It takes just 5 ingredients to make Cranachan – a divine combination of fresh raspberries, toasted oats, honey, Scotch whisky, and mounds of fluffy whipped cream. This traditional Scottish summer dessert is a simple & quick joy to make and so pretty to look at. Impress your guests with this flavourful taste of the Scottish highlands. (Skip to the recipe.)

glasses of Cranachan, spoons, berries, and leaves

Hang on to your kilts, we’re heading to Scotland! This month for our Eat the World recipe challenge we’ll enjoy a taste of this austere but bountiful land of lochs and heather, ancient castles, rolling hills, and stunning coastline. Scotland comprises one of the four parts of the United Kingdom (along with England, Wales, and Northern Ireland) and occupies the top third of the island of Great Britain. It is a rugged land subject to extreme climate conditions, but offering a spectacular beauty in its natural landscape. The Scots are a fiercely proud and independent people, and although the culture is strongly influenced by the British, with whom they’ve been unified since 1707, the nation considers itself as a separate country with its own history, culture, and identity.

The cuisine of Scotland is a reflection of the beautiful and rugged landscape. It is comprised of top quality fresh offerings from land and sea. Fish and seafood are plentiful from the miles of Atlantic and North Sea coastline surrounding the country and reaching inland with long firths (inlets). The numerous freshwater lakes and rivers in the interior provide an additional bounty of pescatarian delights. The funny and gentle highland cattle (hairy coos) provide premium quality beef. The southern part of the country is where the crops are abundant, and that’s where you’ll find the famous Scottish raspberries which grow spectacularly well in this cool climate and are known all over the UK for their sweetness and intense flavour.

When you combine those wonderful raspberries with the traditional Scottish oats, the aromatic heather honey, rich double cream from Scottish cows, and of course, the country’s most famous export, Scotch whisky – you get a classic and beloved Scottish dessert. Cranachan (CRA-neh-kinn). This simple combination, comprised of only 5 ingredients, relies on each one being of stellar quality.

single stemmed glass with layered raspberries and cream , raspberries and leaves on table around base

How to Make the Best Cranachan if You’re Not Lucky Enough to Live in Scotland

Raspberries – use the best, sweetest fresh berries you can find. If they are still warm and sun-kissed from your own berry patch – all the better. If not, try to get fresh local raspberries from a farmer’s market or friend. If all you can find are the supermarket variety, add another tablespoon or two of honey to taste when you mash them, to get as close as possible to the flavour of sweet Scottish raspberries.

Oats – traditional Scottish cranachan uses Scottish steel cut oats, also known as pinhead oats or Irish oats. If you can get them, great. These are hulled oats cut into small chunks, but are finer than the steel-cut oats we can buy here. If you use North American steel-cut oats, the chunks are bigger and they stay firmer in the dessert, so soaking them in water for 30 to 60 minutes and then draining them before adding them to the cream helps soften them a bit. They then provide interesting chewy ‘pops’ of texture and flavour with each mouthful. (I tried one version soaking the oats in the whisky, but the whisky aftertaste was overpowering with each mouthful – it’s much gentler when the whisky is stirred into the cream.) I find that using large-flake old-fashioned rolled oats works well as a substitute and they don’t need to be soaked first.

Honey – if you can’t get heather honey, choose a local wildflower honey that you like the taste of, as it will affect the total flavour of the cranachan. There is no other sweetener, so you want your honey to be the best it can be.

Cream – try to find a heavy cream with the highest fat content you can. Regular supermarket cream usually has around 33% milk fat, but if you look around, you can sometimes find brands that are 35 to 36%. If you can get local, organic cream, so much the better. The higher butterfat will have a more luscious mouthfeel, and whip up more firmly, closer to the rich highland cream.

