I hope I never stop being amused by the name “hard sauce.”
It is frosting, essentially, and I know it as the frosting that goes on the top of the Gilmanton Cupcakes that my mum makes (as her mother made) every Christmas. The Gilmanton Cupcakes have currants soaked in sherry, and the One True Hard Sauce uses brandy, which in hindsight is a fairly large amount of alcohol in a dessert that was fed to small children. On the other hand, my grandmother both smoked and drank through five pregnancies, so, times were different.
This year, however, my mum substituted half the brandy for vanilla extract when she made them for friends that no longer drink. Never say that WASPs cannot adapt their ways to support recovery.
This recipe is from my grandmother’s 1941 edition of Joy of Cooking. Hard sauce is also included in my 1964 edition, but for some reason the One True Hard Sauce must be the one from the 1941 edition.
And although there is quite a bit of variation in the printed recipe, there shall be no variation in the One True Hard Sauce.
The One True Hard Sauce
Beat 5 tablespoons butter until soft. Gradually add 1 cup confectioner’s sugar and beat until well blended.
Add 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon brandy.
I joke, but it is truly wonderful on top of a spiced cake. I think it would also make a really nice cookie frosting. Joy encourages you to vary the frosting flavor and pudding flavor, so, for instance, use an acid sauce with a bland pudding and vice versa.
Whatever you do, please remember the caution that Joy includes at the end of the Hard Sauce section header:
The success of the pudding with sauce will depend upon your sense of discrimination.
Please note that there is a recipe for “fluffy hard sauce.” Joy of Cooking is a treasure.