It would be a terrible cliché to write about the food of Derbyshire and talk about the county’s most famous culinary export, the Bakewell tart, but I’m going to carry on regardless.
Reasonable imitations are widely available, but like so many foods, tracing them back to their source pilgrim-fashion makes them much more enjoyable. Or in the case of the Bakewell tart, less sweet, as the pastry isn’t enriched with sugar and the almond filling isn’t sweetened to the same extent as marzipan which is what you often get from the supermarket’s offerings. The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop claims the most authentic, using strawberry jam (not raspberry, or apricot as Mary Berry uses in her 1983 book, Fast Desserts) and it’s one of a long list of local puddings and desserts, but I’d hazard a guess that Bakewell’s took off thanks to the very marketable name and its popularity with Victorian tourists.
The difference between a Bakewell tart and pudding though, seems largely down to the inclusion of flour in the filling: the Bakewell pudding is topped with an almond custard, while the tart is filled by a frangipane of sorts, containing flour to give it a lighter texture. Early recipes however (the oldest comes from 1836) are much less specific and are quite variable, calling for the inclusion of candied lemon peel and whatever jam or preserve you have available but the origins of the dessert before this date appear shrouded in mystery.
Alongside Bakewell, more or less every town and village in the Peak District claims its own cake or tart and they are increasing in popularity: The Buxton Pudding Company‘s namesake has won a Great Taste Award, the Glossop Pudding (using a layer of apple and bilberry preserve) is now more available too, in addition to more traditional cakes like Castleton Vicarage cake.
I wish I could say I’d tried them all, but for the sake of my dentist bills, it’s probably for the best. Besides, the sheer wealth and variety of sweet treats in the area give me another reason to return to this great part of the country.