This comment suggests something about the true definition of "caramel":

Actually, caramel is not made with "milk and/or cream, butter, and sometimes vanilla". While US recipes are fond of adding these things to caramel, they are not an essential part of the definition.

I am very interested in what a true caramel recipe and production is. What actually is the definition?

Also, I want to toy around with butterscotch, caramel and toffee - I like them all. Is there something along this line that uses molasses, even if it's not caramel per se?

  • I left your second question about molasses in, since it's perhaps related in that it's asking about definitions and names of candy, but you might need get better answers if you post it separately.
    – Cascabel
    Mar 6, 2016 at 15:48
  • For your second question - Brown sugar has molasses in it, I think you can even buy brown sugar with more molasse content for stronger flavor. Mar 10, 2016 at 13:53
  • Thank you for that clarification. I appreciate it. I do use dark brown sugar, which is what I think you are saying. It's nice to know these things.
    – Mark Votaw
    Mar 21, 2016 at 2:48

2 Answers 2


When heated, sugar will caramelize and turn into caramel. No other ingredients are required.

According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking published by Scribner, 2004, p. 688:

Caramel is first of all the brown, sweet, aromatic syrup produced in caramelization, which may be used as a coloring and/or flavoring ingredient in many preparations. But cooks use the same word to mean the combination of caramelized sugar and various milk products, ideally cream, which are mixed while the sugar is still hot so that the milk solids are browned and generate color and aroma as well.

  • 2
    Can't go wrong with Harold McGee ;-) -> +1
    – Stephie
    Mar 6, 2016 at 8:57
  • Thank you very much. That makes perfect sense and I get it now. Stephie, it looks like I'm going to have to look up Harold McGee.
    – Mark Votaw
    Mar 21, 2016 at 2:49

caramel (n.)

1725, "burnt sugar," from French caramel "burnt sugar" (17c.), from Old Spanish caramel (modern caramelo)caramel origin

This suggests that what is commonly called Caramel is the burning (or almost burnt) sugar, either on it's own or in sweetened condensed milk or other milk products with added sugar.

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