Scottish Shortbread

January 25, 2014

Its Burns Night here in Scotland, on the 25th of January we have Burns Suppers to celebrate the life of the famous Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns. Haggis is always served at Burns Suppers and although I am not going to share a Haggis recipe with you, I thought you might like my recipe for our famous biscuit Scottish Shortbread. Shortbread is often served at the end of a celebration meal with tea or coffee so I am sure this will feature on the menu of many Burns Suppers.

Shortbread is generally associated with and originated in Scotland. It was expensive and generally reserved for special occasions such as Hogmanay, Burns Suppers and Weddings. An old tradition in Shetland involves breaking a decorated shortbread cake over a new bride’s head at the entrance to her new home.

Scottish Shortbread


250g (9 ozs) Plain Flour

75g (3 ozs) Caster Sugar

175g (6 ozs) Butter  (softened at room temp)


Shortbread is traditionally formed into one of three shapes: one large circle, which is divided into segments as soon as it is taken out of the oven these are called Petticoat Tails, Shortbread Rounds individual round biscuit shapes and Shortbread Fingers a large rectangular shape which is then cut into thick slices.

I made Petticoat Tails using the following method

Pre heat oven to 160c (325F) 

Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl rub in the butter using your hands

Keep mixing and knead well until all the ingredients have formed together in a ball shape

If you can not get it to form the ball shape easily add a little bit of water to the mix

Sprinkle some flour on your worktop, divide into two equal parts shape and flatten into 2 x 18cm (7inch) rounds, about 1cm (1/2 inch) thick

Place rounds on a baking tray well spaced apart or use 2 round cake pans like I did, mark the top into portions, decorate edges and prick with a fork

Bake for 25-30 mins until pale and golden

Remove from oven, sprinkle a little caster sugar on top

Transfer the pans to a cooling rack, when cool cut in portions, remove from pan and serve

No food post on Burns Night would be complete without Robert Burn’s famous blessing

The Selkirk Grace

Some hae meat and canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it;

But we hae meat, and we can eat,

And sae let the Lord be thankit.

Scottish Shortbread

Scottish Shortbread


  • Reply cpefley January 27, 2014 at 5:10 am

    That sounds like a fun celebration! I love Robert Burns. This shortbread looks delicious!

    • Reply Mary January 27, 2014 at 8:39 pm

      It tastes pretty delicious too! 😉

  • Reply azathoth January 27, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Oh, goodness! I’ve been searching for an easy-to-follow shortbread recipe and it seems I’ve finally found it. I also didn’t know that tidbit about breaking a shortbread cake over a newly wedded bride’s head, so that’s some pretty interesting trivia.

    • Reply Mary January 27, 2014 at 10:09 pm

      3 ingredients you can’t get any easier than that, enjoy! 🙂

  • Reply Tammie McGlothlin February 9, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Don’t worry about the Haggis recipe, I tried it once and I don’t believe I’ll try it again in the near futrue. However these shortcakes sound good. I love shortbread, it may be somewhat expensive but is well worth it. I’ve never heard of Burns night but I love that too. Imagine a holiday to memoralize a poet, that’s wornderful. I think I’ll wait until my grand daughter comes over
    next weekend to try these. She also loves shortbread and has just discovered Burns. We can take turns eating shortbread and reading aloud to each other. Thanks for the idea.

    • Reply Mary February 9, 2014 at 9:56 pm

      Your welcome 🙂 sounds a lot of fun enjoy the time together 🙂

  • Reply emilyrose93 February 20, 2014 at 1:45 am

    I really like these recipes! I am 1/8 Scottish and always wanted to learn more about it, so I think this recipe and the Scotch pancakes would be a really good place to start. I think the Petticoat Tails are a very pretty shape, too.

    • Reply Mary February 20, 2014 at 11:39 pm

      Thanks 🙂 so glad you enjoy the recipes! The shortbread really is so good and the petticoat tails are my favourite shape they also make nice gifts. The pancakes they are so simple and quick they are a weekend breakfast staple of mine. Let me know how you get on if you give any of the recipes a go 😉

  • Reply Caffajake February 22, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    I had no idea shortbread was so easy to make. I have vague memories of having to make it in Year 8 Food Tech, and the teacher wanted us to add blue or red food colouring to it – ugh!! I’m very tempted to try your recipe out… maybe today, I have all the ingredients. Do you use salted or unsalted butter?

    • Reply Mary February 22, 2014 at 4:56 pm

      I find this recipe the most simple and in my opinion the most authentic in taste of a quality shortbread, but it can go wrong if your oven is too hot or you even slightly let it overcook which has happened to me a few times so watch it like a hawk. I normally use unsalted butter in my baking. Good luck!

  • Reply coffee March 4, 2014 at 12:49 am

    Yum! That looks good, and you make it look so easy. I’ll have to try this out sometime. I never thought to make shortbread before. Is this celebration country wide? I haven’t heard of a whole country celebrating a poet on a specific day – that’s really neat and says so much about your culture.

    • Reply Mary March 5, 2014 at 10:46 am

      Thanks they really are delicious 🙂 It is celebrated day throughout Scotland although it’s not a public holiday as such it is recognised 😉

  • Reply misty March 5, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    I love shortbread, even more so when theres sugar on top! I understand that with some pastries and doughs you have to be careful not to over work the dough. Is there a risk of that with this recipe. Will it alter my shortbread if I handle it too much. Any tips on how to make sure it doesn’t burn? My oven has a serious dislike for me and burns a lot of my baked goods sometimes in the blink of an eye!

    • Reply Mary March 5, 2014 at 6:54 pm

      I try and work quick with this so as you said not to overwork the dough too much not sure if it makes much difference just something I do. I just watch it constantly thats my only tip as the minute it overcooks I don’t find it as nice. I seem to have that problem with my oven too its a right pain!!

  • Reply Bella October 25, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Shortbread is one of my favorite snacks and I don’t mind what shape they come in. Fingers are easier to eat, but I like chocolate shortbread and wonder how I can add the chocolate and still keep the buttery flavor?

    I have had chocolate coated shortbread, but also shortbread with chocolate mixed in it.
    It’s not so easy to find, but would make it myself if it was easy and practical.

    • Reply Mary October 25, 2014 at 7:30 pm

      As this is quite a sweet recipe I think too much chocolate would be a bit overpowering but adding a few chocolate chips would be nice or a little bit of cocoa powder. Have not tried it myself but if you do give it a go let me know how it goes?

  • Reply Mary November 20, 2014 at 10:16 am

    This looks absolutely amazing! I just llove shortbread and have been looking for a recipe for a very long time! I am so glad that I found you! Thanks

    • Reply Mary November 22, 2014 at 10:28 am

      Thanks and welcome 🙂

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