These Espresso Millionaire Shortbread Bars, made with three layers of buttery shortbread, enticing espresso caramel and melted dark chocolate, are a reinvented classic you won't be able to resist.
I'm so excited to bring you this Espresso Millionaires Shortbread recipe as it comes straight out of the pages of my now PUBLISHED, yes published cookbook, Simply Sweet Nostalgic Bakes. I'm thrilled to see it make its way around the globe and to share the recipes within. I've shared a couple of other recipes from within the book on my site - Caramel Apple Tart and Blackberry Glazed Doughnut Rings, both being super delicious.
So, back to these fun Millionaire Shortbread bars. They're made with a layer of buttery, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread on the base, and this gets layered with an espresso infused caramel. We love any coffee flavoured dessert at home, (we do own a mobile coffee van after all, so the love is real!). The caramel is then coated in a luscious dark chocolate layer with a traditional white feathered pattern. This is a classic treat recreated with a flavour twist by adding caramel. And oh what a pairing it is!
My post will guide you on how to make millionaires shortbread so that you don't feel in any way intimidated. With plenty of hints and tips and process shots, you'll see that whilst this treat looks impressive, the hardest part is waiting for it to chill! The impatience to slice into is a fact!
Why you'll love this recipe
- Decadent treat. This isn't for the faint-hearted, its a very rich sweet treat and a little goes a long way. It's oh so naughty but oh so nice!
- You'll love my 'Emma' touch. Adding the espresso was my little chance to put a spin on this classic. It adds more complexity and the bitterness balances the sweetness.
- Looks gorgeous! No plain Jane here. That simple trick with white chocolate on the top makes these bars look spectacular!
The three distinct layers of this sweet treat are made with predominantly pantry ingredients. The two items you may not have are condensed milk (I use Carnation brand) or espresso powder, but these are accessible at the majority of supermarkets or grocery stores. Here’s everything you need to know about the ingredients needed to make this recipe.
For the shortbread
- Flour- All purpose plain flour provides the structure for the shortbread along with the butter and sugar. Do use self raising flour here as we don't want any rise in the bases.
- Butter - I prefer unsalted as I can then control the level of salt required. Make sure it's at room temperature so that it can get beaten well with the other ingredients to form the dough.
- Sugar - Granulated or caster sugar can be used her, even golden sugar will work well.
- Egg yolk - Just enough to bind the shortbread ingredients together to stop it cracking, and also to provide richness.
- Salt - I love a little salt in baked goods as it enriches the flavour and balances the sweetness. Regular, super fine table salt is perfect.
For the espresso caramel
- Condensed milk - In my view Millionaire's Shortbread is all about the caramel layer and so we've gone for an extra thick one today. That means using two whole cans of condensed milk. Go for the unsweetened version as it can get a bit too sweet otherwise.
- Butter - Again unsalted butter is used. I use room temperature butter again as I set it out on the counter top along with the butter used for the shortbread layer. But, as it's being melted, then you can use cold butter too.
- Light brown sugar and Golden syrup- These two ingredients help with the taste, sweetness and caramelisation that needs to happen
- Espresso Powder - The hero of the caramel in my view. Use espresso powder, rather than granules as it will melt onto the hot caramel far quicker.
- Salt - A little extra salt in the caramel is one hundred percent necessary to balance the richness and sweetness.
For the chocolate layer
- Dark chocolate and Butter- Because the caramel is so sweet, I find that 70% dark chocolate compliments that sweetness perfectly. The butter adds a nice shine and also makes the chocolate a bit easier to cut. If you prefer milk chocolate (like my children!), then use that.
- White Chocolate - Ultimately the white chocolate is used only for decoration. The contrast between the light and dark is eye catching and the signature 'look' fr millionaire shortbread!
The time taken actively making these millionaire shortbread bars is actually not much at all. The majority of time is taken is waiting for the bars to refrigerate!
In terms of the steps needed to make the bars, let's break them down into three components. Shortbread, caramel and chocolate layer.
- The shortbread comes together all in one go in one bowl and is pressed down into the baking pan and baked.
