This post is sponsored by Imperial Sugar! I’ve used Imperial Sugar for years and I am thrilled to be partnering with them. Thank you for supporting the partners that keep the bake offs coming!
In searching for the best fruit tart recipe, there are two main aspects to consider: the flaky crust and the pastry cream. The contrast of a short, flaky crust topped with a creamy, just-sweet-enough cream and layered with ripe fruit makes fruit tarts such a light and delicious dessert. In this bake off, I tested nine popular recipes from around the internet to find the best–so let’s dive in!
- 30 total tasters
- All blondies were baked in a metal tart pan
- Tasters tasted the fruit tarts the same day they were baked
- Each taster ranked each tart on a scale from 0-10 for the crust, pastry cream and overall as a whole
- All tarts were topped with the same fruit (a mix of strawberries and blueberries)
- Each tart was glazed with strained apricot preserves for consistency
- Gold Medal Flour
- Kirkland butter
- Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract – in this bake off, I standardized all pastry creams on extract rather than using vanilla beans
- Diamond kosher salt
- Imperial granulated and powdered sugar
PARTNER NOTE: I’m delighted to be partnering with Imperial Sugar on this bake off as I’ve consistently used their consistent, high-quality pure cane sugar products throughout my bake offs. Imperial Sugar is non-GMO verified, allergen free and gluten-free!
For more sweet inspiration, you can visit Imperial Sugar to find more than 4,000 expert-tested recipes, free downloadable vintage cookbooks, sugar scrubs and bath products at the Sugar Spa, and lots of helpful guides on their blog. You can also check out their Pinterest, You Tube, Instagram for even more recipe inspiration!
As always, I always recommend reading through the entire blog post to understand the profile of each recipe and decide which sounds best to you. Although my favorites did match the top-rated recipes, I also really liked a few that didn’t match the crowd favorites. And please always take the results with a grain of salt as any results could be my own baker error rather than the fault of the recipe.
I do truly believe most of these recipes are delicious and worth making!
My recipe selections were greatly influenced by this pastry cream article by Serious Eats.
As an example, Kristina notes that she tried pastry creams made with skim milk, half and half and heavy cream and found whole milk to be superior. (Skim milk was too bland and loose, half and half was too firm and buttery and heavy cream separated.) With this in mind, I mainly chose recipes that used whole milk–just one recipe used a mix of 2% milk and cream (Ricardo Cuisine).
Ultimately, my findings from testing 9 different recipes echoes Kristina’s findings, so I’ll recap a few main factors below:
Pastry cream factors
- Eggs vs. egg yolks: Only 2 out of the 9 recipes used whole eggs (King Arthur and Tartine); one recipe used both a whole egg and yolks (Ricardo) and the rest used egg yolks. King Arthur yielded a notably looser, paler and more watery cream than the rest–the addition of the egg white adds more moisture without any richness. Tartine also had a looser, paler cream, but this was also due in large part to the whipped cream that was folded in. To me, the benefit of using whole eggs in pastry cream is mainly convenience–no need to separate the yolks. However, if you want a thicker, richer, more flavorful pastry cream, an egg yolk-only cream is the way to go. (Serious Eats notes that the optimal number of egg yolks per recipe is around 4 yolks to 2 cups of milk or up to 6 yolks for an eggier flavor. I would echo this as the top 3 recipes all used between 4-6 yolks per 2 cups of milk.)
- Cornstarch vs. flour: Serious Eats notes that flour can impart a heavier texture and more floury taste, so I did lean on recipes that used cornstarch as a thickener. Generally, a proportion of 1/4 cup cornstarch to 2 cups of milk and 4-6 yolks seemed to be the sweet spot. King Arthur and Ricardo Cuisine both used a mixture of flour and cornstarch. While I think this combination worked decently with King Arthur because of the single whole egg, the flour/cornstarch combined with multiple egg yolks and a whole egg in Ricardo’s recipe felt overly starchy and led to a slightly grainy texture. Overall, I think sticking to cornstarch is an easy way to help prevent overly starchy-tasting creams.
