traditional scottish shortbread
Credit: Mike Krautter

These Ornate Shortbread Pans Will Take Your Favorite Teatime Cookie to the Next Level

Embellish the dough with designs ranging from traditional to spectacular.
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If you love shortbread like we do, it might be time to think about taking your treats to the next level. By that, we mean using a new take on the traditional shortbread molds used in Scotland, the home of the beloved treat, to imprint your dough with pictures and score it into portions. Decorated shortbreads were used as a bride's cake, known as a "dreaming bread," in rural Scotland, says F. Marian McNeil in The Scots Kitchen. The oldest types of molds were made of wood, but a variety of different molds are widely available today. Particularly common are ones that imprint a bold thistle into a round of shortbread dough, though we prefer the contemporary ceramic or aluminum molds, which come in a variety of shapes and a range of designs from Celtic symbols to cute teapots.

To help you master making shortbread in a mold, we asked cookbook author, food stylist, and master baker Jason Schreiber for tips. "Any shortbread recipe that calls for baking in a pan rather than on cookie sheets will work best in a shortbread mold," he says. His go-to is our Scottish Shortbread recipe because "the dough comes out of the mixer in crumbles like a press-in crust, which not only makes it quick and easy to get into the mold, but it's also perfectly suited to pick up the impression at the bottom of the mold when you compact the dough." Schreiber cautions that you'll want to make sure you're using the right type of recipe before reaching for a mold. "Using a dough that is intended to be rolled and cut in a cookie mold will be more difficult to compact, and you might end up with unsightly seams where the dough folds over itself at the bottom of the mold." He also recommends using a recipe that's appropriately sized for the mold you have, explaining, "If the recipe is too big or too small you'll end up with excess dough or cookies that are too thin, which will affect the bake time."

Though shortbread dough is butter-rich, Schreiber recommends prepping detailed cookie molds with nonstick cooking spray in order to guarantee an easy release. And he notes that the material the mold is made out of will affect the bake time and color of the cookies. "Ceramic pans take longer to heat up, but they also hold on to heat longer than metal. The result is that metal molds bake faster, but ceramic molds will bake a bit darker," he adds.

Best Shortbread Molds to Buy in 2022

brown bag designs thistle shortbread pan
Credit: Courtesy of Emerson Creek Pottery

Best Traditional Design: Emerson Creek Thistle Shortbread Pan

An octagonal-shaped ceramic pan that divides shortbread dough into triangular portions often called "petticoat tails." This shortbread pan has a thistle design and is made in by a small pottery in Virginia.

Shop Now: Emerson Creek Pottery Thistle Shortbread Pan, $34, emersoncreekpottery.com.

nordic ware english shortbread pan, silver
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Aluminum: Nordic Ware English Shortbread Pan

This cast aluminum square pan has handles to make navigating in and out of the oven easier. It will imprint nine different nature-inspired designs—including grapes, a wheatsheaf, and a butterfly—into each of the one-inch squares in your shortbread. The American-made pan has a nonstick coating and should be washed by hand.

Shop Now: Nordic Ware English Shortbread Pan, $27.99, amazon.com.

Brown Bag Shortbread Cookie Mold
Credit: Courtesy of Brown Bag Design

Cutest Design: Brown Bag Design Tea Time Shortbread Mold

Teapots, kettles, cups and saucers, these are the designs that this American-made ceramic shortbread pan will make in your cookie dough. Pairing these treats with a cup of tea is mandatory!

Shop Now: Brown Bag Design Tea Time Shortbread Mold, $46.84, amazon.com.

nordic ware sweet snowflake shortbread pan
Credit: Courtesy of Target

Most Unusual Shape: Nordic Ware Sweet Snowflakes Shortbread Pan

Make a shortbread snowflake with this American-made cast aluminum pan that divides the cookie into eight triangular portions, each imprinted with a different snowflake design. To prepare the pan before using, it should either be brushed with solid vegetable shortening and dusted with flour or by spritzed with a baking spray that contains flower.

Shop Now: Nordic Ware Sweet Snowflakes Shortbread Pan, $31, target.com.

king arthur baking rose window shortbread pan
Credit: Courtesy of King Arthur Baking Company

Best Ceramic: Rose Window Shortbread Pan

When you press the shortbread dough into this pan, the result is eight highly decorated cookies inspired by stained glass windows. Though this pan will season over time and use, the company recommends brushing lightly with vegetable oil for the first few uses. Nonstick spray is not recommended, and the pan should be washed by hand.

Shop Now: Nordic Ware English Shortbread Pan, $42.95, kingarthurbaking.com.