The Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

What are the true ingredients of a Bakewell tart?

What are the true ingredients of a Bakewell tart?
Image: Samuel Pollen
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Northerners take their puddings seriously: Eccles cakes from Manchester, sticky toffee pudding from Cartmel, and Bakewell tart from Derbyshire. These hyper local puddings have been adopted by sweet tooths all over the country, but woe betide anyone who tries to mess with their traditions. In this, Bakewell tart provides its own challenges: the locals call it a pudding, and many will argue that it should have a puff pastry base rather than the shortcrust that it tends to have elsewhere, and even feature custard rather than frangipane. And we also have to contend with another variety – those made famous by Mr Kipling, which use a cherry jam, and decorate with a thick layer of fondant icing and a glace cherry.

Bakewell’s origin story contains the two most important aspects of any origin story: a kitchen accident, and an extremely spurious factual basis. The legend goes that in 1860, a waitress in one of the town’s pubs, The White Horse, failed to follow her mistress’s instructions and, rather than making a strawberry jam tart, ended up with what we now call a Bakewell pudding. But history begs to differ, with claims to the tart predating the poor waitress’s mishap by a couple of decades as far afield as Scotland and Boston, Massachusetts, not to mention the fact that the supposed proprietress of the White Horse never actually existed. The earliest recipes call for puff pastry and candied peel, neither of which now form a part of that which we happily call a Bakewell tart.

But no matter: the search for authenticity is usually a tricky and fruitless one. As enjoyable as a good origin story is, the true joy of a pudding is in the eating – and often in the ways the recipe has adapted and changed in the hands of those who made it across the years. In all but Bakewell itself, shortcrust has become the pastry of choice, and the candied fruit has peeled away. Here, I’ve courted popularity, and braved the wrath of Derbyshire, and gone for the most recognisable elements of the Bakewell: a decent layer of raspberry jam delivers just enough sharpness against the unapologetic sweetness of the frangipane, and the shortest of barely sweet pastry cases gives the pudding a necessary bite.

Bakewell tart

Makes: 1 9 inch tart (serves 8)

Takes: 30 minutes plus chilling

Bakes: 40 minutes

For the pastry

250g plain flour

125g unsalted butter

1 tablespoon caster sugar

1 teaspoon fine salt

125ml water

For the frangipane

100g unsalted butter, softened

100g light brown sugar

100g ground almonds

1 egg

1 teaspoon almond essence or 1 tablespoon amaretto

1 tablespoon self-raising flour

5 tablespoons seeded raspberry jam

2 tablespoons Flaked almonds

  1. First make your pastry. Combine the butter, flour, salt and sugar in a food processor or between your fingertips until the mixture is like breadcrumbs. Beat in the water using a wooden spoon until the dough is smooth. Flatten into a disc and wrap in clingfilm, before refrigerating for 2 hours.
  2. Roll the chilled pastry into a circle about half a centimetre thick, roll this up onto your rolling pin, and gently lay into a 9 inch tart tin. Chill for half an hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Trim the overhang pastry, prick the base with a fork, line with baking paper and weigh the pastry down using rice or sugar or baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the pastry weights and baking paper, and bake for a final 5 minutes.
  4. Reduce the oven to 180°C. For the frangipane, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy and noticeably lighter in colour. Add the egg followed by the almonds, self-raising flour and almond essence or amaretto.
  5. Spread the jam into the base of the tart and gently smooth across the pastry which will still be fragile as it is still warm. Spoon the frangipane onto the tart, level it, and return to the oven for 20 minutes. Carefully sprinkle the flaked almonds over the baked frangipane and bake for a final five minutes.

Written byThe Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

Olivia Potts is a former criminal barrister who retrained as a pastry chef. She co-hosts The Spectator’s Table Talk podcast and writes Spectator Life's The Vintage Chef column. A chef and food writer, she was winner of the Fortnum and Mason's debut food book award in 2020 for her memoir A Half Baked Idea.

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