There are two kinds of Nova Scotia oatcakes – soft and chewy, and buttery and crisp. This recipe is for the latter, most often associated with Cape Breton.
What Are Nova Scotia Oatcakes?
Essentially flat, shortbread cookies made with rolled oats, oatcakes are Scottish in origin. Cape Breton Island, located at the Eastern tip of Nova Scotia, has a high concentration of families with Scottish ancestry. For this reason, oatcakes are a prevalent snack throughout the island.
If you’d like to learn more about oatcakes in Nova Scotia, Lindsay Wickstrom, of the blog Eat This Town, has a great post called Nova Scotia Food Profiles: Oatcakes. The post outlines the history of Nova Scotia oatcakes, and includes a list of various offerings around the province. Now to the recipe!
Ingredients You Need To Make Nova Scotia Oatcakes:
- all-purpose flour
- rolled oats (sometimes called large flake)
- baking powder
- brown sugar
- vanilla (optional)
Best Oats To Use For Nova Scotia Oatcakes
Rolled oats, also called large flake oats, are the best oats to use in this recipe. You can make Nova Scotia oatcakes with instant oats, and they will taste pretty much the same, however, instant oats lack the hearty texture of large flake.
Some people use steel cut oats to make oatcakes. I haven’t tried this myself and would love to know if you do!
Which Is The Best Fat To Make Oatcakes – Butter, Shortening, Or Oil?
I tested my Nova Scotia oatcakes recipe with butter, vegan butter, shortening, vegetable oil, and coconut oil. Each batch was delicious, however, they all had different textures. Here’s what happened:
- Butter – Yields the oatcake I imagined when I first set out to develop my ideal Nova Scotia oatcakes. Beating the butter light and fluffy with a mixer gives the oats and flour something to “stick” to, and creates an oatcake that bakes up firm and crisp.
- Vegan Butter – Oatcakes made with vegan butter had the next best texture to regular butter; They held together perfectly. That being said, they lacked a bit of flavour compared to the real deal.
- Vegetable Shortening – The oatcakes made with shortening were super crumbly and didn’t hold together the way butter does, however, better than the versions made with liquid oils. I thought the shortening oatcakes would lack flavour, however, the opposite was true. The oats and brown sugar have enough going on that the absence of butter wasn’t glaringly obvious.
- Vegetable Oil – The flavour was great but the oatcakes were far too crumbly. The vegetable oil version barely held together, however, I have read of others having success with it. If I was developing an oil-based oatcake I’d have kept working to get it right, however, I prioritized the all-butter version for this post.
- Coconut Oil – Yielded the same result as vegetable oil – very, very crumbly. The coconut oil batch had a lovely light note of coconut flavour and I was sad they didn’t work out!
Should Nova Scotia Oatcakes Be Cut Round Or Square?
My partner Chris is from Cape Breton. When I asked family and friends who live on the island for thoughts, one person replied, “I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a round oatcake”. That answer sealed the deal! Because this recipe is for crispy Cape Breton-style oatcakes I decided to cut them square.
I rolled my oatcake dough approximately 5-inches wide by 11-inches long (28-cm x 13-cm), and about ¼-inch (5-mm) thick.
Scoring vs. Slicing
I’ve tried both scoring (cutting lines halfway through the dough then baking it in one piece to be snapped apart when cool) and slicing my oatcakes to bake as individual cookies. Both work great and I think you should just choose with whichever method you prefer.
- To Score The Oatcakes – Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit your baking sheet. Roll the oatcake dough directly on the parchment paper and transfer it to the sheet. Use a pizza cutter, or a thin sharp knife, to cut lines in the top of the dough where you want to break the oatcakes apart after they’re baked and cooled. When scoring dough, do not cut the dough all the way down to your work surface. You just want to create impressions in the dough, about halfway through, to snap clean lines later on.
- To Slice The Oatcakes – Roll your dough on a lightly floured counter top, then use a sharp knife to cut the dough. Use a small spatula, or an offset spatula to transfer the oatcakes to your parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Space the cookies evenly apart as they will spread slightly while baking.
What Size Pan Should You Use To Bake Nova Scotia Oatcakes?
I use a baking sheet that’s slightly smaller than a standard 13 x 18-inch (33 x 46-cm) half sheet (my pan is approximately 12 x 17-inches (31 x 43-cm). Anything in this size range will work well whether you’re leaving the dough whole and scoring the top, or slicing the dough into individual cookies.
