Great British Bakes: Make this easy Norfolk shortcake

Follow the recipe for our Norfolk shortcakes with a twist Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Follow the recipe for our Norfolk shortcakes with a twist Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Archant

Food and drink editor Charlotte Smith-Jarvis shares her twist on a classic East Anglian bake that’s somewhere between a biscuit and a scones.

It’s been a funny old time hasn’t it? Lockdown. I never thought I’d find myself openly weeping in a supermarket aisle, surveying the empty spaces where once there’d been flour, yeast, brown sugar, condensed milk. But I did. Twice. And I’m sure I’m not alone. Baking is my sanity, and the thought of being unable to whip up a batch of scones or a sponge at a whim was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me at the start of social distancing. Not the home schooling (ick). Home working (in my PJs). Or the fact I couldn’t see my friends or family. Thankfully flour and yeast provisions are slowly creeping back up. If you haven’t been able to get any contact your local bakery – many are divvying up portions for customers to collect. Some will even deliver.

My larder is positively overflowing with flour now, courtesy of my mum. And my town’s deli is flogging 100g pots of frozen yeast for just 25p. Bargainous.

So I thought now, as panic buying appears to slacken off (but with social distancing measures still firmly in place) would be a good time to introduce my new series of recipes – Great British Bakes. Over the coming weeks and months I’ll be sharing cakes, bakes, puddings and pies from all over these glorious isles. This week we’re in East Anglia on the sunrise coast, making Norfolk shortcake. Sitting somewhere between a heavy scone and a biscuit, the defining factor of one of these traditional beauties is a profusion of dried fruit – with some Norfolk folk saying they’d referred to them as ‘squashed fly cakes’ as children.

I’ve eaten variations of the simple bake across the county. Some fluffy, fruit-laden rounds. Others squares of shortbread topped with a squishy, sultana stuffed cake mixture. The variety I’ve come to love the best is rectangular, crisp and crumbly, with a bit of give in the middle and a crust of sugar on top.

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The recipe given is adapted from one shared with me by the lovely Doreen Graham of Brundall and Braydeston WI to which I’ve added Norfolk lavender and a hint of lemon. If you think you’re in possession of the original recipe I’d love to see it. And tell me about your favourite regional cakes and bakes. Email me

Norfolk shortcakes are the ideal partner in crime for a cup of tea (Earl Grey is perfect) and a spot of strawberry jam dolloped on top while they’re still warm is an inauthentic but delicious addition too.

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Lemon and lavender Norfolk shortcakes

(makes 10)


450g self-raising flour

1/4tsp dried culinary lavender (optional)

Zest 1 lemon (optional)

225g butter or margarine (I used Pure sunflower spread preferring the lightness it gives the finished product

150g raisins, sultanas or both

A handful of caster sugar

1 egg, beaten

Extra caster sugar to finish


Preheat the oven to 180C.

Rub the butter or margarine into the flour until you have breadcrumbs. If you’re flavouring the dough, add the lemon zest and lavender now.

Add just enough water, spoon by spoon, to bring the mixture into a rollable dough.

Roll it out to 30cm by 20cm on a floured surface. Scatter the dried fruit lengthways along one half of the dough and sprinkle liberally with sugar to cover.

Brush the plain half of the dough with beaten egg and press over the fruit to seal.

Tidy the edges with a knife, cutting off any rough parts and then slices into 2cm wide rectangles. Squash each one gently to press the fruit into the dough. Brush the tops with egg (not traditional) and sprinkle with a little more sugar.

Bake for 15 minutes initially although they may need up to 20 to turn lovely and golden brown.

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