Wholemeal ‘Shakespeare’ Shortbread

In this wholemeal shortbread recipe, wholemeal flour adds a delicious, mealy flavour, similar to a digestive biscuit, which undercuts the usually super sugary biscuit.

wholemeal shortbread

I haven’t felt truly happy since Bakespeare ended last year. It was my nirvana. I peaked, and I would never again feel those heady heights of pure, kooky blog fun. It was a blog series that lasted throughout April, of baked goods based around Shakespeare plays. If I would like anything to be my blogging legacy, it would be that: nine recipes (and puns) that I was genuinely proud of. Hamlette, Romeo and Chouxliet, Macaronbeth (I’m pretty sure I just really loved the puns.)  All handily collected here, in case you’re interested.

Since today is Shakespeare’s birthday, I thought it was only right to honour the occasion with some quirky shortbread biscuits, cut out to look like the birthday Bard himself. (That reminds me: The Battenbard was another Shakespeare-themed recipe.)

Now, before you all think of me as some kind of shortbread-moulding-wonder, this wholemeal shortbread is made to look like William Shakespeare thanks to a cookie cutter. I’d spied this a while ago on a literature gifts website (when I was supposed to be looking for gifts for a friend…) but was gutted to find out it was out of stock. At the time, it was the only place I’d seen it, so I kept checking back every so often to see if it reappeared, but to no avail. Just before last Christmas, it appeared on another book gifts website (I’d continually checked them all my quest to find a Shakespeare cutter) and I immediately emailed the link to my mum with the subject ‘Christmas present hint’. (As you can see, it worked!). There’s also an Edgar Allan Poe cutter, a Charles Dickens cutter and a Jane Austen cutter and I really, really think I need the set.

(I’ve come to look for it again to link it here, in case anyone else is interested, and alas, it is sold out once again. Keep checking on booklovergifts.com though, that’s where I found mine.)

I’ve mentioned before about how I’ve been loving wholemeal flour lately. In some recipes, it just isn’t a substitute, but sometimes there’ll be a recipe that was almost made for wholemeal flour. This is one of those. Sometimes wholemeal flour can be quite dry, but in this recipe, it is so easy to use. It has a taste almost like a sweet, crumbly digestive biscuit. It gives a really unusual twist on traditional shortbread. I also tried wholemeal flour in chocolate cookies, linked here.

And maybe it’s just me, but I like to think these wholemeal shortbread biscuits, with unrefined wholesome flour, are more like the biscuits Shakespeare might have enjoyed back in the late 1500s. Maybe the Bard gnawed on one whilst he wrote out Hamlet’s soliloquy. (Maybe not.)

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Wholemeal ‘Shakespeare’ Shortbread

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 5 large biscuits

In this wholemeal shortbread recipe, wholemeal flour adds a delicious, mealy flavour, similar to a digestive biscuit, which undercuts the usually super sugary biscuit.


  • 125g softened butter
  • 25g caster sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 175g wholemeal plain flour


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°c/375°f/gas mark 5. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Beat together the butter, caster sugar, and icing sugar, using a wooden spoon, until pale and smooth. Sieve in the flour, tipping in the bits of bran in the sieve, and fold in with a large metal spoon until evenly combined. Bring together in your hands to form a dough.
  3. Tip all the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently to gather into a dough. Pat out into a flat rectangle. Roll out lightly to about 1.5cm thick. Cut out into shapes.
  4. Place onto the prepared baking tray and sprinkle with a little caster sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, or until brown (they will be quite brown due to the wholemeal flour- aim for digestive biscuit colour for doneness). Cool on the tray, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. ▪

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