No finer tart
January 24, 2018 4:54 AM   Subscribe

The Bakewell Tart, a "great British classic", is an example of English Midlands food, but not a Manchester one. It has a complicated history, was used in a tax case, is maybe or not related to the Bakewell Pudding, is quite sweet, more popular than Eccles Cakes, but is not a Manchester tart. Serve warm with cream, or watch Bezza and Paul eat it. Bakewell itself is a town in Derbyshire. Featured in the GBBO, smiling people oft hunt the tart in the town, while badgers prefer it at night (BBC). Variations from yonder lands include the Australian Bakewell Slice, the Canadian Butter Tart, a prune, raisin and Armagnac variety, the Cherry Bakewell, and the Ecclefechan (SFW) Tart. Or perhaps make a moist raspberry, mulberry or vegan cherry flapjack one.
posted by Wordshore (28 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
I love Bakewell tarts and make them a few times a year. I'd never heard of a Bakewell pudding but find the "by mistake" origin story impossible to believe. It beggars belief that in an affluent household which had an actual cook, the lady of the house would "leave instructions" for a tart with the cook, who was too dumb to follow them. More than likely the lady of the house had very, very little idea how to do the great array of tasks needed to run a 19th century household; only the servants would know how to do most of the basic tasks in a house rich enough to have a cook rather than an immiservated all-purpose servant, with whom the owner might work in.

It's astonishing how many of these origin stories are basically "some lady or some servant was too dumb to cook correctly, hijinks ensure". Now, I've messed up the occasional dessert, but I've never tried for a tart and got a pudding.

My personal favorite of the various UK "flour currants maybe orange peel and fat" baked goods is the Sad, or desolate, cake. They are not bad provided that you like currants.
posted by Frowner at 5:03 AM on January 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


From the endangered Midlands food link: I've lived down the road from Cov for over a decade, and I've never heard of a God cake (and nor have any of the born-and-raised Coventrians I've asked). If the other listed items are at all similar, it's not so much endangered Midlands foods as extinct Midlands foods.
posted by Dysk at 5:06 AM on January 24, 2018


I've lived down the road from Cov for over a decade, and I've never heard of a God cake...

I've eaten a couple in the Transport Museum in Coventry. If memory serves right, tasted like a smoother Eccles Cake somewhat but was sort of triangular. {searches} Article.
posted by Wordshore at 5:22 AM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Ah yeah that article pretty much confirms that they were all but unknown for a good time, died out entirely in 08 and were revived in 2012.
posted by Dysk at 5:37 AM on January 24, 2018


(I'm always far too busy gawping at old motorbikes and land speed record cars to bother with the cafe when visiting the Transport Museum myself)
posted by Dysk at 5:41 AM on January 24, 2018


I love me a good Bakewell tart. I veganize pretty much all UK desserts I can here in Canada as it is unsurprisingly easy to access most ingredients. (Canada is a weird and lovely mix of UK and US at times.)
posted by Kitteh at 5:45 AM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


I too have intimate links to Cov and have never come across a God Cake. For shame, I bloody love an Eccles Cake.

I used to deliberately organise meetings in our Eccles office so I could sneak out at lunch and buy Eccles cakes.
posted by Helga-woo at 5:47 AM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


(Sent by a lurker) Over on the BBC iPlayer, Nadiya makes her own variation of the (Cherry) Bakewell Tart.
posted by Wordshore at 7:00 AM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'd never heard of a Bakewell pudding but find the "by mistake" origin story impossible to believe.

Seems like every named recipe is invented "by mistake" by some cooks who were too stupid to follow simple directions or else thrown together at the last minute by a hotel kitchen staff who had a demanding guest and nothing to work with but scraps.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:05 AM on January 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


Oh, except for cheese, where the story is always "it had clearly gone off, but the shepherd was hungry and decided to eat it anyway".
posted by tobascodagama at 7:06 AM on January 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


In fairness, though, my own mother once bungled a batch of macaroons and invented a chewy macaroon/meringue hybrid instead. She now makes them regularly and they're delicious, even if we don't know what they're called.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:19 AM on January 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


Other than being in the class "tarts", how do you figure a Bakewell tart and a butter tart are related?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:20 AM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Seems like every named recipe is invented "by mistake" by some cooks who were too stupid to follow simple directions or else thrown together at the last minute by a hotel kitchen staff who had a demanding guest and nothing to work with but scraps.