- Whislt that is cooling, it's time to make the caramel on the stove top and which gets done in about ten minutes. It then gets poured right over the shortbread base and levelled out then refrigerated.
- To finish off the bars, melted dark chocolate gets poured over the caramel and then a pattern is made with the white chocolate.
Now that I've broken it down in this way, I hope that you can feel confident in wanting to create your own bars. I have plenty of process shots so that you can see what is needed and when. I got you!
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
Make the shortbread base layer
1. Preheat the oven and prep the pan. Preheat the oven to a standard 180C (350F). We're going to have to bake the shortbread once it's made. And then that's it for the bake time. Grease and line your brownie/baking pan with parchment paper to make removal of the bar easier later on. (Image 1)
TIP: Create a paper sling
Allow the baking paper to hang over the sides so that you can use it as a sling and lift the bar out of the pan once it has been set.
Make shortbread dough. Making this shortbread couldn't be any simpler. I use a standmixer fitted with the paddle attachment as it's easily accessible on my work surface, but electric hand-held beaters will work just fine. Add all the ingredients (flour, butter, sugar, egg yolk, vanilla extract and salt), into the stand mixer bowl and beat until it forms a dough. You'll know that it's reached this stage as the mixture will have clumped around the beaters. (Image 2)
2. Level in pan and bake. The fun part! Tip the shortbread dough into the prepared pan and use your fingertips to press it into all the corners into an even layer. (Image 3) You might find the last few presses easier with the bottom of a flat glass or measuring cup to get a super flat layer. (It will help you achieve that IG-worthy cross-section slice shot where all the layers are pristine. It may feel like a thin layer, but when it bakes it puffs to create a thicker layer.
Bake. Prick the base so that it stops it from puffing up too much in the oven (all the little holes allow the steam to get released from the shortbread making it more even). Then bake until a light golden colour. (Image 4)
Make the sspresso caramel
3. Make caramel. Caramel time! Out of the three layers, this one is the one you have to pay the most attention to as it has a couple of pinch points. Add all the caramel ingredients (condensed milk, butter, sugar, golden syrup, espresso powder and salt) into a saucepan. (Image 5) Set over low heat, stir until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. (Image 6) Take your time over this and do it slowly (it can take a full five minutes), as if the sugar doesn't dissolve properly at this point, then you'll have a grainy caramel.
Now you can increase the heat to medium and let it come to a bubble. IMPORTANT.... stir continuously throughout this step!! The mixture is going to boil gently until it is thickened, fudgy and browned. You can see the deeper colour it has turned in images 7 & 8. However, it can catch on the bottom of the pan very quickly. If you have a candy thermometer, the caramel should reach 107C (225F).
TIP: Prevent the caramel from caramel with these two tips.
- Use a heavy-based saucepan. A pan that is too thin on the bottom will conduct the heat at a lot higher rate than a heavy-based one and increase the likelihood of the caramel catching and burning.
- Stir ALL the time. I can't re-iterate enough that you have to do this continuously whilst the caramel is heating. Once the caramel catches on the base you'll have lumpy bits and there's no going back from that. If in doubt, turn the heat down slightly.
4. Pour over shortbread. Once beautifully thickened, and fudgy, it's time to pour the caramel over the shortbread that will have cooled whilst we made the caramel. (Image 7) Level the caramel off with an offset spatula and then pop the whole pan into the fridge for an hour minimum or leave it at room temperature to set but it may take longer. (Image 8)
Make the chocolate layer and decorate
A little note about this next step. If you set the caramel in the fridge, it will have chilled right down. When you pour the dark chocolate layer over it, you'll have to be pretty quick piping and creating the design with the white chocolate as the chocolate layer will begin to set pretty quickly over the cold layer.
