Call them what you will—empire biscuit or double shortbread—but Scotland’s favorite cookies are real treats for anyone with a sweet tooth. Composed of two butter cookies with a layer of jam between, topped with icing and a cherry, the dessert dates to the 19th century, when they were adapted from the Austrian Linzer cookies (similar dough, but with the cut-out removed). It’s hard to contain something so delicious to a single nation, so you’ll find empire biscuits (often by other names) across the British Isles and all the way to Canada.
Our recipe comes from 4-time O.A.T. traveler Janis Gauvin, a native of Scotland who now calls Connecticut home. We’ve adapted her family recipe makes two dozen sandwiches, but it is easily doubled for a crowd. (Janis herself likes to make 50 or more empire biscuits at a time!)
2 1/2 cups flour
8 oz. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
8 oz. raspberry jam
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup warm water or milk
1/8 tsp. almond extract (optional)
A small jar of maraschino cherries (1 for each cookie)
- Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the egg.
- Mix in the flour in three batches, thoroughly combining each time.
- Dust a smooth work surface with flour and roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness.
- Using a round cookie cutter (Janis likes a 3” round), cut the dough into circles. Gather the remaining scraps of dough into a ball, re-roll, and cut more circles.
- On a cookie sheet lined with parchment, bake at 350F° for 10-15 minutes. Check often, as you do not want them to brown too much.
- Remove from oven and cool the cookies completely.
- Lay out half the cookies and top each one with a thin layer of the jam; add a second cookie atop the jam on each.
- Mix the confectionary sugar with water or milk to make a thick glaze, stirring in the almond extract (if using).
- Spread the glaze smoothly on the top cookie of each biscuit, and dot each with a cherry in the center.
A tip from Janis: The dough may be sticky; flouring your rolling pin will be helpful.
Perhaps you’ll stop for a spot of tea and some biscuits in your leisure time during your Scotland Revealed: Legends, Lochs & Highland Landscapes adventure.