- Proportion of sugar: Knowing that Serious Eats proclaimed a half cup of sugar per 2 cups milk is the perfect level of sweetness, I was curious to see how Culinary Hill (one of the top Google results) would fare with 1 cup sugar per 2 cups milk. Sure enough, this custard felt tooth-achingly sweet in comparison to most other recipes. In general, I’d agree that 1/2 cup of sugar per 2 cups milk is the sweet spot.
While there were slight variations in crust ingredients, know that much of how your crust turns out will depend on technique. If you overwork the dough, gluten development can cause your crust to shrink. Rolling your crust out thinner or thicker than the recipe specifies can also result in a crisper or doughier crust. For beginners, I’d recommend Alison Roman’s technique for both ease and the best chance at less gluten development.
- Egg yolk vs. whole eggs: Only 3 out of 9 recipes were made with a whole egg crust while the rest used egg yolks. In general, the crusts made with whole eggs tended to be slightly softer than those made with egg yolks. However, most recipes were standardized on about 1 stick butter to 1.25-1.5 cups of flour, leading to pretty uniformly short crusts with just slight variations in texture.
- Powdered sugar vs. granulated: All recipes relied on either powdered sugar or granulated to sweeten the crust. Because powdered sugar contains cornstarch, the added starch lowers the protein content of the crust and can lead to a more tender and short-textured final product. Interestingly, Dominique Ansel adds 1/3 cup cornstarch to his crust on top of powdered sugar, which did lead to a tender crust (but not especially notable in comparison to the rest). Note that because cornstarch lacks some of the proteins in wheat flour, it offers “little to no browning” which could explain why Dominique’s crust remained fairly pale.
Analysis of the Best Fruit Tart Recipe
Tartine: a short, softer crust filled with a whipped cream-esque filling
Tartine was one of two recipes to use a diplomat cream, or whipped cream folded into pastry cream. (Note: Tartine calls this a Bavarian cream but according to my research, Bavarian cream actually requires gelatin, making this a diplomat cream.) Thickened with cornstarch, the whole milk-based pastry cream is fairly standard. The crust was notable for its use of whole eggs (instead of the more common egg yolks) and an egg wash that gets applied to the crust after parbaking to help seal the crust and prevent a soggy crust.
Ultimately, I think there was definitely some baker’s error here as I should have rolled the crust a little thinner and perhaps baked it longer to get more a a crisp, snappy crust. Although it was nicely short with a melt-in-your-mouth texture, this crust was definitely softer than others (which I think could be due to the increased moisture from the whole eggs). The pastry cream was easy to spot in the crowd–the light hue looks and tastes mostly like whipped cream. Both were a little bland in comparison to other recipes, but this is a great recipe to try if you like a very light whipped cream-esque filling!
- Great cream. Whipped and airy. However the crust was soft and not very flavorful. Together they were ok, but the cream was much better.
- Strangely liked how soft the crust was!
- Wow is that whipped cream?? The pastry cream was SO light. Very different than the others. Probably the lightest most refreshing pastry cream. Didn’t feel heavy. The crust let me down here. Kinda soggy and had no crisp. Not a lot of butter flavor either
- Abysmal crust. I actually do think there is some merit to whipped cream in this style of tart, perhaps with more salt. But overall, the crust just ruins the piece.
- Because of how soft the crust was, it melted into the pastry filling and every texture became a bit too continuous. I prefer more contrast there so you can taste the different layers working together. The cream is too light and whipped … not my ideal texture.
Ricardo Cuisine: a tender crust with a starchy, lightly sweet pastry cream
I chose Ricardo’s recipe mainly because of a few interesting combinations of ingredients. He thickens his pastry cream with both cornstarch and flour, uses a higher proportion of egg yolks with one whole egg, and a combination of 2% milk and heavy cream. (The latter choice feels a bit fussy since I think the fat percentages ultimately boil down to somewhere close to whole milk.) Crust-wise, Ricardo uses powdered sugar (more cornstarch should make for a more tender crust), egg yolks (more fat = more richness) and a little bit of lemon juice.
