Recipes from Scotland 1680s to 1940s

Desserts and baking

Shortbread and Petticoat Tails

Shortbread was on sale in Scotland as early as 1608 when the Earl of Angus's steward bought it from a Glasgow baker. This shortbread was probably a plain unsweetened biscuit.

Later in the 17th century Lady Grisell Baillie gave instructions to her cook for 'short bread' made from a plain flour and butter mixture with a little sugar.

With the opening up of the New World, more sugar was being imported, but its cost meant it remained a luxury item only the very wealthy could afford.

Sugar as a major ingredient

By 1799 when Margaret Stewart began her recipe book, sugar was more reasonably priced. The proportions of her shortbread recipes had changed and sugar was a major ingredient.

Margaret Stewart's recipe book includes two shortbread recipes given to her by Mrs Lindsay of Eaglescairnie.

The first is enriched with caraway seeds, almonds (presumably ground) and orange peel, as well as sugar.

The second recipe is for 'Petticoat Tails', so-called because of their shape. They are baked as round cakes divided into wedges shaped like a lady's petticoat.

Handwritten recipe

'Short bread' and 'Petticoat Tails' from Margaret Stewart's recipe book

Margaret Stewart's recipe book, 1799. [Library reference: MS.24777]

Desserts and baking