Whenever we are in Darlington, the first place I have to go is to The Black Olive.  This tiny, little patisserie has the most delicious baked goods I’ve ever had.  Each morning they fill the window with the delicacies of the day …. freshly baked and delicious!   Like children staring into a toy shop window, we stand there and point to “which one shall we try today?”  My favorite has to be the classic Bakewell Tart with its rich shortcrust pastry, raspberry preserves and almond frangipane filling.  (Please do not confuse this rich delicacy with the mass-produced packaged tarts which are covered in overly-sweet white icing, topped with a maraschino cherry, sold in all the supermarkets.)  I had to find out more about this dessert.  Where did it come from, this raspberry almond tart called “Bakewell”?

The Black Olive, Darlington, Cty. Durham

The Black Olive, Darlington, Cty. Durham

It seems this dessert originated as a ‘pudding’ from the village of Bakewell, which is in the breathtakingly beautiful Peak District of England.   The Bakewell website states “In the 19th century a cook at the Rutland Arms was baking a jam tart but misunderstood the recipe and so Bakewell Pudding was created.”  Apparently, the inexperienced cook at the Rutland Arms Hotel was to make the very popular strawberry tart for a nobleman who had ordered it, but misunderstood Mrs. Greaves instructions and beat together sugar, butter and eggs and then poured it over the fruit before baking.  The guest so loved the new version of the tart that Mrs. Greaves added it to the menu.   Local history says the recipe was left by Mrs. Greaves in her will to Mr. Radford who, in turn, passed the recipe on to the Bloomers Shop, which still exists in Bakewell.

Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management Published 2011

Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management
Published 2011

As with any legend, there’s always a question with regard to authenticity.  We do know, however, that the recipe is thought to have first appeared in 1845 in the cookbook  A MODERN COOKERY for PRIVATE FAMILIES,  and described as ‘served on all holiday occasions’.  At that time, the recipe was a classic pudding and did not have a pastry crust or almonds … both of which seemed to have been incorporated before 1861 when the recipe appeared again in the BOOK OF HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT.

Don’t be afraid to make your own Bakewell Tart.  Yes, it is a bit time consuming, but it is well worth the effort.  Again, this is not the overly sweet supermarket version.
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1-1/2 cups flour
pinch salt
1 stick ice cold butter, cut in pieces
3-4 tbl ice cold water
1 tsp lemon juice

I use a food processor to make pastry which makes it so-o-o easy, but if you don’t have time, just purchase a good quality brand at the supermarket.  To the flour/salt cut in the ice cold butter til crumbly.  Don’t overwork it.  You should be able to see chunks of butter.  Quickly add the ice water/lemon juice til dough comes together.  Dump the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead quickly into a smooth ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 15 minutes.  The colder the butter, the flakier the crust.

Preheat oven to 400° F.  Roll the pastry out to fit into a 9″ round tart pan.  Line the pastry with baking beans and chill the dough again.  Meanwhile, make the filling.

1 stick butter, room temp.
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temp.
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
almond extract (optional)
3/4 cup fruit jam (raspberry, strawberry, cherry)
3/4 cup fresh berries (raspberries, strawberries, etc.) optional
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Beat the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Stir in the flour and ground almonds and a tsp of almond extract (if using).

Blind bake the dough for 12 to 15 minutes til lightly brown.  Remove the beans and let cool. Turn the oven temp down to 350° F.

Spread the jam over the bottom of the pastry crust.  If you are adding fresh fruit, scatter them evenly over the jam.   I’ve used cherries, raspberries and strawberries … all worked beautifully.  Pour the filling over the fruit and spread evenly.   Scatter the sliced almonds over the filling.  Bake at 350° F for 25 to 30 minutes until the filling is set and golden brown.

Let cool and dust with confectioners sugar if desired.

bakewell tart

Resources:, Bakewell Online, Paul Hollywood’s British Baking, Porter’s English Cookery Bible