This tart had a similar softness to Tartine’s, which again could be due to baker’s error (had I rolled the crust thinner, I think it could achieve the crunchier texture most were looking for). But I do think it could also be due in part to the use of powdered sugar in the crust, which lends extra tenderness. I liked the lightly sweet, slightly eggy flavor of the cream but didn’t love how starchy it was, which is likely due to the flour thickener. Overall, this tart was still delicious but the process felt a little fussy for the payoff.
- I loved how crumbly the crust was, kind of like a cookie. I really liked how light the crust felt as well. The pastry filling was lighter and eggier.
- The pastry cream tastes eggy. Almost like ice cream custard vibes. Crust was nice and buttery and soft. I think it could be baked more and have more sugar?
- The crust tasted like a sugar cookie, which is good. Pastry cream had a nice flavor but felt a little gritty.
- Cream was light and sweet, possibly too sweet for some individuals but for me it was ideal. The cream may be a little thicker than I desire but great start to the samples. Crust was bland and maybe too blond for my taste
- I liked the mild sweetness of the pastry cream – good texture. I thought the crust was a bit too floury tasting. Was also crumbly but not sure if that was intentional.
- Dislike: the cake and cream have similar textures and taste so everything blends together.
Salad in a Jar: a crisp, caramelized crust with a loose, milky cream
This is one of the earliest recipes I remember bookmarking when I started baking. As a college student, I remember being amazed that you could microwave a pastry cream into existence. The pastry cream is relatively standard with milk, sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks, butter and vanilla. The butter and powdered sugar based crust also adds an egg yolk and heavy cream, all made in a food processor. This was the only crust that got frozen overnight and baked with just a foil lining (no pie weights).
Although my microwave did eventually thicken the custard, it never achieved the thickness level of other custards. I also noticed comments saying that once people took the custard to the stovetop, it thickened almost instantly. Unfortunately, this tart was definitely marked down for the looser cream consistency which is a shame as I really liked the sweet, milky flavor. This was one of the crowd favorites for the crust, which I think is due in part to how thinly it was rolled–there was just enough dough to cover the 9″ tart pan. The crust is actually quite similar to Ricardo Cuisine–slightly less powdered sugar, one fewer egg yolks, slightly more flour and cream instead of lemon juice. This goes to show the marked difference that crust thinness can make, but also perhaps an indicator that less moisture in a crust yields a flakier, crisper crust. Loved this recipe and would easily make it again–but using a stovetop for the custard!
- The crust really stole the show in this case. PERFECT amount of buttery, flaky, well-balanced. I feel like I’m in heaven. Perfect balanced filling, not too gluey or gelatinous like others.
- Cream was very light with great custard flavor but it was the the messiest by far, did not hold its shape. Pastry was lovely and flaky though slightly too sweet with the cream. Overall this would be my favorite if the cream had been more set.
- Nice silky texture from the cream. On the sweeter side with a heavier vanilla flavor although it was a little on the looser side and kind of became a puddle after slicing. The crust had a more toasty flavor and on the gritty sandier side in terms of texture. Crust was also kind of melt in the mouth texture.
- I think the crust flavor is a little too sweet unless that is what the fruit tart is flavored as
- The texture was completely off here. The pastry cream was way too runny and the flavor wasn’t great either for the cream
- Crust was buttery but more soft/soggy. Flavors were good but if you needed a fruit tart that could travel well, it probably wouldn’t be this one.
Dominique Ansel: a crisp, shortbread-like crust with an eggy, thick custard
Dominique’s recipe stood out principally for its generous use of egg yolks. Nine yolks to 2.25 cups of milk is double the typical ratio of other custards (Culinary Hill is one of the second highest 6 yolks to 2 cups of milk.) This recipe shines for the thorough details–for example, Dominique specifies that you shouldn’t add the butter until the pastry cream is just above room temperature to prevent a grainy, greasy custard. Interestingly, this crust was the only one to use 1/3 cup of cornstarch on top of a powdered sugar + whole egg formula–assumedly is for extra tenderness. The crust gets blind baked with pie weights for precisely shaped sides.
