Whittingham Buttons

Wednesday 11 October 2017

I love, LOVE the traditional recipes of the UK.  They are typically very regional and often historical, having a great deal to do with the farming practices, traditions, landscape and history of the area in which they have been developed.

Whittingham is a small village deep in the moors of Northumberland. The recipe for them is a very local recipe, which might or might not have been discovered by accident.  Happy accident or not, they can be found at most bake shops in Northumberland.  I have not been lucky enough to taste one  in Whittingham, but I do have a very nice cookery book  from the National Trust, which shares a multitude of these local, regional and historical recipes . . .  and from the moment I discovered the recipe was keen to bake my own at home. 

The recipe has been adapted from one I found in the National Trust, Complete Traditional Recipe Book, by Sarah Edington. 

The photograph in the book of these biscuit/cookies was very visually appealing.  From the moment I saw it I could just envision sitting down to one or two of these along with a nice hot drink, and we are into hot drink season for sure!

The ones in the book look really puffy and I think you can tell by me putting the two side by side, mine and theirs  . . .  mine did not actually turn out the same, although they are still very delicious. 

The recipe calls for custard powder, which I normally have in my cupboard.  (In North America you can get it from Amazon, (US) or Amazon, (Can), and a few other spots, even in some grocery stores.) I didn't have any when I checked . . . . or at least I couldn't find it.  I did have this, however . . .

I used this instead, but I don't think it was exactly the same thing as the Bird's Custard Powder because my cookies were not in the least bit puffie.

They spread out a lot and I actually had to cut them apart with a round cookie cutter, which was not a problem and left us lots of nice crispy trimmings to munch on.  I also had to re-poke the holes in the centre, which I did with the smaller end of a chop stick.

At first I thought they were inedible and despaired at the waste of my time and ingredients, but actually, they turned out to be VERY delicious indeed, if not totally the same as those in the photograph.  I would not call these a failure in the least, although if you want to have puffie ones I would use the Birds Custard powder.   

*Whittingham Buttons*
Makes 12 to 16

A traditional biscuit/cookie hailing from a small village in Northumberland called Whittingham. Crisp and sweet. 

175g butter (3/4 cup + 1/2 TBS)
75g icing sugar (1/2 cup plus 3 1/2 tsp)
175g plain flour (1 1/3 cups)
50g custard powder (scant 1/3 cup)

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/gas mark 4.  Butter a large baking sheet. 

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add both the flour and custard powder and mix together with the creamed mixture to form a firm dough.  Break off pieces the size of a large walnut and roll into balls the size of a large whole walnut. Place on the baking sheet and flatten slightly, leaving some space in between.  Make four button holes on the top with a skewer. 

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until lightly golden.  Cool on a wire rack.   

Store in an airtight container. 

Note- they will spread so leave plenty of space in between so they don't run together. 

These are crisp, sweet, buttery and very moreish.  I wonder what Paul would say.  I think he would like them, but I'm not entirely sure I would get a Hollywood handshake!   Bon Appetit! 


  1. A good substitute for Custard Powder is cornflour (cornstarch) which is mostly what Bird's is.
    Bird's Custard was invented because Mrs.Bird had an egg allergy so couldn't eat proper custard made with eggs.

    1. I was thinking that after the fact Gloria! They were still very edible however! xo

  2. Happily, at least here in Atlantic Canada, Birds Custard is found in almost every grocery store. I love the stuff! AND... I have that same cookbook and never made these cookies. Now you've forged the way, worked out the kinks and consider them "Marie" worthy, I'll bake 'em!

    1. Now you know you need to bake them Noelle! They are very delicious! (Even with mistakes!) xo

  3. Marie worthy..love that..you Star Baker you..wish you had gotten..the stamps..I see Lakeland/sold out.
    I have BCP coming out of my eyeballs..I bought some..forgetting I hhad some..must try these and see if they stay puffed..although yours would be my first choice I think.

    1. Oh, I do hope yours stay puffed Monique! They look almost like a shortbread biscuit when they are puffed! need to dig through my cupboard to find my custard powder. I know it must be in there somewhere. I just couldn't find it yesterday, and to be honest I haven't been feeling really well lately. I think something is going on with my blood pressure as I am giddy all the time. Checked my glucose levels today when I had giddy spell and they were perfect, so I suspect BP is the culprit. xo

  4. These look and sound delicious - thank you!

  5. I love all kinds of cookies Marie! Wow,I finally can comment again. For some reason it's not working again!
    I hope you feel better soon Marie and start having better not crappy days!
    Big hugs!

  6. I must have missed this post but saw it on your side column, glad I did! Hey Marie guess what? Whittingham is right next to our village and we drive through it all the time! haha! We never heard of these buttons but doesn't matter, I bet some ladies there have been baking them for years! I baked some shortbread cookies once and made them to look like buttons and they were so cute! So I'll try these sometime, mostly to use up the old Birds custard in the cupboard. (I don't like it as much) It probably adds some vanilla flavor too? I'll check the ingredients. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Small world Mary! You will have to check out the bakeshops in Whittingham and see if they have any! I would be interested in hearing what they actually taste like when baked in Whittingham! I hope you enjoy the cookies! xo

  7. well that's the funny thing, there is no bake shop there! There's no shops, just a small village of houses. Maybe a housewife entered the recipe in a contest years ago and the name of the village stuck with it?

    1. Isn't that funny Mary! You never know with these old recipes do you! xo

  8. I made these today . Absolutely heavenly

    1. I am very pleased you enjoyed them Jackie! xo


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