Friday, 31 October 2014

Scottish Caramel Shortbread Tray Bake

Hello honeys
I hope you're well and staying warm. The winds have gotten so chilly and the garden is full of leaves.  Each time hubby goes out to clean them up, next morning.... yep. there's more :)  Our furbaby Jade adores this time of year because she loves to play with the leaves :)

With the colder weather, Autumn brings a change to my kitchen too.  Hubby works really hard and I like to make sure he has a warming meal ready for him when he gets home at night.  Salads, although still appearing occasionally as a side dish, mostly disappear in favour of lovely warm casseroles & roasts with potatoes & tons of steamed veggies, as well as traditional Scottish dinners such as Mince & Tatties or Stovies.  I'll write a tutorial on both of these for you soon honeys.

Yesterday I was hit by the baking bug and made another family favourite.  Now I've seen this yummy treat online being called millionaire shortbread, but as a child growing up in the West of Scotland it was always referred to as simply "caramel shortbread."  It was a staple, served with custard, as part of school lunches at both Primary and Secondary school.  

Scottish Caramel Shortbread Recipe

The main difference between what is now called Millionaire Shortbread and the much loved school dessert of days gone by is the topping. Where Millionaire Shortbread has a top layer of chocolate, the version served to us in mid 70s "dinner schools" had instead a layer of chocolate sprinkles.

Anyone over a certain age in Scotland will smile if reminded of caramel shortbread, although maybe not so much when reminded of the "school custard" which had the uncanny ability to grow a "skin" over the top before you got your tray to your table :)  So, do you want to make some yummy caramel shortbread too?  Let's go....

Scottish Caramel Shortbread Traybake


For the shortbread:
225g or 8oz of plain flour
125g or 5oz of butter or margarine
75g or 3oz of caster sugar

For the Caramel:
One large tin (397g or approx 13 & half oz) of condensed milk
25g or 1oz of sugar
25g or 1oz of butter or margarine

For the Topping
Chocolate Vermicelli (sprinkles) if you can find them :)


1. Pre-heat your oven to 160C/320F/Gas mark 4. While it's heating, fetch a large mixing bowl and add your plain flour.  Add your butter (or margarine) to your flour and combine until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add your caster sugar and make sure its well mixed.  Alternatively, use your food processor and blitz them all together in that :)

2. Turn out into an oiled baking tray.  When I'm making a tray bake I use these aluminium foil trays.  Lovely when gifting, such as when hubby takes tray bakes into work to share with his colleagues or when I make baked goods for our lovely GP Practice. 

Either grease your baking tray with butter (or margarine) or, as I do, lightly spray with olive oil.  I have a little spray bottle containing olive oil which is never far from our cooker :)

Scottish Shortbread - Gently press shortbread into the greased tray - use a spoon to avoid the heat from your hands affecting the shortbread

3. Spread your shortbread out evenly across the surface of your tray. I usually use the back of a large spoon, since it means I don't have to touch the shortbread.  With the butter/margarine content you don't want to touch it too much because the heat from your hands will affect your dough. 

4. Once spread evenly across the tray, prick all over with a fork.    

Scottish Shortbread - Ready To Bake

Bake on the middle shelf of your oven for 5 minutes and then reduce the temperature of your oven to 150C/300F/Gas mark 2 continuing to bake for a further 14-16 minutes until a light golden brown.

Scottish Shortbread Freshly Baked

5. Leaving it in the tray, set your shortbread aside to cool and fetch a saucepan.

6. To your saucepan add the butter (or margarine) and sugar.  Place on a medium heat, too high and it will burn, too low and you'll be standing there stirring for far too long :) Stir, stir and stir again until the sugar has melted and combined with the butter.

7. Add your whole can of (full fat) condensed milk. Continue to stir constantly, reducing the heat a little. Don't take your eyes off the caramel for a second, it's sneaky and will burn in a heartbeat!  It should start to thicken in no time.  Once it has started to thicken you can remove from the heat, but be sure to continue to stir. 

8.  Many years ago, when making this recipe for the first time in Secondary School, I remember our wonderful teacher telling us that when we think our caramel is thick enough to use, to fetch a glass of cold water. Using a teaspoon we were then told to drop a small drip of our caramel into the cold water. If it immediately "sets" we can be sure it's ready. Basically your caramel should be runny enough to be carefully poured (while hot) it will continue to thicken when placed into the fridge.

9.  When your caramel is ready, and being very careful not to burn yourself honeys, pour it over the shortbread base spreading it evenly.

Scottish Shortbread Base Covered With Layer Of Caramel

10. Now at this point, if we were making "Millionaire Shortbread" we'd be melting chocolate to add as a final topping, our final layer. We're not making "Millionaire Shortbread" though :) We are instead making the version known and remembered fondly by generations of Scottish school children, myself included :)

11. The fun bit! Our last step is to sprinkle the top of your caramel with chocolate vermicelli or sprinkles.  I found a problem though, when planning this post I tried to buy some, only to find they were nowhere to be found! So, I'm afraid honeys, I had to make do with chocolate drops.  Oh dear, well they do I suppose but it's not exactly as it should be. So, if you can find some lovely choccy sprinkles, do add those and you'll have a far more accurate version of the famous Scottish school dinner staple.  To be complete of course, it has to be served with lovely creamy warm (never cold) custard.

