This traditional bake, beloved of Henry VIII, harks back to the 1500s. Originally made with cheese curds mine is an updated version.
Way back in the 16th century a small curd cake in a pastry tart case was created for Henry Viii. By all accounts he loved it. The baked item became Maids Of Honour Tarts. There are many resources on the web which detail the history of the tarts and often it seems that puff pastry was used as the pastry case.
By the 18th century there was a shop in Richmond, Surrey which was selling Maids Of Honour Tarts. Indeed there is still such a shop, Newens, which claims it makes the original.
However, from further reading, I am not sure sure if that was the original base since the earliest recorded mention of puff pastry, that I could find, is from Spain in the 17th century. But certainly these days puff pastry is often used.
For mine, though, I decided to use shortcrust pastry. The main reason for that is that I don’t think puff pastry as a base, when there are wet ingredients place on the top, often doesn’t bake through to give a crisp texture.
The filling was originally, and probably is still used in some places, was curd cheese. The modern version, though, often uses cream cheese and some ground almonds to make the filling. Indeed, that is what I used too, and some lemon curd and zest to add a bit flavour hit.
So the tarts are a pastry base and a filling. They are actually quite simple to make even though there are two distinct stages.
The tarts are usually made in a bun tin, but I some of mine in individual fluted pans too. In the absence of a bun tin, or patty pan, a muffin tin will work well although the pastry base should only cover the base and go about 1/3 of the way up the side, since these are shallow tarts.
Mine turned out very well indeed. The pastry was short and crumbly and cooked all the way through. The filling was delicious too with the lemon curd and zest really shining through, together with the wonderful texture of the almonds mixed with cream cheese. They were perfect with a nice cup of tea in the afternoon.
In the recipe I include a tablespoon of milk, which may not be required. The batter for the filling should be quite loose, but if your’s isn’t you can loosen it with milk. I didn’t need it.
If you like these little tarts you might also enjoy Coconut & Almond Congress Tarts
Maids Of Honour TartsCourse: Cakes, Pies & TartsCuisine: BritishDifficulty: Easy
- For the pastry
150g(1 cup, based on scooping packed flour into a 250ml cup) plain flour
85g(6 tbsp) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
8g(1 tbsp) icing sugar
1 medium egg yolk (large in USA)
- For the filling:
25g(2 tbsp minus 1/2 tsp) softened unsalted butter
125g(10 tbsp) caster sugar
9g(1 tbsp) plain flour
grated zest from one lemon
75g(3/4 cup) ground almonds
2 medium egg yolks(large in USA)
30ml(2 tbsp) lemon curd
15ml(1 tbsp) milk, if required.
pinch of salt
icing sugar, for sprinkling, if required
- Place the flour and icing sugar into a bowl and add the chilled butter, then rub the butter into the flour until you have a coarse sand-like texture(or a breadcrumb texture). I did this in my processor.
- Add the egg yolk and mix together until everything begins to clump together.
- Tip the dough onto a work surface and squeeze between your hands to form a dough.
- On a floured surface roll the dough out to a thickness of 3mm(1/8 inch).
- Cut out rounds, using about a 3 to 3 1/2 inch ( 7.5 to 9 cm)cookie cutter
- Carefully line the bun tin, or the tart pans, or the muffin tin with the pastry. Don’t worry if it cracks you can just patch it as the pastry is very forgiving. Re-roll the pastry as necessary to line all 12 holes of the tin.
- Spoon 1/2 tsp of lemon curd onto the base of each tart case.
- Chill the tart cases in the fridge as you preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F.
- Place the cream cheese and about 1/2 the sugar into the bowl and cream together.
- Add the egg yolks and mix to thoroughly combine.
- Add the flour, salt, remaining sugar and lemon zest and mix again to combine.
- Fold in the ground almonds, adding the milk too to loosen the mixture if it feels stiff.
- Carefully spoon the mixture over the lemon curd in the tart cases, dividing the mixture evenly until the cases are just about full.
- Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the pastry is cooked through and the filling has risen and browned. The mixture may seem to crack and sink a little but that is just as they should be.
- Remove the tarts from the oven and allow them too cook for a few minutes before removing from the pan and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.
- Sprinkle with a little icing sugar if desired.