11 Ways Brown Sugar Can Elevate Your Dessert

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Time spent in the kitchen can really add up by the end of the week. Thankfully, these tips for elevating your desserts with one simple ingredient may cut back on your cooking and prep time and transform your sweet treats into unforgettable dishes. Brown sugar may seem simple enough, but there are endless ways to utilize it and get creative with this staple ingredient.

Whether it's light or dark, brown sugar is typically used for baking. According to Bake or Break, the molasses that is mixed with white sugar to form brown sugar can add moisture and flavor to your baking. However, baking with brown sugar is only scratching the surface of what can be done with a bit of brown sugar here and there. From simple tricks, such as sprinkling, stirring, and dusting, to more complex processes like caramelizing and candy-making, brown sugar is certainly more than something to keep in the back of the cabinet for baking.

If you're feeling lost when it comes to incorporating brown sugar into your desserts, remember that the sugar has a caramel or toffee-like flavor that is sweet and rich, according to Healthline. Consider what other ingredients and flavors work well with caramel, and you're on the right track. Peanut butter, chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, and even some fruits are ingredients that will work well with the molasses in brown sugar and will take your desserts to the next level.

Make softer, chewier, denser cookies with brown sugar

Brown sugar might immediately bring chocolate chip cookies to mind. The traditional, back-of-the-chocolate-chip-bag recipe calls for packed brown sugar, according to Nestle, and there's something nostalgic and satisfying about the mixture. It becomes light, airy, and so tempting to dunk your tasting spoon into. There's a reason that this classic recipe is familiar and favored among so many. The perfect combination of ingredients creates a soft, chewy, and dense but not dry cookie that is consistent and easy to make. You can thank the brown sugar for that. In fact, you might want to start searching for recipes that specifically call for brown sugar if you love chewy but soft cookies.

According to Home Made Simple, brown sugar is one ingredient that can seriously alter the texture of your cookies. The molasses contributes to the flavor and color of brown sugar, but it also makes brown sugar more absorbent than regular white sugar. This added moisture not only prevents dry cookies, but the molasses also draws out the moisture in other ingredients and creates that desired texture. If you've ever baked with brown sugar, you may have noticed the moisture because it always feels slightly damp to the touch. This is why packing the sugar is easy, and why it can also get extra clumpy at times. Swapping out brown sugar for white sugar in some cookies can really alter the taste, color, and consistency of your baked goods.

Make a creamy caramel sauce to top ice cream and pies

Brown sugar already has a slight caramel flavor, but you can easily transform it into a delectable, creamy sauce that is easy to pour or drizzle over your ice cream, pies, and more. Not only does the sauce create a beautiful display of caramel colors and warm, melting drizzle, but it can also significantly sweeten a pie or a baked good. Or you can transform plain vanilla ice cream with a simple-to-make topping that you and your family will love for a late-night snack.

Caramel sauce may sound like a complicated undertaking, but the process is pretty simple and can be made with just a few ingredients. Many recipes for caramel sauce call for white sugar, butter, water, salt, and whipping cream. But using brown sugar instead of white sugar adds a richer flavor and simplifies the cooking process since brown sugar is already caramelized. Try adding a splash of bourbon or a bit of chocolate to your sauce for even more pizzazz. There are endless possibilities.

Making caramel sauce is all about heating the sugar into a syrup, which will eventually thicken into caramel. The most important thing to remember is that sugar can burn easily. The scent of burnt sugar is one you will not forget soon, so be careful to keep stirring and follow directions closely. Although it can be served cold, warm caramel sauce is perfect for drizzling over your desserts for a restaurant-style finish.

Toffee or butterscotch is the perfect brownie topper

Brown sugar can be easily transformed into a glaze or a butterscotch sauce, or with a bit more cooking, it can be turned into toffee. Brown sugar glaze involves less heat and calls for slightly dissolving the brown sugar in warm water, which is perfect for drizzling over your favorite dessert. 

Toffee and butterscotch are made in very similar ways with almost the exact same ingredients. However, there are a few differences. According to the Webstaurant Store, both include a base of brown sugar and butter that is heated at different rates, either slower or faster. The molasses, as it heats, creates a rich, sweet flavor that pairs perfectly with chocolate. Typically, butterscotch is considered the softer version that is heated slowly. Toffee is cooked longer than butterscotch, is harder and can be cracked into a crunchy crumble that will soften once spread over warm brownies. 

