Cranachan is a fresh Scottish dessert that was traditionally made to celebrate the raspberry harvest in June. It’s simple but super delicious! So much so that it’s even been called the “King of Scottish desserts”.
There are lots of other delicious Scottish desserts and sweet treats, including Tablet, Shortbread, Clootie Dumpling, and Dundee Cake, but given that summer in Scotland is raspberry season and how amazingly delicious they are, it would be remiss of us not to give making our own Cranachan a go!
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What makes a good Cranachan recipe?
Delving into the recipe books gave us a lot of different ideas about how to put together the perfect glass of Cranachan. The main ingredients were generally similar:
- Raspberries (although some recipes mentioned any fresh berries would do)
- Toasted oatmeal (of all sorts of varieties)
- Cream or Crowdie
- Whisky (or sometimes rum)
- Sweetener in the form of honey or sometimes sugar
Crowdie is a type of soft Scottish cheese that has been made here for centuries. You’ll sometimes see Cranachan called Crowdie instead, as it’s likely this is what it was originally made with.
So our challenge was, how do we create the perfect balance of these to make an amazing Cranachan dessert? Well, one of the best things about this dessert is that it’s all about your own taste and what you have available.
So although we’ve laid out our own version of a traditional Cranachan recipe, you’re sure to find yourself adjusting it to your own taste too.
Things You’ll Need to Make Cranachan
- Large bowl to mix everything together
- Glasses or bowls to serve in
- Electric hand mixer for beating the cream
This recipe is made to serve in four smaller glasses or two larger glasses. You can also just make it in one big bowl and dish out portions.
Ingredients for Cranachan
- 75g Oats (3/4 cup)
- 2 Tbsp Honey
- 2 Tbsp Whisky
- 250g Raspberries (about 2 Cups)
- 350ml Double Cream (Thick Cream, 1.5 cups)
You don’t need to follow these amounts to the letter by any means. If you have more or less of some things, it’s ok! We liked this amount of whisky and honey with the cream, but you can definitely add more or less to suit your own tastes. The same goes for the oats and raspberries.
Don’t worry too much about what oats you use; just whatever you have to hand should be fine, although we would avoid pinhead oats. We just used standard Scottish porridge oats, which are like rolled oats. You can use steel-cut oats as well, which have a firmer texture.
If you plan to make and serve this right away, the oats will maintain their crunch, but if you leave it in the fridge for a while before serving, they will soften. The firmer the oats to begin with the less they will soften. We prefer to leave it in the fridge for awhile and have the porridge oats soften into the cream quite a lot.
Runny honey is best, and if you can source some Scottish Heather honey, then all the better!
Use a good quality whisky since you will be able to taste it! And Scottish, of course.
I mean, obviously, you can make your own choice, but we’d recommend not going with the cheapest option as you want something that’s a bit smoother and blends nicely into the other flavours of the Cranachan recipe.
Personally, we would stay away from a very peaty whisky as the smokiness of it might be a bit strange with the other sweeter flavours of this Scottish dessert. Having said that, we do know some people who use lighter peaty whisky and love the little bit of smoky flavour it adds!
The thing about Cranachan is that it’s so simple, but it’s best to bring out the flavours with high-quality ingredients.
Cranachan was traditionally made with fresh raspberries. However, we know these aren’t always readily available or cost-effective, so it’s no problem if you make it with frozen raspberries. It’s nice to have a few fresh ones to decorate the top if you can get them, though!
If you’re using frozen raspberries, you should allow them to fully thaw before making the Cranachan. You can also split and use some frozen and some fresh.
British raspberries, and Scottish raspberries, are known to be sweeter than those grown elsewhere, which is why we haven’t included any sugar in the recipe.
North American raspberries tend to be sourer in flavour, so you may want to add a teaspoon to two of sugar to your berry mixture.
Cranachan was originally made with Crowdie, but this soft cheese isn’t always readily available for everyone. We decided to substitute entirely for cream, which is more common nowadays.
However, you can definitely do a mixture of Crowdie and cream, or even creme fraiche or mascarpone, although the latter is a bit of a different taste. We think the lightness of the cream keeps it nice and fresh and goes so well with the raspberries!
You’ll need to use a thick cream, as we use double cream in the UK.
Of course, if Crowdie is available to you and you want to go down the traditional route, then you can fully substitute the cream for Crowdie.
How to Make Cranachan – Step-by-step Method
The first step is to toast the oats. You can do this in a pan on the stovetop or in the oven.
Put the oats in a dry pan or spread them out on a tray to go under the grill. How long they need will depend on the oats you use. It took around 5 minutes for our porridge oats.
There will be a nutty sort of smell when they’re ready. Keep checking them continuously, so they don’t burn! Put in a bowl and set aside to cool.
Crush the raspberries with a small masher or fork and set aside, saving a few whole ones for a garnish.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks using an electric hand beater.
