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Home • Recipe • Biscuit • Empire Biscuits
Published by Amy
A real Scottish favourite. Empire biscuits (sometimes known as German biscuits) are lovely little biscuits, filled with delicious jam, and topped with sweet icing & a jelly tot or glacé cherry.
If there’s one recipe that people always ask for from Granny, it’s her Empire Biscuit one! These little gems are so simple & so versatile. You can go all traditional and opt for a Glace Cherry or a Jelly Tot on top, or you can get creative with fondant and top them with any shape you like! We particularly love going all festive with holly sprinkles, just for Santa.
These humble little biscuits have always been Granny’s go-to recipe for pleasing guests and it’s only when reading on the history of them that I’ve found that they’re perhaps not quite as well-known to the world as they are here in Scotland, especially given their various different names.
Sometimes in baking though it’s the simpler recipes that make the most impact and with two little biscuits sandwiched with jam & topped with icing, it doesn’t get much easier than this! Best of all, more so than anything else about these little Empire Biscuits, is that the kids devour them. Easy and kid friendly = win, win in my books.
Caster SugarEmpire biscuits are so well loved due to their sweetness, as well as their texture. A big part of that is of course the sugar! Caster sugar will give you the best empire biscuits, both because it is incredibly sweet, but also because it’s fine texture lends itself well to the soft, crumbly texture of an empire biscuit.
Butter or MargarineTraditionally speaking, an empire biscuit would be made with butter, giving it that familiar flavour, as well as the golden hue. If you want to omit the dairy from your recipe – or are simply looking to cut costs a little – margarine is a fantastic alternative. And in actual fact, most shop-bought Empire Biscuits you buy these days use margarine too.If you are using margarine in this recipe, just be sure to use a block margarine, as opposed to the spreadable kind – the latter has a higher water content and will make your biscuit dough too soft.
Free-range EggNot all biscuit doughs have an egg in them but Granny recommends adding one in empire biscuits. Not only does it help bring the dough together and bind the ingredients, it also creates a richer dough, and in turn a better biscuit.
Plain FlourThe final element of your biscuit dough is the flour. No raising agent is required, so plain flour is perfect. Don’t be alarmed if you think you’ve used too much flour – once you get your hands in and work the ingredients, they will come together!
JamAgain, if we are talking tradition, it would be a strawberry – or occasionally a raspberry – jam that you would find in your empire biscuits. The great thing about baking them for yourself though is that you can put whatever you want in there! Strawberry, raspberry, blackcurrant, apricot… Whichever jam is, well, your jam. Just be sure to use a seedless jam for the best texture.
Icing SugarThe icing on an empire biscuit is simply a water icing, made with icing sugar and some hot water. The most difficult part is getting the right consistency but otherwise it is a very simple way to finish a biscuit!
Jelly Tot or Glacé CherriesThe two most iconic toppings for an empire biscuit is a jelly tot gummy sweet, or half a glacé cherry. That’s not to say you can’t get creative or even seasonal with things like fondant holly leaf’s.
• When it comes to making your biscuit dough, don’t panic if it feels like the ingredients aren’t coming together, particularly after adding the flour. Empire biscuits have a crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth texture, which requires quite a firm dough. Once you get your hands into the dough mixture, the heat from your fingers will help bring the butter and flour together – just keep at it! Trust me.
• If you don’t have a cookie cutter for cutting your biscuits, simply use un up-turned glass.
• You can make your biscuits as large or small as your prefer. Just be sure to adjust your baking time to suit – the larger the biscuit, the longer they need, and vice versa.
• When it comes to icing your biscuits; for the best finish, make your icing to a “gloopy” consistency. Hold your biscuits with your fingertips and gently dip the top of the biscuit onto the surface of your icing, slowly lifting them back out, allowing the excess to drip off, before flipping over. Top your with a sweetie or cherry and leave it set. As long as your icing isn’t too runny, the icing shouldn’t run off the edges. Getting the right consistency can take a bit of trial and error but it does give you the neatest finish, so it is worth practising.
Hi mark, I found the recipe far too buttery but got there in the end! Do you have an alternative?
My recipe is : 6oz plain flour 6oz butter 2oz icing sugar. Metood : Cream butter and sugar together then add flour to make soft dough. Add extra flour if its too soft to handle. Cut out rounds fairly thickly then cook in med oven for 10 – 15 mins. When cooled, Sandwich together with jam and top with glace icing. Add colour and decorate as desired. Made these for years. Love them.
You’re making shortbread, of a kind, not empire biscuits.
Oh no! Not too buttery at all!!
This is now my Every Time recipe. Every time I make these biscuits with this recipe, they are perfect. I have tried several other recipes, most of them spread during cooking or fall to pieces when spreading, not with this recipe, it is perfect. The shape and texture is perfect and the flavour is delicicious. I have to eat a couple as soon as I’ve made them because if I go back later to get some, they’re gone. They definitely don’t last long in this house. Thank you Granny, I love baking with your recipes, they never fail to please.
Had to tweak these a little, used baking spread instead of butter and had to bake a lot longer than 10 mins, will put oven temp up to 180 next time, still a bit pale looking but lovely crunchy biscuits when finished, will definitely make them again
I always use stork margarine as then I get shortcake type biscuits and by the time they get sandwiched together with the jam and then iced they are far too sweet ( for me) if butter is used. We use this recipe for schoolkids . Still delicious but not sickly. I keep the butter for traditional shortbread
All shortbrrad dough is a little bit drier than most other doughs That’s what makes it sooooo delish!
