When it boils down to Scottish desserts, generous dollops of butter, mountains of sugar and dashes of whiskey are never far from the culinary equation. From the addictive nature of shortbread and the iconic taste of fruit cake to classics like cranachan and the absurdly delicious battered Mars Bar, The Culture Trip has rounded up (and sampled) the best must-try sweet treats from Scotland. You only live once, so try them!
Shortbread, the quintessential Scottish sweet treat, is an expertly crafted biscuit comprised of copious amounts of butter. Nothing tops that feeling when a good piece of it crumbles and melts in your mouth. Whether homemade or from a tin, just a sparkle of sugar on top makes this delight go down even better.
Tablet, with its grainy texture and melt-in-the-mouth kind of flavor, is an exceedingly sugary staple when it comes to Scottish-style confection. The secret behind its success? Condensed milk, plenty of butter and of course, sugar. It is not unusual to find an array of flavors in tablet, from vanilla to whisky.
‘Made in Scotland from girders’, Irn-Bru is famous for being Scotland’s national drink, next to whisky. This sweet orange colored fizzy juice has been bursting with personality and flavor since 1901, when it was first produced in Falkirk under the name of ‘Iron Brew’. From Irn-Bru themed ice cream and ice-lollies to sweeties and tablets, choose your poison.
Battered Mars Bar
What started as simple banter between two Scottish lads in Stonehaven is now a cultural sensation and culinary symbol of Scotland. The battered Mars Bar lies on the periphery of delicious and downright wrong — it really is that good. From the fluffiness of the batter to the way in which it wraps itself around the melted chocolate, this deep-fried trend is here to stay — you might as well try it.
Whether caramel wafer, teacake, or snowball, anything from Tunnock’s is beyond delectable. An old trusty Scottish go-to snack since 1890, this delicious brand was formed by Thomas Tunnock in Lanarkshire. As far as the teacakes go, there is nothing more satisfying than unwrapping the foil paper to unearth a whipped fluffy delight encased in a delicate layer of chocolate with a round shortbread base. The wafers possess that perfect crunch, too.
Cranachan is timeless and wonderfully delicious. Today, it is a glorious concoction of whipped cream, honey, fresh raspberries, toasted oatmeal and whisky. Soak it overnight, add an extra wee dash of dram, and away you go.
From dried fruit (in particular sultanas and currants) and suet to breadcrumbs, flour, sugar, spice, milk and (at times) golden syrup, this dessert pudding is made from all things nice. Once the ingredients are mixed and whizzed into a dough, this beauty is swaddled in a floured cloth and simmered in boiling water for a couple of hours before being dried in an oven. Recipes do tend to differ, depending on region.
Consider a black bun Scotland’s version of the iconic fruitcake. Originally, this delight was devoured mainly on the Twelfth Night. Today, it can be enjoyed throughout the year, but is often made especially on Hogmanay and acts as a gift from first-footers. Its mixture usually has raisins, currants, almonds, citrus peel, allspice, ginger, cinnamon and a dash of black pepper. The icing on this cake comes in the form of pastry.
Come rain or shine, you just can’t go wrong with an empire biscuit. Simple yet satisfying, jam makes the filling that is sandwiched in between two shortbread-style biscuits. Add a spot of icing and a glacé cherry to complete this trusty sweet snack.
Those with a penchant for plain treats will surely have a soft spot for the Abernethy biscuit. This crunchy delight has been around since the 18th century and was invented by a doctor named John Abernethy. Thought and designed to aid digestion, this butter biscuit come shortbread is immensely popular with the Scots.
Dundee Cake, a fruitcake made with currants, sultanas and almonds, has been satisfying taste buds since the 19th century. Keiller’s marmalade company claimed ownership of the name ‘Dundee Cake’ and was responsible for making a mass-produced commercial cake of this kind. On the contrary, other similar fruitcakes have always been popular in Scotland. Origins aside, concentric circles of almonds make for the most delightful decorations atop this edible creation.
It is preferable to pick up a Penguin in times that call for a chocolate fix. Known for each biscuit having a joke on the wrapper, these fail-safe treats were first made in Glasgow in 1932 by biscuit manufacturer William McDonald. By 1948, Penguin became a McVitie’s brand. Every bite is as nostalgic as the next.
Tipsy laird is the Scots version of trifle. Essentially, the concept is the same, but with a magic touch; instead of using sherry or Madeira wine, pour a bonnie amount of Drambuie or whisky into your trifle — it just gives it that extra spark.
Millionaires’ shortbread, with its distinctive taste of gooey caramel, milk chocolate and shortbread base, is so sweet that no monetary sum could ever do it justice. This moreish treat typically comes in the form of rectangles and is a popular go-to dessert item in bakeries and cafés.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.