dessert sauce terms and definitions - brownie with hot fudge topping
Dessert Toppings

Dessert Sauce Terms And Definitions

Dessert Sauce Terms and Definitions: Ever wonder the difference between a syrup, sauce, spread, cream, butter, or curd?

Find basic terminology for dessert sauces and ice cream sundae toppings along with product recommendations.

These creamy creations can totally enhance dessert recipes other than ice cream.

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They are listed in order from thinnest to thickest consistency along with product recommendations.

Dessert Sauce Terms And Definitions


Syrups are thinner than a sauce and are pourable out of a bottle. The consistency of fruit based syrups is thicker than maple syrup. It will pour off of a spoon, but leave the spoon coated. Some syrups have nice big chunks of fruit infused in them such as apple cinnamon and wild blueberry.

Some common flavors are maple, vanilla, apple-cinnamon, wild blueberry, red raspberry, strawberry, apricot, cinnamon pear, and chocolate. Pour over pancakes, crepes or waffles or any sweet dessert. Syrups are also work well drizzled over a fruit cobbler or pound cake.


Dessert sauces have a slightly thicker consistency and will cling to a spoon if not warmed. They are soft and can be stirred. Once warmed, a dessert sauce will be able to be poured.

Favorite flavors are chocolate, hot fudge, white chocolate macadamia, caramel, cheesecake, strawberry rhubarb, red-raspberry, and chocolate peppermint.

Use as an ice cream sundae topping, drizzle over pound cake, top brownies, a slice of warm apple pie, or strudel a la mode.

Sauces can also be used to dress up dessert breads, cheesecake and fresh fruit. Add your favorite flavor dessert sauce and make an outstanding shake or malt.


A spread is thicker than a dessert sauce and when scooped with a spoon, will stay on the spoon. As the name implies, spreads are smooth, rich, silky, creamy and spreadable with a knife.

Common flavors include chocolate, hazelnut, and caramel. Spreads are wonderful when used for topping brunch and breakfast foods such as toast or bagels.


A dessert cream has a soft, smooth spreadable consistency. It is slightly heavier and more stable than a dessert sauce and will hold its shape well.

Common flavors include maple cream, maple walnut cream and vanilla cream.

You can also spread it with a knife onto pancakes, waffles, crepes, turnovers, croissants and muffins. Another possibility is to whip it into fresh whipped cream for a delicious spread to fill layer cakes. Fill tarts, turnovers, blintzes, and cookies for a delightful treat.

Fruit Butters

A fruit butter is slightly similar to a spread, but will have chunks of mashed whole fruits in it. It is more of a spread in its consistency.

Common flavors include cherry butter, apple butter, pumpkin butter, and cranberry-pear butter.

Fruit butters are more traditionally thought of as breakfast or brunch complements. They are a nice complement for toast, bagels, scones, biscuits or muffins.


Curds are traditional fruit based English spreads, made from fruit juice, butter, sugar, eggs, and flavorings.

They are cooked on a double boiler until the curds thicken and then strained through a mesh strainer to produce a very smooth, creamy product. Once cooled the curd is ready for use or storing. Curds are thick enough for a spoon to stand up in a jar on it’s own.

Common flavors are lemon, cranberry, orange, raspberry, strawberry, mango, key lime, and even banana.

A personal favorite is lemon curd on ice cream. The smooth flavor vanilla and the tartness of lemon make an outstanding combination. Curds can also be warmed and used to glaze cream puffs and ice cream pies.

More Homemade Ice Cream Recipes

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Homemade Triple Chocolate Ice Cream

Homemade Malted Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe with Chocolate Cookie Chunks

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AboutLaura Jean Warnke

Laura Jean Warnke is a mom, wife, and Midwest cook that enjoys sharing many of her family's favorite comfort food recipes. She grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and loves to bring that farm-style home cooking to your table.

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