Traditional British Jam Tarts are a classic, simple, fun, bake and completely delicious. They are perfect for afternoon tea parties, picnics, pack lunches, parties, and even game-day or movie night snacks. Although a sweet jammy crispy buttery pastry tart is a perfect for every-day coffee or tea breaks. Our jam tart recipe can be easily adapted for gluten-free diets and is the perfect beginner recipe for kids to have a go in the kitchen.
A Jam Tart is a buttery crisp pastry case or shell filled with fruit jam or marmalade. They can be prepared with home-made pastry or shop-bought pastry and are the perfect way to use up leftover pastry.
As we are a plant-based family we use plant-based margarine or butter for the pastry but of course you can use your usual baking fat as Jam Tarts are very easy to customise to your needs.
Origin of jam tarts
The term "tart," originating from the 14th century, means 'small pie' and derives from the French word "tarte." In Britain, sweet fruit tarts, similar to modern jam tarts, have been enjoyed since medieval times. However, sugar, a main ingredient in fruit jam, was a luxury in Britain until the 11th century but it slowly became more accessible due to the West Indian trade.
Interestingly, there are records of Roman recipes from as early as the 4th century AD, which describe fruits, spices, and honey boiled together and then stored in jars, resembling what we might consider an early form of jam or fruit preserve. This sweet honey mixture was commonly used as a filling in pastries, hinting at an early version of a sweet fruit tart.
By the 19th century, jam-making had become a popular method in Britain for preserving fruits. This involved boiling fruit with sugar, a technique that led to the creation of various traditional jam tart recipes during the British Victorian era, which spans from the early 1800s to the early 1900s.
A notable Victorian-era jam tart is the Epiphany Tart, often larger in size (about 8-9 inches or more) and featuring a large pastry crust with a star molded into the base. It was filled with different types of jam, creating a stained-glass window effect. This impressive tart was traditionally enjoyed during Epiphany, a Christian feast day on January 6th, celebrating the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.
Thus, the evolution of the jam tart is deeply intertwined with historical developments in trade and culinary practices, from early Roman concoctions to the refined Victorian delicacies.
How to prepare
Any fruit jam can be used for jam tarts including strawberry, raspberry, black currant, black berry, orange, apricot, blueberry, gooseberry, lemon or lime marmalade, ginger or pineapple preserve, etc. During the Victorian era jam was even made with bananas.
Also, if a special type of jam is required such as diabetic jam, no-sugar jam, etc., this is fine to use for this recipe. For the following jam tart batch we used half strawberry jam and half orange marmalade so you can bake a mix of jam tart flavours.
Prepare the pastry
The ingredients you will need for the pastry are - plain or all-purpose flour, margarine, butter, or a baking block or spread, that is suitable for baking. As we are a plant-based family we used Stork baking block. You will also need icing [powdered sugar] sugar and a little water to bring it all together.
Step 1: Sift the flour and icing [powdered] sugar into a mixing bowl.
Step 2: Add the margarine breaking it up into small pieces.
Step 3: Using your fingertips rub the margarine into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Step 3: Add enough water to bring the pastry together.
Step 4: Gently knead the pastry dough on a floured surface into a smooth ball.
Step 5: Wrap the pastry in cling film or Seram wrap or similar and place into the refrigerator for 25-30 minutes, or until required, to chill.
Assemble the jam tarts
Step 6: Grease the fairy cake or cup cake baking tray with margarine.Alternatively, you can use a mince-pie baking tray.
Step 7: Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and place onto a floured surface. Roll out to about ¼ to ½ cm thick.
Step 8: Prepare the jam by scooping it into a small dish and stirring it quickly with a cutlery fork to loosen it up.
Step 9: Using a cookie cutter stamp out rounds and pop each one into the fairy cake tray. Gently press the pastry into the tray cups.
Step 10: Using a teaspoon scoop up the jam filling and fill up each pastry shell. Don't fill the pastry up completely or it will bubble and spill over as it bakes.Leave some room for the jam to spread.
Bake the jam tarts
Step 11: Bake for 16-20 minutes or until the pastry is firm and has golden patches on the edges.
Step 12: Leave to cool for a few minutes in the baking tray before removing the tarts and placing onto a wire rack to cool completely. Don’t leave the jam tarts to cool in the tray as any hot jam that spilled over during baking could stick as it cools.
Storage and freezing
Jam tarts are best enjoyed on the day of baking but will keep for up to 2-4 days. Or store in the refrigerator for a few more days.
Store within an airtight container, if stacking the tarts then add a layer of parchment paper between the tarts so that they do not stick to each other.
Jam tarts can be frozen for up to 3-4 months. Either place in an airtight container with parchment paper between the layers, or first freeze the tarts on a baking tray and once frozen, place the tarts into a freezer bag.
To freshen up jam tarts, simply warm them in the oven for a few minutes. However, be cautious not to overheat them, especially if you're planning to eat the tarts while they're still warm, as the jam can get very hot.
