Contest Winner! Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Squares (a.k.a. Millionaire’s Shortbread)

Tested & Perfected Recipes

With a layer of shortbread, a layer of soft caramel and a layer of chocolate, these bars taste like gourmet Twix bars.

Thanks to all who participated in my holiday cookie contest! I received many wonderful family recipes but, in the end, these Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Squares of Scottish origin won me over. Known as Millionaire’s Shortbread, presumably because they are so rich, they consist of a layer of crumbly shortbread, a layer of soft caramel and a layer of chocolate. To me, they taste just like gourmet Twix bars. Congrats to Carrie H. of Rockville, MD, who submitted the recipe!

cookie-contest-selection

Other cookies submitted were wonderful too, particularly Dianne’s Dark Chocolate Buttercrunch with Sea Salt and Amy’s Snickerdoodles. I’ll be sharing these recipes on the site soon. (2-Tier Server by Julia Knight)

What you’ll need to make the shortbread squares
ingredients

How to make them

Begin by making the shortbread layer. Simply combine all of the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.

dry-ingredients

Blitz to blend, then add the butter in chunks.

adding-butter

Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, then add the ice water and egg yolk.

adding-egg-yolk-and-water

Pulse until the dough comes together in wet clumps.

dough-in-wet-clumps

Dump the dough into the prepared pan and press into an even layer.

dough

Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake until lightly browned.

pricking-dough

Meanwhile, make the caramel by combining the sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, butter, golden syrup, vanilla and salt in a medium sauce pan.

caramel-ingredients

Cook until the caramel is smooth and thickened, and the temperature reaches 225 degrees.

caramel

Immediately pour the caramel over the crust and let set for about 15 minutes.

spreading-caramel-over-crust

Meanwhile, make the chocolate glaze by combining the chocolate pieces and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl.

chocolate-and-cream

Cook in 20-second intervals, so as not to scorch the chocolate, stirring in between, until the chocolate is smooth and creamy. Spread the melted chocolate over the set caramel.

spreading-melted-chocolate

Chill the bars for about an hour, or until the chocolate is completely set.

cutting-bars

Then lift the bars out of the pan and cut into small squares.

millionaire's shortbread

Note: You’ll need a candy thermometer for this recipe to measure the temperature of the caramel. You can find one at any kitchen supply store. Don’t be intimated to use it; it’s easy!

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Millionaire's Shortbread

With a layer of shortbread, a layer of soft caramel and a layer of chocolate, these bars taste like gourmet Twix bars.

Servings: 20-25 squares
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 2 Hours

Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon ice water
  • 1 large egg yolk

For the Caramel Layer

  • 1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup (such as Lyle's Golden Syrup) or dark corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch salt

For the Chocolate Layer

  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, broken into small pieces, best quality
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

Instructions

For the Crust

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, pushing the foil neatly into the corners and up the sides of the pan, using two pieces if necessary to ensure that the foil overlaps all edges (the overhang will help removal from the pan). Spray the foiled pan with nonstick cooking spray or grease with butter.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the flour, brown sugar, cornstarch and salt; process until well combined and no lumps of brown sugar remain. Add the butter and pulse until a coarse meal forms. Add the ice water and egg yolk and blend until moist clumps form. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and press with your fingers into an even layer (dust your fingers with flour if the dough is too sticky). Pierce the dough all over with a fork and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For Caramel Layer

  1. Whisk the sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, butter, golden syrup, vanilla and salt together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, the butter melts and the mixture comes to a boil. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and boil gently, whisking constantly, until the caramel is thick and the temperature registers 225 degrees F, about 6 minutes. Pour the caramel over the warm crust; cool for about 15 minutes, or until caramel is set.

For Chocolate Layer

  1. Place the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate is about 75% melted. Stir, allowing the residual heat in the bowl to melt the remaining chocolate, until smooth (if necessary, place the chocolate back in the microwave for a few more; just be sure not to overheat or the mixture will curdle). Spread the chocolate over the caramel layer. Refrigerate the bars until the chocolate is set, at least 1 hour. Using the foil overhang, lift the bars out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into small squares and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  2. Note: The shortbread layer will crumble a bit when you cut it; that's just the nature of it.
  3. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: These can be frozen for up to 3 months. After they are completely cooled, double-wrap them securely with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap. Thaw overnight on the countertop before serving.

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Reviews & Comments

  • This was another bar cookie I made for the first time this past Christmas to give to friends. It was a very popular addition. So delicious and easy to make.

    • — Elaine on January 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • I always make millionaire shortbread at Christmas and I was looking for a new recipe of it and stumbled upon this one. I was a little intimidated making the caramel but it was so delicious and a nice thick layer. Loved it! As did those I gifted them too!

    • — Jenn on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Just asking out of curiosity: most shortbread recipes I’ve seen don’t call for brown sugar or egg yolk, right? I was wondering if you had any guesses as to why this one is so different? No complaints – it’s delicious! I was just wondering about the difference between this crust and a classic shortbread with just butter, powdered sugar, flour, vanilla and salt.

