Revisiting gypsy tart

My family history writing group rambles over a lot of ground apart from actual stories about our ancestral histories… today somehow we began to talk about gypsy tart which someone remembered from school dinners and was a Kentish dish… I don’t think we ever had it for school dinner or at home but I do remember writing about it a couple of years ago:

My dad always reckoned that we had some gypsy blood in us, but try as I might I can’t find any ancestor who could have been a gypsy or traveller; maybe it’s the dark colouring that some of us Elsdens have, olive skin and dark eyes, but I can’t find any connection at all.

I’d heard of gypsy creams, a type of biscuit I believe, a sort of gingernut with a chocolate buttercream filling… or are they an oaty biscuit with a chocolate buttercream filling or a chocolate biscuit with a chocolate buttercream filling, or are they a sweet wholemeal biscuit with a chocolate cream cheese filling… I actually don’t know because they didn’t feature in my childhood, and I’m not really a biscuit person anyway.

My hero Thomas Radwinter in my latest soon to be finished book has come across a gypsy tart, why I also had not heard of (OK, I confess, I was looking up traditional English desserts and came across gypsy tart and decided Thomas should have one) It sounds an interesting dessert, too sweet for me, of a sweet shortcrust base and a filling made from mainly evaporated and or condensed milk and muscovado sugar… good grief, I can feel my teeth cringing!

There are many different versions of the recipe, all along the same lines; for the shortcrust pastry I would use:

  • 8 oz plain flour
  • 4 oz butter
  • 1 oz castor sugar
  • 1 or 2 egg yolks depending on size
  1. rub butter, sugar and flour together, bind with egg yolks
  2. leave to chill
  3. press into pie dish and bake blind

I might double up the quantity, use what I needed and keep any leftovers for rather special jam tarts.

Suggested fillings:

  • 230ml condensed milk
  • 170ml evaporated milk
  • 175g light muscovado sugar


  • 400g evaporated milk
  • 330g muscovado sugar


  • 410g evaporated milk, refrigerated overnight
  • 275g dark soft brown sugar


  • 205g  evaporated milk
  • 140g  muscovado sugar
  • 2tbs lemon juice


  • 230ml condensed milk
  • 170ml evaporated milk
  • 175g muscovado sugar

I can’t offer my Mum’s recipe because she never made it! However, whatever the ingredients, here is what you do with the filling mix:

  1. put everything in a bowl and blend for at least ten minutes until light, frothy and fluffy
  2. pour into the prepared pastry case and bake 190C°, 375F°, Gas 5, for about 30 minutes (check after 20 minutes), r until just set and still a bit wobbly in the middle
  3. take out of the oven, leave to cool in the tin
  4. serve – with cream, crème fraîche, or yoghurt if you fancy


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