Whether you decide to slather a glaze on top of warm pastries or create a butterscotch sauce or toffee to crumble over brownies, these could be the extra detail that your dessert is missing.

Pair brown sugar with cinnamon for an easy topper for snacks

Brown sugar seems like it was almost made to be blended with cinnamon. Similar to peanut butter and jelly or popcorn and butter, the mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon just works better together. Brown sugar really only needs a small amount of cinnamon to bring out the best of both ingredients. The bitterness of the cinnamon can cut the sweetness of the sugar to make a balanced and multipurpose blend that deserves permanent residence in your cabinet.

This simple, yet delicious mixture has the ability to elevate nearly all of your desserts. Stir in a few spoonfuls of the mixture into vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Sprinkle the mixture over warm cookies or brownies to create a melted yet simple glaze-like topping. Sweeten your pies, puddings, Rice Krispy treats, cupcakes, muffins, and more with this simple trick.

This mixture is so decadent that it can transform regular snacks into a sweet dessert that just might be your new favorite. Sprinkle the mixture over warm, salted popcorn, and you have a salty and sweet snack for movie night. Or take your toast or bagels to the next level by dusting the mixture over melted butter to create a sweeter baked good. Keep the mixture in a jar, and pull it out any time you need to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Add a sweet crunch with brown sugar rock candy

If you've ever had rock candy, then you know it can serve as a dessert all on its own. But did you know it also works great as a decoration on a cake or cupcake? You can stick a whole chunk of rock candy on top of a cake or cupcake, or you can crumble it onto the frosting for a sweet crunch.

Rock candy is a beautiful topper because it looks like it takes more time to make than it actually does, adding a level of sophistication to your desserts. The truth is, the candy involves a very simple process and is actually a popular kids' science project. To make brown sugar rock candy, you really only need water and brown sugar. Some cotton string or wooden dowels can be used if you want to eat the candy on its own, but those aren't necessary if you're planning to use the candy as decorations, according to Leaf. However, string or dowels will make harvesting the crystals easier. Rock candy is a simple process of dissolving sugar in water on the stove and then allowing it to cool so that the crystals can form again but much larger than before. Rock candy can be made with regular sugar, and many types of flavors and colors can be added, but brown sugar rock candy comes in a beautiful golden, honey color that is natural without any dyes.

Large crystal brown sugar adds extra texture and sweetness

Brown sugar is so good on its own that simply sprinkling it over your desserts can take things to a new level. However, if you believe in the details when it comes to cooking, or baking, especially your desserts, try using coarse brown sugar for this trick. Usually discernable from the outside of the package, coarse brown sugar is not as finely ground as white sugar or some packed brown sugar. It's sold as bigger crystals, such as Wholesome Organic Dark Brown Sugar on Amazon.

Coarse brown sugar has less moisture and will work better for sprinkling over your desserts. In addition, the larger crystals can balance out the texture of your dessert and get that small added crunch you might be missing. Perfect for topping peanut butter cookies, or adding over whipped cream, the larger crystals are a sweet surprise that you'll wish you knew about sooner.

Sugar shards make interesting cupcake decorations

Sugar shards are somewhat similar to butterscotch or toffee, but they are typically more about the aesthetic. You can use white sugar and allow it to caramelize for a brown colored sugar shard, but brown sugar will elevate the color and the taste into something slightly more layered than regular sugar. Once again, this trick is not complicated and requires only brown sugar and water. Depending on how hard you want the shards to be will determine how quickly you heat the mixture and to what temperature, according to Chelsweets.

Sugar shards are perfect for decorating caramel, chocolate, peanut butter, or vanilla cakes and cupcakes. The beautiful amber color will go great with the natural color of peanut butter, caramel, and chocolate. Getting the shards to a hard state is what makes them breakable and beautiful. Once the shards have cooled, you can break them, shatter them, and sprinkle them over your frostings and other toppings. The edges will sparkle and shine and have an almost-glass-like appearance that is completely unique. Although sharper than butterscotch candies and toffee, the shards can be a dessert all on their own, but be careful of the edges! These shards are also an excellent addition to seasonal coffees and hot chocolates. Add them to a steaming cup and watch them melt as you stir.

Use brown sugar in your edible raw cookie dough

We've all been tempted by the sweet, delicious raw cookie dough that stares up at us from the bowl. It can be so hard to resist grabbing a spoon and devouring that raw cookie dough before you even get the chance to bake it. However, the uncooked eggs probably deterred you. The good news is that brown sugar is one of the ingredients that makes edible raw cookie dough completely possible.

