Make Ahead

Earl Grey and Five Spice Millionaire's Shortbread

February 15, 2012
Author Notes

Years ago, my friend Sara traveled to rural India. She contacted me with photos and a plea. I had to learn how to make Bhagsu cake, a dessert from the mountain village where she stayed, so that she would never have to go without it.

After some research, I discovered that Bhagsu cake was a spinoff of an English dessert called millionaire's shortbread. Each candy-bar shaped piece consisted of three layers; shortbread, caramel and chocolate. All well and good, but it begs for an exotic twist.

My version gives it that. The layers are; five spice shortbread, Earl Grey caramel, and bergamot infused chocolate. The top is flecked with bits of candied bergamot peel, to look like gold nuggets. Because that is what millionaire's eat, right?

Bergamot, the citrus fruit used to flavor Earl Grey tea, is only in season this month. And it is still not easy to find. But don't stress. It could be omitted from this recipe with no damage.

This recipe has the added benefit of being dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan. And unforgettably tasty. —Anitalectric

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe is the perfect opportunity to add a decadent vegan & gluten free dessert to your repertoire. The shortbread is flavorful and buttery (without butter!), the caramel rich and chewy, and the chocolate silky on top. The 5 spice and Earl Grey are wonderful exotic compliments to one another. While some ingredients require an extra stop at your local Asian food market it is worth the adventure! —Jenny B

  • Makes 16 bars
  • Earl Grey Five Spice Millionaire's Shortbread
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons looseleaf Earl Grey tea
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 pan 5 spice shortbread (recipe follows)
  • 5 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 bergamot (optional)
  • 2 cups sugar (optional, to make bergamot syrup)
  • Five Spice Shortbread
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbp extra virgin coconut oil, room temp
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon five spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
In This Recipe
  1. Earl Grey Five Spice Millionaire's Shortbread
  2. To make Earl Grey caramel: Bring the coconut milk to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in tea leaves. Cover and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Whisk and then strain out leaves, being sure to press out all possible liquid (the last drops will have the most flavor). Reserve milk.
  3. Over low heat, simmer 3/4 cup of the tea infused coconut milk with the sugar, agave and salt until it reaches 234°F (soft ball stage). Add the remaining milk and heat to 248°F (hard ball stage). Please note, this will take at least an hour. You do not have to monitor it constantly, but you do have to stir once in a while to prevent burning. Use this time to make the shortbread (see recipe below).
  4. Remove caramel from heat and pour over shortbread. Spread into an even layer. Chill to set.
  5. If using bergamot, remove peel and cut into 1cm thick strips. Add, along with juice, to small pan with 1 cup sugar. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until peels are candied and syrup is thickened. Remove peels and place, submerged, in another cup of sugar. Reserve syrup in a heatproof bowl.
  6. Place syrup over double boiler and melt chocolate and coconut oil into it. (If you are not using bergamot, omit syrup from this step). Stir until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and a pinch of salt.
  7. Pour chocolate mixture over caramel in pan and spread into even layer. While it is cooling, remove some bergamot peels from sugar and chop fine. Sprinkle over top of chocolate.
  8. Chill completely and cut into 16 bars. Store them chilled in a tightly sealed container.
  1. Five Spice Shortbread
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 1/4 size sheet pan and parchment paper liner with shortening or oil.
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients except for sugar.
  4. Beat the coconut oil, sugar and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients until incorporated and mixture is crumbly.
  5. Transfer to pan and press into an even layer. Chill in freezer for at least 5 minutes before baking.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until edges are golden but middle is still slightly soft. Remove to a rack to cool.
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I am a self-trained vegan chef, pastry chef and baker. Please visit for more info, and check out DIYVeganTV, my new cooking channel on YouTube. I make Anita's Creamline Coconut Yogurt, a dairy-free probiotic yogurt available at stores throughout NYC. Please visit for more info. Thanks for checking out my recipes!