Even though I rolled this crust to a similar thickness as Tartine, it felt much crisper with a great bite. Most tasters agreed the crust outshone the pastry cream. This cream was distinctly more golden-hued and accordingly, the eggy flavor shone through in this cream. While I liked the sweeter, eggier flavor, the was a slight starchiness to this cream that wasn’t my favorite. Overall, I’m not sure I’d invest nine egg yolks to make this custard again. I might make the crust again, but I think the extra addition of cornstarch makes this a bit more finicky than other recipes. I do think the overall recipe is worth a read for the technique that you can apply to other recipes!
- WOW perfect crust. Soft yet hard? Not as flakey as [Claire Saffitz] but I don’t necessarily need flake from my fruit tarts. Ideal crust, tastes like a shortbread cookie.
- The crust was amazing, I could eat it alone as a biscuit. A bit hard to cut at the edge. The cream had a bit of a sandy texture to it.
- Cream had a firm hold but there was a bit of a floury/grainy texture to it–a bit eggy and not too sweet. Good crunch to the crust.
- Solid just like the first sample. Feels like a solid option if you need to transport it somewhere. The cream to crust ratio was perfect, enough cream so I never felt like I’m eating a dry crust but also not being over consumed with the cream on its own.
- Love the eggy, cream with more body than some others and crust is nice and thick with a nice bit, a bit bland though
- Pastry cream is not hitting. Very little flavor. I’m mostly getting sweet not even milky.
Claire Saffitz: a light and silky vanilla custard in a crisp almond-scented crust
Claire’s filling is nearly identical to Dorie Greenspan’s popular recipe–2 cups of milk is thickened with 5 egg yolks and cornstarch. However, I chose to try Claire’s rendition because she adds toasted almond flour to an otherwise standard powdered sugar + egg yolk crust. Claire also uses an unusual crust-forming technique. She slices half the dough into flat strips to form the tart sides while the other half gets pressed into the bottom of the pan. Although I liked this technique for creating even sides, I found it difficult to seal the sides to the bottom of the crust, which led to breakage once it came out of the oven (I actually had to make this crust twice).
Overall, I loved this tart! The vanilla-forward pastry cream was extremely silky but thick enough so that it held up well in the tart. There’s a slight egginess but virtually no graininess to the cream and it’s sweet without being overly sweet (like Salad in a Jar). The crust was also nicely crisp with a subtle almond flavor that adds complexity to an otherwise often bland crust. The two pair extremely well together and I would happily make this tart again.
- Great creamy vanilla flavor, very smooth in contrast to [Ricardo Cuisine]. Love the custard. Crust is crisp and can taste the toasted almond.
- Much better. Harder, flakier crust. The cream has much more flavor (reminds me of beard papa cream puff filling). I would purchase this tart.
- Crust is perfect flakier and tastes like an adult shortbread cookie. More flavor than the first crust. This pastry cream was noticiable y less eggy and vanilla-y than the first.
- Great brown butter vibes from the crust, which as a great texture. I liked the crème better than the first because of the lighter texture (perhaps more vanilla-y?)
- Crust had a good texture and balanced the sweetness of the cream nicely. The cream had a great custard flavor though the texture was a little loose.
- The cream was a little thin and the crust seemed a little too smoky and dry, reminding me more of a graham cracker taste which feels cheaper and less fresh. I can also taste the salt and almond flavor in the crust which I didn’t particularly like.
King Arthur: a thinner, watery pastry cream with a golden, crisp crust
King Arthur’s pâte sucrée uses granulated sugar and an egg yolk for a dough that gets rolled out and baked using pie weights. The pastry cream is one of the simplest formulas with a modest one cup of milk, a whole egg, 1/4 cup of sugar and a combination of flour and cornstarch as thickeners.
