Want a great way to enjoy raspberries? Look no further than this traditional Scottish dessert: cranachan. You'll love each bite of raspberries, toasted oats, and cream flavored with whisky and honey.
Despite its current fame as one of the best Scottish desserts, it originally started as a breakfast dish made with crowdie (a cow's milk cheese), oats, and honey. Raspberries were added when they were in season (around June).
Over time, cranachan became Scotland's version of England's Eton mess, and was eventually turned into a dessert. It's now more commonly made with whipped cream instead of crowdie. You'll enjoy eating this because it celebrates of some the best-known Scottish foods: raspberries, oats, heather honey, and whisky.
Why This Recipe Works
- There's a clever way to substitute the Scottish raspberries. Scottish raspberries are famed throughout the UK for their sweeter flavor, which is due to Scotland's longer days and slower ripening. Since these berries aren't available in the US, we used organic berries and added a little sugar to imitate the sweeter flavor of Scottish berries.
- It's made with steel cut (pinhead) oats. This is the traditional type of oats used in this dessert, and they add lots of texture!
- Use heather honey if you can. This Scottish-made honey has a unique flavor, which brings another layer of authenticity to this dessert.
Wondering what you need to make your own amazing cranachan? Fortunately, there's only a few simple ingredients you need!
- Raspberries: Unfortunately, we can't get the amazing fresh Scottish raspberries in the US that make this dessert extra special, but don't worry! Simply add a little sugar to the mashed berries to simulate the sweeter Scottish ones.
- Oatmeal: The traditional choice is to use steel cut oatmeal, which is known as pinhead oatmeal in the UK. Some people prefer the rolled porridge oats or medium oatmeal instead, but we like the texture of the pinhead oats.
- Whisky: Obviously, choose a good scotch, and make sure that it's unpeated and has a sweet, fruity finish. (Some people like the earthy, smoky flavor of a peated whisky in cranachan, but an unpeated whisky does blend better with the cream and berries.) Either single malts or blends work well, but we used a single malt with good results.
- Cream: Standard heavy cream (double cream in the UK) is the best choice here.
- Honey: Use Scottish heather honey in the cream, which has a lovely flavor. If you can't get heather honey, use the best quality runny honey (not creamed honey). We used a good quality local honey.
See recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
How to Make
Gather the ingredients for the cranachan.
- Spread the oatmeal on a small cookie sheet and toast it under the broiler for 3-4 minutes, or until it's lightly browned and smells nutty. Let it cool completely on the pan.
- Mash all the raspberries (except 12 for garnishing later) in a large bowl, then stir in the sugar and set aside to macerate while you make the cream.
3. Pour the cream into a large mixing bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Add the whisky and honey, then taste and adjust as desired. Beat the mixture until stiff peaks form.
4. Layer the cream, oatmeal, and raspberries in heavy-based whisky glasses. Start with a layer of cream, then toasted oatmeal. For the best presentation, consider piping the cream and raspberries.
5. Add a layer of the crushed raspberries, then repeat the layers again.
6. Garnish each cranachan with toasted oatmeal and 3 fresh raspberries. Serve immediately for a crunchy cranachan, or chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours to allow the oatmeal to soften.
Cranachan is made from quintessential Scottish ingredients: raspberries, oats, honey, and Scottish whisky. Traditionally, cranachan was made with crowdie, a cow's milk cheese, instead of the whipped double cream that's used now. It's traditional to use Scottish pinhead oats (known as steel-cut in the US) and heather honey in this dessert.
Known as the "king of Scottish desserts," cranachan's name is the Scottish Gaelic term for "churn." This is because the dessert was originally made with a cow's milk cheese called crowdie instead of whipped cream.
No, cranachan isn't a parfait, although it does resemble the American version of parfait. The traditional French parfait is a frozen dessert made from egg custard, while the American version is made from yogurt layered with granola and fruit. Parfait in the UK can refer to pâté sweetened with liqueur.
Although cranachan looks like it would be tricky to say, fortunately it's quite simple to pronounce! Phonetically, it's pronounced KRAN-ah-kin.
Cranachan was originally served as a breakfast food year round in Scotland, with the raspberries added when they were in season (June). Since imported raspberries can be available year round, this dessert is served on St. Andrew's Day or at any Scottish celebration. It is also often served as the dessert at a Burns Supper, which are held every January 25 to celebrate the life of Scotland's best known poet, Robert Burns.
