Classic fifteens are a delicious no-bake refrigerator teatime treat originating from Northern Ireland.
Just a few ingredients are required: vegan marshmallows, digestive biscuits, candied cherries, vegan condensed milk, and desiccated coconut.
Mixed together and chilled within the refrigerator, the result is a similar to a rocky road without the chocolate, and the flavour is light, fresh, not too sweet but irresistibly moreish.
Vegan fifteens can also be easily prepared as safe for gluten-free diets, and if your not a fan of candied cherries these can be replaced with chocolate buttons, your favourite soft candy or even dried fruit.
Origin of Fifteens
When my kids were younger and we lived in Northern Ireland I tried my first fifteen in a wee local cafe and the unique texture and flavour was incredibly delicious. We were vegetarian back then but now that we are plant-based and enjoy a vegan diet, I wanted to recreate this tasty teatime treat.
Fifteens are basically a mixture of 15 digestive biscuits, 15 marshmallows, 15 glace/candied cherries, condescend milk and desiccated coconut. No baking is required as the sweet mixture is chilled in a log shape until firm and then sliced into 15 pieces.
The result is similar to a rocky road refrigerator bake but with no chocolate. However, some variations of fifteens do include sweets/candy such as chocolate Maltesers which replace the candied cherries.
And for St Patrick's Day the red candied cherries are often replaced with green candied cherries for an even more patriotic sweet treat!
Fifteens are less well known outwith Northern Ireland or the Ulster region [which includes some areas of Northern Ireland as well as the Republic of Ireland or the South].
Although Starbucks in Northern Ireland has got in on the act and started to sell fifteens, although they are square shaped rather than the traditional more circular oval type shape.
It is amazingly simple to prepare vegan fifteens as the main ingredients just need to be replaced with a vegan version.
Vegan marshmallows are now quite easy to find in local supermarkets or online retailers, and many popular digestive biscuits brands and supermarket own digestive biscuits are fine for vegan diets.
The main brand McVities Digestive plain biscuits are now suitable for vegans as they have recently removed the ingredient skimmed milk from the recipe.
However, do check the ingredients on the packets of biscuits before purchasing as recipes are prone to change from time to time.
If you would like to prepare gluten-free fifteens then choose a gluten-free digestive biscuit. I have linked to a gluten-free variety within the recipe below, that can be found on Amazon, UK. However, you could probably find the same brand in your local health store or shop, or supermarket for cheaper.
There are also vegan condensed milk options available and these can be found in many supermarkets.
The one I used was Nestle Carnation vegan condensed milk simply because this was what was available, as I am limited in what ingredients I have access to as we live in rural Scotland far from any large supermarkets. A bonus of this vegan condensed milk is that it is also gluten-free.
How To Prepare Vegan Fifteens
Fifteens are traditionally moulded into an oval sausage roll shape before being tightly wrapped and chilled.
However, for an alternative easier method simply press firmly into a lined baking dish and chill.
First grind the digestive biscuits into crumbs. Use either a food processer and whizz or pulse until fine crumbs, or place the biscuits into a food or freezer bag, seal, and bash with a rolling pin or can of food until crumbed.
Slice the cherries in half and the marshmallows into 3-4 pieces.
Stir everything together.
Pour in the vegan condensed milk and stir until the mixture clumps together.
Scatter the desiccated coconut over the food wrap.
Firmly shape the mixture into a thick log shape in the mixing bowl. It should be easy to pick it up in one piece.
Place the fifteen mixture onto the coconut and mould the mix firmly together into a thick long log shape. Scatter the top with desiccated coconut.
Lift the food wrap and wrap it tightly around the log several times.
Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours or preferably overnight.
The fifteen log will be very firm once chilled completely.
Slice into 15 portions.
Storage And Freezing
Fifteens can be stored within a covered food container and placed in the refrigerator for up to 5-7 days. Although they will be fine outwith the refrigerator for a day or so.
Fifteens can also be frozen for 3-4 months, well wrapped with cling film/Seram wrap or parchment paper. A second layer of kitchen foil will provide extra protection against freezer burn.
Unwrap and place in the refrigerator to defrost, or unwrap and defrost to room temperature.
The main reason that this Irish no-bake cake is called fifteens is the ingredient pattern of having 15 digestives, 15 marshmallows and 15 cherries. Also that the fifteens are sliced into 15 portions.
However, as many people like to have a classic fifteen minute tea or coffee break and the fifteens are intended to be enjoyed along with a cup of tea, then possibly they also got the name from the fifteen minute break idea.
In the UK a biscuit tends to be something that is crunchy, crumbly and perfect for dunking into a cup of tea.
Digestive biscuits or sweet-meal biscuits are popular within the UK and are a plain style of British biscuit or cookie that are prepared with wholewheat or brown flour.
In the US a biscuit is closer to a British scone in texture and appearance, and a cookie is what the US would likely call a British biscuit!
Digestive biscuits actually originate from Scotland and was invented by two Scottish doctors in 1839 with the aim of creating a biscuit that would be a useful digestive aid. Bicarbonate of soda featured within the biscuits as they were believed to help neutralize acids within the stomach.
McVities the British biscuit company began manufacturing digestive biscuits in 1892.
Yes. Any variety of plain crunchy biscuit can be substituted for the digestives. Although do avoid using biscuits that have a cream filling as they may not grind to a fine crumb and could result in the fifteen mixture becoming too moist.
