The Monday Treat – Millionaire’s Shortbread in time for Burns Night

Millionaire's Shortbread illustration for recipe

Millionaire’s shortbread is what my Mother in law, and most of the rest of Scotland call it. Toffee cake is what my Mother in law’s Mother in law called it (as you can see above). But by either name, for my husband, it’s the quintessential home treat.

I skyped my Mother in law today to check the oven temperature in my recipe, and discovered that she was at that exact moment melting chocolate to finish a batch that she was sending to grandson Joseph to sustain him through his exams. It doesn’t seem so long ago that we were the recipients of the same carefully wrapped care packages, to sustain us through our exams.

Millionaire’s Shortbread is a great Scottish culinary tradition, of course, and I suppose I was put into a mind for baking it because it’s Burns’ Night on Tuesday.

Burns’ Night is a celebration of the life and poetry of the poet Robert Burns, and a great excuse to dress up in a kilt, drink whisky and cavort about to Strip the Willow, should any excuse be needed. Traditionally, people eat haggis, but not before reciting a long ode about the general greatness of haggises, and getting fairly drunk.

Address to a HaggisHaggis illustration for Burns' night recipe

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,

Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!

Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,

Painch, tripe, or thairm:

Weel are ye wordy of a grace

As lang’s my arm.

(Robert Burns)


A haggis, for the uninitiated, is an animal that has two long legs and two short legs so that it is able to easily run around Scottish mountains. Or, it’s a mixture of blood, oats and offal contained within a stomach. You decide.

Either way, haggis is a tradition that I find hard to get on board with, but Jon is Scottish, and here in New York, miles away from home, such traditions take on a more resonate importance. And so we celebrate Burns’ Night, and we drink whisky, and we eat Millionaire’s Shortbread instead.

Millionaire’s Shortbread is a treat that takes a little bit of patience. It’s made in three layers. First, a crumbly shortbread, then a sticky caramel, and finally, a smooth dark chocolate glaze. None of these layers is particularly taxing on the cook, and the gentle rhythm of the dish makes it especially satisfying – a good snowy afternoon in the kitchen sort of a dish.

Millionaire’s Shortbread – Granny Hannah’s recipe

The shortbread:

2 sticks of cold butter cut into cubes
2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
A tin about the size of a brownie tin – though I make mine in an old pyrex pie dish
  • Preheat the oven to 320 (160 if you’re cooking this in the UK in C)
  • Rub the butter and the flour together until they resemble sandy breadcrumbs, then rub in the sugar
  • Butter the tin, then press in the mixture (it should be about 1cm deep)
  • Prick it all over with a fork, then bake for half an hour until it is golden and firm

Toffee:Golden Syrup illustration for millionaire shortbread recipe

2 sticks of margarine/butter
2/3 cup of sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup
2 can of sweetened condensed milk (14oz each)

or (non Granny Hannah version):

2 tbsp butter
2 cans of sweetened condensed milk (14oz each)
  • Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan
  • Add the condensed milk and bring to a boil
  • Allow the mixture to boil while you stir it for five minutes exactly. Both my Mother in law and her Mother in law are very emphatic on this point – and they’re right – it’s the perfect caramel consistency
  • Pour over shortbread and allow to cool


Bar Of Chocolate Illustration for millionaire shortbread recipe100g (or more) of 70% cocoa chocolate
  • Melt the chocolate (in a bowl over simmering water or in the microwave)
  • Pour it over the toffee layer and smooth with a spatula
  • Let the chocolate cool and harden before slicing and serving (about half an hour in the fridge)
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8 Responses to The Monday Treat – Millionaire’s Shortbread in time for Burns Night

  1. There’s an older Scottish gentleman that runs a used bookstore near my parent’s house. He has a party there every year to celebrate Burns night and he makes the most amazing shortbread. I’m betting I could impress him with this recipe. Thank you so much for sharing this and your illustrations are absolutely amazing. I’m your newest follower :)

  2. Kate says:

    I’m glad you like the recipe. The illustrations are by my husband Jonathan, so I’ll pass on the lovely compliment. Have a great party! Happy Burns Night!

  3. Anne says:

    Great recipe! I made 2 batches, 1 the traditional way, the other I sprinkled with a bag of heath bar toffee chips instead of the chocolate layer-slightly less sweet and preferred by those lucky enough to get some of each type.

    • Kate says:

      Thanks for letting me know – sounds like a delicious idea – I’ll have to give it a try!
      I’m not sure what my husband’s Granny Mary would think about toffee chips though …
      Happy almost Burns Night.

  4. Jess says:

    When you say condensed milk, do you mean sweetened condensed milk, or evaporated milk?
    I’m in the US, and I’m thinking you mean unsweetened since the recipe also calls for sugar.
    Any help would be appreciated!

    • Kate says:

      Nope. Sweetened condensed milk. It’s super sweet. Serious stuff. Though there is another way of making the toffee layer that I’m going to add to the recipe – I use it equally as much as Granny Hannah’s version (shhh). 2 14oz cans of sweetened condensed milk, 2 tbsp butter – heat for 15 mins, gently, stirring until deep caramel. That’s it. This makes a thicker caramel layer.
      I hope you enjoy it.

  5. Alyson Locke says:

    Hello! I just returned from Scotland where I had these shortbread cookies – so good!! Instantly wanted to make them when I got home and so happy to find your recipe. Just a quick question – What size baking dish are these made in? 9×9? 9×13? Thank you!

    • Kate says:

      Hope you had a great trip to Scotland!
      I have a 9 by 9 that I use. It makes quite a thick shortbread. before that I used an old pyrex dish, about 11 by 7. This year we went a bit fancy, and made it in a 14 by 5 tart tin, then pressed the rest into a random smaller pyrex dish. It sliced beautifully and looked really pretty. So I guess what I’m saying is, this is an easy going recipe. You’ll get thinner or ticker layers if the tin is bigger or smaller, but it will still work. Hope that helps!

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