SCOTTISH cuisine tends to be hearty, warming stuff: haggis, neeps, tatties, porridge, and so on. In some cases, this even extends to the desserts—black bun cakes, for example, are as rich and flavoursome as their main course counterparts.
But, beyond that, Scotland’s sweet tooth shows itself in a wide variety of delicious ways. Some of the country’s most beloved desserts are regional favourites (Dundee cake, for example); others, such as shortbread, are pretty much loved all over. Leaving aside well-known treats such as tablet (and more notorious ones, such as the deep-fried Mars bar), we present some of Scotland’s finest sweets and puddings—fit for any table.
Cranachan is a medley of fresh rasberries, whipped cream (or crowdie cheese, if you’re a traditionalist), honey and toasted oats, usually served in a glass. Whisky makes its way onto the majority of recipes for this trifle-like dessert—for a truly Scottish edge, a dram will give this summery treat a unique bit of bite that it would otherwise sorely miss. Cranachan is uniquely Scottish not just for its provenance, but because the quality of its ingredients are seldom bettered in other parts of the world.
Dundee cake is on its way to becoming a heritage treasure. Its creation was unwittingly inspired by Mary, Queen of Scots’ dislike for cherries in fruit cake, and the hearty dessert has been a staple of Tayside cafes and dining tables ever since. It traditionally contains candied peel, almonds and sultanas, but cherries are not an unwelcome addition (finnicky 16th century royalty excepted, obviously). If an application to the European Commission is successful, Dundee cake will soon be afforded the same protected status as Stornoway black pudding and Arbroath smokies.
Like Dundee cake, clootie dumpling is a rich, suet-based fruit pudding, but it’s a spicier affair: ground ginger, cinnamon and other spices find their way into the mix, alongside the raisins, sultanas and other dried fruits. Recipes vary from region to region, but the pudding is generally served with whisky and clotted cream. The word clootie refers to the cloth that the dessert is cooked in. A Clootie Dumpling World Championship is held every year in Avonbridge, of which Nancy McCombs is the current holder.
Edinburgh rock—isn’t that just Brighton rock in a tartan tin? Not so. The capital delicacy is a softer and crumblier confection than its stiffer English counterparts, and it’s similarly delicious. Traditionally made with sugar and cream of tartar, it’s also friable (stop rolling your eyes). Its cousin, star rock—also known as starry rock or starrie—is made in Kirriemuir. Its principle ingredients are sugar, golden syrup and margarine, and, again, it’s a bit softer than English seaside rock.
Black bun is, essentially, another fruit cake, but it’s distinct from clootie dumpling and Dundee cake in a number of ways. The pastry-coated dish takes much longer to prepare, and is traditionally only made in the run-up to Hogmanay. The loaf-like cake is a hearty treat brimming with subtle spice flavours that often show themselves best when the cake is left to mature for a few days after baking. Traditionally, it was eaten only on the eve of Twelfth Night (6 January). Mary, Queen of Scots seems to have historical ties to this dessert too, and was thought to have taken part in party games involving the cake.
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