Growing up, millionaire’s shortbread was one of my favorite treats. After all, what’s not to love about a layers of shortbread cookie, caramel and chocolate? It’s decadent and delicious.
Scotland is not necessarily that well known for it’s food, apart from haggis, although not always in a good way (hopefully my simplified haggis would bring you round, if you’re unsure!). However, it does have some great things to offer, like fantastic seafood and some great game, not to mention beef.
In terms of traditional dishes, many use local crops like oats, barley, rutabaga/swede and potatoes, like oatcakes (oat crackers), Scotch broth, farl (potato pancakes) and the dessert cranachan (made with cream, oats, raspberries and whisky).
Scottish cooking also has some great baking and candies, and this decadent version of shortbread is one I remember well from childhood.
Why is it called millionaire’s shortbread?
The name is believed to refer to the rich ingredients in this treat. However while Millionaire’s shortbread is the name used in Scotland, it’s essentially the same as caramel slice in Australia or caramel shortbread in the US.
You’ll find slight variations in how to make the caramel and the base, but essentially this treat has three layers:
- a crisp shortbread base;
- a rich caramel middle;
- chocolate over the top.
Don’t skimp on any of the layers – this isn’t a treat for the diet conscious. And in fact while as a child I remember having pretty big pieces, these day’s I’m lucky if I can have much more than a small bite at a time.
It’s definitely rich, but also definitely worth trying.
I made some not too long ago for a multicultural potluck at my son’s school. As an indicator of how it went down, a friend asked part way through what I brought and as I went to show her, it had already all gone!
How to make millionaire’s shortbread
This is a treat that takes a few steps, so a bit more time than a plain shortbread, but it’s all easy enough to do. I’ve made things a little quicker by using the food processor to mix the shortbread base and ready-made dulce de leche as the caramel. You could make your own, which is often made with condensed milk, butter and some golden syrup. But dulce de leche is close enough that for me, it’s worth the shortcut.
- Cream together the butter and sugar.
- Add the flour and pulse to form crumbs.
- Press the crumbs into a lined baking dish/pan to form a flat layer.
- Prick the top of the shortbread then bake until just golden. Allow to cool.
- Once cool, spread a layer of caramel over the top then chill to firm up.
- Melt the chocolate then spread evenly over the caramel.
- Allow the chocolate to harden (don’t refrigerate) before cutting into pieces.
Tips for best results
You’ll see I say to line the baking dish/pan – this makes things so much easier to get the shortbread out and to then cut it up later. You want a dish with sides to make it easier to put the layers on top, so don’t use a thin baking sheet.
The reason you chill after adding the caramel is so that the caramel is fairly firm before you add the chocolate. This makes it much easier to put on top without them mixing. When you add the chocolate, pour it in the middle then spread from where you add the chocolate to try to avoid catching the caramel.
While it’s tempting to help the hardening process along, don’t refrigerate after you add the chocolate. The reason is that it can cause the chocolate to discolor. It shouldn’t taste any different, but will just not look as good.
The last tip is in terms of cutting, as it can be tricky. Use a sharp knife, which you can run under warm water to make a little easier. Cut quickly – if you take your time over it, it’s more likely to ooze out caramel. Clean up your knife regularly to save carrying over crumbs to the next slices.
How do you store millionaire’s shortbread?
While you may well be like me and have nothing left very quickly, you can also store any leftover in an airtight container. It will keep for a couple days, potentially longer. I’d recommend separating layers with parchment to avoid the pieces sticking to each other.
You can also freeze extra slices or larger pieces wrapped first in cling, then foil and in a box or freezer bag.
Even if you know this as caramel shortbread, you’ll soon understand why these often go by the name millionaire’s shortbread: they’re rich, decadent and oh so good. Try it and enjoy!
Like shortbread? Try these other variations:
Millionaire's shortbread (caramel shortbread)
For the shortbread base
- 2 cups all purpose flour 280g
- 13 tbsp unsalted butter 185g (3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp)
- 7 tbsp sugar 92g (1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp)
For rest of shortbread
- 13.4 oz dulce de leche 380g (1 can)
- 7 oz bittersweet chocolate 200g
- Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking dish approx 7.5in/20cm square which is at least 1in/2.5cm deep or equivalent with parchment.
- Cream together the butter and sugar - you can do this in a food processor, mixer or with a fork by hand. If by hand, you'll want to soften slightly first but not too much as better to be cold.
- Add the flour to the butter-sugar mixture and pulse to form crumbs.
- Press the crumbs into the lined baking dish/pan to form a flat layer.
- Prick the top of the shortbread then bake until just golden, around 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool.
- Once cool, spread a layer of caramel over the top then chill to firm up, around 20 minutes or so.
- Melt the chocolate (either in a double broiler or in the microwave, putting on high for a minute at a time then stirring before next heat) then spread evenly over the caramel, being careful not to spread the caramel.
- Allow the chocolate to harden (don't refrigerate) before cutting into pieces.
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