5. Melt dark chocolate and layer. The last part of the millionaire's shortbread, and quite possibly the easiest part is melting the dark chocolate and layering it over the chilled caramel. There are two ways to melt dark chocolate:
- The first is using the bain marie method, which I use in the book. It's the process of placing the chocolate and butter into a bowl set over a pan of boiling water on the stove top. The water must not touch the base of the bowl, otherwise the chocolate will seize. The steam trapped in the saucepan by the sug fitting bowl, will heat up the base enough for the chocolate and butter to melt with frequent stirring. (Image 9)
- The second is in the microwave. Add the chocolate into a bowl and heat in the microwave in twenty second increments, strirring between each burst. Add the batter in once the chocolate has melted, and give it a good stir.
Whichever way you use, once the chocolate is melted then pour it over the chilled caramel and smooth it out into an even layer with an offset spatula. (Image 10)
6. Melt white chocolate and decorate. The melted white chocolate detail is totally optional but a super pretty way to finish off your bar. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave in short bursts, stirring often (like how I mentioned in the above point) and pour it into a small piping bag.
Now for the fun part - to pipe and feather the white chocolate. Pipe thin white lines across the melted dark chocolate top. (Image 11) Take your time and try to get them as straight and evenly spaced out as possible. (Image 12) (I'm not very good at the straight part!!)
Then use a skewer (or something very thin like a knife) to drag through the chocolate top. Drag it from one side, (Image 13) and then to the next, (Image 14) across the whole top. This misshapes the white lines in a really pretty way. If you didn't want to be so particular then you could drizzle the white chocolate over and swirl the skewer through in a random fashion.
As you can see, the white lines don't need to be perfect for the feathering to still look good. (It was surprisingly hard to pipe and concentrate on the photographing too!!!) Also because I'm not good at multi-tasking (whilst feathering lines!), I dragged the skewer a little too deeply through the chocolate and it set with the deep ridges in them. Drag the skewer with a lighter touch if you want an aesthetically pleasing presentation. Ultimately, it all tastes the same though!
How do you cut the Millionaire Shortbread bars?
The best way to cut these bars is to use a long-bladed, sharp knife that has been heated. Once the chocolate sets on top of the caramel, it re-hardens. If you go straight to cut it you'll either crack the chocolate or squish the caramel below trying to.
Heat the blade by running it under hot water for a couple of seconds and wiping it dry. Then place the blade onto the chocolate applying slight pressure. It will slowly melt the chocolate until you can cut through it and down through the caramel and shortbread giving you a lovely clean cut. Heat the blade under hot water each and every time you make a new cut.
- If you wanted to make regular Millionaire Shortbread Bars, then you could omit adding the espresso into the caramel. Or you could go the other end of the scale for a more coffee infused flavour and add a teaspoon of espresso powder into the melted dark chocolate. I guess it comes down to just how much you like your coffee!!
- If dark chocolate isn't your thing, then substitue with milk chocolate for a softer, sweeter, approach.
- Are you a Great British Bake Off Fan? If yes, then check out Sophie's beautiful take on Jaffa Millioanire's Shortbread - anything chocolate orange flavoured, I want to try it!
- Use a paper sling. Make life easier by hanging the paper over the edges of the pan. Gives you an instant sling!
- Use a heavy based saucepan. Make your caramel in aheavy-based pan to minimise your chances of it catching.
- Stir the caramel continuously. Don't. Stop. Stirring. Leave your caramel for a minute, and by the time you've returned, it will have caught. So stir, stir, stir!
- Don't scrimp on the chill time. Refrigeration is key to allow the caramel to cool down and set. This means that when you slice it up, you won't have puddles of caramel oozing out the edges.
- Use a hot blade to cut the chocolate get photo worthy clean cuts.
Frequently asked questions
Good substitutions for golden syrup are corn syrup or honey. Unfortunately, I haven't tested these bars with those ingredients. If you have a go with the substitutions then let me know how your go!
Apparently called this because of the layering of such rich ingredients. (I did warn you that it was unbelievably decadent!) The name first originated in Scotland but was made with oats. The shortbread base was introduced in Australia in the '70s where it became known as Caramel Slice.
You may have cooked the caramel for too long in the saucepan. Definitely don't store the slice in the fridge as it will get really hard for you to cut.