For the US and other countries digestives may be difficult to source or may be too expensive if sold within British speciality stores, so a vegan-friendly Graham cracker could be used or a similar biscuit/cookie.
Of course not. Many people dislike candied cherries so these can be replaced with another dried fruit or perhaps some vegan chocolate buttons/drops or chips.
Soft vegan sweets or candy can also replace the cherries such as Jelly Tots.
Although if you do like candied cherries, they do come in different colours such as yellow and green as well as the most common red.
The green candied cherries would be perfect for fifteens that are for a St Patricks Day celebration.
Yes, firstly choose a gluten-free digestive biscuit brand.
Such as Asda Free From Digestive biscuits, or Sainsbury's Deliciously Free from Digestive biscuits. Have a look around your local supermarket or health store and you'll likely find some tasty gluten-free digestives.
Also ensure that the vegan marshmallows are gluten-free as well as the vegan condensed milk. The Nestle carnation vegan condensed milk is gluten-free.
Planning a vegan Afternoon tea, party, buffet, picnic, or pack lunch?
Do check out our growing collection of delicious vegan baking recipes for more traditional baking ideas.
Especially yummy and easy are these British Jam tarts, and these iconic old-fashioned oatmeal raisin cookies, and the ultimate family favourite coconut and jam sponge traybake which is wonderful enjoyed with hot vegan custard.
For another classic Northern Irish treat that features marshmallows, try these incredibly simple and nostalgic Top Hat Treats.
Vegan Classic Fifteens [Refrigerator Bake]
- Food processer optional, [as can simply bash the digestives to crumbs with the aid of a rolling pin or food can and a food/freezer bag.]
- Mixing bowl
- greaseproof/baking paper or cling film/Seram wrap [for wrapping the fifteen log]
- Baking tray/large plate
- 15 digestive biscuits [vegan friendly brand, or replace with another plain crunchy vegan biscuit/ can use graham crackers]
- 15 vegan marshmallows regular sized, [if using mini marshmallows more will be required about 3-4 mini marshmallows for one regular]
- 15 candied cherries glace cherries [can replace with soft/crunchy vegan sweets/candies/chocolates/dried fruits such as apricots or dates]
- 230 millilitres vegan condensed milk may require a little less or more
- 60 grams desiccated coconut
- First crush the digestive biscuits into crumbs. Either place the digestives into a food processer and pulse until the biscuits are crumbs or place the digestives into a food bag, seal, and bash with a rolling pin or food can until crumbed.
- Tip the crumbs into a mixing bowl. Cut each cherry in half and slice the marshmallows into 3-4 pieces. Mix all the ingredients together.
- Pour in about 200 millilitres of condensed milk and stir well, squashing the ingredients together. Pour the last 40 millilitres if necessary to stick all the ingredients together into a large single clump. You may require more or less of the thick, creamy milk, use enough so that the mixture can be picked up and squashed together.
- Set a sheet of greaseproof/parchment paper on to a baking tray or large plate. Sprinkle the desiccated coconut over the paper. [Alternatively cling film/Seram wrap or a reusable alternative can be used and may be more easy to wrap the mixture with as it is tends to be more pliable.]
- Lift the fifteen mixture out the mixing bowl and place it onto the coconut. Mould the fifteen dough into a thick, long even shaped log. Press the mixture gently but firmly together as you mould it. Your aiming for 15 slices so use a knife and check to see if the log is the right size for 13-15 slices. But don't actually cut through the dough yet. Each slice is roughly about 2 inch in length and about 1- 1½ inch wide, and about ½ thick, although technically the fifteens can be any size your prefer or end up with so don't aim for perfection.
- Pick up some of the desiccated coconut and sprinkle it over the top of the log. Now firmly wrap the fifteen log with the paper or cling film. There should be enough wrapping to cover the log with several layers.Press and smooth the log through the wrapping, and mould it some more if necessary.
- [Alternatively line a square baking pan with greaseproof paper, a small-medium sized brownie pan is ideal, and just press the fifteen dough very firmly into the pan. Sprinkle with desiccated coconut. This will produce square shaped fifteens]
- Place the fifteens into the refrigerator to chill for at least 2-3 hours, although preferably 6 hours or so, or even better overnight.The fifteens log should be very firm when set.
- Using a sharp knife slice the fifteens into fifteen pieces or however many you prefer or can slice.
- If using the baking pan, simply remove the fifteens by lifting out with the aid of the parchment paper and slice into portions.
- Nutritional information is for guidance only and is not a strict calculation as ingredients vary.
- Fifteens can be stored within the refrigerator for up to 5-7 days. Cover with parchment paper and place into an airtight container. Or simply store uncovered within a food container and place in the refrigerator.
- Fifteens can be frozen, well wrapped, for 3-4 months. Either freeze the fifteens log before slicing or freeze slices of fifteens. A piece of parchment paper between slices will make it easier to pull out one or two pieces at a time.
- For gluten-free fifteens use a gluten-free digestive biscuit and gluten-free marshmallows.
- If souring digestive biscuits are difficult such as if your in the US, then graham crackers can be used instead.
- Any variety of crunchy, plain biscuit can be used. Many ordinary brands are accidently vegan so worth having a look.
- Not a fan of glace or candied cherries? Simply omit or replace with vegan chocolate chips/buttons, or other soft vegan candy/sweets such as Jelly Tots, or dried fruits such as dates or apricots.
Prepared these tasty vegan fifteens?
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Take Care Jacq x