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Recipe: Scottish Empire Biscuits

Posted on 3/24/2020 12:00:00 AM in The Buzz

One of Scotland’s most beloved sweets, the empire biscuit is filled with jam and made with lots of love.

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!)

Empire Biscuits


2 1/2 cups flour
8 oz. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 egg
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)


  1. Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the egg.

  2. Mix in the flour in three batches, thoroughly combining each time.

  3. Dust a smooth work surface with flour and roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Remove from oven and cool the cookies completely.

  7. 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.

  8. Mix the confectionary sugar with water or milk to make a thick glaze, stirring in the almond extract (if using).

  9. 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.

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