By Keighley’s Mike Armstrong, an award-winning master baker with a big passion for baking. See

AS you probably know by now I’m a big fan of traditional biscuit-making and this week’s recipe is Empire biscuits.

Formerly known as German biscuits, bakers changed the name of the snack to Empire during the First World War.

The name change was an attempt to inspire a patriotic feel across the country during the war.

For me these are a sort of biscuit that I can remember from when I was growing-up, behind glass counters at our local bakers or corner shop as part of a selection of cakes Nana would have put out on our visits.

Empire biscuits are one of those special bakes that stay with you from the moment you take your first bite.

How the biscuit crumbles, the jam oozes out the sides and sticks to your fingers and the icing thickly coated across the top leaves your teeth marks behind.

The Empire biscuit has many different names – the assortment of names is actually longer than the ingredient list.

You can call them German, Imperial, Scottish, Empire, Belgian, double shortbread, freedom or Linzer biscuits, to name but a few.

They have a certain charm about them.

Perhaps if I was faced today with the sort of biscuits that I ate as a child I might be a little more picky, but in my mind they are a firm favourite.

Certainly my inner child was quite excited with how my batch of Empire biscuits turned out.

The recipe is a simple shortbread biscuit, sandwiched together with jam as a good fill and fruity flavour as it has to stand-up to the biscuit and icing. Robust raspberry or strawberry is traditional and it’s best leaving the Empire biscuit overnight to enable the icing and jam to set.

If you are feeling adventurous, you could replace the cherries with jelly sweets.

These biscuits are great to make with the kids or as part of an afternoon tea while watching Escape to the Country, but keep it a secret – they’re really easy to make.

All this excitement over a biscuit – twisting it apart, licking off the jam, then comes the icing and the cherry popped in your mouth last to complete the process. These days I don’t have the patience and would devour one for breakfast.




300g / 11oz plain flour, sift

200g / 7oz salted butter, softened

100g / 4oz caster sugar

1 large egg, beaten

Strawberry or raspberry jam

180g / 10oz icing sugar

Glace cherries or jelly sweets to decorate


1. Add the sugar and butter to a large mixing bowl and beat well till light and fluffy.

2. Add the flour and egg and mix until you have a soft dough, using your hands.

3. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness, then stamp out circles using a 3-inch serrated scone cutter.

4. Place your biscuits onto lined baking trays and bake in a preheated oven 180C / Gas Mark 4 for around 12 minutes till light golden.

5. Allow to cool before spreading over half the biscuits with jam, then sandwich the remaining biscuits gently on top.

6. Mix the icing with enough cold water to form a thick consistency before dipping the top of the biscuits in the icing.

7. Place half a cherry or jelly sweet in the middle of each biscuit and allow to set before eating.