before serving.

Recipe Variations

  • Alcohol-free hard sauce: Instead of rum or brandy, use rum extract.
  • Lemon hard sauce: Eliminate the spices and alcohol. Replace with 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest.