We’ve just finished reading Emma – the last of our Jane Austen novels – in book club…which means it’s time for the Book Club Bake.

Given that Emma is set in Highbury in the county of Surrey, you’re probably expecting that we’ll be baking something Georgian and genteel… but you’d be wrong…very wrong. Instead we’re making cranachan – which is sort of like a Scottish trifle. A Scottish trifle for an English book? Surely I’m having a laugh? There are, in fact, two very good reasons why we’re making cranachan: strawberries and porridge.

Emma’s father, Mr Woodhouse, eats little but gruel – oats or another cereal heated in water or milk – and one of the key scenes takes place at a strawberry-picking party. As such I decided to make something that combined both oats and strawberries. At its simplest, cranachan consists of alternate layers of oats, softly whipped cream, and (traditionally) raspberries – or, in this case, (not so traditionally) strawberries. (Note, in the pic above I’ve used raspberries.)

This is one of those recipes where you can do as much or as little to the ingredients as you like. The strawberries can go in plain (especially if they are super-fresh) or you can heat them in a saucepan with some vanilla, a sprinkle of sugar, and a little Grand Marnier or Cointreau. I like them steeped in a little whisky with a touch of honey – we’re lucky enough to have great local honey, so local that the bees feed on flowers in our and our neighbour’s yards – so that’s how I’ve done them in this recipe.

As for the oats – this is the non-negotiable part – the oats you use for this must be real traditional oats, the sort of oats you stir for porridge on a winter’s morning. Those instant porridge oats for the microwave that you get in little sachets will not work here. Pinhead oatmeal works really well but it’s (almost) impossible to get in Australia so traditional rolled oats it is.

I serve this in glasses – the one above is just an Ikea water glass, but you can be as simple or as fancy schmancy as you like. As long as it’s wide enough for you to layer in the ingredients and push a spoon around it will do the job.

Alrighty, without further ado, here’s the recipe…such as it is…although it really is more of a collection of ingredients than a recipe.


(serves 3-4…ish up or down the quantities as you need)

What you need…

  • 50g (2oz) oats – I’ll say it again – not the instant/quick/microwave/sachet ones
  • 25g (1oz) soft brown sugar
  • 300ml (½ pint) double cream or whatever whipping cream is called where you’re from
  • 200g (8oz) raspberries or, in this case, strawberries, hulled and halved (or if they’re massive, quartered)
  • 2tbsp whisky or Drambuie, Grand Marnier or Cointreau… It’s optional so pick one or none.
  • 3 tbsp honey, warmed

What you do with it…

Pop the oats and brown sugar into a frypan, stir it about, and watch them like a hawk – in fact, don’t take your eyes off them for one second – until the sugar has melted into the oats and they’re all toasted beautifully. As they cool, they get really crunchy, but you don’t want them to get too clumpy or you risk breaking a tooth on them. #neveragoodlook

Softly whip the cream until it’s pillowy and airy. It’s up to you whether you do this by hand or make some more washing up by using handheld beaters (for a job this small I couldn’t be faffed using the stand mixer).

Mix together the whisky and warm honey and set aside about a tablespoon for drizzling at the end. Toss the berries in the rest of it.

Now you’re ready to layer up – berries, oatmeal, cream, repeat – and maybe finish it with a few more berries or a sprinkling of oats and a drizzle of the remaining honey and whisky. Perhaps even a wee dram on the side – something I don’t think either Emma or Mr Woodhouse would imbibe in, but I suspect Mr Knightley could from time to time…

Too easy!

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

13 thoughts

  1. I remember a friend making this at a Burns Night supper. Very tasty! Thank you for sharing and reminding me of a happy memory


  2. This is one way I might actually eat oatmeal! I typically only use my rolled oats for snacks and backs since I don’t like the texture of actual oatmeal. It looks delicious.


  3. This sounds like a great cooking session, and I love the reasoning behind making this dish. Thanks Jo, see you soon to make some Cranachan 🙂


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