By Mary Gwynn From the book The WI Cookbook
Shortbread recipe from The WI Cookbook

1923 found the WI getting into its stride as a movement with nearly a decade under its belt. In January of that year there were 2,932 WIs, up from 140 in 1917, and membership stood at 174,929. In the December issue, Home & Country was full of news of Christmas pageants, plus correspondence that sheds light on the ongoing debate about an ‘institute song’.A significant letter penned by WI member Grace E Hadow, reports attending ‘Exhibitions or Council meetings at which the whole assembly has joined in singing Blake’s Jerusalem’. The writer urges other WIs to write in to headquarters to ask that this practice to be approved nationally. Jerusalem was sung at the AGMfor the first time the following year.

This shortbread recipe appeared in the December issue, and many versions turn up throughout WI publications and in households across the UK – with every cook declaring that their own is the very best. The updated recipe is a typical example of one of the countless variations.

Prep Time 15 min Cook time 12 min For how many? Makes 14 fingers


  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g butter, cubed
  • 50g caster sugar


Sift the flour into a bowl. Stir in the sugar and rub the butter in until the whole mixture comes together. Press the mixture into a 17–18cm square tin.

Preheat the oven to 160°C/ fan oven 140°C/ gas mark 6. Bake the shortbread for 12–15 minutes or until pale golden. Cut into fingers.

See all recipes »

More by Mary Gwynn

See all recipes »

Sweet thing

See all recipes »

More baking recipes