Is it a Sundae Yet?

I sort of pride myself on my ability to put together a dessert sauce in minutes. Whether it's a fruit sauce, chocolate sauce, or -- like today -- a caramel sauce, I can usually pull something together on short notice and it usually includes a splash of wine or spirits. After all, they give extra dimension to sauces that might otherwise just be sweet. So today, I'm sharing a pretty simple caramel sauce that's spiked with rum (and technically bourbon, because that's what my vanilla extract uses).

This sauce can be used as a dip for sliced apples, spooned over pound cake or apple pie, or drizzled over the top of a specialty coffee drink. But I love putting it over high quality vanilla ice cream that's been nestled over some sliced bananas. Then, a sprinkle of sliced, candied almonds complete the picture. Before you know it, you've got a sundae. What makes it a sundae? Well, I suppose it's a little bit of everything, but I really have a hard time calling anything a sundae without a wonderful sauce. Moreover, I don't have a problem calling any ice cream covered in a sauce a sundae. Is that a special rule? No, but it's hard to argue with the evidence!

Caramel-Rum Sauce

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons rum

Place the sugar in a heavy sauce pan or medium-sized pot and add the water. Turn the stove to medium-high heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved (avoid letting the sugar burn).

Cover the pot, turn the heat to high, and boil for 2 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue to boil on high heat until the syrup turns brown around the edges of the pan. Swirl the pan occasionally until the mixture turns a deep amber and begins to smoke.

Remove the pan from the heat.

Add the butter (the mixture will really bubble) and gently stir until all of the butter is mixed in.

Stir in the half-and-half (expect more bubbling).

Add the vanilla extract and rum.

Stir until the bubbling stops. (If the sauce become lumpy, set the pan over low heat and stir until smooth then remove from the heat.) Pour into a glass (or heat-safe) container.