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
  • Yield: 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. Regardless, 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. The European Commission requires the butter used to make the hard sauce to be at least 20 percent milkfat, or else it's not officially sanctioned as a hard sauce. 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

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons brandy, rum, or whiskey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Allspice to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. With a standing or hand-held mixer, beat the slightly softened butter. Add the powdered sugar and mix while scraping the side of the bowl, so the sugar and butter come together evenly.

  2. Add the vanilla extract, brandy, rum, or whiskey, and spices and mix, scraping the sides again, to combine.

  3. Spoon the sauce into a bowl and serve or refrigerate, covered in plastic wrap, until ready to serve.

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 two 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.
  • Adding sauces to desserts may not be something you think of doing, but it sure does enhance the sweet experience! There are plenty of toppings to bring to the dessert table—beside whipped cream—including a maple cream sauce, which takes maple syrup to a whole new level with the addition of cream, making it ideal for topping bread pudding or even cheesecake. Butterscotch sauce is always a favorite over vanilla ice cream but is even more divine drizzled over a bread pudding.

Recipe Variations

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