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How to Make Butterscotch Tart (Old School Recipe!)

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(This post has been updated from the original May 2014 version to provide a better experience for you)

Flaky shortcrust pastry filled with a smooth and creamy butterscotch filling – butterscotch tart is the stuff of childhood dreams! Adapted from an original dinner lady recipe, this classic school dessert will take you straight back to your childhood (just like cornflake tart and treacle tart do!). Learn how to make your very own with my nostalgic recipe, helpful tips and much more…

A slice of butterscotch tart on a plate with a fork, on a grey tea towel and white marble work top

I loved this dessert so much in school that I used to skip dinner and have two puddings whenever it was on the menu! So on my very last day in secondary school, I actually asked a dinner lady for their butterscotch tart recipe.

Butterscotch tart on a white marbled worktop with a grey tea towel and 2 forks

She wrote it down on a scrappy little piece of paper for me. Sadly, after leaving home, the recipe got mislaid and I thought it was lost forever. Until one day, to my surprise and delight, I found it in a little box at my parent’s house! 

A slice of butterscotch tart on a plate with a fork, on a grey tea towel and white marble work top

I was so so happy! It was a little on the vague side but I was determined to fill in the gaps and share the recipe with the world. After all, I knew you’d love it as much as I did. (Being in Kitchen Mason’s top 5 recipes every day since I originally published it in 2014 proves as much!)

Butterscotch tart on a white marbled worktop with a grey tea towel and 2 forks

Alternative names

This old school dessert goes by many names across the United Kingdom. Butterscotch tart, caramel tart and even gypsy tart. But they were all slight variations of the very same thing and all tasted amazing! If you know of any more names for this dessert, let me know in the comments below or email me at emma@kitchenmason.com.

A slice of butterscotch tart on a plate with a fork, on a grey tea towel and white marble work top

What you need to know

In this section I’m going to help you understand everything you need to know in order to make butterscotch tart perfectly first time! From notes on the ingredients you need, right down to making perfect shortcrust pastry and helpful tips. Trust me, this is a worthwhile read!

A slice of butterscotch tart on a plate with a fork, on a grey tea towel and white marble work top

Butterscotch tart ingredients

While mostly very basic, there are a few key things you need to know about some ingredients when making butterscotch tart.

For the pastry

  • Flour – Always use plain (all purpose in the US) flour for shortcrust pastry.
  • Salt – Table salt is fine. You’re going for flavour here not texture.
  • Butter – I always use unsalted as it puts me in full control of the salt content/flavour.
  • Water – No need to get fancy, tap water is fine!
Butterscotch tart on a white marbled worktop with a grey tea towel and 2 forks

For the butterscotch filling

  • Milk – Whole/full fat milk gives the best flavour but most milks (including dairy free) will work.
  • Flour – Again, plain (all purpose in the US) flour works best in this recipe.
  • Butter – Use unsalted to give you control of the salt content and overall flavour.
  • Sugar – Golden caster sugar is my favourite but light brown soft sugar would work well too.
  • Salt – As you’re looking for flavour not texture, table salt is perfect.
  • Vanilla Extract – A very good quality vanilla (like Nielsen Massey) is key in this recipe!
  • Butterscotch Essence – The single most important ingredient for authentic flavour. Whatever you do, don’t leave this out!

Here is where I get my butterscotch essence. (Affiliate link.)

A slice of butterscotch tart on a plate with a fork, on a grey tea towel and white marble work top

Making shortcrust pastry

Worried about making the shortcrust pastry case? There’s no need! Check out my easy shortcrust pastry recipe. It’s packed full of super helpful tips to help you nail it first time!

Still not sure or short on time? You can always buy a 20 cm / 8″ ready made pastry case from your local supermarket instead.

Butterscotch tart on a white marbled worktop with a grey tea towel and 2 forks

How to make butterscotch tart: simplified

It’s much easier than you think! You can even cheat and buy a ready made pastry case if you like. I always believe homemade is better though.

  1. Mix flour, cold butter and salt to fine crumbs then add water. Mix to form a dough and rest in the fridge.
  2. Roll out and line a fluted tart tin. Blind bake then cool completely.
  3. Mix the milk and flour together.
  4. Melt together butter and sugar in a large saucepan.
  5. Gradually add the milk/flour mixture and stir until thickened.
  6. Remove from the heat and stir in salt, vanilla and butterscotch essence.
  7. Pour into the case and allow to set completely.
  8. Slice and serve.
Butterscotch tart with a slice on a cake slice, on a white marbled worktop with a grey tea towel and 2 forks

Butterscotch tart tips and troubleshooting

Now we’re into the good stuff!! Here’s some super helpful tips (born from me making the mistakes so you don’t have to!) that I think will really help you out.

