Butter Separates from the Rest of the Toffee

by Deeann

Why does my butter separate from the rest of the toffee at about 290 degrees?


I have had 3 failures after making toffee for years and years. I've tried different butter, but the butter separates from the rest of the toffee.

The first time it happened, it was at about 230 degrees and I thought I had done it too quickly. Today, I had two failures. Both of them at about 290 or so.

The butter just separates and there is no chance of mixing it back together - tried that.

What am I doing wrong? Could it be that I am stirring TOO much? This has never happened in ten successful years of making semi-famous toffee!






Hi Deeann,

Usually the butter separates from the rest of the toffee for a couple of reasons...

  • You stirred too quickly (not necessarily too much, just too fast)
  • You had the heat too high so the temperature rose too quickly and your liquid evaporated too quickly


If continuing to stir the mixture didn't get the butter to blend back in, you can try one of these tricks...

  • add a little salt (1/4 tsp. per 1/2 cup of butter) to the recipe (particularly if you used unsalted butter) - salt acts as a stabilizer
  • stir in hot water 1 Tbs. at a time (up to 4 Tbs.)


I hope your next batch is a great success again. Let me know. :)

~Angie

Comments for Butter Separates from the Rest of the Toffee

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Dec 09, 2009
Thanks, Angie
by: DeeAnn

I'm still trying but I am so frustrated! I have made at least 60-70 successful batches of toffee over the years and have had maybe 3 failures. This year I am going on my 8th batch (right now) and have had SIX failures!

I'll try your suggestions, and I guess just pray to the toffee gods! At this point I am logging every step of the way of each batch to see if I can figure out what I'm doing wrong. I'll keep you posted. Thanks for your encouragement and suggestions!

Dec 20, 2009
Buttercrunch problems
by: Anonymous

You're not alone, DeeAnn!! I've had the same problem MNAY times! Glad to find this question answered online. I thought maybe it had to do with the temp of the butter when the sugar is added. I have found less likelihood of a problem if I start adding the sugar before the butter is completely melted.

My other problem is that the melted chocolate hardens fine, but then breaks off the toffee when you're breaking the candy up into pieces.

Dec 20, 2009
Success!!
by: DeeAnn

OK, Angie and Anonymous, I think I have finally figured out what was causing all of my failures. After documenting every batch (and I think I have made about 12 successful batches since my troubles started a few weeks ago), I have realized that I was heating it TOO SLOWLY. I guess that could have caused the moisture to evaporate too quickly causing the sugar to crystallize. So when I had the failures, it was taking between 45-50 minutes to reach 295 and then crystallizing. I turned the heat up a little bit and with the successful batches, the toffee would come to the temperature in about 20-25 minutes. I think that was the key! The other "tests" I have been doing is the correct temperature for consistency of the cooled toffee. My family likes the taste when I get it to about 300-305 degrees. Yesterday I did a batch and took it off at about 297 and the consistency wasn't as good after cooling.

Anonymous, this may be why yours is chipping from the chocolate - perhaps you have gotten it either too hot or not hot enough before pouring it out to cool. My best batches have been when I have cooked it to around 305 degrees - but the taste is a little different and maybe not to everyone's taste - it has a very, very slight burned taste, but that's what my family likes best! Luckily I have a good quality control team who don't mind being my cheerleaders and taste testers!

Good luck!

Dec 26, 2009
Frustrated with toffee this year also
by: Terry

I'm glad I found this site with all your suggestions. I haven't made as many batches as DeeAnn but I may have 1 or 2 failures during the season. This year I am 7 out of 8. A couple of times I threw out some of oil as I was stirring and was able to save the batch. ( even tho, I still considered it a bad batch, my co-workers didn't know!). Mine doesn't always separate at the same time, this year it has happened at about 270 deg. Last year it was after I added the almonds at 285 deg. It helped after I started to blanch my almonds before using them.I tried changing pans,butter,spoons,temperature and now I will try the water and stirring slower. I can't end the year with a failure. Thanks again.