Margarine is solidified oil . A completely different product to butter. It might look like butter but it’s not. Hence the end result is different.
Karen why did you have to tweak them?
I haven’t seen or had empire biscuits and many other of the recipes here including much-loved school cake for more than fifty years and I’ve missed this type of food so badly.
I’m going to start off baking with granny first with empire biscuits.
My heart and home will be united again.
Go granny go. Thanks for keeping loved recipes alive.
Can I freeze these with the icing on? Thank you
You can freeze them but I wouldn’t.
Thank you a bunch for sharing this with all folks you really recognize what you’re speaking approximately! Bookmarked. Kindly additionally visit my website =).
Really good! I found that refrigerating the dough over night gave it a much softer and snappier texture. I’m American, so I found it fun baking something from another culture!
Can I make the dough in the food processor?
I’m a 65year old British woman from a northern baking family. Never heard of them but will give them a try.
Agree. After 10 minutes at 160 then came out completely raw in the centre. I had to turn it up to 180 (with fan) and cook on for an other 10 minutes. I think the problem is that “Granny” doesn’t specify a cutter size and as we all know size does make a difference.
You are right, a larger cutter would require a little longer in the oven. I will update the recipe to specify this for those who may not realise.
The biscuits will however still be a little soft in the middle when you remove them from the oven and will harden as they start to cool. If they are still raw and not golden at the edges (as per recipe) I’d recommend leaving them in the oven for a little longer.
Completely raw?! That’s only happened to me when my old oven didnot work properly. This recipe is perfect
I found the dough to be really crumbly, and in the end didn’t use the full amount of flour that was asked for. I too, found that 160 (fan assisted) wasn’t long enough and ended up doubling the time. The recipe doesn’t specify how many you will get, I got 10 biscuits though.
I’m not a baker so for me the recipe was simple with little ingredients so I’m happy with the way they turned out. My plan is to doorstep deliver to my family for Easter.
Made these today, needed longer in oven than stated. That aside they are delicious, although I didn’t need all the flour
I’m in Scotland, so these are a favourite
Hi Audrey – I’m planning on making these once I can my hands on plain flour. Can I ask how much flour you used for these? Many thanks. Debbie
I couldn’t say the exact amount, I had what was stated in recipe and added some at intervals until I had a soft pliable dough and know I had some left over. Sorry I can’t be more precise. I have made them a few times now and definitely less flour than stated.
Oh. I guess I have to find the right amount of flour and butter etc?
Brilliant recipe thank you for sharing. Tried lots of different recipes but this is by far the best :)
Tried these and were lovely but found I needed to bake them for 25 mins.
I’ve now made these many times and shared the recipe as they are such a hit. I use the exact measurements and timings and I find they make a beautiful pale, soft and crumbly biscuit. Just as a German biscuit should be. I do rest the dough for half an hour in the fridge though, seems to make it a little easier to work with.
I made these to your exact recipe. They turned out brilliant. Family want me to make more, as they don’t last long in our house!!!
Love this recipe my only problem is the jam it oozes out the sides can you recommend he best jam ?
Just use less jam. It’s not important which brand.
Didn’t work out, waisted so much ingredients. It was a big crumbly mess so I think recipe perhaps has too much flour.
This is the PERFECT recipe! I’ve used it multiple times now and they have turned out well every single time. Thanks for sharing :)
Followed this recipe to the word apart from the flour I used 491 grams instead of 500 grams, they are perfect thank you granny
So pleased to find this recipe as my Granny used to make these. Followed the Recipe but found it didn’t need 500g of Flour!! However just added probably less than half that amount and the were perfect thank you
My four year old daughter loves making these biscuits. They even turn out like they’re supposed to which is rare when she bakes! Delicious and even taste better after a few days.
I used fine plain flour and stork but kept the the amount stated,turned out brilliant,I got 12 full biscuits with the cutter I had.
I make these all the time and have used many recipes. When I use this exact recipe I get the most positive comments from my guinea pigs.. eh I mean family! Thanks for sharing x
Perfect recipe for the Empire biscuits I remember from when I was a child. While it might seem too much flour when you first tip it in, if you keep working it eventually it will come together in a nice biscuit dough (I used a hand mixer and once it started to look a little clumpy, I used my hands to knead it into a ball). I used a 2 1/4″ cutter and cooked them for about 12mins 160 Fan which seemed to hit the mark nicely in my oven to give me the lovely soft, pale biscuit I was after. Thank you for the recipe!
Sharon thanks for your post.
Omg it’s too crumbly to roll! Help!!
I use stork instead of butter and 2 oz of custard powder. Makes a nicer biscuit.
it’s braw! We used this recipe for our mum’s and tot’s group. Made the dough on mixing machine and found it perfect. The children and parents had great fun rolling and cutting the biscuits. The trick with pre-school children is to have some biscuits pre-cooked, so when you disappear into the kitchen to bake them, you come out with two perfectly cooked biscuit ready for them to finish, magic. Their biscuits can be used by the next group etc. We live in England, but my wife’s a true highlander and so we are trying to educate the Sassenach’s, true cordon bleu patisserie!
Made them exactly as written and they were everyone’s favorite at the Highland Games this year! My husband was eating the plain cookies faster than I could sandwich and ice them! Next time a batch for him and a batch for everyone else. Thank you for this great classic biscuit recipe!
Can this recipe be frozen after cooked but before icing? Thanks
What type of butter is it unsalted block Or is it soft baking spread
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