I’d never tried or even heard of bakewell tarts until I went to London last summer. As a baker and lover of tarts, I naturally became curious about the packs of bakewell tarts that I saw sold in supermarkets. I learned that there’s a town called Bakewell in the UK, and from what I read online, the tart may not actually have originated from there, although it may have been derived from the Bakewell Pudding, which does have its origins in Bakewell.
One evening, on the way to Canada Square Park in Canary Wharf to meet some friends of my sister’s for a summer concert, we stopped at Waitrose to pick up some snacks. Itching to finally try a bakewell tart, I bought a pack of Mr. Kipling Cherry Bakewells. When we got there, the friends had already staked out a spot on the grass with a picnic blanket and plenty of food. There was so much to eat that I ended up taking the unopened box of tarts back to my sister’s and – since she wasn’t having any – had them all to myself (over the course of a few days, of course)! They were definitely on the sweet side, but I enjoyed them nonetheless!
It’s actually pretty easy to make a traditional bakewell tart, which consists of a shortcrust pastry spread with raspberry jam, filled with frangipane, (a mixture of ground almonds, butter, sugar and eggs) and topped with almond slices. The sweeter cherry bakewell has an additional layer of almond-flavoured icing over the frangipane, and is topped with half a glacé cherry.
I have a couple of frangipane recipes that I use. There’s the standard one, with equal proportions of ground almonds, sugar, butter and eggs. Mostly, however, I like to make a slightly less rich frangipane with a little less almonds and the addition of sponge crumbs. This time, I opted for the latter, which resulted in a somewhat lighter and less dense tart.
Frangipane is usually used as a filling for pastries or a base for fruit tarts. But with a bakewell tart, the frangipane is front and centre!
I used a sweet shortcrust pastry (pâte sucrée) instead, just because I happened to have some leftover in my freezer. In fact, I also had leftover frangipane too. How wonderful is that, when you want to make something, and everything’s pretty much ready to go?! So putting this together was a cinch! I actually thought that the pâte sucrée worked really well – the end product was delicious and not too sweet at all!
BAKEWELL TART (Makes 1 – 9″ tart)
135g flour, sifted
90g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of lemon zest
6 Tbsp raspberry jam
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
110g icing sugar
80g ground almonds
2 large eggs, at room temperature
55g sponge crumbs (from about 8 lady finger biscuits)*
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1/2 lemon
handful of almond slices
*Use a food processor to blitz the lady fingers to fine crumbs. Do not substitute with bread crumbs.
To make the pastry:
1) Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar on slow speed until well blended and no lumps remain. Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl.
2) Add in egg yolk, vanilla extract and lemon zest. Mix on low speed, scraping down the sides, until well blended.
3) Add in the flour. Continue to mix on low speed until just combined. Do not overwork.
4) Using your hands, bring the dough together to form a ball.
5) Shape dough into a flat, round disk. Wrap well with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
To make the frangipane:
1) In a mixing bowl, cream butter and icing sugar on medium speed. Add in vanilla and lemon zest and continue mixing until light and fluffy.
2) Add eggs, one by one, mixing well after each addition.
3) Add in ground almonds and sponge crumbs. Blend well. Set aside.
Assembling the tart:
1) Preheat oven to 375F (190C).
2) On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4″ thickness. To transfer, roll the dough carefully back onto the rolling pin, then gently unroll it over a 9″ tart tin. Shape the dough by pressing it into the tart tin. Use a knife to cut off the excess dough. Dock the pastry by pricking all over the base with a fork, then chill for 30 minutes.
3) Blind bake the tart shell for 15 minutes until golden. Place on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes.
4) Spread the jam evenly all over the base of the pastry.
5) Fill with frangipane. Level the surface with the back of a spoon or palette knife.
6) Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top.
7) Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and the centre of the filling is firm. Cool on a wire rack.