Scottish Tea Cakes: The S'mores & Shortbread Mashup You Need To Know

Aside from water, tea is the most consumed beverage globally. While Americans drink their fair share of the beverage, the nations that are the true tea-consuming champions may surprise you. The Atlantic reports that Turkey drinks the most tea, followed by Ireland, and rounding out the third spot is the U.K. With so much tea being consumed internationally, it's no surprise that nations across the globe have their own takes on the best ways to pair the hot beverage. 

Tea cakes can be found all over the world and they can take the form of any sweet that goes nicely with a hot cup, from classic shortbreads and sugar cookies to more unique treats. While much of the U.K. often opt for a nice standard tea biscuit or yeasted buns, Scotland's go-to tea pairing is likely not what you'd expect. The Scottish tea cake comes in the form of a chocolate-covered marshmallow that's perched on top of a shortbread cookie. And, once you try this fluffy indulgence, you'll likely be craving them with all your morning brews. 

History of Scottish tea cakes

The tradition of tea cakes started in Great Britain in the mid-19th century. Afternoon tea was and still is a common practice, historically used to ward off hunger between meals. Tea cakes and other small bites began accompanying the tea itself and this ritual soon spread globally. This custom was adopted in many countries as a result of British colonialism, which is why countries from America to India to Scotland have developed their own unique sweets.

When it comes to the Scottish version, no tea cake is more famous than the original creators' recipe, Tunnock's. Tunnock's tea cakes, featuring a classic chocolate-covered marshmallow-topped cookie, was started in Uddingston, a small town in southern Scotland near Glasgow. Right before the turn of the 20th century, the founder Thomas Tunnock began his bakery, which became famous locally and soon started selling some of its most iconic products in the 1950s. 

Long after Thomas had died, his grandson, Boyd Tunnock came up with the idea for the iconic tea cake. Using meringue, he covered a cookie with the fluffy dessert and doused them both in chocolate. The tea cake was released in 1956, and it hasn't stopped selling since. Today, Tunnock's cakes, and any version of Scottish tea cakes, are a staple in the nation. They're still commonly paired alongside afternoon tea and with an ingredient list as divine as these cakes, we can't blame the Scots for their fondness.

Ingredients in Scottish tea cakes

The crumbly cookies inside this cake are typically shortbread cookies, a perfect pair to an average cup of tea. When dipped into the tea, shortbreads do a great job absorbing the beverage while also holding their own. For this cake's shortbread rendition, all that's needed is some all-purpose flour, sugar, butter, milk, and baking powder. This will yield you a perfectly crisp shortbread that contrasts well against the fluffy marshmallow and crackling chocolate. Some cocoa powder can also be added for an extra chocolatey cookie version of this cake.

When it comes to the marshmallow ingredients, egg whites, sugar, gelatine powder, and some water will whip up into the desired airy filling. While you can enjoy a plain marshmallow inside, the filling can take on different flavors, as well. Adding a few dashes of cocoa powder or coffee powder can add an extra element of taste. Other extracts or colorings can also be thrown in to add an additional flair when biting into your gooey marshmallow-stuffed cake. Sometimes some jam sandwiched between the marshmallow and cookie is present, as well. The entire cake is covered in melted chocolate, and it can be made right at home.

How Scottish tea cakes are made and eaten

While you can go purchase a box of the famous Tannock's teacakes yourself, it's still possible to make this fluffy treat at home. While beginner bakers may struggle slightly more with this recipe, this dish is worth the endeavor. The ingredients for the cookie part can get mixed together first and it will eventually form a dough. The dough then gets chilled, rolled out, and cut into circular cookie shapes. Once they're cut out, they can be placed back in the fridge to cool once again. They'll then get baked until dark and crispy.

Making the recipe's marshmallow filling is also a pretty simple task. The sweet ingredients, along with any additional flavorings, get whisked together until the marshmallow achieves stiff peaks. This mixture can be transferred into a piping bag and then the two parts are ready to assemble. When it comes to making the iconic dome shape of the cake, the best way is to use silicone molds. 

Melted chocolate gets poured into each cup and evenly spread over the surface. The molds should then be put in the fridge to harden. Once they're ready, the marshmallow can be piped in with the cookie placed on top. The tops should also be covered with extra melted chocolate to complete the look. The cookies will set in the fridge, and then they're ready to pop out and enjoy with a piping hot cup of afternoon tea.