Scottish Caramel Shortbread And Custard

12. Enjoy! If you've never eaten caramel shortbread Scots style you are soooo in for a treat!  It really is better with choccie sprinkles instead of the choccie drops I was forced to use here though :)

So, honeys. What do you think? How does the Scottish version compare with the completely chocolate covered version?  As I said, this recipe is a fond favourite from my childhood but I wonder if this version was served in other "dinner schools."  Did you ever have it at school?

Have a fabulous weekend dear ones, have fun tonight if you're going trick or treating, but stay warm everyone there's a chill in the air. Till next time, sending heaps of hugs xx 

Edit: Do you look forward to Burns Night?  Marked every year in late January, Burns night is a celebration of the birth of our bard himself Robert Burns.  Click here for musings & links to a wealth of Scottish music. Enjoy honeys x


  1. Rosie, I made this last night and it was amazing - thank you for sharing the recipe! I grated a bit of Dairy Milk on top and served it warm with custard. The caramel is in a league of its own! Very jealous of Scottish school kids, our school dinners in the midlands were a bit more depressing! x

    1. Hi honey, I'm so glad you enjoyed it and well done on the caramel too because the number of times I've taken my eye off it for just a minute and disaster! burned caramel! :) When it does work though it's delicious :) ooooo I love the idea of grated dairy milk! I'm going to try that next time I make it, it sounds amazing! I once grated dairy milk on top of the whipped cream on my hot chocolate, it was only the instant cream that's in a can and sits in the fridge but it was yummy :) Thank you so much for visiting and leaving a comment, its means such a lot, sending you heaps of hugs honey xx

  2. Hi rosie, ive been using this fab recipe for a little while but I,m finding my shortbread is either going to really hard or not still soft in the middle could you recommend a good temp for a fan assisted oven?? the caramel is delicious though thanks for the recipe

    1. Hi honey, I'm so sorry for the delay in replying x I have a fan assisted oven too and usually set the temperature at 150 degrees through the whole bake and only bake for a total of 14-16 minutes. I always set a timer too so that I check at 14 minutes and mostly it is ready then. I hope that helps honey, thank you so much for visiting, have a fab weekend, hugs xxx

  3. Hi Rosie, I'm going to give this receipe a go tonight! When you say large tin of condensed milk do you mean the 397g or the big 1kg one? Really want to get it right first time. Thanks xx.

    1. Hi Honey, it's the 397g tin I used :) Remember to keep your eyes on the caramel, I had a couple of disasters where it burned and I'd only taken my eyes off it for a few seconds. Once it's done, if you pop your completed caramel shortbread into the fridge for 10 or 15 mins it will slice easier too :) Thank you so much for visiting and enjoy! Sending heaps of huggles xxx

  4. This is exactly as I remember it in my glasgow primary school in ruchill. The recipe always seems like a state secret. I have dreams about caramel cake with custard to this day.

    1. Goodness this reply is late! I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to reply, I have a lot of replies to write today to catch up. Life has not been the easiest for a while now but I'm so sorry to have taken so long x

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment it so made me smile when I read it. I wish you'd left your name, do you blog too? It would have been nice to visit your blog to say thank you for visiting. In case you ever see this, dear anonymous, thank you so much for visiting and for making me smile, it means more than I can say, hugs always xx

  5. Replies
    1. Hello there :)
      If you mean for the caramel? Good old pantry staple granulated sugar will do honey, likewise if you don't have any caster sugar to make the shortbread? just whizz some granulated sugar through the food processor to break it down to smaller pieces. Hope that helps and thank you so much for visiting, sending heaps of huggles xx

  6. Would love the recipe for the jam shortbread tart we got at primary school.

    1. Hello :) I'm so sorry for the late reply x What a wonderful idea!! Jammy shortbread was another lovely treat, well remembered and equally loved :) I'll get on it when I can honey and thank you for the suggestion :) Huggles xx

  7. Making Carmel shortbread for the family on Easter Sunday yum yum.

    1. Yaaaay!! Well done honey, I hope you all enjoyed it and had a fabulous Easter, thank you for visiting and saying hello, huggles xx

  8. Amazing...i always think about the cake and custard we still got it at school in the mid 90s. Going to make the kids it during the week.

    1. Brilliant!! I hope you all enjoyed it Billy. This is still one of my favourite recipes but it never lasts very long whenever I make it :) Thank you so much for visiting and for sharing memories. It's great to know I'm not the only one who happily remembers caramel shortbread, I hope you're having a fab week, hugs x