Parks Canada Heritage Gourmet Recipes


Some have declared that this shortbread is the best they have ever tasted!


Origin: Woodside National Historic Site
Region: Ontario
Period: 19th Century
Course: Desserts and Baked Goods

Woodside National Historic Site Photo of Woodside
© Library and Archives Canada

Woodside is the boyhood home of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s 10th and longest serving prime minister. His grandparents emigrated from Scotland, bringing with them a love of shortbread. King’s family entertained often, and shortbread would surely have been served at some of these gatherings.

This shortbread is often the first thing new Parks Canada staff and volunteers make at Woodside National Historic Site. Although the recipe is just 3 ingredients, it has gone very wrong at times, particularly when baked in the woodstove. Rock-hard, burnt, and even under-baked shortbread are occasional mishaps.

Many visitors have declared it the best shortbread they’ve ever tasted, and some have started using this recipe instead of their previous favourite!



  • 1 cup | 250 ml sugar
  • 4 cups | 750 - 1000 g flour (closer to 750 g)
  • 1 lb | 454 g butter
  • pinch of salt (not necessary if butter is salted)
  • almond or vanilla extract, if desired


  • Sift together the flour, sugar and salt and rub in the butter. It is important to be gentle with the dough to avoid making it too hard or tough. Roll to ½" thick and cut out with cookie cutters, or pat the dough onto a cookie sheet and prick with a fork. Bake in a slow oven (350°F | 180°C) until pale brown, about 12-15 minutes. It is important to cut the shortbread into fingers while still warm.


Recipe tested by Chef Scott Warrick, Algonquin College School of Hospitality and Tourism

The source of this recipe is unknown. It has been used at Woodside for a very long time. It is reflective of other recipes available during the 1890s.

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