It's popular to serve all the components of the cranachan separately to allow each guest to assemble their own cranachan according to their tastes. Alternatively, you can assemble them all in your kitchen and serve them already made to your guests.
Make Ahead: It's best to eat cranachan right away after assembling it, but you can toast the oats and mash the raspberries ahead of time. Then, simply whisk the cream mixture and assemble the cranachan when you're ready to eat them.
You can also assemble the cranachan and chill them for 1-2 hours to allow the oats to soften and the flavors to meld. Don't allow them to sit much longer than this, or they'll become soggy and unappetizing.
Soaking the Oats: Some people prefer to soak three quarters of the toasted oats overnight in whisky, then fold the soaked oats into the whisked cream the following day.
- The ingredients in cranachan are quite simple, so make sure you're using the best quality ingredients (preferably Scottish if you can get them).
- Add a little sugar to the mashed raspberries to simulate the sweeter Scottish ones.
- Use steel cut oats (pinhead in the UK) for the best texture. Some people prefer using rolled porridge oats or medium oatmeal, but we like the texture of pinhead.
- Choose a good, unpeated scotch with a sweet, fruity finish. Either single malts or blends work well; we used a single malt.
- Use Scottish heather honey if you can get it, or a good quality runny honey (not creamed honey).
Other British Recipes
If you liked this recipe and found it helpful, give it some love by sharing!
The pleasure of a 5-star review would be greatly appreciated!
Traditional Cranachan Recipe
- ½ cup steel-cut (pinhead) oats
- 1 pound fresh raspberries, preferably Scottish
- 2 teaspoons sugar, optional; omit if using Scottish raspberries
- 1 ¾ cup heavy whipping cream (double cream)
- 3 tablespoons runny honey, preferably Scottish heather honey
- 3 tablespoons unpeated Scottish whisky, single malt or blended
Preparing the Cranachan
- Spread the oats on a small baking tray and toast them under the broiler on high in the upper third of the oven for 3-4 minutes, or until they are browned and smell nutty. Stir them halfway through, and watch them closely to prevent burning.
- Optional: Soak three quarters (64g) of the oats in ⅓ cup (78 ml) of whisky overnight. Reserve the remaining toasted oats for garnish.
- Reserve 12 of the best-looking raspberries for garnish, then crush the remaining berries in a large bowl. If you're not using sweet Scottish raspberries, add the sugar and stir well, then set aside to macerate.
- Pour the cream into a large mixing bowl and beat with a mixer until it holds soft peaks. Add the whisky and honey, then beat until combined. Adjust amounts of whisky and honey to taste, then beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
Serving the Cranachan
- For layered cranachan, pipe or spoon a layer of the whisky cream into the bottom of four heavy-based, lowball whisky glasses. Sprinkle with the toasted oats, then add a layer of the raspberry mixture, then add another layer each of cream, oats, and raspberry.
- For all-in-one cranachan, fold three quarters of the toasted oats (or all of the whisky-soaked oats) into the cream mixture, reserving the rest for garnish. You can also fold in the raspberry mixture if you like, or layer it with the cream.
- Alternatively, you can keep all the ingredients separate and allow each guest to assemble their own cranachan they way they like best.
- Garnish each glass with a sprinkle of toasted oats, a drizzle of honey, and three fresh raspberries.
- Serve immediately for a crunchy cranachan, or chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours to allow the oats to soften before serving.
- The ingredients in cranachan are quite simple, so make sure you're using Scottish ingredients or at least the best quality ones you can get.
- Raspberries: Scottish raspberries aren't available in the US, but don't worry! Simply add a little sugar to the mashed berries to simulate the sweeter Scottish ones.
- Oatmeal: The traditional choice is to use steel cut oats (pinhead in the UK). Some people prefer using rolled porridge oats or medium oatmeal instead, but we like the texture of pinhead.
- Whisky: Any good scotch will work well here; just make sure that it's unpeated and has a sweet, fruity finish. (Some people like the earthy, smoky flavor of a peated whisky in cranachan, but an unpeated whisky does blend better with the cream and berries.) Either single malts or blends work well; we used a single malt.
- Honey: Use Scottish heather honey in the cream, which has a lovely flavor. If you can't get heather honey, use a good quality runny honey (not creamed honey). We used local honey.
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.