Time saving tips
To save time when baking homemade jam tarts, you can prepare the sweet shortcrust pastry a day or two ahead and keep it in the refrigerator. For even longer preparation, make the pastry several weeks or months in advance and store it in the freezer.
If you're looking for a quicker option, consider using a store-bought shortcrust pastry that's vegan-friendly or gluten-free if necessary. Many popular and supermarket own brands are actually accidentally vegan. Additionally, some pastries come pre-rolled, which is ideal if you find it challenging to prepare or roll out pastry yourself. This can significantly streamline the tart-making process, allowing you to focus more on the filling and baking aspects.
Additionally, some people prefer to bake jam tarts by first cooking the empty pastry cases or shells, and then filling them with fruit jam once they've cooled. If you choose this method, make sure to prick the bottom of each pastry case with a fork. It's also a good idea to add a few baking beans or dried beans to each case to prevent them from puffing up during baking.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, you can make this recipe gluten-free by substituting the plain flour with a gluten-free alternative, such as Dove's Farm [Freee] gluten-free plain flour. Additionally, include about ¼ teaspoon of xanthan gum to the flour mix; this will help prevent the pastry from being too crumbly. Finally, be prepared to use extra water to form the pastry dough, as gluten-free flour typically absorbs more liquid than wheat flour.
Of course, you can substitute the icing sugar, which lends a crisp and buttery texture to the pastry. It can be replaced with caster or granulated sugar, or with your preferred powdered or granulated sugar substitute, like date or coconut sugar. Alternatively, if you prefer a less sweet jam tart, you can omit the sugar altogether and add a few pinches of salt to the pastry for flavour.
Yes here are a few tips that we have learned over the years:
1. Chilled pastry is easier to work with, so make sure to chill it before rolling and using it in your recipe.
2. Use chilled vegan margarine, butter, or baking fat to keep the pastry cold.
3. If you naturally have cold hands, this is an advantage in pastry making!
4. For the truly dedicated, chill your mixing bowl in the refrigerator before adding the pastry ingredients.
5. Avoid over-kneading the pastry, as this can activate the gluten.
6. If your pastry is too sticky, lightly sprinkle and work in some more flour.
7. If the pastry is too dry and crumbly, gradually work in a bit more liquid.
8. When bringing the pastry mixture together into a dough, add water in small increments. Use a metal cutlery knife for stirring until the dough starts to clump, then press it together with your hands. The margarine content will help the pastry come together.
9. If the pastry isn't smooth before chilling, wrap it in cling film/Saran wrap. Smooth and gently knead the pastry through the wrap with your hands. This technique works wonders!
Yes, this is fine and can be a great time saver. Also, if you have difficulty preparing pastry and rolling it out then using ready-rolled pastry is even better.
Yes of course, shop-bought puff pastry usually has the best results - unless of course you can prepare your own amazing puff pastry at home! Ready-rolled shop bought puff pastry is even better. Just follow our jam tart recipe but replace the shortcrust pastry with the puff pastry. However, do look at the puff pastry package instructions for recommended baking times and oven temperatures as those may differ from our recipe instructions.
Any variety of fruit jam works wonderfully in jam tarts so you can experiment with different flavours, including the classic strawberry, raspberry, or apricot jams, as well as marmalades, fruit curds, and even different options such as ginger or pineapple preserves. For a lower sugar option, try using diabetic or sugar-free jams, such as homemade chia jam which can be prepared with sugar alternatives. The beauty of jam tarts is their versatility, as they can be adapted to what suits you best.
These easy traditional jam tarts would be a perfect addition to an Alice in Wonderland-themed party, as the children's nursery rhyme states - 'The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts, all on a summer's day.'
Additionally, our fun Top Hat Treats recipe, featuring marshmallows dipped in chocolate and topped with a small candy or sweet, would also be a great for an Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter's Tea Party.
More Afternoon Tea Party Recipes
Traditional Jam Tarts are ideal for afternoon tea, children’s birthday parties, and buffets and spreads, as well as great for just using up small amounts of leftover pastry and enjoying a jam tart with a nice cup of tea.
We love traditional afternoon tea recipes made vegan so we do have quite a few family favourite recipes to share such as our Old-Fashioned Walnut and Celery Sandwiches, and our Old-Fashioned Seed Cake which is also a favourite with Hobbits! And you can’t go wrong with a classic like this British Victoria Sponge and a vintage favourite these wee Granny Cakes.
You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy egg and dairy-free baking and as all our recipes contain every day ingredients no one will guess any-way! For more egg and dairy-free afternoon tea time recipes do have a look at our Afternoon Tea collection.
If you like our traditional jam tarts then you will probably also like our British Treacle Tart recipe!
