Butterscotch is a confection that has a distinctive flavor of brown sugar and butter. Butterscotch can often be found as a sauce or a hard candy, but the word is also used to describe other foods – cakes and cookies, for instance – that combine the flavors of brown sugar and butter together. A basic butterscotch recipe is not very different from a basic caramel sauce recipe, and the only real difference is the type of sugar used, as the molasses notes in brown sugar are essential to the flavor of butterscotch. Early butterscotch recipes even called for molasses or treacle to be added to regular caramel recipes to give them a more distinctive flavor.
Butterscotch, as a caramel, is frequently used as an ice cream topping and as a flavor for frostings, candies and pudding. You will get a distinct butterscotch flavor from many baking recipes that call for high amounts of brown sugar and butter, as well. Despite the “scotch” in the name, butterscotch does not typically contain any scotch, although it does go well with it and you could certainly add a splash to a cake or buttercream to give the flavor some more dimension!
Butterscotch baking chips are another common form of butterscotch, and are familiar to many bakers. The baking chips typically contain artificial flavorings and don’t have the same rich flavor as actual butterscotch candies. They are also very sweet, and are typically better baked into other goodies than eaten on their own. That said, they are easy to use and are definitely an easy way to get a little bit of butterscotch into a recipe.