Bakewell slice is a classic British tea time treat, with layers of pastry, raspberry jam and an almond sponge-like top. It's easy to make and a tasty combination sweet and gently tart flavors.
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Whether you are going all out with a fancy afternoon tea, or simply enjoying a mid-morning or afternoon break, the UK's tradition is all about a cuppa with a little treat on the side. It's much like the Swedish fika tradition (though that's more typically coffee rather than tea), and one well worth keeping.
True, a full afternoon tea will be more of a meal, with English tea sandwiches, British scones with jam and cream, and likely other sweet treats. But for the more everyday, a biscuit (cookie) or slice of cake or similar is much more typical.
This slice is one you may well find alongside tea, however simple or fancy, and it's easy to understand why it is a favorite. Interestingly, it's origins are actually a dish that is these days less well known.
Bakewell pudding, tart and slice
You may have come across Bakewell puddings, tarts and slices before, which are not quite all the same thing, though they have some similarities. The original dish out of the three is Bakewell pudding, which was first made in the town of Bakewell (hence the name) in Yorkshire in the North of England.
Apparently it was potentially an accident, that turned out to be a hit. It was created by a cook at the White Horse Inn in Bakewell, and soon became a signature dessert of the town. You can still find it there, with three different bakeries claiming to have the original recipe.
Bakewell tarts, meanwhile, came about in the early 20th century. These are generally a commercial product, though you can make them at home as well. Most Brits know the commercial version which are mini tarts that you can buy in a box. The homemade version is usually made as a larger tart.
Both sizes consist of a pastry base, topped by jam and an almond sponge, similar to the pudding it takes it's name from but the sponge layer is a bit thinner.
In the mini versions, at least, this is all topped with a layer of fondant icing with a half glacé cherry on top. The homemade versions more often skip the fondant and instead add some flaked almonds (plus at most a drizzle of icing). Unlike the pudding, which you enjoy warm, the tarts are pretty much always room temperature.
Finally, this Bakewell slice is essentially the homemade tart without the fondant and with almonds on top, and make as more of what you'd call a sheet cake in the US, or a slice in the UK and Australia. That is, it's a square or rectangle that you then cut into slices to serve.
About each of the layers
This is a relatively easy treat, with no particularly complicated ingredients. It consists of three (or you could argue four) layers:
- A gently sweet shortcrust pastry base - I prefer homemade which comes together pretty easily, either by hand or even easier with a food processor.
- A layer of jam - traditionally this is either cherry or raspberry, with raspberry probably the most common these days for this slice. I like homemade as I always make lower sugar jams, but if you use bought, I'd recommend a good quality preserves (eg Bonne Maman) which has a high fruit to sugar ratio.
- An almond sponge/frangipane - frangipane is a creamy almond, egg, butter and sugar mixture, a bit like a more liquid marzipan in some ways. You may recognize it from classic French tarts like many pear or apricot tarts. It often includes some flour as well, as here, but this topping also typically includes some raising agent which a French frangipane usually doesn't. Hence it's a bit of a hybrid, but most importantly it's super tasty.
- Then, what you could almost argue is a fourth layer, you sprinkle the top with flaked almonds. In the UK, these are usually blanched almonds, but for some reason the US equivalent, sliced almonds, are not. So much as it is a little annoying, I try to rub off as much of the skins before adding as I prefer not to have the skin texture in there.
Tips for making Bakewell slice
- Chill the pastry in the pan before baking - this helps it to not to shrink quite as much when it bakes.
- Blind bake the pastry - this helps to stop it puffing up as it starts baking enough to not have too make bubbles when you ten bake a bit uncovered. I don't recommend skipping pre-baking the pastry - if not, it may not cook through when you add the other layers. And even if it does, it won't be as crisp so it's worth the few minutes it takes.
- Use homemade jam if possible - it will almost definitely taste better. And especially if it is lower sugar, like those I tend to make, you'll get more of the raspberry flavor coming through. You can also add some raspberries on top of the jam as well, if you like, though bear in mind they can make the mixture a little wetter so it may need slightly longer to bake.
- Make sure the topping is well mixed and fluffy - if not, you may get lumps of an ingredient in the end slice which wouldn't be the best. Mixing is generally easiest using both softened butter and an electric mixer, whether handheld or a stand mixer.
