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Gallery: Portree on Skye baker crowned winner of inaugural Highland Shortbread Showdown

The first-ever Highland Shortbread Showdown final took place on Saturday - and Paul Macintosh of Portree's MacKenzie's Bakery proved cream of the crop.

The winner of the inaugural Highland Shortbread Showdown was Paul Macintosh, of MacKenzie's Bakery in Portree.
The winner of the inaugural Highland Shortbread Showdown was Paul Macintosh, of MacKenzie's Bakery in Portree.

The competition to find the Highland’s premier shortbread maker came to a close on Saturday as Paul Macintosh of Portree on Skye bakery Mackenzie’s Bakery took home the trophy.

Held at Inverness Cathedral, Paul was presented with the coveted top prize after outbaking his competitors at the grand final.

The baker’s winning shortbread was flavoured with salted caramel and sea salt sourced from the Isle of Skye Sea Salt Company.

Some of the shortbread on offer.

It wowed the judges including head judge and Aberdeenshire chef Craig Wilson – otherwise known as The Kilted Chef.

Well-known Highland bakers Kirsten Gilmour of KJ’s Bothy Bakery (formerly the Mountain Café), Jeni Iannetta of Bad Girl Bakery, and Rain Bakery’s Steven Traill were also on the judging panel.

Tourism group Visit Inverness Loch Ness (VILN) is behind the Highland Shortbread Showdown.

‘The Highlands is the home of shortbread’

The grand final saw winners from each of the region’s eight Destination Management Organisations in Inverness and Loch Ness, Moray, Nairn, Skye and Lochalsh, Dornoch, Caithness and Sutherland, Lochaber, and the Cairngorms.

In all, 63 businesses entered the competition.

On being crowned winner of the Highland Shortbread Showdown, Paul said: “It was a fantastic weekend and build up to the final in Inverness.

“When I saw all the different shortbread presented in Inverness Cathedral, I did not think for a minute we would win!

The judges go through the tasting process in Inverness Cathedral.

“It really was amazing to see so many different shortbreads from all over the Highlands, which really does show that it is the home of the shortbread.

“I have a feeling we will be making a lot more shortbread this year and Mara Stewart my go-to shortbread maker in the bakery is very pleased with our accolade.

“I would like to thank all the people behind the scenes, the judges, sponsors and all the contestants who took part and helped make the Highland Shortbread Showdown such a great event.”

Paul revealed it was in fact his auntie and granny that inspired his passion for baking, and thus the recipe that resulted in him winning the competition.

Paul, left, alongside head judge Craig.

“On a personal note, I would like to pay tribute to my fantastic staff, my shop manager Marie Nicolson and to all our loyal customers in Skye,” he went on to say.

“Special mention to my auntie Mary Flora Clark and my wee granny Joyce Macdonald for passing on the baking skills over the years – I’ve gifted the trophy to them.”

Craig Wilson added: “There’s something lovely when you taste something and it does something to you. All the judges nodded and we had a wee giggle and agreed it really is brilliant.

“When you add sugar in the right quantity with a little bit of sea salt – it’s an absolutely amazing combination and put a smile on our faces.”

The competition was fierce at the first-ever Highland Shortbread Showdown.

Joint second place was awarded to the Speyside Centre and Apartment at No 8, both representing the Cairngorms. Third place was awarded to Atholl House on Skye.

Fun for all visitors

During the final, which was free to attend and welcomed roughly 800 visitors, there was live music from University of the Highlands and Islands students Ceara Campbell, Lola O’Dorel, Ailsa Black and ‘The Chosen Lonely’ (Steven Barclay).

There were also live baking demonstrations, as well as a Highland business showcase, treasure hunt and shortbread designing.

Food and drink stalls had been set up both in and outside the Cathedral by:

  • Grain and Grind
  • Dog Falls Brewery
  • Great Glen Distillery
  • Heilan Brew
  • XOKO
  • Pure Bakery
  • The Chocolate Place
  • Highland Food and Drink Trail
  • Cafe Ness
Diane Marples and Elspeth Beardwood of Caobt Highlands enjoying the competition.

Speaking about the event, CEO of VILN Michael Golding said: “What a fantastic final!

“Huge congratulations to Mackenzie’s Bakery from Skye but also to everybody who took part.

“There was a great atmosphere at Inverness Cathedral on Saturday with locals and tourists alike coming along to sample the amazing shortbread and try out the other food and drinks vendors from across the Highlands.”

The event was supported by Scotland Food & Drink, Grain and Grind, Walker’s Shortbread, Dean’s, The Highland Council and Inverness Common Good Fund.

As well as judging the entries, Craig also gave demonstrations at the event.

Fiona Richmond, head of regional food at Scotland Food & Drink, said: “The Highlands is an area rich with tourism businesses dedicated to enhancing visitor experience by sharing our country’s traditions.

“This competition brought together some of Scotland’s most rural communities and hard-working talented individuals over a shared love of shortbread. We were really excited to support it.”

A recipe book of all the shortbread recipes that entered the showdown was on sale at the final raising £765 for Highland Hospice.

The book can still be purchased directly from the Highland Hospice.

More pictures from the Highland Shortbread Showdown…

Amanda MacArthur of Nairn zero-waste shop The Highland Weigh with her entry.
All recipes for the shortbread entries feature in a book currently on sale.
From left, Steven Traill, Kirsten Gilmour, Craig Wilson and Jeni Iannetta
Rachael and Martin Tracy of Atholl House in Skye came third in the competition.
More than 800 people visited the Cathedral on Saturday.
A competitor preparing to dish out their shortbread.