I love a custard tart and this strawberry custard tart is no exception. The base is the perfect crisp vehicle for the vanilla custard filling and those perfectly ripe and sweet strawberries. It’s a tart perfect for any occasion, including birthdays, barbecues and mothers day.
- The base is buttery but not too sweet,
- while the soft-yet-set filling and topping are sweet and luscious.
- It’s easy to make though plan ahead for chilling time.
- Make ahead: You can make the tart shell way ahead of time and the filling is best added the day before serving.
If you love this, you’re definitely going to love my French fruit custard tart.
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Ingredients you’ll need
Detailed quantities and instructions in the recipe card below.
- The tart shell is made up of butter, sugar, egg and flour (plain flour / all purpose flour). I use large eggs in all my baking.
- The custard filling uses more of the same – eggs, sugar, butter – then the creamy texture comes together with milk (whole milk / full cream milk) and cornflour (US cornstarch).
- The topping is just two simple ingredients; fresh, ripe strawberries and a little strawberry jam to add shine.
- For the tart shell, you can certainly use shop-bought shortcrust pastry or even a pre-made tart shell, though making it from scratch isn’t difficult at all.
- Instead of strawberries, you can use any berries you like, just like my fruit custard tart – a mixture of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries looks stunning. You can also use other fruit that is in season like peaches, nectarines or apricots.
How to make custard tart (step-by-step)
This impressive French strawberry tart is easier to make than it looks. While you need to plan ahead for chilling time, there is nothing difficult here.
Detailed quantities and instructions in the recipe card below.
- Prepare the pastry dough: Called pate sucree in French, this tart shell is a little like making cookies. Beat together butter and sugar, then add egg (photo 1) and flour (photo 2). Once it starts clumping together (photo 3), you’ll have a malleable dough.
- The tart shell: Roll the dough out (photo 4) to about 11 inches wide, then transfer it to a 9 inch fluted tart pan (photo 5). Tuck it right down into the corners with the overhand standing up straight (photo 6) then chill for 2 hours or up to 3 days.
- Bake the tart shell: Prick the base of the shell all over with a fork and trim off the overhang (photo 7). Line it with baking paper and fill with baking beans or rice (photo 8) and bake.
- The filling: The custard filling is actually pastry cream (or crème patissiere) and it’s very quick to make. Just heat some milk and butter until steaming, then pour it slowly into a mixture of eggs and cornflour while whisking (photos 9 & 10 ). Return it all to a pan and stir with a whisk until it gets really thick (photo 11) and no longer settles into itself when you lift the whisk out.
- Fill the shell: Pour the custard filling into the tart shell and level out (an offset spatula makes this really simple)(photo 12). It will need about 3 hours to set properly or overnight is fine.
The tart is best decorated with strawberries on the day of serving so the juice doesn’t soften the tart shell or seep into the custard. Do this at least 30 minutes before serving though, so you can chill it and the jam will set again (photos 13 & 14).
Tips and tricks
- Don’t skip chilling time: If you want a perfect tart shell that doesn’t shrink or deform as it bakes, chilling is the key. At least 2 hours is great or overnight is even better.
- Try not to handle the dough too much: Another key to perfect crisp pastry is not handling it too much. Being light with the touch and moving quickly creates light, crisp pastry.
- Shape the pastry: When you press it into the tin, make sure to press it right into the bottom corners and all around the fluted edge leaving the overhanging pastry standing up. Then chill. This will help you get perfect edges and a gorgeous-looking tart shell after it’s been baked.
- Dry the strawberries well: This is really important so that the juice doesn’t seep out and soften or discolour your pastry.
- Plan ahead: You’ll need at least 2 hours chilling time for the tart shell and 3 ½ hours chilling time for the assembled tart so make sure to plan ahead.
Can I make tart ahead of time?
Here are some tips so that you can make your strawberry custard tart ahead of time.
- The pastry dough: The dough itself can be made and frozen (either as a disk of dough or the shaped tart shell) for up to 2 months so feel free to prepare way ahead of time. You can chill the dough, shaped into the tart pan for up to 3 days in the fridge.
- The baked tart shell: Once the tart shell is baked, it can be chilled for 2 days before using or frozen for up to 2 months. Be careful if you’re freezing it: keep it in the tart pan and make sure not to stack things on top of it.
- The custard filling: The vanilla pastry cream filling can be made and put into the tart shell to set the day before serving, leaving you to just decorate on serving day. You can also make the pastry cream ahead up to 2 days but you may need to give it a whip up before spreading it into the tart shell.
All that being said, you can have this tart fully made in one day. Allowing for both hands-on time and chilling time, you’ll need about 6-7 hours total.
Can I use store-bought pastry?
While I urge you to try making your own (it really is simple), store-bought pastry can be quite good and a real convenience, so yes you can. Make sure to use shortcrust pastry. You can also use a pre-made tart shell if you can get one.