Nov 08, 2010
Totaly frustrated with toffee making
by: Margaret

I have been making toffee for 45 years with VERY few failures. I have made it (exactly the same way all these years) three times in the last five days and all failed I cook it on med. heat until it reaches 280. At that point, I add pecans and stir constantly until it reaches 310 degrees. During this time the butter starts to separate.
I live in Houston and NEVER make it unless the humidity is low which I did this week.
I am so FRUSTRATED as all my family and friends are expecting it, yet again, for Christmas.
I am gun shy at this point and hesitate wanting to try it again.
Where are the TOFFEE GODS??
I even tried adding the hot water as you suggested to no avail.

Dec 11, 2010
It seems mighty suspicious
by: Anne

I can't find a date to see if these posts are current. Today's date is 12/11/10.

I also have been making toffee for years and had very, very few failures. This year two out of my three batches have failed. After reading all these posts it makes me wonder have they changed something in the making of butter? Although I have used different brands. It just seems weird that so many experienced toffee makers are having so many failures. I don't dare show up at several different gatherings without my toffee. Now I'm afraid to even try again. I tried to cook slower as I thought maybe my first batch, which flopped, was cooked too fast. My second batch turned out great. I cooked my third batch EXACTLY the same way as the second and it flopped! I will try again but am extremely frustrated and nervous.

Dec 20, 2010
Chocolate Separating from Toffee
by: Jade

I'm in the same boat. Last year I made my toffee and 2 out of three batches cooked up fine, but the chocolate fell off once cooled.

I thought maybe it was the difference between using milk chocolate chips, and semi sweet chocolate, because I altered both kinds. The milk ones separated. I've been making this same exact toffee for years and years, so I don't know what the deal is. I do know if I don't cook the toffee long enough it gets grainy..if I cook it too long it changes color and tastes burnt.

It's been raining for a few days here in SoCal, so the humidity is high. I sure hope that's not the problem as I'm down to the wire with only two more baking days left before I have to deliver all my candies and baked stuff.

I start the toffee batches in the morning..you guys have me worried now :( but I'm hoping for the best. I'll post up and let you know how they turned out.

Jan 24, 2011
Same problem
by: Arrrgghhh

1-24-10
I'm having the same as my toffee starts separating after adding my almonds around 270. My recipe consist of using unsalted butter with salt (along with Vanilla Extract) being added once my toffee is taken off the flame at 300. I've had successful batches before and now it seems to be a coin toss. Any help would be appreciated.

Dec 19, 2011
lots of failures in 2011 with toffee
by: Too Old To Cook

I too have made many batches of toffee in years past with no problems. This year I cannot get a good batch;butter separates. I've tried increasing heat and decreasing heat but it still fails. Have tried 3 different brands of butter to no avail,both salted and no salt. Please help;I can't keep wasting money on this but would love to have a nice batch again. TOTC

Dec 19, 2011
Never Too Old Too Cook :)
by: Angie

Have you tried adding a little extra salt to the mixture as a stabilizer? Another stabilizer is corn syrup. You could try adding a few tablespoons of light Karo syrup or another corn syrup to see if it makes any difference. This is usually done to help prevent sugar crystals from forming but may also work for separation issues.

Also, did you try the method of adding a tablespoon of hot water while cooking (up to 4 tablespoons total) to help get the separated mixture to blend back together? That's worth a try too.

Hope one of these helps. I hate the idea of you missing out on a great batch of toffee for Christmas! :)

May 15, 2012
I had this problem
by: Vivian

Guess what the trouble was? Dysfunctional thermometer! I put it in a pot of boiling water and it got no hotter than 75 degrees C (167 degrees F). Duh!!

But I managed to stop all the butter coming out and salvage the candy with salt and water, as advised by Angie. Thanks Angie!

May 16, 2012
Another batch of saved toffee.. NEW
by: Angie

Great news, Vivian! So glad we were able to help. :)

Dec 13, 2013
This worked for me. NEW
by: Bruce

After many years and many batches without failure, I had developed a false sense of toffee making complacency. The reality check came last night. Three batches and three separation failures. This followed by three more on the next session. We opted to start with a different brand of butter and it worked us. Toffee making can be such a humbling experience and also so rewarding when things are working right.

