Butterscotch Is Not Caramel


When I was a little girl, my mom bought butterscotch ripple ice cream – all the time. I have never understood the “ripple” ice cream; I prefer just a flavour with no ripple. And if I was forced to choose a ripple, I’d pick a chocolate one.

I actually thought butterscotch was a flavour, not a thing. And until recently, I have used butterscotch and caramel interchangeably.

It seems butterscotch is a bit of a mystery because its actual origins are unknown. After doing a little research, I can report there were many race horses named Butterscotch in London during the mid-1800s but no real clues as to where the term came from. The problem for me is that now whenever I hear the word butterscotch, I think of Phoebe Hogg. Sometime around 1890, in a small town near London, Hogg and her eighteen-month-old daughter were brutally murdered by her husband’s lover, who all but decapitated Hogg and left her body along the side of the road and threw the strangled baby in a nearby field. When the police officer found the pram abandoned along a garden wall, there on the baby’s seat was a piece of butterscotch. Now, whenever I think of butterscotch, I get an image of a half-eaten, sticky butterscotch candy stuck on the seat of a buggy.

In actuality, a butterscotch is a variant of toffee, and it is made from butter and sugar. Butterscotch flavouring is used in all sorts of cooking today, from butterscotch pudding, butterscotch chips, and of course, butterscotch ripple ice cream.

Toffee is made from boiling butter, sugar and milk at a high temperature; it was originally known as taffy in Scottish and Northern England dialects. 

Butterscotch equals Caramel 

Caramel is burnt sugar, and when left to cool it will harden to a crunch. Think: crème brulee. If you add cream to caramel, you get caramel sauce. It can be dated back as far as 1725, and the English word came from the French which originated from the Spanish, caramelo.

While I am differentiating, I should distinguish dulce leche; it is a  Latin-American version where milk and sugar are condensed to a syrup and then caramelized by heating it to a high temperature. It originated in Argentina.

Why am I telling you this? I found the most delicious recipe for butterscotch sauce and I wanted to share it. It is so easy: it is shockingly easy.

Essentially, you mix together brown sugar, white sugar, butter and cream, and then boil it for only five minutes. The recipe I followed added balsamic vinegar after the cooking process and I was intrigued by this idea. To be completely honest, I think you could serve it without the vinegar because it tastes creamy and sugary and good. But adding the balsamic gives the butterscotch sauce an unexpected punch of flavour: I like to call it adult butterscotch sauce.

My children loved this sauce, a lot. They begged to have it in their lunch with apples for dipping.

There is no excuse: you should make this sauce. It keeps nicely in the fridge for a few days, and you can use it for so many things. I imagine it would be excellent in combination with any sort of nut, as well as many different cakes and fruits.


I made an apple upside-down Bundt cake, and served this sauce with it. Delicious.


Every day after school, the minute my children hit the front door, they ask: What can we have for a snack? There is no: How was your day, Mom? Or, guess what happened at school today? Just: What can we have for a snack? Occasionally, they get something like this: bite-sized pieces of homemade brownies to dunk in butterscotch sauce.


I would much rather have my children eating apples with a homemade sauce like this after school or after supper than something (anything) store-bought.

There is only one problem with making this butterscotch sauce: it’s so easy you’ll make it all the time. Wait, what’s the problem with that?

Mrs. Larkin’s Balsamic Butterscotch Sauce: The Recipe

I found this recipe when I signed up to be a “community tester” over at Food 52. You can do it, too; be a community tester, that is. I am not affiliated with Food 52 in any way, and encourage you only because I think it is a great food website with good writing and fantastic recipes. There are contests, where you can submit your own recipes, all the time. And the photographs are beautiful.

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5 thoughts on “Butterscotch Is Not Caramel

  1. I knew I would learn something else new if I hung in there.Also ,we will try the recipe—-sounds really good. Good blog Jill

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