Helpful tips

  • Use a pastry blender to make your pastry. They’re cheap and make pastry quicker, easier and better!
  • Don’t have a pastry blender? Make sure you have cold hands, cold butter and cold water instead.
  • Try not to overwork your pastry. It will become chewy and not very nice. A light touch is key!
  • Add the water gradually to your pastry. Remember, you can always add more but you can’t take it out!
  • Flattening your pastry into a disc before refrigerating will chill it faster. (Due to the larger surface area.)
  • Don’t have time to make your own shortcrust pastry case? Buy a ready made one and fill as per the recipe.
  • Do not leave out the butterscotch essence! It’s the key ingredient to making it taste exactly as it did in school.
  • Be patient with the butterscotch filling. It needs to be the consistency of wallpaper paste to set properly.
Butterscotch tart with a slice on a cake slice, on a white marbled worktop with a grey tea towel and 2 forks

Can’t find butterscotch essence? I’ve used this one and this one. Both worked great. (Affiliate links.)

This is the pastry blender I use. (Affiliate link.)

Troubleshooting

  • My pastry was chewy – You overworked it. Try using a pastry blender and a lighter touch next time.
  • The pastry was soft – you didn’t bake it for long enough. Cook until it’s golden brown and crispy to the touch.
  • My filling didn’t set – You didn’t stir it over the heat for long enough. It needs to get to the same consistency as wallpaper paste.
  • The filling set too firm – You stirred it over the heat for too long and it became too thick. Think wallpaper paste for the perfect consistency.
  • My tart doesn’t taste like it did in school – You didn’t add the vanilla extract/butterscotch essence. Add them both for an authentic old school flavour.
A slice of butterscotch tart on a plate with a fork, on a grey tea towel and white marble work top

Butterscotch Tart – Step by Step Picture Recipe

(For a printer friendly version, see the recipe card at the end of this post)

Please note, this recipe has been updated to improve both the flavour and texture. If you would like a copy of the original recipe, please email me at emma@kitchenmason.com.

Ingredients and equipment

Here is what you will need to make a 20cm/8″ tart.

For the pastry

  • 160g (1 + 1/3 Cups) Plain/All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 85g (1/3 Cup + 1 tbsp) Unsalted Butter, cold & cubed
  • 3 – 4 tbsp Cold Water
  • 1 Egg (for brushing)

For the filling

  • 100ml (1/3 Cup + 1 tbsp) Whole/Full Fat Milk
  • 40g (1/3 Cup) Plain/All Purpose Flour
  • 175g (3/4 Cup) Unsalted Butter, cubed
  • 175g (3/4 Cup + 1/8 Cup) Golden Caster Sugar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp Butterscotch Essence

Essential equipment

  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Pastry Blender (optional)
  • Rolling Pin
  • 20 cm/8″ Loose Bottomed Tart Tin
  • Fork
  • Baking Beans or Coins/Dried Pulses
  • Jug
  • Whisk
  • Large Saucepan
  • Wooden Spoon

Shortcrust pastry case instructions

Mix the flour (160g | 1 + 1/3 Cups) and salt (1/4 tsp) together in a large mixing bowl then add the cold cubed butter (85g | 1/3 Cup + 1 tbsp).

Cubed butter, flour and salt in a glass bowl

Using a pastry blender, lightly mix the ingredients together until they form lots of little crumbs. Alternatively, you can rub the ingredients together between your forefingers a thumbs (with cold hands!) until you achieve the same result.

Butter, flour and salt blended to a crumble in a glass bowl with a pastry blender

Next, add 3 – 4 tbsp of cold water and gently bring it all together with your hands until it forms a ball. Add the water gradually – remember, you can always add more but you can’t take it out.

The dough should come together and clean the sides of the bowl but it should not be sticky at all.

A ball of shortcrust pastry in a glass bwl

Tip your pastry onto some cling film (saran wrap in the US), flatten into a disc, wrap it up and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Shortcrust pastry wrapped in clingfilm and flattened into a disc on a worktop

Once chilled, roll out your pastry to 2 mm thick on a floured work surface. Don’t be afraid to flour your rolling pin and the top of the pastry.

Shortcrust pastry rolled out to 2mm thick on a floured work surface

Then carefully lift your pastry over your tart tin and gently press it into the base and sides.

Shortcrust pastry draped over a fluted tart tin on a floured work surface

Next, roll your rolling pin over the top to cut off any excess pastry then gently prick the base all over with a fork.

A round fluted tart tin lined with shortcrust pastry and pricked all over with a fork

Pop your prepared pastry in the freezer to chill and preheat your oven to 180°C/Fan 170°C/356°F.

Now scrunch up a large sheet of baking paper and place it into your pastry tin. Fill it with baking beans. (You can use coins or dried pulses etc if you don’t have those.)

