Hard Sauce For Apple Crisp


Hard Sauce for Apple Crisp is a no-fail variety that you can use for many baked goods. It has enough zest and cinnamon to really shine with a flavorful crust. There are a lot of apple crisp recipes out there, but they’re often sweetened with sugar or honey. This recipe replaces the sugar and honey in a recipe with harder ingredients. It even includes a topping you can use on toast instead of butter & jam.

Hard Sauce for Bread Pudding and Other Desserts

Hard Sauce for Bread Pudding and Other Desserts

Prep:10 mins

Cook:0 mins

Total:10 mins

Servings:4 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)SAVE RECIPE

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.

“This is a very simple sauce or glaze you would be able to use on a variety of sweet dishes. Feel free to adjust the flavor to better fit your dish, or flavor as you need. Make sure your butter is softened for optimal results.” 

Hard sauce is a scrumptious delight meant to be plopped on top of warm pies, puddings, cobblers, and crisps. The booze is what makes it extra delicious.

YIELDS:8 servings

PREP TIME:0 hours 5 mins

COOK TIME:0 hours 0 mins

TOTAL TIME:0 hours 5 mins


stick (1/2 cup) softened (not room temperature) butter

1 1/2 c. 

powdered sugar

2 tbsp. 

whiskey, more or less to taste


  1. Beat butter in mixer with paddle attachment until fluffy. Add powdered sugar gradually until incorporated, scraping sides of the bowl twice during the process. Add whiskey and beat again, scraping the bowl to make sure everything gets mixed together. 
  2. Spoon into a bowl and serve, or keep in the fridge (it will last for days covered in plastic wrap) until you need it. 
  3. Serve on warm pie. Yum!

The hard sauce will harden in the fridge, so be sure to remove it at least a couple of hours before you want to serve. Hard sauce should be smooth and easily spooned onto desserts.


  • 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.

Here’s Why You’ll Love This Apple Crisp

  1. Easier Than Pie: It’s easy to adore apple pie, but there’s no doubt that homemade pie is a labor of love. In this fruit crisp, we’re swapping pie crust for oat streusel topping. Skip all the pie dough chilling and leave your rolling pin in the cabinet.
  2. Basic Ingredients: Crisps are pretty unfussy and there’s no strange ingredients required. Most of the ingredients you need are repeated in both layers, too.
  3. No Eggs: Many bakers have been asking for egg-free baking recipes like this.
  4. Short Cooling Time: As much as we all love homemade pie, it requires a long cooling time to properly set up. Sometimes we need a crowd-pleasing dessert that’s a little quicker, but just as seasonal and impressive.
  5. And It’s Delicious: What’s better than warm cinnamon apples and chewy-crisp oat topping? This is a cold weather must.

And above all else– if you have little ones, this dessert is convenient and manageable. You don’t have to wait for anything to come to room temperature, chill, or cool down. Kids have a ball spreading the apples into the dish and sprinkling the oat crumble on top.

apple crisp in white baking dish

Overview of Apple Crisp Ingredients

There are 2 components in apple crisp: the apple layer and the oat topping. The topping is the same recipe we use for blueberry crumble pie and bourbon cherry crisp, only slightly increased for a larger 9×13 inch dish.

  1. Apples: See below for the best apples to use. You need about 8 medium apples, peeled and chopped into chunks.
  2. Brown Sugar: We use brown sugar to sweeten and bring flavor to the entire dish. You need it for both the apple layer and topping.
  3. Flour: All-purpose flour thickens the apple filling and is the base of the topping. Do you need a gluten free version? Here’s my super flavorful gluten free apple crisp.
  4. Vanilla & Salt: I’ve made a lot of apple crisp recipes and nothing compares to the way I make it now (recipe below). Vanilla complements these warm flavors and salt balances out all the sweetness. Trust me, you don’t want to skip either– the dessert tastes flat otherwise.
  5. Cinnamon & Nutmeg: Use cinnamon and nutmeg in the apple layer and cinnamon again in the topping.
  6. Butter: To prevent it from melting too soon and losing texture, use very cold butter. Take it right from the refrigerator and cut it into cubes. Then use a pastry cutter or fork to mix it into the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Don’t overcomplicate this step, let the mixture be messy, crumbly, and coarse. Less is more. (Music to our ears!)
  7. Oats: Some oats get a little crispy, some stay soft and chewy. Use whole oats for the best texture. Stir the oats into the topping mixture *after* you cut in the butter. We do this with strawberry crisp as well– you just don’t want the oats to break down too much.

What Are the Best Apples to Use for Baking?

Firmer apples are ideal for baking. Avoid soft, mealy, and mushy apples. For depth of flavor, it’s best to bake with a mix of tart and sweet apples. For apple crisp, I usually use 4 tart and 4 sweet.

  • Tart apples I love to bake with: Granny Smith (in my opinion, this is the best overall apple for baking), Braeburn, Jonathan, and Pacific Rose
  • Sweet apples I love to bake with: Jazz, Pazazz (sometimes harder to find but delicious!), Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and Fuji

Peel & Slice Apples into Chunks

You can skip peeling the apples if you’d like, but many prefer peeled apples in desserts. I use and love (affiliate link) this OXO peeler. A lot of apple crisp recipes use apple slices, but I prefer chunks because chunks easily fit onto a spoon or fork. It’s also difficult to get perfectly uniform slices, so some pieces can be much thinner than others– and that means mushy apples. 1-inch chunks that are between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick are ideal for this apple crisp.

Toss them with the rest of the apple layer ingredients and then top with the oat topping.

apple crisp shown before and after baking in white baking dish

Apple Crisp Toppings!

Of course you can serve apple crisp plain, but this warm dessert truly shines with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s just an apple crisp non-negotiable! Add a drizzle of salted caramel for good measure. This is the best fall dessert around.

apple crisp serving with vanilla ice cream and caramel topping

Can I Make Apple Crisp Without Oats?

Yes, absolutely. To make apple crisp without oats, use the topping from apple crumble pie, only slightly increased. Use 3/4 cup (150g) brown sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour, and 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled. Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together. Using a fork, stir in the cooled melted butter until the mixture is thick and crumbly. Don’t over-mix– it will become a paste if you over-mix. Use the same oven temperature and bake time as below. I prefer melted butter to keep the crumble topping on the softer side. If you want a crispy crumble topping, use cold butter and cut it into the mixture just as you do in the recipe below.

Or you can turn this into an apple cobbler. Cobblers are usually topped with a biscuit or cake-like topping instead of an oat topping. Use the same apple filling and oven temperature in the recipe below, but use the topping and bake time from my berry cobbler instead.

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