Winter cranachan with whisky custard

Cranachan (pronounced cran-ock – apparently). It’s a lightly creamy, slightly crunchy, sweetly tart Scottish dessert. It’s built for summer. The thing is – it’s definitely not summer, and it’s absolutely not raspberry season. But with Burns Night around the corner, I’m not letting that stop me. This is my Winterised Cranachan.

winter cranachan with whisky custard

If you know what I mean by Burns Night, you’re welcome to just skip on down the post. It’s a celebration of the life and work of Scottish poet Robert Burns, whose birthday is on January 25. Dinner usually involves haggis, Scottish whisky, poetry and dessert (obviously).

A traditional cranachan combines fresh raspberries, whipped cream and toasted oats. For Burns Night, I’ve combined a few of my favorite Scottish things into a seasonally appropriate, rich and boozy version. It combines a whisky-spiked custard, macerated frozen raspberries and crumbled shortbread cookies into a winter cranachan fit for a chilly evening.

winter cranachan with whisky custard

You don’t have to use whisky for the custard but … why wouldn’t you? My preference is Glenmorangie 10 year. Its floral, delicate flavor doesn’t overpower the creaminess of the custard or the tartness of the raspberries. Even though I love everything smoky, in this case I would steer clear of a peated whisky, as you risk the taste of barbecued dessert.

You can make everything in advance and construct it just before serving.

Note: I know a few people who can’t eat eggs (understandable) or hate custard (not understandable), so I’ve included a little note about a substitution if you fall into either of those categories.

Winter cranachan

Serves: 2-4, depending on how generous your portions are

Whisky-soaked raspberries
100 grams frozen raspberries
1 tsp honey (heather honey if you have it)
20 mL (just over 1 tbsp) Scottish (non-peated) whisky

Mix the raspberries, honey and whisky in a jar and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 1 day. After the first 30 minutes, crush the raspberries down to ensure they’re all sitting in liquid.

Whisky custard*
2 egg yolks
30 g (2 tbsp) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
120 mL double (heavy) cream
1 tsp Scottish (non-peated) whisky (optional)

Set a small, heavy bottomed sauce pan on to very low heat. Add the cream and vanilla, and heat it until bubbles start to form or it starts to noticeably thicken. This will take a few minutes, but don’t walk away!

Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar together until smooth.

Once your cream is ready, take the pan off the heat. Very slowly pour a thin stream of warm cream into the egg, occasionally whisking, until about half the cream is incorporated into the egg.

Still off the heat, slowly pour the egg/cream mix back into the saucepan and whisk them together.

Put the pan back on the heat and keep whisking.

It’s ready when it coats the back of a spoon, but you can keep cooking for longer for a thicker custard. (It will thicken even more in the refrigerator.)

Off the heat, stir in the whisky and refrigerate until you’re ready to construct.


50 g shortbread cookies

Crush up the shortbread cookies until you have rough pieces. Don’t turn them into dust.

In dessert dishes or lowball drinking glasses, alternate layers of raspberries, custard and crushed shortbread. Save your bigger pieces of shortbread for the topping.

* Whisky whipped cream
120 mL double/heavy cream
2 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
1 tsp Scottish whisky
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the cream, sugar, whisky and vanilla. Whisk by hand or use an electric mixer, until you get stiff peaks.

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