A shortcrust pastry case lined with baking paper and baking beans

Bake in the centre of your preheated oven for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the baking beans and baking paper. Lightly brush the whole thing with beaten egg.

Part blind baked shortcrust pastry case in a round fluted tart tin that's been brushed with beaten egg on a work surface

Lastly, put your pastry case back into the oven for a final 10-12 mins until golden and crispy to the touch.

Blind baked shortcrust pastry case in a round fluted tart tin on a work surface

Allow to cool completely while you make the butterscotch filling.

Butterscotch filling instructions

First, whisk together the milk (100ml | 1/3 Cup + 1 tbsp) and flour (40g | 1/3 Cup) in a jug until smooth. Set to one side until needed.

Milk and flour whisked to a paste in a plastic jug with a hand whisk

Then add the cubed butter (175g | 3/4 Cup) and caster sugar (175g | 3/4 Cup + 1/8 Cup) to a large saucepan and set over a low/medium heat.

Cubed butter and sugar in a large saucepan set on a stove top

Stirring with a wooden spoon, heat until everything is melted and the sugar has dissolved.

Melted butterscotch tart filling in a large saucepan on a stove top

Now gradually pour in the milk/flour mixture a little at a time. Stir well after each addition.

Milk and flour paste being poured into a melted butterscotch tart filling in a large saucepan on a stove top
Melted butterscotch tart filling in a large saucepan on a stove top being beaten by a wooden spoon

Once all the milk/flour has been added, bring the mixture to the boil. Continue to boil, stirring constantly, until thickened. You want a consistency that’s a bit like wallpaper paste. (It should take around 15 mins or so.)

Melted butterscotch tart filling in a large saucepan on a stove top being beaten by a wooden spoon

Then remove from the heat and add the salt (pinch), vanilla (1 tsp) and butterscotch essence (1 tsp.)

Vanilla, butterscotch essence and salt being mixed into butterscotch tart filling in a large saucepan

Give it one last good stir to blend everything together.

The finished butterscotch tart filling in a large saucepan

Finally, pour the mixture into your pastry case and allow to set completely. I prefer to leave mine at room temperature but, especially if it’s a warm day, you might like to put yours in the fridge.

Butterscotch tart in a round fluted tart tin

And there you have it my lovely! A seriously nostalgic and delightful butterscotch tart to call your very own. That beautiful, soft and gooey butterscotch filling on a gorgeously golden pastry crust… Just, yes. A thousand times yes!

Store your butterscotch tart in the fridge and consume within 5 days. (Although it’s at it’s best for the first 1 – 2 days.)

Butterscotch tart on a white marbled worktop with a grey tea towel and 2 forks

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Butterscotch tart with a slice on a cake slice, on a white marbled worktop with a grey tea towel and 2 forks

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You need the right equipment! Check out my favourite Products That Make Baking Easier!

A slice of butterscotch tart on a plate with a fork, on a grey tea towel and white marble work top

Have you Made This Recipe?

Will this classic dessert be making an appearance in your household? I’d love to know if it is! Send me your pics and comments on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram or email me at emma@kitchenmason.com.

 

Loved this Recipe? Pin it!

Slice of butterscotch tart with a piece forked out of it. Set on a white plate with a black rim on a dark grey tea towel with a fork on the side of the plate.
A whole butterscotch tart set on a white marbled worktop. There's a dark grey tea towel with 2 forks either side of it in the background.
A slice of butterscotch tart on a plate with a fork, on a grey tea towel and white marble work top

Old School Butterscotch Tart - Printable Recipe

Yield: 8 Servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Additional Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Golden flaky pastry filled with a smooth and creamy butterscotch filling, this beautiful school dessert recipe will transport you straight back to your childhood!

Ingredients

For the Pastry

  • 160g (1 + 1/3 Cups) Plain/All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 85g (1/3 Cup + 1 tbsp) Unsalted Butter, cold & cubed
  • 3 – 4 tbsp Cold Water
  • 1 Egg, beaten (for brushing)

For the Filling

  • 100ml (1/3 Cup + 1 tbsp) Whole/Full Fat Milk
  • 40g (1/3 Cup) Plain/All Purpose Flour
  • 175g (3/4 Cup) Unsalted Butter, cubed
  • 175g (3/4 Cup + 1/8 Cup) Golden Caster Sugar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp Butterscotch Essence

Essential Equipment

  • Pastry Blender (optional)
  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Rolling Pin
  • 20 cm/8″ Loose Bottomed Tart Tin
  • Fork
  • Baking Beans or Coins/Dried Pulses
  • Jug
  • Whisk
  • Large Saucepan
  • Wooden Spoon