    • — Kelly on December 13, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Kelly, This recipe is actually not mine (it was submitted as part of a cookie contest I was having) but I believe that the brown sugar and egg yolk just add more flavor and richness. Hope that clarifies!

      • — Jenn on December 14, 2020
      • Reply
  • This was my first time making millionaire’s shortbread. Each individual layer tasted great, but the chocolate overpowered the caramel, which is, in my view, the best part. I couldn’t even taste it when I had it all together. It mostly tasted like chocolate covered shortbread. I’d have to cut the chocolate layer in half or use a stronger caramel if I were to make them again.

    • — Jenni on October 3, 2020
    • Reply
  • Had to use what I had in the pantry and they still turned out great!! I had pecan sandies purchased for another recipe but I couldn’t remember that recipe (how many others do this?). Finely processed in the food processor meant that I didn’t think they needed any more butter so pressed into 9” pan and heated in 300 oven 5 minutes. I also didn’t have dark corn syrup or brown sugar but that was no issue. No candy thermometer here so used my (clean) meat thermometer. So yummy!! Could this caramel recipe be used to make soft individually-wrapped caramels? Next time it’s likely I won’t have the cookies on hand but think I will add finely chopped pecans to the shortbread recipe.

    • — Holly Walters on August 3, 2020
    • Reply
    • So glad you enjoyed these! I don’t know whether or not the caramel will work as individually wrapped candies. For the most predictable results, I’d probably look for a specific recipe for that.

      • — Jenn on August 4, 2020
      • Reply
  • I made this recipe and it was great! Some adjustments – used normal brown sugar, skipped the golden syrup. For the chocolate layer I just melted 150g callebaut dark choc chips 10g of unsalted butter, stirred in a spoon of nutella for good measure. They do however take more than an hour to chill… mine took about 2h before all the layers were set.

    • — gc on April 25, 2020
    • Reply
  • This is a delicious recipe but my caramel was a bit stickier than I would have liked. How can I alter the ingredients to make it thicker or is to more to do with the temperature?

    • — Nicky on January 25, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Nicky, Altering the ingredients shouldn’t be necessary; it sounds like the caramel was not cooked enough. Did you cook it until the thermometer registered 225 degrees F?

      • — Jenn on January 27, 2020
      • Reply
  • On December 12, 2018 you responded to a question about refrigeration and said they should be refrigerated. Here you say they don’t. Which do you recommend? Thank you.

    • — Sam on January 13, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Sam, Sorry for any confusion. I’d store these in the fridge. 🙂

      • — Jenn on January 14, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I am a HUGE fan of your recipes and have successfully made most of them gluten free and all just delicious! I am wanting to make these millionaire bars for a Christmas gathering and have a niece with egg allergies. So, my question is would the crust used for your lemon bars work for this? Or is there an egg substitute you can recommend?

    • — Adria on December 20, 2019
    • Reply
    • Sure, Adria, that should work (and so glad you’re a fan of the recipes 💓). Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 20, 2019
      • Reply
      • Thanks so much for your response! I cannot tell you how many times I’ve said to my dinner guests “This dinner was brought to you by Jenn from Once Upon a Chef!”. So, really, thank you for sharing your talents with us! Enjoy your holidays!

        • — Adria on December 21, 2019
        • Reply
        • ❤️

          • — Jenn on December 22, 2019
          • Reply
  • Hello! I can’t say I’ve made the recipe (I’m sure it is wonderful) but just want to let you know that the squares actually originated in Australia in the 1970’s. They did pick up the now common name “Millionaire’s Shortbread” in Scotland, though.

    • — TM on November 20, 2019
    • Reply
    • TM, I came here to make the same comment. We lived in London, where Millionaire Bars were ubiquitous. These are so rich, I think we should call them Billionaire Bars!

      • — MaryJo on May 10, 2020
      • Reply
  • Have you ever tried scaling this up to a half sheet pan?

    • I haven’t, Megan. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • I have made this recipe several times. My family loves it!

        • — Holly Moon on May 15, 2020
        • Reply
  • Followed the recipe to a t and it came out just like the photos. Flavors were good and not too sweet. It’s caramel, people! Super easy and great to make ahead and keep in fridge. Thanks, Jenn!

    • I always follow new recipes closely. This time, I am pretty upset. I boiled my Caramel to soft ball (230 degrees) as per recipe instructions. I should have trusted my gut, as I’ve made Caramel many times. Will definitely have to boil it until hard ball (255 degrees) next time. A costly error.

      • — Gina on May 3, 2020
      • Reply
      • I forgot to mention. The caramel seeped out and all over the plate after removing from refrigerator and sitting on counter for half hour.

        • — Gina on May 3, 2020
        • Reply
  • Amazing!
    No wonder they are award-winning!
    Thank you Carrie H.
    I had to make these twice in a month because they are so good.
    Really important to get the caramel temperature correct, had a gooey layer one time, which was just as delicious, but of course messy.
    Jenn or Carrie: How can I incorporate dessicated coconut, cocoa powder and walnuts into the base? I would like to try it as a base for nanaimo bars.
    Appreciate your suggestions, thank you very much!