Can I make the dough in a food processor?
Yes, you can. For this version, you’ll want to use cold butter. Blend the butter with the flour and icing sugar until it looks like breadcrumbs, then add the egg and blend until it starts clumping together into a soft dough. Proceed as per the recipe.
Yield and storage
This recipe makes a 9 inch French strawberry tart and serves 10-12 people.
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 days in an airtight container.
Did you try this strawberry custard tart recipe?
Leaving a rating and comment below the recipe is so helpful!
Strawberry Custard Tart
TART SHELL (SHORTCRUST PASTRY)
- 100 g unsalted butter, softened (7 tablespoons / 3.5oz)
- 40 g icing sugar (powdered sugar) (⅓ cup / 1.4oz)
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 225 g plain flour (all purpose flour) (8oz)
FOR THE FILLING
- 3 ¼ cups milk (810ml / 1.7 pints)
- 57 g butter (¼ cup / ½ stick / 2oz)
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 100 g granulated white sugar (½ cup / 3.5oz)
- ½ cup cornflour (US cornstarch) (65g / 2.3oz)
- 2 large eggs
- 3 egg yolks, from large eggs
FOR THE TOPPING
- 4 cups small strawberries (500g / 1.1lb)
- 2 tablespoons strawberry jam
For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided
- stand mixer Or see post for using a food processor
- 9 inch fluted tart pan
- Rolling Pin
- pie weights or rice
- heavy based saucepan
- FOR THE TART SHELL:In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, add the butter and icing sugar. Beat on medium until fully combined and smooth (1 – 2 minutes). Add the egg and beat on low until smooth. Add the flour and beat just until large clumps are forming.
- Turn the dough out and pull it together into a smooth ball with your hands (making sure not to handle it too much) then press it out into a 1 inch thick disk.
- Place it onto a lightly floured work surface and dust the top with just a little flouer too. Gently and gradually roll the pastry out, turning it often, to about 4-5mm thick or about 11 inches in diameter.
- Place the rolling pin in the middle of the dough and fold one side of the pastry over the top. Lift the rolling pin so the pastry is hanging over it, and lightly dust off any excess flour from underneath. Carefully lay it into a 9 inch round tart pan with removeable base.
- Press the dough down in to the corners all the way round, then press it into the scalloped sides. Leave the overhang standing upright and place the tart pan into the fridge to chill for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight. If your freezer has space you can place it in there.
- BAKE THE TART SHELL:Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) / 350F.
- Use a fork to prick the pastry base all over. Use a small sharp knife to trim off the excess pastry.
- Line the tart shell with a sheet of baking paper and fill with pie weights or rice. Fill it quite full and making sure it’s pressed up tight against the edges.
- Bake for 20 minutes. You can proceed with making the filling while it bakes.
- After 20 minutes. Carefully remove the baking paper and rice (or weights) and bake a further 15 minutes or until golden then set the tart shell aside.
- FOR THE CUSTARD FILLING:Pour the milk into a heavy based saucepan, and add the butter, sugar and vanilla, then heat over medium heat until steaming, stirring regularly.
- While the milk mixture is heating, whisk together the cornflour, eggs and egg yolks until combined.
- Once the milk mixture is steaming, drizzle it slowly into the eggs while whisking constantly. Don’t pour it too quickly or the heat will scramble the eggs.
- Return the entire mix to the saucepan. Heat over low-medium heat, stirring with a balloon whisk constantly, until it gets very thick. This will happen quite suddenly after about 5 minutes, so it’s important to keep stirring so you don’t get lumpy custard.
- The custard is thick enough, when it doesn’t settle back into itself in the saucepan when you lift the spoon and let it drop off.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before pouring into your tart shell. Level out the top with an offset spatula or knife.
- Cover tightly with plastic wrap pressed to the surface and place in the fridge and chill for 3 hours to set. Top with strawberries on the day of serving.
- FOR THE TOPPING:Wash the strawberries and dry well. Hull them. Keep one whole, then cut the rest in half. Set aside.
- Warm the strawberry jam in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.
- Place the whole strawberry in the centre of the custard. Arrange the halved strawberries around it in a spiral.
- Brush with the jam and chill for at least another ½ hour.
- Please take a moment to leave a comment & rating. It's appreciated and so helpful.
- All ovens vary – always test for doneness 3-5 minutes before the recipe suggests
- For best results, you should always weigh ingredients like flour and sugar. Kitchen scales are relatively cheap but if you can’t weigh the ingredients, use the spoon and level method (don’t scoop).
- You can flavour your dough with a little vanilla extract or lemon zest too.
- If your dough is too crumbly, and you’ve correctly weighed the flour, sugar and butter, it could be due to the size of your egg. The dough should be soft and pliable so If you need to bring it together a little more, just add a touch of cold water.
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