Add the whisky and the honey. Start with a smaller amount; you can always add more to taste.
Mix the cooled oats through the cream, saving a little for garnish.
Take the glasses (or bowl) and start to layer the raspberry and cream mixture. You’ll want to end with cream on top!
How many layers you do depends on the glass size and portions you’re making. We like two layers of raspberries and cream each, but if we don’t have as many raspberries, we just do one layer in the middle sometimes too.
Sprinkle the rest of the oats over the top of the last layer of cream and add a few fresh raspberries.
You can eat it right away or put it in the fridge for later. We prefer to put it in the fridge, so the oats soften a bit into the cream.
Some people like to do more of a hodge-podge Cranachan and just mix everything together than dish it into bowls or glasses. You can absolutely do this too. We recommend leaving the raspberries until last and folding them in gently so that your cream doesn’t turn all pink!
There are a few variations you can do when you make Cranachan.
Many of the older cookbooks weren’t specific about using whisky or even raspberries and just called for you to use whatever was to hand. We love to mix things up and just use what we have available!
Try Cranachan with rum instead of whisky! There are some great Scottish rums you could try it with.
If you can’t get raspberries, you can make a version of Cranachan with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or even a mixture. We think the raspberries are definitely the best, though and are what really helps to make this a classic Scottish dessert.
Cranachan without whisky
Of course, if whisky isn’t to your taste, you don’t drink alcohol, or you’re serving to children, then you can make Cranachan without whisky. You could add a little vanilla essence for some extra flavour instead if you like, but it will be just as tasty with the mixture of honey, oats, and raspberries.
Yes, that’s right! You can make Cranachan into a cheesecake version. You’ll find our Cranachan Cheesecake recipe here.
We love putting twists on traditional things (check out our Tablet Cheesecake recipe, Tablet Icecream Recipe, and Bourbon Biscuit Cake).
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Traditional Cranachan Recipe - A Simple Scottish Dessert
This traditional Cranachan recipe is simple yet delicious! It mixes fresh ingredients with classic Scottish flavours like whisky, honey, and oats. The perfect Scottish dessert!
- 75g oats (3/4 cup)
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp whisky
- 250g raspberries (about 2 cups)
- 350ml double cream (thick cream, 1.5 cups)
- Firstly, toast the oats. You can do this in a pan on the stovetop or in the oven. Put the oats in a dry pan or spread them out on a tray to go under the grill. There will be a nutty sort of smell when they’re ready. Keep checking them continuously so they don’t burn! Put in a bowl and set aside to cool.
- Crush the raspberries in a bowl and set aside, saving a few whole ones for a garnish.
- Whip the cream to stiff peaks. Add the whisky and the honey. Start with a smaller amount and you can always add more to taste.
- Mix the cooled oats through the cream, saving a little for garnish.
- Take the glasses (or bowl) and start to layer the raspberry and cream mixture, ending with cream on top.
- Sprinkle the rest of the oats over the top of the last layer of cream and add a few fresh raspberries for garnish.
- Eat it right away or put it in the fridge for later. The oats will soften a little if left in the fridge.
This recipe is enough for four smaller glasses or two larger ones. You can also make the layers in a bowl then serve out individual portions.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 448Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 21gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 100mgSodium: 26mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 6gSugar: 14gProtein: 6g
The nutritional data in this recipe is provided by a third party and these values are automatically calculated and offered for guidance only. Their accuracy is not guaranteed.
Cranachan is such a simple Scottish dessert to make, but it’s so delicious as well. It’s perfect for the end of a Burns Supper, or just to impress your friends with something traditionally Scottish at a dinner party.
We hope you enjoy it, and do let us know your own variations and methods!
Phil and Sonja x
13 thoughts on “Cranachan: A Traditional Scottish Dessert Recipe”
Looking forward to trying this recipe very much! Sounds easy and fresh, I’m salivating just thinking about it 🙂
I also wanted to say I love how your photo’s look, and make this dessert look so good!
Thank you. Miss nanny and her cooking
You’re welcome. Hopefully we can help you recreate some things!
I’m in England for my 1st New Year out of Scotland! Hogmanay is a special time of the year, I go crazy cleaning the house and making sure kids are washed and clean! Bringing in a new year everything needs to be clean, my family think I’m nuts but is an old Scottish tradition, I think….so today I’m going to make the Scottish steak pie and this desert, hopefully it’ll go down well with my family in England! Happy New Year to all when it comes 😉
Looking forward to trying this recipe. What I love best is the flexibility. Yes we don’t always have the ingredients we need, so having ideas for substitutions honours that. Options for ways to serve helpful too. I need to make it dairy free so it has to be oat cream. Burns supper here we come!
Great recipe, loved the ‘if not…then whatever’ attitude.
We make this always on 25th Jan.
I do use hand whisker even if recipes tell to use electric. Never had problems with it.