Butter tarts are a uniquely Canadian dessert with a history as rich as the country itself.
If you’ve never experienced the glory of these treats, they’re delightful pastries filled with a sticky, sweet, buttery filling. Raisins or pecans are popular additions to the filling while some bakers get creative with fruit, candy, or other unique variations.
Invented in Ontario, the province is also home to award-winning tarts and even has a festival that has transformed the dessert into a full-day experience. If you’re on a quest for butter tart bliss, here are 10 of Ontario’s top spots to indulge in this tasty national treat.
Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival (Midland, ON)
The ultimate destination for butter tart buffs, Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival takes place in Midland June 9, 2018. With more than 60 vendors and over 150,000 tarts for sale, it’s the perfect place for the entire family to try baked goods from across the province. Home to Ontario’s Best Butter Tart competition, bakers enter their finest classic and contemporary creations, and a panel of expert judges selects the best of the best! Another highlight of the day is the Butter Tart Trot, which includes a family-friendly fun run, as well as a 5k, 10k and half marathon.
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Maple Key Tart Co. (Locations in Toronto and Northumberland County, ON)
Rachel Smith and Jean Parker, hosts of Food Network Canada’s The Baker Sisters, have been baking tarts since childhood when they helped their mother with her butter tart business. After they became mothers themselves, they co-founded their boutique butter tart company, taking their mother’s award-winning recipe and making a few tasty tweaks. Their rustic, handcrafted tarts are made with locally-milled flour and vegetable shortening and are available in four varieties: classic, raisin, pecan, and maple walnut. Jean and Rachel are judges in the “Traditional Butter Tart” category at Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival this year, plus they’ll be taking part in a meet and greet.
The Maid’s Cottage (Newmarket, ON)
Three-time winners at Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival, sisters Pam and Debbie got a young start helping their mother, Jackie, sell tarts and other baked goods on their front lawn. As word spread about Jackie’s baking, she opened their first shop on Main Street in Newmarket, and expanded to a larger location nearby a year later. Jackie sadly passed in 2003, but Pam and Debbie have continued the tradition, making their famous butter tarts from a secret family recipe.
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Bitten on Locke (Hamilton, ON)
Rebecca and Erica at Bitten conquered the cupcake game before venturing into butter tarts just over a year ago. They researched a number of recipes from cookbooks, friends and family to come up with a base for their tarts, and spent many delicious months adjusting it until they landed on their current formula. Their traditional flaky pastry is made with lard and includes one secret ingredient that really sets them apart. While their cupcakes venture on the wild side, this duo considers themselves butter tart purists, offering only plain, raisin or pecan tarts.
Nana B’s Bakery (Merrickville, ON)
Owner Anne Barr created the award-winning Maple Rhubarb Apple butter tart that took first place in the Pro All-Ontario Ingredient category at last year’s Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival. Anne’s tarts are proudly made with ingredients sourced locally, in Eastern Ontario, and while her bakery is popular with locals, it is also a destination for day-trippers, boaters and cyclists alike. Nana B’s is committed to helping keep the environment beautiful, reducing and recycling as much as possible, and sends its used vegetable oil to a local garage for biodiesel conversion.
The Sweet Oven (Barrie, ON)
This Barrie Bakery owned by Becky Howard and her family is known right across the country for their handcrafted tarts. Each tart is made from scratch from the highest quality ingredients and baked on site. With more than 20 flavours to choose from, there is something to please every palate. They have the classics like pecan and raisin, but chocolate chip, peanut butter, English toffee and their signature tart raspberry are other popular picks.
Carla’s Cookie Box (Toronto, ON)
Carla’s love of baking started as a kid while making traditional Italian cookies with her mom. As an adult, she started her butter tart journey at the request of her son after sifting through recipes from friends. None were quite right, so she experimented until she landed on her own recipe. Her handcrafted tarts are made in small batches, sometimes with help from her husband and kids, using the freshest maple syrup, flour, eggs and butter from Ontario farms and businesses. In addition to traditional fillings, she dabbles in fun flavours like Nutella Swirl and Pina Colada.
Doo Doo’s Bakery (Bailieboro, ON)
It was a bittersweet beginning for Diane Rogers’ butter tarts. Newly widowed and raising a teen and a toddler; she started her late-night baking sessions while the kids were sleeping. A self-taught baker, she developed her signature pastry by experimenting with an old recipe. Her soft, hand-rolled pastry is made in small batches with the finest ingredients. The light, flaky tarts have a jelly-like filling that’s not overly sweet with a good filling-to-crust ratio. Diane’s best ideas still come at night, so that’s her favourite time to prepare for a competition or event.
Betty’s Pies and Tarts (Cobourg, ON)
Over 40 years ago, Betty sold homemade baked goods from a converted garage, using a butter tart recipe handed down from a bakery she worked at. Betty retired in 2001 and sold the business to Nancy Coady, who first moved it to Port Hope and then to its location on Highway 2. Current owner Ali Jiggins worked at Betty’s through high school, and after university, bought the bakery from Nancy. Ali still uses Betty’s award-winning recipe with a few tweaks. They have a slightly heavy crust with a runnier filling, and comes in unique flavours like PB&J and raspberry-coconut.
13th Street Winery and Bakery (St. Catharines, ON)
13th Street Winery and Bakery is owned and operated by Karen and Doug Whitty, with Karen’s sister, Jo, as head baker. Their butter tart recipe was given to Jo by an old neighbour, which had been passed down for three generations before ending up in her hands. The filling is hand-mixed, measured into pressed pastry, and then baked until caramelized on top and runny on the inside. Raisin or pecan is available daily along with seasonal flavours like heart-shaped chocolate butter tarts for Valentine’s Day. Drop by on the weekends, when they feature pancake breakfast-inspired bacon butter tarts.
Have a favourite butter tart spot? Tell us in the comments below!