As we have shared in previous posts we thought a lot about the Wandering Gaels, before we became the Wandering Gaels. The first iteration of this project was centred around food. We had the idea to travel to Ireland and Scotland to research traditional foods, and to explore the connections to recipes that may exist in Canada today.
For our last post of 2017, we thought that we would connect back to those first ideas and share a recipe we love.
After some thought, Peggy put forth the idea of baking Empire Biscuits, as they are a treasured treat that reminds her of her first Christmas away from home, living in Scotland.
Also they are a biscuit with history (we are big fans of traditional baking!) and they are a biscuit that crossed the pond to become known as Imperial Cookies here in Canada.
We are excited to share a family recipe for Empire Biscuits, and our recommendations for what we consider to be the best bakeries in Scotland to find Empire Biscuits.
Empire Biscuits History
The Empire Biscuit owes its origins to Central Europe, in particular, to Austria and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The popular Linzer Biscuits, named after the Austrian city of Linz, have a striking similarity to the Empire Biscuit.
Sandwiched between the two shortbread biscuit layers is a jammy centre, but the difference is that in the Linzer Biscuit the centre of the top layer is cut out, revealing the filling.
With origins in a German-speaking Central European country, the Empire Biscuit was originally known in the UK as the German Biscuit. When the outbreak of WWI occurred, Britain found itself facing both Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the war, and the popular German Biscuits had a very unpatriotic name.
The British Empire decided to claim the German Biscuit as their own, and bestow the more patriotic name of Empire Biscuit to these jammy sandwich delights that make time tea time just a little more special!
- 2 cups butter, softened
- 1 cup white sugar
- 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 cup raspberry preserves
- 24 maraschino cherries
- 2 cups confectioners' sugar
- ⅛ cup milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Gradually stir in the flour until well blended.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to ¼ inch thickness. Cut into a round shape using a cookie cutter.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven.
- Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Sandwich one teaspoon of jam between two cookies. Repeat with remaining cookies.
- In a medium bowl, gradually stir the milk into the confectioners' sugar until the icing is of a spreadable consistency. Spread on top of the sandwiched cookies. Top each cookie with half of a cherry while the icing is still wet.
- Will keep in an airtight container for 1 week.
I have a pair of Spanx rolled up in a drawer for the day I eat one biscuit too many”
A woman after our own hearts, except that day is usually most days for us. Which means we know a thing or two about finding the best Empire Biscuit in Scotland. We’ve thought about our times in Scotland and here are our picks for bakeries that won’t disappoint!
Best Bakeries In Scotland To Eat Empire Biscuits
William Grant Bakery – Tain, Ross-Shire
The Highlands “Institution” first opened its doors in 1886 and was in the same family ownership for 80 years until 12 years ago when the present owner took over. It is located in the centre of Tain, which is a thriving community with a long history of commerce, full of buildings with character. Tain is also an area well known for tourism and it is here, the famous Glenmorangie whisky is produced. It is just across the firth from Dornoch and Inverness is only 30 minutes drive away.
The Bakery has the last traditional “scotch oven” in the north of Scotland.
Gordon Street Coffee – Glasgow
You just have to follow your nose to find this coffee shop in Glasgow’s historic Central Station. Don’t let the fact that this shop is in a train station deter you. It is the only coffee shop in Glasgow that roasts their own coffee. While there are many cakes to choose from, don’t miss the Empire Biscuits they are too delicious to miss.
Café Modern Two – Edinburgh
This charming cafe located in Gallery of Modern Art Two is just a short walk from the city centre. You will be well rewarded for this short walk with what might be the prettiest Empire Biscuits we’ve ever seen.