Instructions

To Make the Pastry

  1. Either using a pastry blender or rubbing between your forefingers and thumbs, mix the flour, salt and butter in a large bowl until fine crumbs form.
  1. Gradually add the water and bring together to form a ball with your hands. It shouldn't be sticky.
  2. Wrap in cling film (saran wrap in the US), flatten into a disc and chill for 30 mins.
  3. Roll the pastry out to 2mm thick on a floured work surface then carefully lift over the tart tin. Gently press into the base and sides.
  4. Roll your rolling pin over the top to cut off excess pastry then prick the base all over with a fork. Place in the freezer and preheat your oven to 180°C/Fan 170°C/356°F.
  5. Line the pastry with scrunched up baking paper and fill with baking beans. Bake for 15 mins.
  6. Remove the baking paper and beans, brush all over with beaten egg and bake for a further 10-12 mins until golden.

To Make the Butterscotch Filling

  1. Whisk the milk and flour together in a jug until smooth. Set to one side.
  2. Melt the butter and caster sugar in a large saucepan set over a low/medium heat.
  3. A little at a time, add the milk/flour mixture, stirring well with a wooden spoon.
  4. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, and cook until it thickens. (You are looking for a wallpaper paste like consistency.)
  5. Remove from the heat, stir through the salt, vanilla and butterscotch essence then pour into your pastry case. Allow to set at room temperature (or in the fridge on a warm day).

Notes

Store in the fridge and consume within 5 days. (Tastes best within 2 days.)

This recipe has been updated to improve the flavour and texture. If you would like a copy of the original recipe, please email me at emma@kitchenmason.com.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 420Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 71mgSodium: 102mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 1gSugar: 23gProtein: 3g

Nutritional information on kitchenmason.com should only be used as a general guideline, I am not a certified nutritionist. Please always check labels for allergens where applicable.

Did you make this recipe?

I'd love to hear about it! Please leave a comment on the blog or tag me on Instagram.

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Larenka

Thursday 11th of March 2021

Most of the butterscotch receipes i have found don't even include flavouring (?!) So I jumped for joy when i saw this! I am currently waiting for it to set but the filling tasted quite flourey even though i stirred for a long time and not strong enough of butterscotch, so i added twice the amount of vanilla and b'scotch - Has anyone else found this too? Any tips? Nearly 99% there though! Thanks!

Emma

Friday 12th of March 2021

Hi Larenka. Sorry you've had a little trouble with this! With the flouriness - did you mix the flour into the milk before adding it to the melted butter/sugar? Also, did you add it gradually to the pan and not all in one go? Then cook until boiling and a thick, wallpaper paste like consistency? If you did those things you shouldn't really be able to taste the flour. I totally understand adding more flavouring - everyone has different tastes :) Emma x

Kitty

Sunday 5th of April 2020

I love butterscotch Tart so I was so excited when my brother started making it until I headed my dad and him arguing because he didn’t have the right ingredients he didn’t have the butterscotch essence or the caster sugar he used regular sugar instead .The butterscotch tasted like butter and sugar and the tart was over done the ingredients ARE really important but the next time he made it I gave him this recipe and it was delicious

Miss KitchenMason

Sunday 5th of April 2020

Aww that’s lovely Kitty! I’m so glad it worked well using my recipe :) Emma x

lita ashley

Wednesday 3rd of April 2019

So happy to have found this. It was my fave at school too. Also loved cawl at school in Wales, kind of soup/stew served with a slab of cheddar cheese, yum. Funny how it brings it all back and most of the dinners where great. Having said that, I blame the lunches on my generous hips, lol.

Miss KitchenMason

Wednesday 3rd of April 2019

Aww you're so very welcome Lita! I've not heard of cawl before (I grew up in the midlands - England) sounds yummy though :) Emma x

Aileen Sivewright

Thursday 16th of November 2017

Having great problem finding butterscotch essence

Miss KitchenMason

Friday 17th of November 2017

Hi Aileen. Whereabouts are you based? If you are in the UK, I link to Amazon in the ingredients list where you can buy it from online. (Link here: http://amzn.to/2iPjfvK) If you are in the US, I've found this one which I hope will help you? https://goo.gl/1LzU5X

Steve

Friday 25th of November 2016

Just in case anyone is having problems, here's the link to THE BEST butterscotch flavouring... http://www.sweetsuccess.uk.com/vshop/shopexd.asp?id=406 (thankfully I live in Nottingham, where they're based, and I can purchase it directly from them). I've had the 1L bottle now for about 3 years (my bro bought it for me Christmas 2013) - went out of date 18 months ago and it's still perfectly fine. So if you are wanting to make copious amounts of the best school pudding in the world, I'd say get the 1L bottle instead of the 28ml bottle - it lasts pretty much forever since it's all chemicals anyway.

Also, it's great to use in rice pudding (mmmm, butterscotch rice pudding), cakes and buttercream.

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