***please note: for US measurements click the 'US customary button' within the recipe and the measurements will switch to tablespoons, cups, and ounces.***
Traditional Jam Tarts
- Mixing bowl
- cookie cutter about 2-2½ inch diameter
- Rolling pin
- 2 Cup cake or fairy cake baking trays
- cooling rack
Sweet shortcrust pastry:
- 225 grams Plain flour [or all-purpose flour, or replace with gluten-free plain flour plus ¼ teaspoon xantham gum]
- 115 grams Margarine [use one suitable for baking, we use Stork baking spread but any baking fat can be used]
- 30 grams Icing sugar [powdered sugar] [or replace with caster or granulated sugar]
- 20 teaspoons strawberry jam [use heaped teaspoon measurements, and use more if required, can use a selection of different fruits jams including marmalade]
- Sift the flour and icing sugar into a mixing bowl and stir.225 grams Plain flour, 30 grams Icing sugar
- Add the margarine in small pieces to the bowl.Using your finger tips rub the margarine into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs.115 grams Margarine
- Add a tablespoon of cold water and stir into the flour mixture using a cutlery knife or similar. Add an extra few teaspoons of cold water and stir well until the mixture begins to clump together.Using your hands press the mixture together into a pastry dough.[Don't use too much water just add a little at a time and stir well each time. If using gluten-free flour you may need to use a little extra water]
- Sprinkle flour over your work surface and gently knead the dough for a few seconds. If the dough is too sticky work in some extra flour and if the dough is too dry and cracking work in some extra water.
- Wrap the dough in cling film or Seram wrap. Smooth the dough with your hands through the wrap as this can help get the dough into a smoother texture.Alternatively wrap the pastry in some baking paper.
- Place the pastry into a refrigerator to chill for at least 25-30 minutes.
Assemble the jam tarts:
- This recipe makes enough for about 24 jam tarts so if baking at the same time 2 12 cup cake trays will be required. However, the pastry will be fine in the refrigerator for a few days or within the freezer for a few months so you can prepare one tray at a time if preferred.
- Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180C / 356 Fahrenheit / Gas 4.
- Grease the cup cake pans with some margarine.
- Sprinkle flour over the work surface. Unwrap the pastry and place onto the floured surface. Using a rolling pin roll the pastry out to roughly about ¼-½ cm thick.
- With your cookie cutter stamp out circles of pastry.
- Press the pastry into each cup cake hole. Fill each pastry shell with enough jam or marmalade to fill each tart to about ¾ full.[Wipe away any jam that may have been spilled onto the tray especially if its beside or on the pastry as this can bubble over during baking and glue the pastry to the tray as it cools!]20 teaspoons strawberry jam
- Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry has cooked firm and has light golden bits around the side. Fan ovens may take quicker to bake so check after 15 minutes. Our electric oven took 20 minutes to bake the tarts. Another way to check the tarts are baked is if the bottom of the tarts are firm and lightly golden, but be careful checking as the jam will be very hot.
- [If your oven is small and you are baking both trays of jam tarts the second tray can be stored within the refrigerator until baked]
- Leave the tarts to cool for a few minutes within the baking tray but do transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely, as this will avoid the tarts sticking to the tray as they cool.
- Nutritional information is provided for guidance only and is not a strict calculation as ingredients vary.
- Jam tarts are best enjoyed on the day of baking or the next day but will be fine for 2-3 days, or for a few days longer if stored within the refrigerator.
- Store leftover jam tarts within an airtight container. If stacking the jam tarts into a container then add a layer of baking paper between the layers to avoid the jam sticking to other tarts.
- Jam tarts can be frozen for 2-3 months - cover with a layer of food wrap and a second layer of kitchen foil and place into a freezer container.
- Cup cake trays are more commonly known as fairy cake trays in the UK.
- You can also use shallow bun or muffin trays, or mince pie trays.
- For this recipe we used a fairy cake tray which was about 2 inch diameter at the top of each cup-hole, and at the bottom 1 ½ inch [one and a half] diameter, with the depth being around ½ inch [half inch].
- If using a larger baking pan compared to our small fairy cake baking tray or a small cup cake tray - the recipe may yield less jam tarts as the tarts produced will be a little larger.
- Jam tarts can also be prepared as one or two large tarts using apple pie or flan baking dishes or similar. Bake the large jam tarts until the pastry is lightly golden and cooked. Allow the jam tart to cool and settle before slicing into portions.
- Short of time? Prep the pastry a few days in advance or prepare and freeze until required. Or use shop bought shortcrust pastry.
- Icing or powdered sugar gives the pastry a crisper texture, but it can be replaced with caster or granulated sugar.
- Any variety of fruit jam is perfect for jam tarts, including marmalades, fruit curds, ginger or pineapple preserves.
- Use a diabetic or sugar-free jam if necessary - such as home-made chia jam.
- For gluten-free jam tarts replace the plain flour with a gluten-free plain flour blend, such as Doves Farm [Freee] gluten-free plain flour, and include a ¼ [quarter] teaspoon of xantham gum as this will help prevent the pastry becoming too crumbly. You may require a little extra water to prepare the pastry.
- For more useful recipe notes and frequently asked questions do have a look at our recipe notes and FAQ sections located above the recipe.
Prepared our tasty Traditional British Jam Tarts? Do pop a comment below and let us know how you got on with the recipe and click the star ratings as we love hearing from you and receiving feedback. Thanks so much, Love Jacq x