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Empire Biscuits

Much like the British Royal Family, who were once ‘Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’ but are now the very English-sounding ‘Windsor’, Empire biscuits were once known as ‘German’ biscuits in the UK. Actually, before that, they were called Linzer biscuits, named after the Austrian city of Linz and an existing popular holiday treat, the Linzer torte.
Usually eaten at Christmas, this famous crumbly pastry was covered with fruit preserve, typically raspberry or redcurrant jam, and then topped with a pastry lattice. The Linzer torte is recorded as early as the 17th century, and at some point a similar but smaller jammy treat with added icing and cherry emerged.
This ‘German’ biscuit (Linz is just under 40 miles from the German border) possibly got its name in a similar way to those thin strips of deep-fried potato in Belgium becoming ‘French fries’. The story goes that US soldiers first tasted chips when stationed in the French-speaking part of Belgium during World War I. Similarly, ‘German’ biscuits were renamed to be on our side of the war effort. They couldn’t revert to Linzer biscuits, as we were also at war with Austria. So what name could be more appealing to the British Empire than simply Empire biscuits?
Interestingly, they are still known as ‘German’ biscuits in Northern Ireland. And to add to the confusion, they are referred to as ‘Belgian’ biscuits in New Zealand!
Course Dessert
Cuisine Baking
Keyword Biscuit, Glace Cherry, Icing, Linzer biscuits
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Cost £6


  • 300 g plain flour
  • 200 g butter
  • 180 g icing sugar
  • 100 g sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • Raspberry jam
  • Glacé cherries for decorating or sprinkles if you prefer.


  • Preheat your oven to 180°C / fan 160°/ Gas Mark 4.
  • Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until they are combined.
  • Add the egg and mix well.
  • Sift in the plain flour and mix together to make a dough. At this point, I usually get in with my hands as it's easier.
  • Roll the dough on a floured surface to around 1cm thick.
  • Using a round cutter or a glass, cut your biscuit shapes and add them to the baking tray.
  • Place in the oven and bake for around ten minutes, or until the edges of the biscuits are just golden brown.
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  • Pair up the biscuits and add a teaspoon’s worth of jam to one biscuit, sandwiching the other one on top.
  • Make the icing by gradually adding water to the icing sugar.
  • The icing should be thick but not stiff, with a gloopy consistency.
  • Add a dollop of icing to each biscuit and top with a halved glacé cherry.