If you’re looking for a great make-ahead dessert to serve for company, this Butterscotch Budino recipe is a total showstopper. Served chilled, it’s rich and creamy, and the butterscotch gives it a complex flavor that pairs so nicely with the sweet cream dairy. Make it up to three full days ahead of time!
How budino is not more popular and well known is one of my many questions about life.
It is one of the most heavenly desserts I’ve ever had, and this dessert hits spots I didn’t even know could be hit.
My first time tasting it was at a restaurant in Minneapolis, where they did a straight rendition of Nancy Silverton’s Butterscotch Budino. Even despite all the hype from my friends about how good it would be, I couldn’t believe how spectacular it was. It has the most luscious creamy texture.
When I got home I put the Butterscotch Budino on my “to-make list” and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy this dessert is to prepare. It’s altered ever so slightly from Nancy’s original, and also halved, because having a full batch around gets me into too much trouble.
Because this dessert can be made in advance, and arguably has to be since it’s best served chilled, I made it for a dinner party, since I always like to have dessert made ahead for entertaining. It was a wild success! This recipe is so perfect for company.
So what is budino, exactly? It’s basically a fancy Italian pudding. Served chilled, it’s decadently rich and creamy, and the butterscotch gives it a complex flavor that pairs so nicely with the sweet dairy.
The most important part is to watch the caramel very closely during cooking, because it can go from perfect to burned very quickly.
Tips for Best Results
Use high quality dairy – A budino is mostly cream and milk, so it is absolutely essential to use good quality dairy. Dairy varies HUGELY in quality at the grocery store. I generally find that organic varieties have more flavor, and I like smaller, more artisanal producers.
Do not walk away from the stove during cooking – Just as when you make Caramel Sauce, you do not want to walk away from the stove while you’re browning the sugar, because it can go from underdone to burned very quickly.
Serve in pretty glasses – Feel free to serve the budino in any pretty glass that you like. I use thin glasses here, but martini glasses are also great for presentation.
Step by Step Overview:
Start by combining dark brown sugar, sea salt, and water in a medium saucepan:
Cook this mixture over medium-high heat until it’s a dark amber color, but not burned.
Turn the stove setting down to medium heat if at any point this seems to be happening too fast. And remember, do not walk away from the stove during this part, as the sugar can change very quickly.
Add heavy cream and whole milk to the dark caramel to immediately stop the cooking process:
Heat the hot caramel cream up again until the dairy combines with the caramel. Do not worry if the caramel seizes at all upon adding the cream mixture, this is normal. It will all incorporate together when the liquid is warm enough.
Next, whisk together one large egg, two egg yolks, and cornstarch in a medium bowl:
Then temper the caramel with the egg mixture.
If you’re not familiar with the process, all you do is slowly dribble in half of the caramel cream into the eggs while you whisk, then pour the liquid in the bowl back into the saucepan. This ensures that you gradually bring up the temperature of the eggs, and prevent the egg from coagulating (think scrambled eggs).
Then, bring the custard back to a boil, until the custard thickens from that corn starch. It should have a golden brown creamy hue to it as well.
Once thickened, remove the pan from the heat, then mix in unsalted butter and dark rum.
If you don’t like the flavor of rum, you may instead add vanilla extract, or even some scraped vanilla bean seeds.
Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve, just in case there are any lumps that would ruin the velvety texture:
Portion the custard into glasses or dessert cups of your choice:
Chill for at least three hours, until the budinos are fully set and chilled through.
How to Serve
Top each budino with homemade caramel sauce or salted caramel, and whipped cream (or crème fraîche, for tang), if desired, but know that it certainly is not required. The actual pudding has tons of deep caramel flavors already from the browned sugar inside. You may also add a few toasted pine nuts on top!
If serving budino for company, I think it’s wonderful to pair with something simple and crunchy like Shortbread Cookies, Candied Pecans, or Orange Cranberry Biscotti. A rosemary pine nut cookie is also lovely!
The flavors will bloom on the palate more easily if the budino is closer to room temperature, so take out of the fridge an hour before enjoying, ideally.
Recipe Tips and FAQ
Cover tightly with plastic wrap or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. However, I think it’s best and “at its peak” enjoyed within 3 days of making.
Yes, in an airtight container for up to 1 month. To thaw, leave in the fridge overnight.
Budino needs at least 3 hours to chill and set before serving, so it needs to be made ahead to some degree. However, I most often will make this one day ahead before serving. For best results, do not make more than 3 days ahead of time.
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- caramel sauce for serving, optional
- whipped cream for serving, optional
- Combine the brown sugar, water, and salt in a heavy bottomed saucepan, and place the pan over medium high heat. Cook until the caramel is very dark, and almost smoking, which should take about 10 minutes.
- Standing back with caution, add the cream and milk to the caramel. This will probably make the mixture seize up at first, but if you keep whisking and let it heat back up, it will combine. Bring this mixture back up to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, and cornstarch.
- Now we’re going to temper the caramel mixture into the eggs by adding a cup of caramel to the eggs, whisking constantly, then pouring the egg mixture back into the pan.
- Increase the heat to bring this mixture to a boil, and keep whisking as the custard thickens from the cornstarch, which should take about two minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and rum.
- Strain the custard through a fine strainer to remove any big lumps that might have formed, and portion the custard into ramekins.
- Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap and chill the custard for at least 3 hours. It’s best around 6-8 hours ahead, or even made a day ahead.
- If desired for serving, pour on a thin layer of caramel sauce, then add a dollop of whipped cream. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated with re-edited images, writing, and tips in July 2018. Originally posted July 2014.