Make Nova Scotia Oatcakes Gluten-Free, Vegan, Or Both
I made three different combinations of gluten-free and vegan oatcakes while testing this recipe. I used Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour and Vegan Becel (not sponsored) to make them as that’s what I had on hand.
Please note if you are making oatcakes with rice flour you will probably not be able to roll them with a rolling pin. Instead, pat the dough into shape with your hands.
- To Make Gluten Free Oatcakes – Substitute 1 cup (160g) of brown rice flour for the all-purpose flour and use certified gluten-free oats. You will probably not be able to roll the dough. Instead, pat it into shape with your hands.
- To Make Gluten-Free Vegan Oatcakes – Substitute 1 cup (160g) of brown rice flour for the all-purpose flour and use certified gluten-free oats. Use the same amount of vegan butter as butter called for in the recipe. You will probably not be able to roll the dough. Instead, pat it into shape with your hands.
- To Make Vegan Oatcakes – Substitute the same amount of vegan butter as butter called for in the recipe.
Delicious Add-Ins You Could Try
I’m a purist and like to leave my Nova Scotia oatcakes unadorned, without any additions. If you do want to add other flavours, here are some ideas you could try:
- Melt some chocolate then dip one half of each cooled oatcake in the chocolate. Lay on a rack until the chocolate hardens.
- Add a dollop of peanut butter to the butter and brown sugar in the mixer and proceed with the recipe as written.
- Try spices like cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, or homemade chai spice
- Throw in ½ cup of nuts or seeds – walnuts, almonds, pecans, or sunflower, pumpkin, or sesame seeds
- Add ½ cup dried fruit – raisins, cranberries, or chopped dates
- Anything else you have in your pantry that you think might be delicious!
Tips & Suggestions For Making Nova Scotia Oatcakes:
- Before Baking The Oatcakes – If you place your cookies in the oven directly after slicing they will spread a tiny bit. If you want more perfect, squared off edges place your unbaked oatcakes in the freezer for 20 minutes before putting them in the oven.
- To Serve Oatcakes – I like to eat mine plain alongside a cup of tea. My mother-in-law butters the top of her oatcakes. Others serve them with a slice of sharp cheddar. They are also fantastic accompanied by fresh fruit like apples, pears, or bananas.
- To Store Oatcakes – Place oatcakes in an airtight container with a tight fitting lid on the counter for up to one week. They will also keep on the counter, stacked together, and wrapped in foil. After one week I would pop them in the freezer. Ours never last that long!
- To Freeze Oatcakes – If using a container with a lid, place one layer of oatcakes in the bottom of the container and top with a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit. Place a second layer of oatcakes on top of the paper and repeat until all of the oatcakes are in the container. Another option is foil. Stack and wrap the oatcakes tightly in two layers of foil. For either method you can keep the oatcakes in the freezer for up to three months.
- To Reheat Oatcakes – Remove as many oatcakes as you need from the freezer. Thaw to room temperature and eat, or warm in the microwave, toaster-oven, or oven until heated through.
More Nova Scotia-Inspired Recipes You Might Like:
- 1 cup (90g) rolled oats (also called large flake oats)
- ¾ cup (112g) all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (113g) butter, room temperature
- ½ cup (100g) brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF / 180ºC. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Mix the flour, oats, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
- Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the brown sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until smooth, about 2 minutes more.
- Switch to the paddle attachment. Add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to clump together and most dry bits are mixed in.
- Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape it into a smooth disc with your hands. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 5 x 11-inches (28 x 13-cm) in size, and about ¼-inch (5mm) thick.
- If Slicing The Oatcakes - Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 12 even pieces. Using a small spatula, or an offset spatula, lift each oatcake onto the prepared baking sheet. If Scoring The Oatcakes - Transfer the uncut dough to the parchment-lined sheet. Use a knife or a pizza cutter to score the dough, about halfway through, into 12 evenly sized pieces. Do not cut all the way through the dough!
- Place the oatcakes in the oven and bake for 13-15 minutes, or until the edges are golden. Set the pan on a cooling rack and let the oatcakes cool completely. They will crisp up as they cool. Serve with tea, butter, cheese, fruit, or anything else you like.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 180Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 109mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 1gSugar: 10gProtein: 2g
DISCLAIMER - NUTRITIONAL DATA IS PROVIDED BY A CALCULATOR AND IS A ROUGH ESTIMATION OF THE NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION IN THIS RECIPE.