Illuminating cardamom, cinnamon and brown sugar shortbread

Nigh on three years ago, by perchance, we happened to move to a street that ‘does Christmas lights.’ Christmas and all that is associated with it, has always brought me great joy. My childhood memories, our ever evolving traditions, the special family time, the food (always the food), the spiritual connection, the wonder of children and the gift giving. However, the initial thought of having to buy (figuratively and literally) into the whole ‘lights’ palaver, filled me with trepidation.

The possibility of failing to live up to the expectation of hundreds of complete strangers traversing past our home was somewhat perturbing. I questioned the environmental aspect and whilst we do utilise solar lights as well as electrical, at some point, they will always need replacing. Not every house on the street participates, and there is no ‘Christmas Lights Committee’ (a fact for which the rebel in me is eternally grateful for.) In the end, the excitement of all the boys in our house overrode any misgivings on my part.

I often recount how in our second year, a person at my children’s school joyfully told me how much they loved our Chrissy light display. I asked which house they thought we lived in. Upon hearing their explanation of the abode they had seen, I informed them that sorry, that was actually our next door neighbours. (Ensue awkward silence on their part but some mirth on mine.)

Putting up a Christmas light display is strangely addictive and allows you connect to a community larger than your usual. It’s not all tinsel and sugar plum fairies. Shame on the man two years ago, who loudly dissed our display and almost made my then 6 year old cry. People, we aren’t deaf. Also, you lot out walking the street at eleven o’clock with small children on a school night? Go back to bed.

In the main, most people are positive and happy to enjoy the lights, in whatever shape or form they take. Apart from the joy it has brought to my own children and children we know, the absolute pleasure it brings to others has become our ‘Chrissy illumination raison d’รชtre.’ Early one December evening, the lads wanted to eat their dinner in the garage. We plopped ourselves down on camping chairs, happily eating and watching the growing contingent of passer-bys. One mum walked past with two young children under five. Seeing us sitting there, she stopped waved and said, ‘Thank you so much for doing this, our children absolutely love it.’

Then, just last night, as we finally completed our display (after investing in quite a number of new lights), two families with small children passed by. One wee lad in their contingent stopped and in the slightly sibilant way that pre-fives talk, pronounced, ‘I love your house. Its sooooo beautiful. Mummy, why can’t we have a house like this?’ Then his sister spoke in a voice dripping with wonder and awe, ‘I think that Santa probably lives here’. Our hearts stopped beating for a nano second. Yes, cheesy it may be but their delight set our souls aglow more than any electrical or solar light could ever do.

And that my friends, is why we put up lights. The world can always do with a little more illumination. The world can also do with a little more shortbread. This years concoction is a spicy, brown sugar version. The brown sugar adds a caramel-like flavour that pairs nicely with the cooling cardamom and warm cinnamon. This is one of those rare recipes where you can do a straight swap with the plain flour for gluten free. I lose track of how many batches of these biscuits are baked to give as gifts. They are either wrapped in cellophane or placed into adorable Christmas themed boxes. It seems a little nuts to be making butter based sweet treats in our hot climate, but then, some traditions just can’t be changed.


250g butter
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
2 3/4 cups of plain flour or gluten free plain flour sifted (I use a good quality gluten free flour.)
1/4 cup rice flour
1 1/2 tsps cardamom
1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
1 tbl raw brown sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 180C.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and sift the flours and spices together into a bowl.
Cream the butter and add the sugar gradually (I used a stand mixer), beating until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Work in the flour gradually until the mixture is just combined. Knead the mixture lightly to bring together to a dough. (I do this in the bowl.)
Divide the dough in half and pat each into a round.
Place onto the prepared trays and with the heel of your hand, push the dough out until you have an 1 1/2 cm thick circle, this will be 16cm -18cm in diameter, ensure the mixture is very smooth. I use my hands to do this, the original recipe suggests using a palette knife and smoothing over the edge and surface.
Crimp the edges by pressing the edge of the dough with your finger, and then pinching the edge together.
Use a sharp knife to cut the circle into 8 or 10 even shaped wedges. Prick the surface of the shortbread with a fork. (This helps in releasing moisture as it cooks, making the shortbread crisper.)
Sprinkle the extra raw sugar over the shortbread.
Bake in the centre of the oven for ten minutes then reduce the temperature to 150C and cook for about 30 minutes. The brown sugar in this recipe makes it difficult to judge if it’s baked, lightly press the middle of the shortbread to see if it’s not too soft. Should be firmish to the touch. My gluten free version took an about 35 minutes. It will depend on the flour blend that you use. (My first batch was a tad overcooked at 40 minutes.)
Cool down on wire racks. Wrap up festively and give to your best people, and eat some, always eat some.