Raw cookie dough is a lot like regular cookie dough, except you make it without the eggs. This might sound like a no-brainer, but the eggs in cookie recipes are crucial for binding and keeping the dough together. If you plan to eat the dough, uncooked with a spoon, then crumbling is no longer an issue. You can actually follow many cookie dough recipes and leave out the eggs to make an edible raw cookie dough. Yet it's the brown sugar that really makes edible cookie dough so good. Sweet and smooth, the brown sugar creamed together with butter and vanilla and a few other ingredients make a delicious, moist mixture that is bound to be a new favorite. Plus the brown sugar gives your cookie dough that lovely brown color that goes perfect with chocolate chips. Add some more toppings, such as nuts, chocolate, marshmallows, or crushed cookies, and this will be a new go-to dessert that doesn't require turning on the oven.

Sprinkle packed brown sugar over these breakfasts and transform them into desserts

Who ever said that breakfast had to be boring? Sometimes your morning routine needs a little boost to get you excited about the day, and brown sugar is one way to immediately transform quite a few of your favorite breakfasts into a treat you'll love.

Grits are a southern staple, but their diversity has made them well-known all over. Grits are great with salt and butter, but you can also buy unsalted versions and transform them into a sweet dish for breakfast. Sprinkle some brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans into your grits, and you've got a hot breakfast that will satisfy your taste buds. Oatmeal can be treated in a similar way. Just add a spoonful of brown sugar— you don't have to go overboard — and it will quickly dissolve on top of a hot bowl of oats, making a perfect syrup to go with your other toppings. Add a dash of brown sugar over your cornflakes and other cereals or even on some toast or over your fruit salad to give your typical breakfast foods an extra boost. In addition, the next time you're serving up some hotcakes or french toast and realize you're out of syrup, allow some brown sugar to dissolve in some warm water to make an almost instant syrup replacement. You'll hardly notice the difference, and you can add cinnamon or chocolate sauce if you're really feeling creative.

Upgrade your dessert toppings by stirring in a spoonful of brown sugar

A light and fluffy frosting or a creamy whipped topping can already be tasty additions to your desserts, but brown sugar is an extra ingredient that can take these over the top. If you're making your own homemade topping, you can go ahead and stir in a spoonful or two of brown sugar as you go. Brown sugar can add another layer of flavor, and it can give white frosting and whipped cream a nice tan or swirled color without adding any harmful dyes or chemicals. This trick works just as well with store-bought toppings. Stir in a few spoonfuls, and see the magic happen.

Adding a bit of brown sugar to whipped cream is perfect for transforming a bowl of berries into a delectable treat. The sweetness paired with the freshness creates a satisfying but healthy dessert. You may even want to stir in a spoonful of brown sugar into your sliced fruit on its own. Mix sugar into your fruit and allow it to sit for a few minutes. The sugar will draw out the juices and create a simple but delicious syrup, according to MasterClass. If your baked bread, muffins, or toast needs a touch of sweetness, try making brown sugar and cinnamon butter. Allow a stick of butter to soften, stir in a few spoonfuls of brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon and allow it to cool before using.

Use brown sugar instead of rainbow sprinkles

Sprinkles can be a really fun way for you and your family to decorate cupcakes, cakes, and cookies. Getting creative is a big part of baking, and decorating can be a way to include everyone in the process. However, some popular brands of rainbow sprinkles often contain dyes and other unnatural ingredients. According to Betty Crocker, its rainbow sprinkles contain red, yellow, and blue dyes plus natural and artificial flavor, soy lecithin, and carnauba wax. Although some dyes are safer than others, the red 40 lake coloring found in some sprinkles has been linked to side effects, such as allergic reactions, headaches, and hyperactivity, according to Holistic Wellness.

Brown sugar can be an excellent and sweet alternative to sprinkles that contain dye. The natural brown caramel color that occurs because of the molasses is a safe way to add some sparkle to your desserts. And brown sugar still works with sprinkle stencils if you're feeling really creative while decorating your cake or cookies.

For this tip, larger crystals or coarse brown sugar are less likely to dissolve, but you should always add your homemade sprinkles after your dessert has completely cooled to avoid melting. You can even safely dye some sugars with plant-based dyes to create your own colorful, healthier sprinkles.