Dec 14, 2014
Butter separates from toffee NEW
by: Kristi

Would it make a difference if the butter had been frozen? I don't know how you would know it it had been frozen prior to being sold. Toffee fails are so frustrating, expensive, and discouraging!!! Any help would be appreciated!

Dec 14, 2014
butter separating NEW
by: md

I think my butter separated tonight after pouring it into my pan (which was sitting on top of my gas stove grid). I've read that a sudden temperature change can do it, even when pouring the toffee into the pan. I'm wondering if the cool air circulating under the grid shocked the butter in my mixture? Usually when I place my 9x13 pan on hot pads, it's ok. Just an idea...and yeah...med-low heat. Watch the flame if you have a gas stove, and keep it constant.

Dec 14, 2014
butter separating NEW
by: md

I think my butter separated tonight after pouring it into my pan (which was sitting on top of my gas stove grid). I've read that a sudden temperature change can do it, even when pouring the toffee into the pan. I'm wondering if the cool air circulating under the grid shocked the butter in my mixture? Usually when I place my 9x13 pan on hot pads, it's ok. Just an idea...and yeah...med-low heat. Watch the flame if you have a gas stove, and keep it constant, and not too hot.
Also, I have made my Roca many times with butter that has been previously frozen.
Oh- my recipe calls for 1 stick butter, 1 stick margarine, 1 cup sugar, choc and almonds-and has been a big hit for years. I will try adding the sugar before the butter is fully melted. Once the pan is no longer hot, I put it in the freezer. Anything I'm doing, pro chefs, to cause my butter to separate, pls share.
My chocolate also separates from my toffee, too, when broken.

Dec 18, 2014
Saved my batch! NEW
by: Judy

Hi Angie - Thank you so much. I have also been making toffee for years with great success until about 2 or 3 years ago when I started experiencing the separation problem. I figured it was inferior butter; but even the best I could buy didn't help (same pan, same everything).

Your salt and hot/hot water did the trick - saved my batch from being discarded. Thank you so very much. (I actually used 1/2 the sale you recommended 1st then boiled a little water and added 1 T at a time and the 2nd one did the trick.

Dec 20, 2014
Stir less NEW
by: JI

After batch 1 of my toffee separated I went back to my 1956 Better Crocker cookbook. 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup butter brought to a boil and cooked for 7 minutes with very little stirring. It worked beautifully. Batch 1 recipe said to boil for 13,minutes to 300. I think not stirring it and boiling it for less time worked. I tried the hot water on the separated batch but it burned! Happy holidays.

Nov 25, 2016
Thanks for the tips NEW
by: Baja Ron

I too had fallen into toffee competency. Last year I made 5 batches with no failures. This year I have had to throw 3 batches away. I have tried switching butter 3 times but no improvement. I usually use a high temperature and a constant stir. This year I lowered the temperature and started to stir more vigorously. I am scared to move on to a forth batch but here goes. Thanks for the tips.

Dec 17, 2016
Butter separating in tofee receipe NEW
by:

Have made this toffee for 46 yrs. and just starting to have the butter separate at 280. Wondering if the butters now have less butter fat. Did 3 batches this year and 1st one with Lucerne butter separated while the next 2 with Winco butter were just fine, all had the same 11 gm. of fat, so not sure what's up. Will note the water/salt tricks for next time
because it seems there probably will be one.

Jan 03, 2017
Amish Cashew Crunch NEW
by: Vickie M.

I doubled a recipe for Amish Cashew Crunch, except not doubling the butter! I didn't realize til it was at the soft ball stage! Putting it in, it wouldn't mix in with the candy! I panicked and looked this up. I tried what you suggested, adding a sprinkle of salt and a little hot water, (2 tbsp.)and it worked!! Thank you for saving me from failed candy and money loss!!

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