A Cheergerm adaptation from The Margaret Fulton Cookbook 2004 Revised and Updated Edition published by Jannie Brown and Suzanne Gibbs.

Here are the links to my previous shortbread recipes.

44 thoughts on “Illuminating cardamom, cinnamon and brown sugar shortbread

  1. LOVE the idea of brown sugar shortbread! As soon as I figure out what cardamon is in French am going to stock up on the ingredients. Also love your Christmas lights story. Have always been disappointed that we don’t do Christmas lights on houses here in France but also relieved at no pressure to do anything. Would love to visit your street!

    • It’s certainly nice for a change Mel. Good luck with the ingredients. Now I want to know what cardamom is called in French, the same or different? Glad you enjoyed my light story, yes, a bit of work but worth the effort, mostly! Ha, no, it really is. ๐Ÿ˜Š

  2. Great story. That’s the spirit of Christmas Cheery. Thanks for the recipe, I’ve held back trying GF shortbread for fear of powdery fall apart failure, tomorrow I’ll bake a batch ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป

    • Thanks Mrs R! The Chrissy lights are pretty special. The GF shortbread does turn out a tad more delicate than a regular shortbread but thus far, they have always turned out a treat. The Yak loved his brown sugar gf shortbread today!

  3. Lisa, This is a great story, really great. I think it should be read by all. ( PS the shortbread are very nice topo and I might get around to making some this year for the first time ever)

    • Oh, thanks so much, really lovely thing to say. It’s good shortbread, a nice change with the brown sugar. He, he..topo! Love it, a great description of this silly season feeling, especially when it’s on your turf!

  4. Seeing the lights through the eyes of children makes all the difference. And yes, thank goodness there is no committee!
    Anything with cardamom, I’m in! This looks like a lighter, more caramel-toned alternative to molasses-based gingerbread.

  5. Cardamom isn’t used enough! I love it! And very cute story about your neighborhood, I’ve always wondered what it’s like for the families involved in the beautiful displays. They could make a reality tv show.

    • So true MF. At first my lads were ‘what is that strange taste’ but now they are chowing down on them. Thanks and that’s a great idea. There has been a one off TV special over here on some famous Australian ‘light streets’ but that has more involved them just putting the lights up. Imagine the intrigue of a reality series….the machinations, the plotting, the comparing. They would have to find a different street to ours, everyone here is too darned nice…phew!

  6. Cardamom, cinnamon, brown sugar. not usually a fan of shortbread Cheery, but this sounds like a yummy version.
    Myers windows and Christmas lights are just made for children. I love watching them discover the wonder. Lovely post.

    • Hiya WM. I like to, it adds an extra bit of shortness. The original recipe suggests adding some rice flour but it is optional. So if you don’t have it, it still works leaving it out. Go shortbreaders!

  7. Totally delightful tales of your Chrissy illuminations, (bar the person a few years ago who nearly made Kid number 2 cry, obviously๐Ÿ˜ก). Santa lives with you guys, then, does he?๐ŸŽ… I imagine he gets a bit fed up with all the cold weather at his original abode way up North – and living part-way ‘oop North’ myself I can empathise. Bbbbrrrrrrr! โ˜”๏ธโ˜๏ธโ„๏ธ๐Ÿ’จ I’d gladly trade your warm buttery issues for your climate!!โ˜€๏ธ๐ŸŒ…
    And as for your illuminating shortbread, droooolllll … if I lived close enough I’d keep you busy making it all just for me, no more giving it away as gifts! That’s far too generous! Bah humbug!!๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜œ๐Ÿ˜ xxoxx

    • Thanks Joe. It’s mostly good so we will just go with that. (Forgetting the fact that a day before Chrissy some nutter cut our new solar lights on one of the trees at the front.) โ˜น You know I would make you shortbread anytime, not just at Chrissy. Xx

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