Although I hate baking with pie weights, I have to admit that this crust was one of my favorites! Golden, crisp and short with a good sweetness level, the crust overshadowed the pastry cream to me. In contrast to the richer, eggier pastry creams, this cream was relatively pale, thinner and had a kind of one-note sweetness. It did hold its shape surprisingly well for such a “thin” cream thanks to the combination of flour and cornstarch, but it was missing the richness that additional egg yolks typically add. I’d absolutely recommend this cream if you hate egginess (it doesn’t taste at all eggy). This cream would also be my pick if I didn’t have a lot of time or ingredients–but if I was trying to impress someone, I’d look elsewhere. I would easily make the crust again!
- Saltier, starchier, good level of sweetness. Crust is one of my favs? Good crisp, sweetness, short.
- I like the texture of the crème – maybe not sweet/complex of flavor enough in my opinion. I think I like the texture of the crust on this one, could stand to be more buttery in flavor though
- Saltier more complex shortbread flavor in the crust, perfect soft and flaky texture. The filling was a bit too simple/understated for me.
- Pastry cream is light and creamy. I’d pair this crust with [Claire’s] pastry cream.
- It’s nice and sweet, but not very strong on the flavor or texture. The crust feels soft not crisp, and the cream is not contributing much flavor other than sweetness.
- Crust on this one has a similar texture to [Dominique] BUT will significantly less flavor. This pastry cream was similar to [Ricardo] it had some light egg flavor but still didn’t feel robust.
- Crust had a bland buttery flavor that I wish contrasted more with the pastry cream. Texture wise, the crust was really great. Even after a sitting for a bit the crust still held up against the pastry cream and didn’t become complete mush. The pastry cream had a pleasant lightness to it compared to the other pastry creams. The texture was on the looser side and didn’t have the unpleasant corn starchy texture, but didn’t had a very strong vanilla flavor.
Culinary Hill: a very sweet and starchy cream on a solid short-textured crust
As one of the top results on Google, I’ve made Culinary Hill several times simply because it pops up when you search “best fruit tart recipe.” I was curious to see how it fared in a bake off! Ultimately, this recipe was the most distinctive for its high ratio of sugar (1 cup to 2 cups milk vs. the typical 1/2 cup to 2 cups milk) and complete lack of butter in the pasty cream. It’s the most similar to Flour Bakery (but with more sugar and no cream/butter) or Claire Saffitz (but with double the sugar and no butter). The crust is a powdered sugar + whole egg formula but with slightly less butter than usual (7 tablespoons instead of 8).
Ultimately, this pastry cream was by far the sweetest and quite starchy. I wonder if the lack of butter in the cream highlighted both of these qualities because there was less richness and more of a focus on the sweetness and starchiness. The crust also felt slightly drier and more dense compared to other short, crisp buttery crusts. Although this was a perfectly acceptable fruit tart that I think most people would enjoy, I personally would tend to look for a less sweet pastry cream with a more crisp and buttery crust.
- Texture of crust reminds me of a sugar cookies, soft and chewy, custard reminds me of vanilla pudding cups
- This crème had more flavor, but not sure if it’s the type I was looking for. I think its sweetness overpowered the taste of the fruit and crust. I like the structure of this crust but nothing exceptional/bad about it.
- Overall, the sweetest sample so far. The pastry creme was a bit heavy, and that made this sample almost overwhelming. I love sugar though!
- Crust was a bit dry and you could really taste the vanilla in both the cream and crust. Cream is a bit loose, messy.
- Favorite crust so far, sugar cookie texture but a bit more on the savory end. Did not love pastry cream texture, could have been smoother. Also, overall sweeter than the first 4 tarts, which I didn’t love
Alison Roman: a flavorful, well-salted, full-bodied pastry cream on a flaky crust
Alison’s recipe is probably the highest payoff for the lowest effort. Her crust calls for simply incorporating melted butter into dry ingredients before pressing the dough into the tart pan (no foil or pie weights needed!). The pastry cream calls for a moderate amount of egg yolks (4 yolks to 2 cups of milk) and thickened with cornstarch. My main gripe with this recipe is that the pastry cream can and should be halved to fill the tart (5 cups of pastry cream would have overflowed the shell).
