Traditional Bakewell Tart
With a crisp and buttery shortbread crust, cherry jam, and an almond frangipane sponge layer, this Traditional Bakewell Tart is a perfect breakfast or dessert.
A long, long time ago (we’re talking a decade here), I participated in monthly challenges with a group known as the Daring Bakers.
Each month, someone would select a recipe that was either a bit off the beaten path or something a little more challenging. Then everyone would make a version and discuss the results.
Participation in the group encouraged me to try many things I don’t particularly like enough to make by hand (French macarons, cannoli shells) or things that require so much time, it’s just plain easier to buy them in the store (puff pastry, phyllo dough).
One month, a member chose a traditional British Bakewell Tart for the challenge. I’m pretty sure this is my favorite thing I made while a part of the group.
I’m a big fan of fruit-flavored sweets and love almond in any form. I sliced away at that Bakewell Tart for breakfast for a week and was truly sad when it was gone.
Fast forward 10ish years, and I came across the old Bakewell Tart post on my old blog… and obviously had to make it again. Immediately.
Would it be as good as I remembered it? Did 10 years of memories exaggerate my enjoyment?
Not in the least. Still as absolutely delicious as I remembered it!
What is a Bakewell Tart?
A Bakewell tart is a British tart made with layers of a shortbread crust, fruity jam, spongy frangipane, and flaked almonds. They originated in the town of Bakewell in Derbyshire, England.
A Bakewell tart isn’t super-sweet, making it perfect for afternoon tea (or even breakfast!), but just sweet enough that it’s still delicious for dessert. It’s not challenging to make, although it’s a little time-consuming with chilling the dough.
But trust me: this is well worth the effort.
Bakewell Tarts aren’t particularly common here in the U.S. (I never heard of one before the Daring Bakers’ challenge, and I’ve never seen one since!), so I think it’s a fun unexpected treat for a gathering or party. When everyone else brings cupcakes to a gathering, you get to stand out just a little.
Layers of a Bakewell Tart
We have four layers at play in a Bakewell tart:
- Shortbread Crust
- Fruity Jam
- Frangipane Layer
With these four layers, we get a whole variety of textures: the crispy crust, the smooth jam, the spongy squishy frangipane, and the slightly crunchy almonds. Which all pair together deliciously.
The shortbread crust is basically like any other you’ve made. Mix together ingredients, cut in butter, roll out the dough, and press into the pan. Refrigerate and blind bake.
The jam is self-explanatory, right? Right.
The frangipane layer is where things start to get interesting! Frangipane is a pastry cream, made out of butter, eggs, sugar, and ground almonds. It’s soft and spreadable and poofs up while it bakes. (And if like me, you love almonds, it’s really really really good.)
We’ll top the cake with the almond layer. You can use chopped, sliced, slivered – whatever you have. I like sliced almonds both because they look pretty and the sliced almonds add a super-subtle crunch.
Ingredient Temperature Matters!
If I have one tip to stress for making this Bakewell tart, it’s that ingredient temperature matters!
We need cold (frozen!) butter for the shortbread crust. The frozen butter will release little pockets of steam while the shortbread bakes, creating a fluffy and crispy crust.
But we need room temperature butter and eggs for the frangipine. This is especially important to make sure the frangipane batter doesn’t break!
To create the frangipane, we need to combine the butter (fat) with eggs (which contain water). But as you probably remember from chemistry class a long time ago, water and fat don’t like to combine! So what we need to do is create an emulsion, and suspect the water from the eggs in the fat.
In order to do this, we need to slowly add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, one at a time, and beat well until each egg is fully combined. But we run into a big problem if the eggs aren’t at room temperature!
If the eggs in a batter are too cold, they can cause the butter to seize up, breaking the emulsion of fat and the water from the eggs. When this happens, the batter looks lumpy and curdled.
If your batter breaks, it will look smooth again once you add in the almond meal – but a broken batter has a different final texture than a properly made and emulsified batter. To prevent this, use room temperature butter and add each egg one at a time, mixing well before adding the next!
Best Jam to Use
I don’t think there’s a traditional flavor of jam that is generally used, but I used a sour cherry jam. Cherry pairs so well with the almond and I definitely recommend it, although of course any other flavor of jam can be used.
I used store-bought jam but this is the perfect way to showcase your own homemade fruit preserves, too.
You’ll just want to use a thick jam (or fruit preserves) and not softer jelly or fruit compote.
Tips and Tricks for the Best Bakewell Tart
- Don’t overwork the shortbread crust! Handling the dough too much will result in a tough, dense texture.
- After making the crust, be sure to blind bake it first. This ensures the crust will be fully cooked and not soggy!
- The frangipane recipe uses for almond meal, which is ground whole almonds. This is different from almond flour, which is made from blanched, peeled almonds. Either use almond meal or grind your own almonds into a sandy texture.
- Be sure to use room temperature eggs and butter for the frangipane! If they are cold, the mixture will look like it starts to curdle when adding the eggs.
- Wait until the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking time to add the almonds to ensure they do not burn.
- Store your Bakewell tart in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
More Fruit Desserts:
- Cranberry Curd Pie
- Jewish Apple Cake
- Cherry Almond Pie
- Almond Rhubarb Cake
- Chocolate Strawberry Pie
- Homemade Fig Bars
- All Fruit Dessert Recipes »
FOR THE SHORTBREAD CRUST:
- 2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, frozen
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1-2 tablespoons cold water
FOR THE FRANGIPANE:
- 9 tablespoons (127 grams) butter, room temperature
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (127 grams) confectioners' sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 1/3 cups (112 grams) almond meal
- 1/4 cup (30 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (340 grams) cherry jam
- 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
- 1/2 cup (43 grams) sliced almonds
- To make the shortbread crust, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Grate the frozen butter into the mixture and rub the butter into the flour, using fingers or a pastry cutter, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract and stir this into the flour mixture. Continue to mix while adding just enough water to form a sticky dough. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Transfer the dough to the tart pan, pressing along the sides and trimming any excess dough. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400 °F. Once the oven is up to temperature, line the top of the dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Blind bake the crust for 10 minutes, then remove the pie weights and parchment paper and bake for an additional 5 minutes until just barely golden. Reduce oven temperature to 375 °F and set crust aside to cool.
- To make the frangipane, cream together the butter and sugar using a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the almond extract and beat for an additional 30 seconds. Spoon in the almond meal and all-purpose flour while the mixer is running and combine well.
- Spread 1 cup of jam evenly along the shortbread crust. Top with the frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and bake at 375 °F for 20 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and scatter the sliced almonds across the top. Return to the oven and bake an additional 5-10 minutes, until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center of the tart comes out clean. Dust with additional confectioners sugar and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
- Note that the recipe uses almond meal, not almond flour.
- Ensure that the butter and eggs are at room temperature to prevent the frangipane batter from breaking.
- Store the Bakewell tart at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.