February 15, 2020

BAKEWELL TART and the Bakewell pudding conundrum.

There is a good deal of confusion around the Bakewell tart.
Living within a few miles of Bakewell for most of my adult life, a Bakewell tart is something that I grew up with.  My mum used to make one for Sunday tea occasionally and another real treat was to have one from the baker's van when he came to the village two or three times a week when I was a little girl.
I remember the baker - or at least the van driver - standing at the back doorstep of the house, wearing a white coat covered in flour and carrying a large wicker basket laden with all kinds of goodies.  With me being only knee high the basket was at just the right height for me to peer round my mum's apron and reach in to pick something for tea.  The Bakewell tarts were delicious, filled with raspberry jam and almond sponge and with a thick blanket of white icing, topped with a glacé cherry.  I remember biting the cherry off first, then licking off the icing, then scoffing the rest.  (Just like nowadays - only joking !!)
The confusion however, is between the Bakewell tart and the Bakewell pudding.  They are two entirely different things but a lot of people think they are the same.  They are often confused by food writers and bloggers and if you really want to know the difference, see this article by Bloomers, the baker's in Bakewell.
Essentially, the pudding is a flaky pastry case filled with something which is almost an almond custard.  It looks and tastes completely different from the Bakewell tart, which is a shortcrust pastry case filled with a layer of jam and topped with a kind of frangipane cake mixture.  The pudding is usually unadorned and can look relatively unappealing, whereas the tart is a thing of pure beauty, often topped with flaked almonds and/or iced in one way or another.
The legend goes that the pudding was invented by a cook at the Rutland Arms (although it was called the White Horse at the time), a Mrs Greaves, who got the recipe wrong when making a dessert.  Like all legends, historians doubt its validity as recipes can be found for a kind of Bakewell pudding dating to well before Mrs Greaves' time.
A previous Bakewell tart.
The confusion is understandable as it seems that both versions of the Bakewell delicacy have evolved from the same original recipe.  Food historian Ivan Day, who makes regular appearances on TV, has a good article about it here which is well worth reading.
Modern recipes for both desserts vary hugely.  I'm fairly sure my mum would have used the recipe for Bakewell tart that's in the BeRo book which contains ground almonds and ground rice in the topping.  Some, like Mary Berry's Easy Bakewell Tart here contain only ground almonds but I prefer it to be slightly cakey, with a little flour in it.  The one in the picture above that I made earlier (2013 apparently) is to a different Mary Berry recipe that makes a large tart to feed a crowd, with flour in the almond topping.  When looking at recipes the other day I also came across one that had breadcrumbs in the topping. 
To the best of my knowledge I never had the pleasure of sampling a Bakewell pudding until well into adulthood.  This is probably due to the availability - the tarts were on the baker's van and the puddings weren't, being only available in Bakewell itself and a few other shops locally.  I also wonder if it's something to do with the appearance.....
We have just had the pleasure of our American friends (who now live in France) staying with us for a week.  Derbyshire in February is challenging from a tourist point of view but they thoroughly enjoyed it and loved Bakewell, it being all they thought a quaint little English country town should be.  Peering into the window of the Pudding shop at the basket of puddings, they were not tempted to rush in and sample one.  I think Paul Hollywood sums it up perfectly in his excellent book "British Baking" where he says that the pudding is not as elegant as the tart and has even been unkindly compared to a cowpat.  That is, I think, what put me off it for years.
In any case, I thought it would be good to make a Bakewell tart for our American friends. I used a recipe which was easy and straightforward from "The Great British Book of Baking".  It was delicious and a hit with them. 
Paul Hollywood has a recipe for both Bakewell tart and Bakewell pudding in his book that look lovely so one day I shall make both of them to compare.  Watch this space!
Shortcrust or sweet pastry made with about 175g flour, homemade or shop bought
For the topping
2-3 tblsp raspberry jam
60g softened butter (I used Stork baking spread)
60g caster sugar
30g self raising flour
50g ground almonds
¼ tsp baking powder
1 medium egg
a few drops of vanilla essence

a handful of flaked almonds to decorate


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Put a baking tray in the oven to heat up.*

Roll out the pastry thinly and use to line a greased 20-22cm tart tin or flan dish.  Spoon enough jam into the pastry case to cover the bottom thinly and spread out evenly. 

Put all the other topping ingredients into a bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon or electric whisk until well combined.  Spoon the mixture over the jam.  It's best to put spoonfuls around the edge of the tart to make a seal between the mixture and the pastry case, then spoon the rest into the middle and spread out evenly.  Scatter the flaked almonds over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and firm to the touch.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool before turning out. 

Dust with icing sugar or drizzle with a water icing if you like before serving.

Serves 6.

*This method of placing the tart in the oven on a heated baking tray seemed to work really well and the base was nice and crisp.  Maybe this is the answer to the "soggy bottom" instead of baking blind.


  1. I never tasted a Pudding till we moved to the Midlands and I visited Bakewell. I do prefer the tart. I've made one using the BeRo Book too.

    1. Angela, I shall use the BeRo book recipe next time, it's still in the latest edition so it must have stood the test of time.

  2. I much prefer the tart. The pudding is, as you say, not in the least tempting looking.

    1. Susan, now that I have been reminded of the cow pat resemblance, I can't fancy one! Paul Hollywood's recipe does look good though, so maybe I'll give it a try!

  3. That is a lovely Bakewell tart and I'm sure that it would do me very nicely indeed as a dessert at any time. I have to confess that I have a great fondness for the Bakewell pudding, though. I had my first taste of the pudding in a small cottage very near Litton Mill (empty and undeveloped at the time) in October 1988 - I'd say it was Tuesday the 11th if pressed. As you can tell, it definitely made an impression on me. There were 2 large puddings as a dessert between four of us. I've never felt more full in my life.

    1. Phil, the puddings are indeed very rich, no wonder you were full!

  4. I love both, but at home I always make tart. I've made it for French friends and they love it. As it happens I made Mary Berry's easy one recently. I do love the slightly fudgy consistency the melted butter gives, and it's so quick to do. Other than that, Tamsin Day-Lewis's recipe in The Art of the Tart is more fiddly, but the result is fantastic.

    1. Veronica, what's not to love about a Bakewell tart? I'm not surprised your French friends loved it. It was a multinational gathering when I made my larger version and it went down a treat with all of them!I'll look out for the Tamsin Day-Lewis recipe. I have that book somewhere but - as is usually the case - it's on the other side of the English Channel from where I am at the moment!

    2. She skins and grinds her own almonds! I don't go that far :)

  5. I love Bakewell tart, but have never tried the pudding. On my endless bucket list now!

    1. Snowy, my baking bucket list gets longer and longer all the time, more added at the top than are ticked off at the bottom! So many cakes, so little time, eh?!