Whisky – it’s what makes this dessert especially Scottish. A nice, smooth blended whisky works well in cranachan. You want a good quality Scotch with a pleasant flavour, but don’t use your best, top-dollar one – that would be a waste, as the subtleties would be lost amongst the other ingredients . You also do not want a strong, peaty or smoky Scotch to overpower the delicate ingredients. A blended one of reasonable quality (not the cheapest, but not one of the outrageously expensive ones, either) is the best choice. (I’ve used Dewar’s or Glenfiddich.) Canadian rye whisky makes a good substitute if you don’t have Scotch.

A Couple Simple Steps to Making Cranachan

Once you’ve got your ingredients assembled, making the cranachan is dead easy. Just toast the oats quickly in a dry frying pan until they smell heavenly and nutty.

toasted oats in a skillet

toasting the oats

Then mash the raspberries with a fork and a bit of the honey. Whip the cream, stir in the honey, whisky, and oats.

bowl of crushed raspberries, whipped cream with oats, and oat and rapsberry garnish

bowl of mashed raspberries, whipped cream with honey, whisky, and toasted oats, and the reserved oats and berries to garnish the parfaits

Then layer it all in a bowl or fancy stemmed glasses (or short, squat, cut-glass Scotch glasses), and dessert’s done!

stemmed glass of cranachan in front, three more behind

Spoon that whisky-soaked sweet raspberry deliciousness into your mouth while you imagine a kilted bagpiper playing hauntingly in the background as you wander through a dappled Scottish glen.

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Kitchen Frau Notes: If you wish to make the cranachan non-alcoholic, use apple juice instead of the whisky, and add 1 teaspoon of vanilla to the whipping cream. It won’t have the traditional flavour, but will still be delicious.

horizontal view of cranachan in glasses

Cranachan – Scottish Raspberry Oat Cream Parfait

  • ½ cup (100gms) old-fashioned large-flake rolled oats or steel-cut (pinhead) oats
  • 12 oz (350gms/3 cups) fresh raspberries
  • 4 tablespoons liquid honey, divided (use a bit more if your berries are sour)
  • ¼ cup (60ml) Scotch whisky (a good blended variety, not a smoky, peaty one) or a Canadian rye whisky
  • 1½ cups (360ml) heavy whipping cream (preferably 35-36% milkfat or higher)

Toast the oats in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant and lightly golden. Watch them carefully and stir constantly, as they can quickly burn. It should take about 3 to 5 minutes to get them toasted. Use your sense of smell rather than sight, as they won’t brown much. Let the oats cool, and remove and set aside 2 tablespoons to use as a garnish.

Remove a few raspberries and set aside to use as a garnish (I like 3 raspberries per glass), and mash the rest in a shallow bowl with a fork. Mash in 1 tablespoon of the honey.

Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Add the Scotch whisky and 2 tablespoons of the honey and whip for another few seconds to combine.

Add the cooled, toasted oats and stir them in on slow speed with the mixer.

Layer the raspberries with the oat cream in a medium-sized serving bowl or in 4 pretty stemmed glasses or parfait glasses, ending with a whipped cream layer on top (I like starting with raspberries and making 2 layers of each). You could also swirl the raspberries through the cream to make a marbled effect and spoon that into the glasses instead of layering.

Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of honey overtop (dividing it between the glasses if making individual servings), sprinkle with the reserved toasted oats and garnish with the reserved raspberries.

Serve immediately so the oats retain some of their crunch. Alternatively, the cranachan can be made up to 3 or 4 hours ahead of time and kept chilled; the oats will have softened somewhat, but it is good that way, too.

Serves 4.

Guten Appetit!

Check out all the wonderful Scottish dishes prepared by fellow Eat the World members and share with #eattheworld. Click here to find out how to join and have fun exploring a country a month in the kitchen with us!

A Day in the Life on the Farm: Scottish Smoked Salmon Pate
Amy’s Cooking Adventures: Scottish Tattie Scones
Sneha’s Recipe: Shortbread Cookies – Scottish
Magical Ingredients: Scottish Tattie Scones
Kitchen Frau: Cranachan (Raspberry, Whisky & Oat Cream Parfaits)
Sugarlovespices: Easy Traditional Scottish Crumpets with baking powder

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