Like maple syrup, the butter tart is one of the most cherished desserts when it comes to items that make up the Canadian identity. It’s no wonder it’s ranked as #4 on the top ten list in 2020 for Canadian desserts. But what happens to the popularity of these sweet little tarts when the mercury starts to drop? And which province or territory carries out more Google searches for the dessert than anyone else? Join us as we look at everything the small tart is related, including local bakeries near you serving the sticky favourite tart.
Let’s begin with the generally agreed upon ingredients. Most basically, a butter tart consists of a pastry shell that’s filled with a delectable combination of butter, sugar, syrup, and eggs. We use the term generally agreed upon rather loosely. No doubt you’ve heard of the raisin debate. Perhaps you’ve even participated in your very own raisin debate. Similarly, other questionable ingredients in the much loved tart can include pecans and walnuts. Whether these words make you shudder or not, take a deep breath and relax. We’re not about to weigh in on this today as we know it’s a touchy subject and we’ve already been through enough this year. Let’s just focus on celebrating the holidays!
While Canadians are happy to consume them all year round, the popularity of butter tarts more than doubles each winter, especially toward the December holidays. It is easy to see why. This fabulous tart is simple comfort food made with basic household ingredients. The first mention of it actually comes from a Barrie/Simcoe County cookbook published in 1900, so Canadians have been enjoying them for over 100 years now!
Interestingly, we might add that the King’s Daughters, or Filles du Roi, the ladies who were sent to New France by King Louis XIV between 1663 and 1673, brought with them what we might call “the grandmother recipes” to today’s butter tart (and sugar pie/tarte au sucre). One might argue it was their foundational recipes, combined with the more readily available ingredients, that potentially led to today’s buttery Christmas staple.
With the information mentioned above, can you guess the main province or territory who has a particular penchant for buttery tarts? You’ll be forgiven for assuming it’s Ontario. Yes, we were surprised, too, as Ontario is home to the Butter Tart Festival at Muskoka Lakes, the Butter Tart Trail at Wellington North, and even the Butter Tart Tour in Kawarthas Northumberland! And as if this wasn’t enough, there’s also Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival and Contest, which is held in Midland every year. But no, it’s not Ontario. In reality, it actually ranks in third place when it comes to provinces and territories carrying out Google searches for the tart… Actually, the place who googles the most is Saskatchewan! After this Land of the Living Skies, the next location to have the most searches for the Canadian dessert is Manitoba.
It could be that most Ontarians already have the recipe built into their DNA, what with all the festivals and trails, so perhaps they don’t have to search the web for this particular holiday treat? Instead they’re capable of making them by heart like the pre-internet King’s Daughters of the 1600s? For those of us who are too busy to have time to make pastry crusts and fillings, look for fresh butter tarts from local bakeries near you.