Well you can't think a woman invented a brilliant thing on purpose??!
posted by Stonkle at 7:28 AM on January 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


It beggars belief that in an affluent household which had an actual cook, the lady of the house would "leave instructions" for a tart with the cook, who was too dumb to follow them. More than likely the lady of the house had very, very little idea how to do the great array of tasks needed to run a 19th century household; only the servants would know how to do most of the basic tasks in a house rich enough to have a cook rather than an immiservated all-purpose servant, with whom the owner might work in.
Eh, I don't disagree that the story is probably apocryphal, but having grown up in a household that had a cook, several maids, a gardener and drivers - it's not that crazy that the lady of the household would give precise instructions to the cook. My mom certainly did. I mean there was the day to day food, for which she would just say that she wanted this or that. But if she wanted the cook to try out a new recipe, she would often get into the details.
posted by peacheater at 7:44 AM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


it's not that crazy that the lady of the household would give precise instructions to the cook. My mom certainly did

But unless you grew up in 1820, the social value of cooking is very different! It's, like, classy to know how to cook now, and my sense is that even pretty affluent people who don't cook regularly tend to be familiar with cooking as a process, know how to read a recipe, etc. I mean, nothing is literally impossible, the employer would presumably know whether she was requesting food that required lots of expensive ingredients because she'd be keeping a fairly detailed budget unless she also had a housekeeper or butler to take care of it, etc, but it seems unlikely to me that, in 1820 England, in a house that employed a full-time cook (which argues at least one and probably several other full time servants) the employer would know that the egg and almonds should go in the crust but the cook would be confused. That's not like "I don't know how to prepare Riz a l'Imperatrice off the top of my head", it's "I don't know how to make a very basic dessert".

IIRC, it didn't really get to be fashionable for well-off women to cook until around WWI when war work and factory work started to provide other alternatives for working class women, and even then it took a while and had to be disguised under a great deal of "Mrs Cork-Nethersole prepared an amusing chafing-dish dinner for her guests after the theater".

If anything, the "mistake" story would make sense if the employer had been all "Make a jam tart, remember to put the egg and almond on top, everyone knows that's how it's done" and the cook was all, "yes m'm but shouldn't the egg and the almonds go in the crust like usual" and the employer was all, "no you stupid skivvy, put them on top". Or I suppose if the employer had a really young maid of all work who hadn't come from a home where there were enough resources for baking and the employer was trying to get the work of an adult cook from an untrained child, which would not be totally surprising. Either way, the "lol, the cook made this" story would not reflect well upon the employer.

I find it much more plausible that someone who baked a lot created it based on combining other recipes or trying a new technique.
posted by Frowner at 8:06 AM on January 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


Fern cake = small Scottish cherry bakewell, minus the cherry, plus a half-hearted squiggle drawn on top of the icing that's supposed to look like a fern. They are the best.
posted by scruss at 8:31 AM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Oh, man the “it’s not old, it’s classy and classic” exchange on GBBO just killed me.
posted by rewil at 8:49 AM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


my own mother once bungled a batch of macaroons and invented a chewy macaroon/meringue hybrid

I now really, really want to eat this. (My own mother-bungled-recipe story just yielded a pan of what-were-meant-to-be-brownies that somehow had the physical properties of portland cement.)
posted by halation at 8:52 AM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


I perfected my Bakewell tart after learning how much my British-born ex-boss loved them (although by perfected I sadly mean "make them more like Mr Kipling's Cherry Bakewells", which are her favorite).

Now I wish I could sit on top of her and shove them down her throat until she chokes.

Although right now I'd be content with sitting on my couch and eating one all by myself. Mmmm.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:00 AM on January 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


In fairness, though, my own mother once bungled a batch of macaroons and invented a chewy macaroon/meringue hybrid instead. She now makes them regularly and they're delicious, even if we don't know what they're called.

