Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Butterscotch Bars (With Pictures)

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This dessert bar has been driving me up the wall for almost three years now. After having obtained a recipe from a good friend, I tried the said recipe and I have to admit that it tastes pretty darned good. Almost as good as the ones they sell in my hometown. Bacolod City's Butterscotch bar is definitely a well-known treat all over the country and is always copied but never equaled. The recipe being a trade secret is as difficult to find. The recipe given to me was therefore a godsend but I have a lot of issues with it. While the taste is perfect, the texture is not. It has the tendency to underbake in the middle while it puffs up on all sides of the pan making it hard to correct this issue. Bake it long enough and you overbake the peripheral portion of the cake and underbaking it also leads to a soggy mess at the center. 

Addition of brown sugar to melted butter.
While still living in the US, I tried to correct this issue by replacing a portion of the flour with powdered milk which resulted to a cakey albeit delicious version. I also tried doubling the baking powder hoping that it will speed up the rising of the batter but it rose too fast it eventually fell flat. I tried molasses instead of brown sugar and this version  came out a bit too moist. I used less baking powder and it barely rose that I ended up with a clumpy bar. It made me think that maybe, it is a geographical problem. Humidity and altitude do affect how a cake bakes and maybe those are what's been causing these problems for me.

Eggs have been added to the sugar butter mixture.
When I went home last year, I eventually tried a different approach to the recipe and the first major change I tried was to use margarine instead of butter. I also switched to aluminum pans since I left my non-stick baking pans in the US. Surprisingly, it actually bakes evenly in my cheap baking pans. A second major change is how I prepared the batter. I decided to melt the margarine with the brown sugar over low heat until the sugar has melted but not caramelized. I then waited until it cooled down before I added the rest of the ingredients adding the baking powder last. Well, what do you know? It worked. After a little bit more fiddling, I decided to bring back the butter into the recipe and this new version is what I came up with. It is a combination of the original recipe and the one I modified using margarine. I eventually found out that butter compound is actually better than margarine so I made another switch. I also had to omit the addition of nuts due to my gout and the fact that my nephew is allergic to nuts. He actually likes this version and refers to it as the brown cake. 

Butterscotch Bars

1/2 cup unsalted butter*
1/2 cup butter compound*
2 cups dark brown sugar**
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts or cashews, (optional)

1. In a small pot, melt the butter and butter compund over low heat. Add the
    sugar and stir until melted. Turn off the heat. Preheat the oven to 325°
    and grease an 8" baking pan.

2. In a large bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder. Add the salt. 

3. When the sugar mixture has cooled, add the eggs one at a time. Mix well 
    after each addition.

4. Add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Add the vanilla and 
    nuts if using and mix one last time. 

5. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cake 
    is set. 

6. Cool completely and cut into slices.

Addition of flour and vanilla extract.
The bar came out a bit cakey while still warm but it set nicely into a dense texture once cooled. I wrapped the pieces in colored plastic which is how they sell them here and over time, the texture changed into something similar to what is being sold in the local bakeshops. I think wrapping them up while they dry within the day changes the consistency into the desired sugary bar.

* Use 1 cup unsalted butter if you cannot find butter compound. I cannot recall the brand I used for the butter compound that I bought and I cannot seem to find it again. I have reverted to using New Zealand unsalted butter and it seems to do the trick. Local butters just do not have the same buttery taste.  

** I searched for the darkest brown sugar available in our local market without resorting to using muscuvado which is a raw form of brown sugar. The batter was a lot darker but the sweetness was just right. Overall, this is actually a very good version of butterscotch but I think I might keep working on it.


  1. Salamat po sa pag-share ng recipe na ito. It tasted really good and kalasa ng butterscotch sa Iloilo, but I was able to successfully make this only once. On my next few attempts, I had problem with step 1 where the sugar has to be melted with the butter and then cooled. What happens to mine is the butter and brown sugar don't combine (not sure if ganito talaga) and when cool, the melted brown sugar turns really hard, like caramel candy. So, I couldn't mix the egg in it.

    Any tips for this issue?

    Again, salamat sa recipe!

  2. Lott,

    I'm trying to find the time to take step by step pictures to show you how to melt the sugar. I will try to get it done this week. Glad you liked the recipe. -Dan

  3. Hi there,

    Thanks for the recipe. I'm just wondering what type of butter compound it is you used. My mom recently came back from Iloilo and brought these over. Sadly its running out hehe, now I'm trying to make it from home.

  4. Bakit po may margarine sa first step wla nmn po sa ingredients?

    1. Marygold,

      Sorry, I was fiddling with the recipe and used different combinations of butter and margarine but I found out that butter compound in combination with butter works the best. It is hard to describe what butter compound is but if pressed, just use butter.

  5. i admire your tenacity and patience in achieving your desired results. its shows how passionate your are about good food. i will try this, same as you I am in search for the best biscocho like butterscotch. my hubbys favorite. since were based in australia I have to make it my own. would love to try this. will get back to you later on the results

  6. i tried this but have my butterscotch bars underbaked in the middle :( tried extending cooking time by 5 then 10 mins and ended up with a burnt crust but still undercooked middle. it looks like wet cake in the middle. help?

    i used demerara brown sugar (darkest i could find) if that makes a difference?

  7. Can i just use butter compound? No unsalted butter?