Date Tarts – Cape Breton Pork Pies

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I recently came across a very lovely treat, Cape Breton Pork Pies.  These are actually a sweet little date tart.  So the name Pork Pies is a misnomer.  The recipe originates from Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, Canada. These little delights seem be eaten at Christmas time.  That is ideal for my purposes as I am trying to post a few recipes that would be ideal for Christmas, giving time for people to gather the ingredients if they wish to make them.

Cape Breton Pork Pies are a wonderfully tender shortbread type tart case which is then filled with sweet, sticky, mashed dates and topped with a buttercream type icing with a hint of maple syrup flavour.

I checked a good few recipes before I decided on what I needed to do.  Firstly, most recipes use maple extract in the recipe and I didn’t have that.  It was also expensive to buy and I would only need about 1/2 teaspoon of it for the small batch I was making.  So I decided to use maple syrup in the icing, and leave out most of the milk that would otherwise be used.   That worked very well, as did the entire recipe.

The tart cases were very delicate and they melted in the mouth.  The dates had a lovely sweet and sticky texture and flavour and the icing finished everything off very well indeed.

In terms of size, most of the recipes I checked made very small tarts, in a mini muffin tin or similar.  Some made larger ones, in a muffin tin.  I decided the bite-sized version would suit my purpose well, so that it what I made.

I must say I was very pleased with the result, though I ought to stress quite how delicate the tart cases are.  They must be completely cooled before trying to remove them from the tin.

Cape Breton Pork Pies – Date Tarts
Cape Breton Pork Pies – Date Tarts – Video

Tart Cases:

  • 130g(1 cup) plain flour
  • 16g(2 tbsp) icing sugar
  • 113g(1/2 cup) softened butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Date filling:

  • 200g(1 cup + 2 tbsp) dated, chopped into small pieces
  • 120ml(1/2 cup) water
  • 75g(6 tbsp) soft brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  • 145g(1 cup + 2 tbsp)icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp(maple syrup)
  • 56g(1/4 cup) softened butter
  • 1 tsp milk(if needed to loosen the mixture a little)

Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/325F.
Place the flour, salt and icing sugar into a large bowl.
Add the butter and rub into the flour, using the tips of your fingers, until the mixture is like course sand.
Add the vanilla extract, mix around and pull the mixture together into a dough.  Work it just enough to form a ball.
Take small amounts of dough and form into 3/4 inch balls, dropping one into each hole of a mini muffin tin.
Press the balls of dough into the hole of the tin, pressing up the sides until the base and sides are covered.
Place the tart cases into the oven and bake for 16 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool before removing from the tin.
Place the dates, sugar and water into a saucepan and heat until boiling, stirring to mix well.
Allow the mixture to boil for about ten minutes, stirring from time to time.
The dates should break down to form a sort of jam, but if necessary mash them with a fork.
Remove from the heat and place in a bowl too cool completely, stirring in the vanilla extract too.
Place the icing sugar, butter and maple syrup into a bowl and cream together until you have a nice thick butter cream.
If necessary add about 1 teaspoon of milk to aid mixing.
Spoon the date mixture into the tart cases, very carefully to avoid breaking the case, until full.
Spoon (or pipe) a small amount of icing onto the top of each tart.

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