18 Classic British Desserts That Are Absolutely Smashing
We know you're familiar with trifles and shortbread, but there are so many more British desserts that you'll want to bake at home.
Shortbread is a favorite across the United Kingdom, though it traces its roots back to Scotland. It’s believed that a version of this cookie has been made since the Middle Ages and was popular with Mary Queen of Scots.
The recipe has varied a bit across its long history, but these days you’ll find most recipes call for simply butter, sugar and flour. And the secret to the best shortbread ever: letting the dough chill.
Old English TrifleA traditional English trifle is made with sponge cake, custard, jelly, whipped cream and berries. This stunning-yet-simple dessert has been a favorite of the Brits for over 300 years.
Mincemeat PieIn the Middle Ages, mincemeat pies were a way to serve preserved meat. These days, however, mincemeat (sometimes referred to as mince) is a sweet, meat-free filling made of apples, raisins, spices and sometimes nuts. This filling is popular in pies during the holiday season, though it’s welcome during all cool months thanks to the classic apple-and-cinnamon flavor combination.
Madeira CakeThis classic British dessert is often served with Madeira wine, which is how it got its name. Similar to a pound cake, it is commonly flavored with lemon and can also be served with tea or other sweet liqueurs.
Steamed Plum PuddingPlum pudding has gone through a big transformation throughout the years. It was created in the 14th century as a savory dish made of beef, mutton, raisins and prunes. It became a dessert in the 16th century and is now made with brown sugar, currants, alcohol and spices. Some recipes use figs, hence the figgy pudding we sing about at Christmas.
Jammy DodgersThese iconic treats, sold as Jammie Dodgers, can be found everywhere in the UK—much like you can find packaged chocolate chip cookies here in the US. These cookies—er biscuits—start with a tender butter base and are filled with the jam of your choice. Finish them off with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.
Battenberg cake has made many an appearance on The Great British Baking Show. The traditional version of this cake is made with two shades of sponge cake with a jam filling and marzipan coating.
This cake first came onto the scene in Great Britain when Queen Victoria’s grandaughter (also named Victoria) married Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. Ever since it’s been a regular cake at British celebrations.
Puddings are quite popular British desserts and have very interesting names! “Dick” is a common term for pudding, possibly derived from the word “dough.” A spotted dick is a boiled pudding “spotted” with raisins.
Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch SauceIt’s been said that this recipe came from a Canadian Air Force officer during World War II. He asked a hotel manager to make it while he was in Britain. The dessert was soon adopted by another hotel, and its popularity eventually spread to the whole country. You might see it at Kensington Palace, as it is one of Kate Middleton’s favorite foods.
Jam Roly PolyFond memories surround this classic school lunch dessert. It’s a rolled pudding with layers of fruity jam in every bite. Like most other British desserts, it’s served with hot custard. Our best cake rolls are very similar to this vintage treat.
Brandy SnapsWe’ve seen brandy snaps time and time again on The Great British Baking Show. Contestant Lizzie Acker famously made a version that tasted like McDonald’s apple pies (we adore Lizzie’s blondie recipe, BTW). The classic version is made by making lacy cookies with golden syrup. The cookies are then rolled and filled with a brandy-spiked whipped cream.
FoolA fool is a classic British and Irish dessert that’s usually made with whipped cream and cooked fruit. This quick version uses rhubarb and berries.
We can’t talk about vintage British desserts without mentioning the treacle tart. Treacle is a sweet syrup similar to molasses and helps create a sticky, delicious filling for this treat.
If you’re a Potterhead, you’ll know that this is Harry’s favorite dessert. Be sure to check out our other magical Harry Potter-inspired recipes.
Welsh CakesFire up the griddle to make these sweet treats from Wales. These cakes are a real vintage British dessert: They’ve been popular in Wales since the 1800s. They can be served warm or at room temperature. Typically you’ll find them dusted with a bit of confectioners’ sugar, but you can also top them with butter or a bit of jam like you would a scone.
Bread and Butter PuddingIn the UK, folks call bread pudding bread and butter pudding. Depending on the baker, this British dessert can be made with cubed or sliced day-old bread. For a real British touch, top this with custard, though ice cream is good, too!
The Banoffee Pie was invented in the 1970s by Ian Dowding and Nigel McKenzie, the chef and owner, respectively, of The Hungry Monk restaurant in East Sussex. The name combines the two main stars of the dessert: bananas and toffee.