Millionaire shortbread brings back memories from abroad

Photo By: butterygoodness
Photo By:  butterygoodness
Photo By: butterygoodness

Like many students, I studied abroad in London my junior year. Although London is a popular JYA destination, and most students that go there generally love every minute of the experience, it is not the food that one normally hears rave reviews about upon students’ return. I however, did enjoy the food. Well, one food in particular—millionaire shortbread.

Therefore, it was only natural that I would try to recreate this snack once I had returned to the United States.

This delectable dessert seems simple enough. It is composed of three layers: shortbread on the bottom, caramel in the middle, chocolate on top, delicious through and through. While in the United Kingdom last fall, I ate these things whenever the opportunity presented itself—at Starbucks, in the British Museum, and at every bakery and coffee shop I passed on the street. Therefore, I consider myself something of a connoisseur of millionaire shortbread.

As I had previously never made this particular dessert, I decided to consult the internet to find a recipe. Initially, I wanted to use the recipe from the British Broadcasting Company (BBC). However, I soon found that the measurements were, obviously, in the metric system.

So I looked elsewhere. However, I was in luck; the Food Network had a recipe which closely resembled the one from the BBC and I settled on using that one.

Anyone who intends to undertake baking millionaire shortbread using The Food Network’s recipe should be warned that the alleged one hour and fifteen minute “total time” is woefully inaccurate. These shortbread desserts actually took me five hours. Literally five hours. And I’m not using “literally” to mean figuratively.

In spite of this, however the end result made it worth it.

First of all: the shortbread. This may quite possibly be the easiest of the three layers, as well as the tastiest. This seemed like a good start to my British baking adventure.

I just mixed the flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor and tried not to eat all of the dough before I baked it, because it tasted that delicious.

While I waited for the shortbread to finish baking, I began my struggles with the caramel. Truth be told, I found the “caramel”—composed of sweetened condensed milk and butter—to be rather disappointing. The process described by The Food Network lead to an end result that tasted suspiciously like sweetened condensed milk and nothing else. That being said, when it is eaten with the other layers of the dessert, it is actually quite passable.

This caramel making process took far longer than the supposed fifteen minutes suggested by the Food Network, and I found myself frantically wondering what exactly qualifies as “thick and amber in color” around the thirty-minute mark of stirring the mixture. Eventually, I gave up on the caramel. It had certainly changed colors and gotten thicker so I decided to move on and pour it over the now cooled shortbread.

After three-and-a-half hours of food preparation, I had reached the final stage: the chocolate. All I had to do was melt the chocolate. This part seemed like it would be easy enough. Anyone can melt chocolate. In fact, chocolate practically melts itself.

After finding a glass bowl that would fit in the pot I was using to boil the water for heat, I broke the milk chocolate bars into tiny pieces and got to work. After about an hour of melting the chocolate, it was far from smooth. I would have had better luck if I had carried it in my pocket for the rest of the evening until it was soft enough, rubbed it across the top of the caramel, and called it a day.

Finally, and again, I gave up. The directions suggested that I should “pour the chocolate over the cooled caramel layer”.

This seemed outrageous as I stared at the chunky mess I had created but, although what I did next was not so much pouring as scooping, the chocolate was warm enough that it spread easily across the two tins of shortbread.

At last, I could enjoy the fruits of my labor. The millionaire shortbreads I created were rather tasty (although they were not, admittedly, the best that I have ever had) and my family quite enjoyed them, finally understanding what I had been going on about for the past eight months since I had been in London.

I would make them again, with the stipulation that I would take a different approach to making the caramel. I even caught my chia seed and quinoa-obsessed father eating more than one of these buttery, sugary treats at once, which basically means I consider them to have been a success.

The Recipe




2 sticks butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for preparing pans

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for preparing pans

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt


Caramel Layer:

2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons butter


Chocolate Topping:

3/4 pound good-quality milk chocolate



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter 2 (8-inch) square nonstick pans and coat with flour, tapping off excess. Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse once. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles peas.

Press the shortbread mixture into prepared pans and bake until golden brown around the edges, about 20 minutes.

Remove the pans from the oven and let them cool completely.


Caramel Layer:

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the condensed milk and 2 tablespoons of butter. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continuously. Continue stirring over the heat until mixture becomes thick and amber in color, about 15 minutes. Pour the caramel over the cooked shortbread and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Cool to room temperature.


Chocolate Topping:

In a glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. Once chocolate has melted, pour it over the cooled caramel layer.

Cool at room temperature for about 10 minutes, and then place in the refrigerator to cool completely, allowing chocolate to slightly harden but not get hard. Cut into 2-inch squares and enjoy, or store in an airtight container, at room temperature, or my favorite – keep in the refrigerator for a yummy sweet and cool treat!


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