scones for santa

Creamier scones

22 December 2011

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but after making 400 scones for teachers and neighbors in the last two days, I’ve realized something important: more cream is better. Turns out it’s much safer to start with a moister dough and add flour as needed than risk a dry scone. The magic of these cream scones – all cream, no butter! – is that they melt in your mouth.

Or should. My mega-batches were coming out a bit dry, and I realized that Marion Cunningham’s brilliantly easy recipe (from her great The Breakfast Book) leaves little room for error.

For years I’d made a version of Marion’s recipe that came from my friend Lisa‘s cousin Bessie. It wasn’t until happened to flip open The Breakfast Book in a used bookstore to the exact page of the dried fruit cream scones that I learned the origin of the recipe. Later I realized that Bessie’s variation had 1/4 cup more cream than Marion’s. I thought maybe it was a typo from the many hand-offs of the recipe.

In my original dried fruit cream scones post, I tested Marion’s original recipe against Bessie’s variation. Bessie’s always made a sticky dough that required additional flour for kneading. When I used Marion’s recipe, the dough was perfect as soon as I’d incorporated in all the flour. So I posted Marion’s original recipe here.

But some flours are thirstier than others – depending on type and age of flour, humidity, time of year – and if you don’t have more cream to add, you’ll end up with a dry scone instead a moist and tender one. Since the average cook is more likely to have extra flour than extra cream on hand, I think it’s safer to start with Bessie’s recipe. That way you can add more flour as you need it.

The trade-off is that with the softer dough Bessie’s scones don’t always keep their shape, sometimes spreading a bit during cooking. But the soft, moist interior is easily worth the cosmetic sacrifice.

I’ve updated the original post and the printable version. And because I like things neat, this summer I did the math and added proportions to the recipe notes for using a full pint or quart of cream instead of the 1 1/2 cups called for in the recipe. I’ve adjusted those for Bessie’s variation.

I also added weight measurements for the flour for anyone outside of the US or using alternative flours.

Leave some scones out for Santa on Christmas Eve, or have some yourself with a cup of something hot for a treat on Christmas morning.

Other holiday recipes

Dried Fruit Cream Scones
Adapted from The Breakfast Book by the great Marion Cunningham. The best scones you’ve ever had. Moist, tender and a breeze to make.


  • 2 cups flour (270g/9.5 oz), plus additional flour for kneading
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit (chopped if large)
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Sugar topping

  • Cream or melted butter for brushing on scones
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (raw/coarse sugar gives a nice crunch if you have it)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix with a fork.
  3. Add cranberries and raisins. Mix.
  4. Pour in cream (but keep the measuring cup for later) and mix with fork until dough becomes thick and hard to stir.
  5. Using hand, knead the sticky dough in the bowl, turning and pressing the dough to incorporate the flour. Add more flour if you need it, a tablespoon at a time, until surface of dough is smooth, soft and no longer sticky.
  6. Split the ball in half to form two smaller balls. Then split each half again in two smaller balls. You will now have four small balls of dough.
  7. On a lightly floured surface, slightly flatten each ball into a thick disc about 5″ in diameter.
  8. Pour a few drops of cream from the empty measuring cup on each disc and use fingers to spread cream evenly over the top. Sprinkle with sugar.

  9. Cut each disc evenly into six wedges. Place on ungreased baking sheet, leaving some room in between for scones to rise as they bake.
  10. Bake 15 minutes, or until scones are golden brown.

Makes 24 small scones.


  • Substitute any dried fruit or nuts you like. Chop nuts and large fruit, eg dried apricots.
  • I don’t recommend substituting fresh fruit for dried – I’ve tried making these with frozen blueberries, and oddly enough the water moisture of the fresh fruit dilutes the creamy moistness of this scone dough. The frozen blueberry scones were good, but the dried fruit scones are life changing.
  • If you want to use a pint (2 cups) of cream, here are the other proportions: 2 2/3 cups flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 2/3 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup sugar, 2/3 cup cranberries, 1/3 cup golden raisins, 2 cups heavy cream. Divide into six balls. Makes 36 small scones.
  • If you want to use a quart (4 cups) of cream, here are the other proportions: 5 1/3 cups flour, 8 teaspoons baking powder, 1 1/3 teaspoons salt, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 1/3 cup cranberries, 2/3 cup golden raisins, 4 cups heavy cream. Divide into 12 balls. Makes 72 small scones.

Here’s the link to a printable version.

This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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