My main memory of empire biscuits, isn’t as you might think of being a young child picking off the sweetie on top and licking off the icing. I am sure I did do that, it certainly sounds like me, but no. My overriding memory of Empire biscuits is much more recent and in fact within the past 6 years.

Empire biscuits

It has entirely happy recollections of early romance, when Matt and I would sit in the Boyd Orr cafe drinking coffee and eating Empire biscuits. Not too much later on I realised how the Empire biscuit was perfectly suited to giving you a much needed sugar high at 10 o’clock at night when you have a Uni deadline the next day.

Thankfully the days of late nights and university deadlines are long gone, but it had been entirely too long since I had my last Empire biscuit. Of course these days I have much more time in the evenings to make my own.

I started scouring the internet for Empire Biscuit recipes, these (“cookies”) biscuits have been known as many things over the years, their origins come from the Linzer biscuit (two biscuits sandwiched together with a jam filling), it seems like the Scots added even more sugar (no real surprises there) and a glace cherry or sweetie to the top. These were initially called German biscuits – but that changed soon after the start of WW1 – to the much more patriotic name we know them by now.

Lots of Empire Biscuits

The main problem I had with this recipe was to find the proper type of sweetie for the top (glace cherries are pretty but not the way I remember them), it should be a jelly sweet and a sort of circular pyramid shape. But I couldn’t find them anywhere, so in the end I made do with jelly diamonds, they tasted exactly right – it was just the shape that was wrong!

The recipe I used was great for a buttery flaky melt in your mouth biscuit, but it was difficult to roll out (much better when it was really cold). Next time I think I would try and find a more solid biscuit, as while these ones were divine they were difficult to eat without dropping large chunks all around you.

Empire Biscuits Recipe

~ 1 dozen sandwich biscuits. Made from this recipe.

Total Time: 50 minutes
Preparation Time: 10 minutes + 30 minutes cooling time
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Makes delicious jam sandwich cookies topped with icing.

  • 225g butter, softened
  • 100g white sugar
  • 250g sifted all-purpose flour
  • 170g cherry preserves, I didn’t measure mine but it was about 1tsp per sandwiched biscuit.
  • 12 maraschino cherries, or jelly diamonds (sometimes referred to as jube-jubes)
  • 240g Icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp of water

Preheat the oven to 180oC (350oF).

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Once fully mixed begin to add in the sifted flour in stages, mixing throughly at each stage. It should create a breadcrumb like texture that when packed together becomes more solid.

I would suggest forming a ball with the mixture and refrigerating for at least 30 minutes, more if possible.

Once ready to roll flour your work surface and rolling pin throughly, as it gets the mixture gets warmer it will become very sticky. Roll to about 1/4 inch thick and cut into rounds with a cookie cutter (I made a few larger biscuits and a lot of smaller ones – I find the big ones tough to finish). If you are making different sizes make sure you make even numbers, as they will needed to be paired later.

Place each biscuit onto a well greased baking sheet (or use a non-stick liner like me), spacing each one as they spread more than you would imagine and cook for 8-10 minutes (my larger ones took longer) till starting to turn golden.

Be careful when removing them from the baking sheet as they are still very fragile when hot, they firm up as they cool.

While they cool, mix up the icing sugar and water into a thick paste. Once cooled sandwich the biscuits with a teaspoon of preserve top with icing sugar and press your jelly sweetie or glace cherry on top. They are best left overnight to allow the jam to soak into the biscuit and the icing to harden.