These old-fashioned butter tarts are a Canadian classic. A rich filling of brown sugar, butter and raisins is surrounded by a flaky pastry shell. Decadent and delicious, they are a holiday favourite.
Butter tarts are a Canadian classic. That being said, there are many variations and those variations can cause some pretty deep debates. Some like their butter tart to have a liquid, drippy centre. Some like the centre to be a bit more firm. Then there is the great debate about raisins and whether or not they belong in a butter tart.
Should butter tarts have raisins?
If you go all the way back to 1900, to what is thought to be the first published recipe, the recipe actually calls for currants. Over the years the recipe has been adapted and changed and now every family has their own favourite. It’s the one that is placed on their holiday table year after year.
In my family, the recipe calls for raisins, and always has. This recipe has been in my family longer than I’ve been alive. My Grandmother used to make them every year, then my mom started making them. They’ve always been something I look forward to. My mom is a rockstar when it comes to making tarts for Christmas. She makes, on average, 20 dozen tarts a year. Yes, 20 dozen!
Now that I live a day’s travel away from my mom I get a teaser text from my Step-dad every year when the tarts are ready. This would not be so bad if I lived close enough to pop over and get one. Sadly I do not.
I love these tarts so much that when I was younger, and still lived at home, I would sneak into the deep freeze (which was conveniently right beside my bedroom in the basement) and eat them straight out of the freezer. Now in all fairness, my dad was usually right there with me. The look on my mom’s face every year when she’d open the container to put a tray out for company only to be greeted by a few crumbs… let’s just say that didn’t win me, or my dad, any points. But it was totally worth it.
As years have gone on I have just let tarts be something my mom makes. In fact, until making them for this post I have only made them once myself. Not that I can’t make them or don’t know-how. They are just one of those things that I look forward to from my mom. I think we all have that one thing that just tastes better when it comes from mom’s kitchen, and that is all part of what makes those things special.
So with that being said, I hope you enjoy these tarts as much as my family does.
HOW TO MAKE OLD FASHIONED BUTTER TARTS
A great butter tart starts with perfect pastry. You can find the pasty recipe my family always uses here. If you have a recipe you already love, that’s fine too and, if pastry is just not something you want to dive into making, it’s totally fine if you want to buy frozen shells.
This recipe is best with unsweetened pastry as the filling is sweet enough on its own.
If you are making your own pastry you will roll it out to a little more than 1/8 of an inch thick. I like to do this on a floured piece of parchment and then lay a piece of plastic wrap over my pastry before rolling. This prevents the rolling pin from sticking without adding extra flour, which can make the pastry tough.
Next, you need to cut the rounds. My mom always uses the lid of a wide mouth jar. It is a perfect size. You can also use a 3.5 inch round biscuit cutter.
Spray your muffin tin with some non-stick spray. The tart shells themselves shouldn’t stick, but sometimes the sticky filling will bubble over and it will stick. Then gently press your shells into the pan.
Next mix your filling. Beat together the butter, sugar, egg, milk and vanilla, then stir in the raisins.
Then simply fill your shells to about 2/3 full. You can fill a bit more, but it will bubble and stick, though I kind of love that sticky part.
Then pop them into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden.
After removing from the oven, allow the tarts to cool, then pop them out of the tin and gobble them up.
THINGS TO KNOW & HELPFUL TIPS
- Do I have to add raisins? Nope, you don’t. You could add currents like the original recipe calls for, or you could add nuts, or you could go super simple and leave them all out.
- Can you freeze butter tarts? Absolutely yes! (and see my comment above about eating them straight from the freezer!) Store these in an airtight container and they will keep for months.
- Should butter tarts be refrigerated? They don’t really have to be stored in the fridge, but if you want to optimize freshness I recommend it if you won’t eat them within a few days.
OTHER RECIPES YOU MIGHT LIKE
Old Fashioned Butter Tarts
- 24 Tart shells uncooked, homemade or store bought
- 2/3 Cup Butter softened
- 2 Cups Brown sugar
- 2 Large Eggs
- 1/4 Cup Milk
- 2 tsp Vanilla
- 1.5 Cups Raisins
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
- If making your own pastry, roll and cut your pastry into rounds with a 3.5 inch cutter, or the lid of a wide mouth mason jar. Lightly spray 2 12-cup muffin tins with non-stick spray and gently press the shells into the muffin tins
- In a medium size bowl, beat the butter and sugar together, then beat in the eggs, milk and vanilla until smooth.
- Stir in the raisins
- Spoon filling into each of the shells, filling to 2/3 full
- Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Allow to cool in the muffin tin, then remove and store in an airtight container.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.