Top tip: Dot the sponge mixture on top
Adding a mixture over soft jam can be tricky as you want to keep the jam even and not mix it into the topping. The solution is to dot the mixture over the top before you spread.
This helps you spread evenly and to not mix it in with the jam, either on the bottom or with your spatula. Try to get the topping right to the edges to avoid any jam potentially bubbling up.
To store this, make sure it comes to room temperature first before transferring to a bag or box. You can store this in a sealed container at room temperature for up to three days. It will dry out a bit over time, so if you want to store beyond that, you are better to freeze it.
To freeze, wrap it well either as a single piece or in slices. Ideally, you want to have it double wrapped so eg in foil then a freezer bag or cling wrap/film then a bag or container. You can freeze it up to three months.
Bakewell slice is a classic British treat, and it's easy to understand why. With a delicious combination of crisp pastry, sweet-tart raspberry and soft almond sponge on top, it's a perfect teatime snack.
Try these other sweet bites perfect for coffee/teatime:
- German plum cake (Pflaumenkuchen, a lovely simple mix of base cake, juicy plums and a streusel topping)
- Lemon slice (a classic Australian no-bake treat combining cookies, coconut and a lemon frosting on top)
- French pear cake (an easy, light cake packed with fresh pears)
- Plus get more British recipes and snack recipes, both sweet and savory, in the archives.
I use this 9x9 inch square baking pan for this that works well (and has a lid, handy for storing any leftovers; affiliate link).
For the pastry base
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour plain flour
- 2 tablespoon confectioners sugar icing sugar
- 7 tablespoon unsalted butter cold, in chunks
- 2 tablespoon water cold - may not need all or may need slightly more
For sponge topping
- 8 tablespoon unsalted butter softened
- ½ cup all purpose flour plain flour
- ¾ cup almond flour ground almonds
- ½ cup sugar caster sugar if not already relatively fine
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
- 2 eggs
For rest of slice
- ½ cup raspberry jam
- 2 tablespoon sliced almonds flaked almonds
- Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. You will need a 9 x 9in (23 x 23cm) square baking pan/tin - ideally non-stick, otherwise you may want to line it with parchment paper. I use a 2in (5cm) deep pan, but slightly less deep will also work.
For pastry base
- Place the flour, confectioners/icing sugar and butter in a food processor and pulse to form crumbs. Add the water in a steady stream with the food processor running. Blend to bring the mixture together in clumps - if it doesn't happen after around 30 seconds, add a little more water but you shouldn't need much more.
- Remove the dough from the food processor and press together to form a ball. Roll out into a large square, large enough to line a 9 x 9in (23 x 23cm) baking tin. Carefully place the pastry into the tin and gently press into the corners and up the side.
- Trim the top off the pastry to give an even edge a little below the top of the tin. If the pastry is lower in any area, you can add a bit of the cut off scraps to fill it in, pressing to join to the main pastry. Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork then chill in the fridge a few minutes - ideally 10 or more - while the oven heats up.
- Blind bake the pastry (ie line inside with parchment and fill with baking beans) for about 10 minutes, then remove parchment and beans and bake uncovered for around 5 - 10 minutes more until lightly golden.
For sponge topping
- Meanwhile, place the butter, flour, almond flour, sugar, baking powder, almond extract and eggs in a bowl. Mix with a stand or handheld electric mixer to combine well and until the mixture os smooth and glossy.
To layer and bake
- Once the pastry is gently golden and dry, spread a layer of the raspberry jam over the pastry base, spreading right into the corners and trying to make an even layer.
- Dot the almond sponge topping mixture over the jam so it covers most of the jam (it doesn't have to be smooth at this point, you just want to minimize how much you need to spread it). Carefully spread the sponge layer over the jam, trying not to touch the jam so that you don't mix it into the topping. Spread right to the very edges to touch the pastry sides and smooth the top with a spatula.
- Sprinkle the almonds evenly over the top, then bake for around 35 - 40 minutes until the top is evenly golden and dry to touch.
- Allow to cool at least a few minutes before slicing - you can serve warm or at room temperature.
- If storing, allow to cool completely to room temperature before transferring to a sealed container and storing at room temperature.