Anyone who knows Alison’s recipes and her penchant for salt will be unsurprised to learn the crunchy, short crust was notably salty in relation to the other crusts. The cream is silky and sweet with a similarly notable salt balance that yields a highly flavorful pastry cream (almost too salty for me, and definitely too salty for some tasters). It almost reminded me of Salad in a Jar but with more body, richness and salt balance. The technique yields a more rustic looking tart, but this would be my overall pick for the “easiest” tart recipe (that happens to turn out a delightful result!).
- Loved the flake and structure of this crust. Favorite so far in my sequential sampling. Crème is good texture and well balanced. Probably my fav so far. Love the salt in the crust, could do w a bit less.
- PASTRY CREAM WAS LUXURIOUS. Pastry cream was on the sweeter side but was well balanced with the saltier crust. Crust was pleasantly salty maybe possibly leaning towards too salty? But this was the most I have tasted the crust. I love this one. I would honestly make it for myself at home.
- Best crust overall, so buttery and flavorful and toothsome. Custard has a good creamy texture; vanilla pudding vibes
- Really well balanced! The crust was buttery and a little salty, cream was smooth and just sweet enough to cut the acidity of the fruit. Great pastry to crust ratio. Delicious! Only tweak I would make it slightly less salt in the crust.
- Salty crust was a bit much for me, but I thought the filling was just excellent. It was my overall favorite and it was the easiest to inhale. I think I could eat 1-2 pieces of this but not more in a row, whereas some of the other pieces I could have devoured a whole pie.
- This one is my least favorite with an overly salty crust that even the cream can’t mask. 10/10 wouldn’t eat again or make myself
Flour Bakery (Joanne Chang): an ethereally light cream in a crisp, buttery crust
Joanne’s pate sucree uses just five ingredients: butter flour, sugar, egg yolks and salt which all get creamed in a stand mixer. The dough gets rolled out, docked and refrigerated briefly before being baked (no foil or pie weights). This also uses a diplomat cream like Tartine, but with a lower ratio of cream folded into the pastry cream base. The pastry cream uses a relatively high amount of egg yolks (6) to 1 3/4 cups of milk, also thickened with cornstarch.
This was my favorite overall crust with a crisp, short texture. It reminded me of Salad in a Jar (which was rolled to a similar thinness). The cream feels rich yet loose–the folded whipped cream makes this feel less thick and starchy compared to others. Again, it feels similar to Salad in a Jar but saltier and richer. It also held up very well over multiple days–the crust remained relatively crisp, short and buttery. I think this would be a crowd-pleasing fruit tart to most!
- Excellent! This crust was so different from the earlier ones. Tasted more like a pie crust. Thinker and flakier and more buttery.
- Crust pretty buttery heavy/rich. I feel like I’d like a hybrid between [Alison/Flour’s] crust for the ultimate salty buttery structured goodness. Creme was too sweet for me but the texture was nice!!
- Cream had a smooth and creamy texture (without being too liquidy) that matched the crust well, which was the right balance of soft and crunchy. Overall the flavors were not too sweet or salty — I liked this combo!
- Flaky crust but can definitely taste the flour in it. The custard almost reminds me of whipped cream it’s almost more delicate than the others
- I actually love how light the pastry cream is here, but the flavorless crust took it down a notch for me.
Recommendations for the Best Fruit Tart Recipe
Erika’s overall picks: Flour Bakery, Alison Roman, Salad in a Jar
Erika’s crust picks: King Arthur, Flour Bakery or Salad in a Jar
Erika’s pastry cream picks: Alison Roman or Flour Bakery
Best crowd-pleasing fruit tart: Flour Bakery
Best classic fruit tart: Claire Saffitz, Dominique Ansel
Sweetest fruit tart: Culinary Hill, Salad in a Jar
Easiest/best effort for least payoff: Alison Roman, King Arthur