I love baking but find that I mostly stick to what I know (i.e. cakes) and rarely venture into the world of biscuits. Part of me worries that there’s more that can go wrong. After all you can burn a biscuit much more quickly and easily than you can a cake. You can also buy really great biscuits for not much money, whereas good cakes can be quite pricey. Unless there’s a really good reason to make biscuits at home I’ll always prefer to make a cake instead.
Now, I don’t want to stop you from making biscuits at home thanks to my own indifference. After all, enjoying your handiwork with a nice cup of tea is a great reward in itself. Sharing that experience with other people is a bonus. As I had my grandmother-in-law coming to stay for a few days recently, and knew a cake would go uneaten, I had the motivation I needed to get myself into the kitchen and get my bake on. My inner showman didn’t take long to rise to the surface and these Viennese Whirls soon came into being.
If you’ve not had Viennese Whirls before then I think you’re either (a) not from the UK, or (b) seriously missing out on the good things in life. They’re made from soft, buttery biscuits sandwiched together with buttercream and jam. Extremely sweet but also extremely enjoyable. Back in the 1980s they were the height of sophistication in anyone’s biscuit barrel. Certainly something that would only be brought out on a special occasion when a custard cream just wouldn’t do.
The good news is that they’re surprisingly easy to make – so you can impress your guests without needing the skills of a professional baker. The biscuits here are as short as anything and almost melt away as you bite into them. Indeeed, the buttercream is essential to save you from ending up with a lap-full of crumbs.
Though you might want to practise your piping skills and see if you can make them look a little more refined than I managed. Not that the appearance has any impact on the flavour you understand…
for the Biscuits
- 250 g Unsalted Butter softened to room temperature
- 50 g Icing Sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 225 g Plain Flour
- 2 tbsp Cornflour
- ¼ tsp Baking Powder
for the Filling
- 125 g Unsalted Butter softened to room temperature
- 200 g Icing Sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 4 tbsp Good Quality Strawberry or Raspberry Jam
Make the Biscuits
- Pre-heat the oven to 160°C.
- Depending on their size you'll want to prepare either two or three baking sheets. Cut non-stick baking paper to fit each tray and then mark out 24 circles using a pencil. You want the circles to be around 4-5cm in diameter with a gap of 3-4cm between each. Turn the paper over so that the pencil marks are on the bottom but still visible through the paper.
- Put the butter into a large mixing bowl then sift in the icing sugar. Beat with an electric hand whisk for at least 5 minutes until light and fluffy. (You could use a pedestal mixer if you prefer). Add in the vanilla extract and mix again until fully combined.
- Sift in the flour, cornflour and baking powder, then mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until it comes together as a slightly sticky dough.
- Transfer to a piping bag, fitted with a large nozzle, and pipe 24 rounds of the mixture following the circles marked on the baking paper.
- Put into the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes. Keep an eye on them and make sure they don't colour too much in the oven - you want them to be a pale gold. Depending on your oven you may need to move the trays around to ensure they bake evenly.
- When cooked, transfer to wire racks to cool.
Make the Filling
- Put the softened butter into a large mixing bowl and sift in the icing sugar. Beat with an electric hand mixer until light and fluffy (Again, you can use a pedestal mixer if you prefer). Add in the vanilla extract and mix until full combined.
- Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with the nozzle of your choice. Turn the biscuits over so you have the flat side facing up, then pipe the buttercream onto half of them.
- Spread a reasonable amount of jam onto the other half of the biscuits, then sandwich them together - one half jam and one half cream. Be gentle, as the biscuits will be fairly delicate.
- These are best served fresh but should keep in an airtight container for a couple of days.