One in the face for slapstick comedy from this egg custard dessert
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One in the face for slapstick comedy from this egg custard dessert

Nov 12, 2023

By Keighley's Mike Armstrong, an award-winning master baker with a big passion for baking. See

JUST proudly plain and very honest is a British-style custard tart – with its rich shortcrust pastry, ready to soak up a nice cup of tea; sat on a plate screaming out to all, ''I'm a custard tart, eat me!"

It's not a crisp Portuguese Pastel de Nata, nor a solid French flan, but a rich and subtly sweet British classic custard tart of a kind that used to be found in all our high street family bakeries – before most of them went the same way as the red phone box, post offices and candlestick makers, becoming harder to find!

Defiantly plain and dusted only with a little nutmeg, it is an ideal dessert to escort any summer fruits.

Despite a rich history stretching back to Charlie Chaplin himself, this classic custard pie is certainly no laughing matter.

Those thrown by Laurel and Hardy were a sort of sticky stuff so that when they hit they didn't splatter too much, but dripped nice and gooey – while my favoured pie of weapon was that of the Phantom Flan Flinger on Tiswas with spit the dog. In fact, it was just coloured shaving foam, sorry children of the 70s!

Instead we'll be looking at the custard tart, which has a far longer – and dare I say nobler – pedigree, dating back to the 14th century, when the recipe contained minced pork or bone marrow and put in an appearance at the coronation banquet of Henry IV.

Other different versions can be found throughout Europe but the British classic will always be made with rich shortcrust pastry and sprinkled lightly with nutmeg. Our British recipe will certainly bring back childhood memories for anyone lucky enough to eat these when young. It was best eaten when slightly warm from the oven after mum had baked every Sunday afternoon, with a delicately wobbly centre, or ice cold and firm before bedtime with a glass of cold milk. The egg custard tart is an ideal foolproof recipe for any novice baker who wants to take on an egg challenge, but still have a beautifully creamy tart to present, made simply with eggs, milk and sugar poured into homemade sweet shortcrust pastry which is far better than the mass produced ones we tend to buy at the supermarket. All that is required now is to pop the kettle on and sit down with a brew.



Makes 12 individually, or an 8'' flan


320g ready-made or homemade shortcrust pastry

3 large free range eggs, beaten well

125ml double cream

225ml milk

50g caster sugar

Few drops of vanilla essence, optional

1/2 nutmeg freshly ground


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan, Gas Mark 4, then roll out the pastry thinly and cut out 12 circles using a 10cm cutter or line an 8'' flan dish or Victoria tin with the pastry.

2. Beat the eggs well in a good-sized jug or bowl.

3. Boil the milk and sugar in a pan, than add to the eggs, whisking briskly to prevent the eggs from cooking.

4. Set the egg custard aside to cool before straining the mixture into the pastry cases or flan dish. Fill the cases on the oven shelf if you have unsteady hands, grating over a little freshly ground nutmeg.

5. Bake for 25/30 minutes till the custard has set well and has a slight wobble. Best served slightly warm with a cup of tea.

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