Macaringues, surely.
posted by wanderingmind at 9:37 AM on January 24, 2018 [6 favorites]


I perfected my Bakewell tart after learning how much my British-born ex-boss loved them...

Splendid; a heartwarming anecdote to counter these dark Winter days. Pray continue.

Now I wish I could sit on top of her and shove them down her throat until she chokes.

Oh.
posted by Wordshore at 9:45 AM on January 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


The earliest known published recipe for the butter tart came from Barrie, Ontario: http://www.simcoe.ca/Archives/Pages/Mrs-MacLeods-Butter-Tarts.aspx
posted by matthewfells at 10:15 AM on January 24, 2018


Looking way back, I was brought up on Mr Kipling's cakes to a certain extent. I can't remember when I started eating "his" Cherry Bakewells, but I appreciated the immediate sugar hit for what was basically a dollop of sugar in various forms.

Maybe it's the ageing process, or sampling cuisines in other countries and e.g. Midwest US state fairs, or the increasing personal preference for savory over sweet. Or maybe the recipe has changed somewhat. But when I tried one - the typical, six to a box type - not that long ago, it just felt like a low quality mouthful of disappointingly flavorless stodge. Such disappoint; I should maybe have gone back to his French Fancies, especially as you get eight of those to the box.

(side point: on calculation, a box of 6 Mr Kipling Cherry Bakewells contains almost exactly the recommended amount of saturated fat - 20g - for one day)
posted by Wordshore at 10:53 AM on January 24, 2018


For $.95 I bought a fluted ceramic tart pan this year, at a nearby thrift store that always has lots of glass and ceramics for eating and drinking. I have used that pan and spontaneously made what I now know to be Bakewells out of the last of my Utah dried plums. Frangipane is so delightful as a topping. It is one of the ingredients on Dutch apple pie. The shopkeeper in Amsterdam told me his secret was soaking golden raisins in white wine all night before using them in his pie. I made ginger almond yeast raised bread in that very tart pan, last night.
posted by Oyéah at 12:16 PM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Note to self: the next time you're in Bako, go thrift store shopping.

I love fluted ceramic pie/tart pans and my mom has always used the standard deep-dish Anchor Hocking type with the two handles. But she can crimp a pie crust with her eyes closed and her arms tied behind her back and I...usually resort to the sad fork method, which is why I love those beautifully fluted ceramic pans (I saw one in cast iron before Christmas and I almost couldn't resist buying it) because all they need is a simple press of the dough into the flutes. No crimp needed!

Anyway, the best part of a Bakewell is the frangipane and once you've learned to make it you can throw together any dessert with whatever fruit you've got lying around.

Although you're not fooling anyone with that marketing scheme, Oyéah. Dried plums are prunes. PRUNES.
posted by elsietheeel at 4:47 PM on January 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'd never heard of a Bakewell pudding but find the "by mistake" origin story impossible to believe. It beggars belief that in an affluent household which had an actual cook, the lady of the house

Most recipe origin stories are apocryphal, including probably all of them for the Bakewell Tart, but if you're referring to the one in the Food History Jottings link and the Wikipedia entry, the players are not a cook and the lady of a manor, but a cook and the landlady of an inn.

That doesn't make it any more likely to be true, of course, though I've certainly had bosses who got excited about some exotic thing they encountered out in the world somewhere, and come back with very vague and unlikely thoughts about how to recreate it.
posted by mrmurbles at 8:26 PM on January 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Bakewell Pudding discussion has broken out in the comments of the pudding/dessert thread.
posted by Wordshore at 8:16 AM on January 25, 2018


Elsietheheel, it is The Rad Thrift Store on Bernard, where it crosses Union, near there, just a few places east. It is on the North side of Bernard, with a huge front window full of glass. At the corner of Union and Bernard, there is an elementary school on one side, the thrift is across the street. Bernard turns into 35th street on the west side of Union.
posted by Oyéah at 11:08 AM on January 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


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