Homemade Gift Recipe: Skillet Toffee

published Dec 5, 2013
Skillet Toffee
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(Image credit: Sara Kate Gillingham)

When I was a child, there weren’t a lot of sweets in our house, but come Christmastime, little teasing bits of my mom’s holiday toffee would show up in my normally sugar-starved lunch bag during the week before school let out. Then, during our annual Christmas Eve tamale party, huge platters would appear, with piles of the stuff stacked high like poker chips

(Image credit: Sara Kate Gillingham)

Though I moved across the country almost twenty years ago, she hasn’t missed a single season of toffee. These days if Mom isn’t visiting for the holidays she mails it to me, wrapped in little cellophane bags. If you can stand to share, a batch of skillet toffee makes a great gift for someone many zip codes away.

A cast-iron skillet helps get the sugar hot, but any skillet will do. A candy thermometer will help you hit the right temperature for the perfect hard-candy texture, though going by color — looking for a deep auburn hue — will also work.

(Image credit: Sara Kate Gillingham)

Skillet Toffee

Makes about 2 1/4 pounds

Nutritional Info


  • 1 pound

    unsalted butter

  • 2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon


  • 1 teaspoon

    pure vanilla extract

  • 8 ounces

    good quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

  • 3/4 cup

    chopped toasted blanched almonds


  1. Line the bottom and sides of a 10-inch x 15-inch baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. In a large cast iron skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. As the butter melts, stir in the sugar and salt. Continue stirring rapidly with a wooden spoon, keeping the sides of pan clean by brushing occasionally with a wet pastry brush. The mixture should bubble as you stir. Cook until the mixture turns a deep auburn brown and registers 300°F on a candy thermometer, taking care not to burn it. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

  3. Pour the mixture onto the lined baking sheet. Allow it to cool slightly, about 5 minutes, then sprinkle the mixture with the chocolate. When the chocolate looks glossy, spread it with an offset cake spatula or a wooden spatula, and sprinkle with the nuts. Gently press the nuts into the chocolate with the palms of your hands.

  4. Cool completely (at least 6 hours) then break the toffee into chunks.