Butterscotch is a type of confectionery whose primary ingredients are brown sugar and butter, but other ingredients are part of some recipes, such as corn syrup, cream, vanilla, and salt. The earliest known recipes, in mid-19th century Yorkshire, used treacle (molasses) in place of or in addition to sugar.
Butterscotch is similar to toffee, but for butterscotch, the sugar is boiled to the soft crack stage, not hard crack as with toffee. Often credited with their invention, Parkinson's of Doncaster made butterscotch boiled sweets and sold them in tins, which became one of the town's best known exports. They became famous in 1851 when Queen Victoria was presented with a tin when she visited the town. Butterscotch sauce, made of butterscotch and cream, is used as a topping for ice cream (particularly sundaes).
The term butterscotch is also often used more specifically of the flavour of brown sugar and butter together even if the actual confection butterscotch is not involved, such as in butterscotch pudding (a type of custard).
Food historians have several theories regarding the name and origin of this confectionery, but none are conclusive. One explanation is the meaning "to cut or score" for the word "scotch", as the confection must be cut into pieces, or "scotched", before hardening. Another idea is that it came from the adjective Scotch, indicating association with Scotland. It is also possible that the "scotch" part of its name was derived from the word "scorch". In 1855, F. K. Robinson's Glossary of Yorkshire Words explained Butterscotch as "a treacle ball with an amalgamation of butter in it".
Early mentions of butterscotch associate the confection with Doncaster in Yorkshire. An 1848 issue of the Liverpool Mercury gave a recipe for "Doncaster butterscotch" as "one pound of butter, one pound of sugar and a quarter of a pound of treacle, boiled together" (500 g each of butter and sugar and 125 g treacle).
By 1851, Doncaster butterscotch was sold commercially by rival confectioners S. Parkinson & Sons (still trading as Parkinson's), Henry Hall, and Booth's, all of Doncaster, via agents elsewhere in Yorkshire. Parkinson's started to use and advertise the Doncaster Church as their trademark. It was advertised as "Royal Doncaster Butterscotch", or "The Queen's Sweetmeat", and said to be "the best emollient for the chest in the winter season". Parkinson's Butterscotch was by appointment to the royal household and was presented to the Princess Elizabeth, then the Duchess of Edinburgh, in 1948 and to Anne, Princess Royal in 2007. In the late 19th and early 20th century the British sweet became popular in the U.S.
Butterscotch is often used as a flavour for items such as dessert sauce, pudding, and cookies (biscuits). To that end, it can be bought in "butterscotch chips", made with hydrogenated (solid) fats so as to be similar for baking use to chocolate chips.
There are also individually wrapped, translucent yellow hard candies (butterscotch disks) with an artificial butterscotch flavour, which is dissimilar to actual butterscotch. In addition, butterscotch flavoured liqueur is in production.