The Bakewell tart can be viewed as the epitome of traditional regional English baking, and as such can ignite a lot of controversy over the correct recipe. A very interesting article by Felicity Cloake from the Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog (from which the basic recipe for this tart is taken from) expounds on the different variations of this recipe throughout its written history, and is well worth a read.
In the interests of honesty and transparency I should say now that this tart is not technically a Bakewell tart as it does not include frangipane. The reason for this arose due to the fact that I was making this in Scottsdale, Arizona, where ground almonds are non-existent. This lack of ingredients was something that had not even occurred to me, so you can imagine my consternation having agreed to make a bakewell tart, yet now wandering around Walmart summarily failing to find the key ingredient. I also managed to completely confuse a helpful supermarket assistant who obviously had no idea what I was talking about. Finally I decided that I would replace the frangipane layer with an almond-flavoured sponge cake, which whilst not traditional, served the purpose very well.
Decoration for this tart is a subject of much debate – whether to leave it plain or to top with the customary white glace icing and cherry, a la Mr. Kipling. My tart represents a compromise, due to the request for the latter style, however feel free to leave this off if you prefer.
- 140g plain flour, plus extra to sprinkle
- 85g cold butter, plus extra to grease
- Pinch of salt
- Ice cold water
The Sponge Topping
- 4oz caster sugar
- 4oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 eggs
- 4oz plain flour
- 1.5 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp almond essence
- 100g raspberry jam
- 25g flaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 190ºC/Gas Mark 5 and grease and flour a 23in flan tin.
First make the pastry by mixing the flour and salt in a bowl, before grating in the cold butter. Stir just enough cold water into the mixture to bring it together into a ball and wrap in cling film before chilling or an hour.
Roll out the chilled pastry until about 5mm thick and use this to line the tin. Place a piece of baking parchment on top and weigh down with either baking beans or rice. Bake the pastry shell for 15 minutes until golden brown.
Whilst the pastry shell is baking, make the sponge topping by creaming together the butter and sugar before mixing in the eggs, flour, baking powder and almond essence until well combined. Remove the blind-baked pastry shell from the oven and remove the beans/rice and baking parchment. Spread the base of the shell with 100g raspberry jam before topping with the sponge mixture, ensuring a smooth top. Return to the oven and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown and well risen. 5 minutes before the end of the baking time sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top and return to the oven for the last five minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
If wished, the tart may be decorated with white glace icing and maraschino or glace cherries, however these are not traditional and may be omitted.