This could be because you didn't heat it up for long enough and it didn't get to the temperature required for it to set (107C/225F). Also if you didn't measure your ingredients with digital scales, then inconsistency in the correct measurements needed for the ingredients can contribute to this.
How to store and freeze
To Store: These shortbread bars can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week. I find it's one of those desserts that actually gets better with age!
To Freeze: Millionaire's Shortbread Bars freeze really well. Wrap the individual bars in plastic wrap and foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw completely at room temperature.
Equipment you’ll need
- Square brownie pan (23cm/9-inch square): This size pan holds the shortbread and thick caramel layer really well. Each of the 16 portions feels decadently appropriate.
- Stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment: An electirc hand-held mixer can be used also. The ingredients need to be well mix and beated to create the shourtbread dough.
- Heavy-based saucepan: The caramel layer is extra thick, and gets super hot, so go for a larger saucepan over a smaller one.
More bar recipes that you may like
- Raspberry Chocolate Crumble Bars
- Chocolate Chip Brownie Cookie Bars
- Brown Butter White Chocolate Blondies
Regardless of how you call this type of bar, there are many different names, Millionaire’s Shortbread, Millionaire’s Shortbread Bars, Caramel Shortcake, Caramel Squares or Caramel Slice like the Aussies & Kiwis, I hope you love this recipe. By incorporating the coffee taste and using dark chocolate, it's like the adult, more sophisticated version of the classic.
If you tried this Espresso Millionaire Shortbread Bar recipe or any other recipe on my website, please let me know how you go in the comments below. I love hearing from you. Also, please leave a star rating whilst you're there!
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Espresso Millionaire Shortbread Recipe
- 210 g plain flour (all-purpose)
- 150 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 65 g granulated sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- 2 (14oz/307ml) cans condensed milk
- 230 g unsalted butter
- 110 g light brown sugar, firmly packed
- 120 ml golden syrup
- 2 teaspoon espresso powder
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- 250 g dark chocolate 70%, coarsely chopped
- 30 g unsalted butter
- 50 g white chocolate, chopped, for feathering
- Preheat oven and prep pan. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease a 23 x 23-cm (9 x 9-inch) baking pan and line with parchment paper. Allow the parchment paper to overhang the sides to make it easier to lift the shortbread out once cooked.Make shortbread dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the flour, butter, sugar, egg yolk, vanilla and salt and beat on medium speed until combined and a dough starts to form.
- Level in pan and bake. Tip the dough into the prepared pan and using your hands, press the mixture into the pan until totally level. Using the base of a measuring cup or glass might help to level at the end. Prick the base with the tines of a fork. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden. Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool completely.
- Make caramel. In a medium saucepan over low heat, add the condensed milk, butter, sugar, golden syrup, espresso powder, and salt and heat until the sugar has dissolved, and the butter has melted. Increase the heat, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continuously so that it doesn’t catch. The caramel will thicken to a soft fudge consistency and turn golden-brown. This can take about 5 minutes. (If you have a candy thermometer then the caramel temperature should reach 107C (225F).
- Pour over shortbread. Pour the caramel onto the cooled shortbread base, level with an offset spatula and leave to set for 1 hour in the fridge.
- Melt dark chocolate and layer. Melt the dark chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl does not come into contact with the water. Once melted and glossy, pour the chocolate mixture over the caramel.
- Melt white chocolate and decorate. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave in 20-second increments, stirring well after each. Spoon melted white chocolate into a small piping bag and pipe horizontal straight lines about ¼ inch (6 mm) apart over the dark chocolate. Score the lines using a skewer by dragging it up and down the top of the chocolate, perpendicular to the lines that you piped.Chill and cut. Chill in the fridge until completely set, at least 1 hour or at room temperature for a couple of hours. Remove from the pan by using the parchment paper. Cut into slices or squares using a sharp, hot knife, wiping between each cut.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.
Absolutely delicious! Incredible flavour, the coffee with the caramel is a crowd pleaser.
Thanks so much for the fabulous feedback 🙂