Are these rich, shortbread-like nutty pastries with their fruit filling, topped with a sweet powdery cookie called Linzer Tarts or Tortes … or Linzer Cookies … or are they Linzer Tart/Torte Cookies? Could they also be Linzer Augen or Linzer Eyes?  It’s so confusing.  I’ve looked all over the ‘web’ and I can’t seem to get a definitive answer.  I believe Linzer Tortes are the large lattice-topped, pie-shaped pastries, cut into wedges and served wit a dollop of cream.  Now to find out …

As with so many other dishes, the Linzer Torte is named for the city from where it was invented … Linz in Austria.  “Torte” is German for ‘a rich cake made with eggs, flour and nuts’.

Linz, Austria

According to Wikipedia, the Linzer Torte is said to be the oldest ‘cake’ in the world.  I think I’ve read that statement about most of the desserts I’ve researched. Although with an original recipe dating as far back as 1653, it does qualify as ‘old’.

This rich, fruity dessert was a hidden gem in Austria until a pastry chef started mass producing it around 1820.  From Austria the recipe was brought to the U.S. in 1856 by a young Austrian, Franz Holzlhuber.  It seems a very artistic and talented Franz had a job promised him in Wisconsin, so he packed up his things and traveled west. Unfortunately, between Austria and Wisconsin, not only did he lose his luggage, he lost the job. With nothing else to lose at that point, Franz went to work as a baker in Milwaukee and introduced America to the Linzer Torte.

Today, if you search online for Linzer Cookies or Tarts, you’ll see them referenced as Christmas treats.  I’m not sure why.  Could it be that they take a little more time and effort to make, and the only time we put any effort into baking is during the holidays?  Yes, these cookies take a bit more time, but not that much, and they are so worth it.  (William Sonoma sells a dozen of these cookies for $49.95 …. yikes!!)

My shortcut, unlike Martha Stewart’s recipe, is to use almond meal … which is simply ground almonds. If you want to use hazelnut meal, or any other ground nuts, feel free.  They are usually available in better grocery stores.

Preheated oven 350°.  Makes approximately 24 2-1/2″ cookies.
1 cup ground almond meal
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of one lemon
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 jar good quality raspberry jam (or any other flavor)
confectioners sugar to sprinkle

No need to preheat the oven until later because these cookies are easier to handle if the dough is chilled for an hour.
In a large bowl, sift and thoroughly mix together the dry ingredients.  In your stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy – about 3 to 4 minutes.

Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Reduce the speed of your mixer, or by hand, add the dry ingredients and the lemon zest.  Do not overmix or the cookies will be tough.

Dump the dough onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball.  Cut the dough into two even-sized portions.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate about an hour.  Now preheat the oven to 350° and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.  No greasing required.

On a lightly floured pastry board, roll one portion of the chilled dough to about 1/8″ or 1/4″ thick.  The thickness actually depends upon you.  The thinner the cookie, the more crisp (and the more cookies).  I like them a bit thicker – 1/4″.

Using a 2″ to 3″ cookie cutter, cut the dough and place the cookies on the parchment-lined sheets. Flouring the cookie cutter helps to keep it from sticking.   Using a smaller cookie cutter – circles, hearts, stars, whatever you’d like – cut out the center from half of the cookies.  Remember, you are making tops and bottoms.  Gather up the cuttings and knead them back into the left-over dough and continue rolling and cutting.

Bake at 350° for about 10 to 12 minutes, until just cooked through but not browned. Gently transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.  Now roll, cut and bake the second batch of dough. While the cookies are baking, you might want to put the jam in a sieve to release any excess moisture. As Mary Berry says, ‘there’s nothing worse than soggy bottoms’.

When all the dough is baked and thoroughly cooled, turn the bottoms over so that you are assembling bottoms to bottoms.

Use a sieve to sift the confectioners sugar generously over the cookie tops before assembling the cookie.  Spread the jam on the bottom half of the bottom cookie.  Don’t be overly generous with the jam or it will ooze out the sides.  Place the top cookie on top of the bottom and you are done!

Rich, fruity, nutty whether you call them Linzer Tarts or Tortes or Cookies or Augen doesn’t really matter.  What does matter is that whatever you do decide to call them, I’m calling them absolutely delicious!!!

