These days I’m very firmly an Edinburgh lass, even appearing in the local paper! But I actually grew up down the coast a little in North Berwick, where Granny still lives today. As well as Granny (and Papa!), North Berwick is also home to Tantallon Castle, a mighty fortress that dates right back to the 1300’s and is the place of which these lovely little Tantallon Cakes get their name.
The name Tantallon ‘Cakes’ is perhaps misleading as they are not actually cakes but in fact biscuits – shortbread to be exact. A little different than Granny’s Shortbread, these little shortbread biscuits have a lovely lemony taste to them. The reasons why these biscuits are named after Tantallon Castle is not clear – I’ve done quite a bit of research on the subject but aside from finding confirmation that they are indeed named after the oldest castle in East Lothian, there’s not much more to tell.
It’s times like these where I think Great Granny would have known the answer. As a firm part of North Berwick’s history (much like Papa now!), she probably could have told me exactly who first made Tantallon Cakes, where they lived, who their family was and even recall the days that Tantallon Castle was still occupied…I kid, she wasn’t actually around that long ago!
11/07/2017 – Edited to Add: A lovely local reader has been in touch with a bit more history on Tantallon Cakes. Brodies bakery of North Berwick High Street used to sell Tantallon Cakes, which were kept in a glass jar on the counter. Back then they were known as ‘Tantallon Teacakes’ but it’s unclear as to when the ‘tea’ was dropped from the name. It was said by locals that these biscuits were even enjoyed by the Royals!
Anyway, I certainly recommend these lovely little shortbread biscuits as a cheeky Scottish treat, with a zesty summer twist. And should you ever been in East Lothian, it’s definitely worth taking a jaunt to Tantallon Castle for a wee visit as well as my home town of North Berwick – just be sure to say hello to Granny if you see her!
- Preheat your oven to 160°c and grease of couple of baking trays with a little butter.
- Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until it becomes light & fluffy.
- Add the egg and lemon zest and mix until well combined.
- Sift the flour, cornflour and bicarbonate of soda and mix to form a dough. Tip the dough onto a floured worktop and gently knead until smooth.
- Roll your dough to around 1cm thick and cut with a crinkle edge cutter. Transfer each biscuit to your pre-greased baking trays and prick each one with a fork on top.
- Bake at 160°c for around 15 minutes until the edges of the biscuits are golden.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle a litter caster sugar over each biscuit. Leave to cool on their tray for around 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.