    • Hi Bob, I think you could get away with replacing 1 to 2 tablespoons of the flour with cocoa powder. Additionally, you can add a quarter cup each of the coconut and the walnuts to the crust batter. Make sure that you really finely chop the walnuts in order to get them to incorporate with the remainder of the crust. Please keep in mind that I’ve never made additions to the crust like this, so I can’t guarantee the results. 🙂 I’d love to hear how it turns out if you try them this way!

  • These were fantastic!

  • I think that some of the sugar could be cut from the caramel. The result is sickeningly sweet.

  • I made these since I love caramel!! Very easy to make and I have no real experience using a candy thermometer….no problem cutting into squares either….will definitely make these again!! YUM!

    • — Wendy Schoenburg
    • Reply
  • I’m snowed in (housebound), in Western NC, and would love to make this recipe, but I don’t have corn syrup. I just read I can make my own corn syrup with 1 1/4 cups of sugar dissolved in 1/4 of water. Do you think this would work? If not, is there anything else I can use to substitute for the corn syrup.

    Thank you!

    Jennifer

    • — Jennifer Workman
    • Reply
    • I heard about the snowstorm you got in NC – hope all is well and things are starting to get back to normal! I don’t think that the sugar/water mixture you described would work as a replacement for corn syrup – sorry! There are other ways of making the caramel layer, such as melting down caramel squares with some heavy cream. In a small saucepan, melt 2 cups caramel squares with 3 tablespoons cream over low heat. Pour the caramel over the cooled crust and set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill and firm up. (If you don’t have corn syrup at home, you may not have caramel squares and/or heavy cream, so not certain it solves your problem…) 🙂

    • I made my own using this recipe. Very time consuming, I had to cook it almost an hour, not 45 min. as described, but it worked perfectly. I cut the recipe in 1/2, which meant I did not do the first step as long as described or the sugar would have crystallized. http://www.internationaldessertsblog.com/make-golden-syrup/

  • Hi, I see these can be frozen. If you are keeping them for eating now, would you store them in an air tight container at room temperature or in the fridge?

    • They should be stored in the fridge – enjoy!

  • I made these for my husbands work Christmas Party. I had carefully read the reviews and was a little concerned about how my caramel layer would turn out. I bake almost everyday, but very rarely use a candy thermometer. I am excited to share that it turned out perfectly. These treats are also a great addition to a buffet of sweet bites. They are not only delicious, but also very attractive on a platter! Thanks for another wonderful recipe.

  • Hi there – I made this recipe and initially I thought I nailed it! But after I allowed the finished product to cool in the fridge – when I pulled it out the caramel layer was incredibly difficult to cut through (very firm!). Did I somehow over-heat the caramel? I used a candy thermometer and I pulled my pot off the stove just as it hit 225F. It poured out great onto the crust layer so I assumed it was good to go.

    I allowed the dish to sit at room temp for 3 hours to try cutting through it again and it was still super firm – perhaps a tiny bit easier but still not what I imagined. Quite a work out on the jaw muscles to eat a piece! Anyways if you have any thoughts on where I went wrong that would be great – thanks!

    • Sorry you had a problem with the caramel, Rose! If the caramel hardened, it sounds like the temperature got too high (even if it didn’t read that way on your thermometer). It may be time to replace your candy thermometer.

  • Hi. I cannot find dark corn syrup. May I substitute light corn syrup and molasses? If so what are the measurements? Thanks! I’ve been dying to try this recipe as all your recipes are fantastic!!

    • — Denise Ksen Smith
    • Reply
    • Hi Denise, it’s fine to just substitute the dark corn syrup with light – they’ll still be delicious!

  • Tasty recipe, but lacks the true British taste I grew up with. Also from following the recipe and quantities precisely my caramel was twice as thick as the shortbread, which should not be the case.

  • Incredible. Saved in my permanent recipe files. Worth the 3-step process (not hard).

  • This recipe turned out great! I had never made millionaire shortbread before. I struggled the most with the caramel, where it started to burn a bit so I changed pots and kept going. I do not have a candy thermometer so I followed the timing provided in the recipe (6 minutes). The caramel’s consistency became noticeably thicker at this stage. There was a bit of crumbling of the shortbread layer, but it stayed well together. These were a hit at work. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Scrumptious and rich, a little square will satisfy that sweet craving you’re having. Wonderful to give to a host as a thanks

  • Hello!
    My name’s Wojciech and I’m Polish student who loves to travel. In england I spend 6 months. There was first time I ate millionaire bites and after going back home – there wasn’t any month I wouldn’t think of making one by myself, but there was no chance of finding any recipe on the internet 🙁
    It’s about 2 years after suffering without these god-tier sweets, but thanks to your recipe I can make them every week 🙂
    Reading comments really helped with caramel problem, but using canned caramel and mixing it with a bit of butter and flour give the same taste and a little harder consistency (and it’s easier to do). I also had problems with sweetness, so I decided to add only a little bit of sugar to dough, that way sour base and sweet caramel with semi-sweet chocolade are rally good combinatin 🙂

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