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References:  Wisconsin Historic Society, Wikepedia



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

Victoria Sandwich vs Victoria Sponge

One of the things I LOVE to do while walking through the town centres anywhere in Great Britain is to go into bakeries.  Who wouldn’t?  The assortment of freshly baked and iced goodies turns me into a willpowerless, carb-craving child each and every time.  And every time, I come away with ‘one of those, please‘ and ‘yes, one of these‘ and could I have ‘two of those over there‘?

We don’t habakery windowve many bakeries in the U.S. anymore, not the in-town-centre, walk-past, window-displayed, shelf-laden purveyors of calorific goodness.  So, of course, I succumb to the temptation each and every time.  Wouldn’t you?

One of the staples sold in these bakeries, whether they are Mom and Pop shops, tearooms, or full chain restaurants, is the Victoria Sandwich aka Victoria Sponge.  This traditional sponge cake was the favorite of Queen Victoria and, as a result, was named after her (as were most things in Britain).   So what defines a cake as a Sandwich?  In the 19th century, a cake was a single layer, very dense (baking powder had just been invented and wasn’t widely used), with some sort of sweetener either on top or mixed into the batter.  This cake was very innovative because it had TWO layers which were “sandwiched” together with a thick layer of the Queen’s favorite Scottish raspberry jam.   Charles Francatelli, the Queen’s personal chef, was quite explicit in his recipe: ‘Victoria Sandwich’ with Scottish raspberry jam = 1:1:1:1 equal parts eggs – flour – butter – sugar.

nursery teaClarissa Dickson Wright, British food historian and co-star of the popular British food show, “Two Fat Ladies”, explained that the Victoria Sponge actually originated as a cake served to children for nursery tea.  She noted that tea cakes in early Victorian days would have consisted of a fruit cake or a seed cake, neither of which would have been served to children for safety reasons.  As a result, this light sponge cake was created for their teatime treat.  It actually wasn’t until this cake started to appear on adult tea tables that it became popular, and subsequently Queen Victoria’s favorite.

Although the original recipe is still used and respected, bakers have ‘enhanced’ the recipe just a bit to add more flavor.  Today, you’ll see the layers sandwiched with buttercream or sweetened whipped cream in addition to the jam.  A splash of vanilla extract or almond extract is often added to the batter.  In Queen Victoria’s time, fine caster sugar was sprinkled on the top layer for added sweetness.  You’ll often see confectioner’s sugar sifted over the top layer now.  Do I object to any of these ‘enhancements’?  Certainly not!  But for the sake of  keeping true to the original recipe, that’s the one I am using here.  Let’s give it a try ……

4 large eggs at room temperature (weigh on scale)
1-1/4 cups sugar (should be same weight as the eggs)
1-1/2 cups self-rising flour (1-1/2 cups cake flour + 2 tsp baking powder (which should also be the same weight as the eggs)
2 sticks softened butter (should be same weight as the eggs)
1 jar of good quality strawberry jam

four ingredients

The original recipe calls for all ingredients to be the same weight.  I assembled the four ingredients and weighed them for accuracy at 240 grams.  (Just slightly off on the butter, but I’m fine with that.)

Lightly grease 2 8″ or 9″ cake tins.  Bake time for 8″ is 30 minutes – 9″ for 25 minutes.  Line the bottom with lightly greased parchment paper.

Make sure the butter is soft and the eggs are at room temperature or you will not get a fluffy batter.  Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, and very pale in color.


Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time.  If the batter looks a bit curled, don’t worry, it will come together.  In a separate bowl sift the flour and baking powder (or use self-rising flour).  Slowly fold in the dry ingredients a little at a time. The batter should be a soft and light.



Divide the cake batter evenly between two cake tins.  Lightly smooth the surface and then pop them onto the middle shelf of a preheated oven.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (don’t peek beforehand) and then check for doneness.  The layers should be well risen and golden brown on the surface. If the cakes are browning too quickly, lower the temperature just slightly but do not be tempted to open the door.  If the cakes are not done, add 5 minutes.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool.  After 5 or 10 minutes the cakes should have shrunk away from the sides of the tins.  Remove the cakes from the tins and let cool completely.  Once cooled, place one layer top side down onto a plate.  Cover with a thick layer of strawberry jam and then place the second layer on top, creating your ‘sandwich’.  Sift superfine sugar over the top.  Serve with your favorite Earl Grey tea!!


My review:  very rich, satisfying and delicious.  A dollop of sweetened whipped cream and a few fresh berries would make this a perfect tea-time treat!

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References: The National Federation of Women’s Institute of Great Britain, Wikipedia.Org, BBC Foods.