Like a next-level jam tart, traditional neenish tarts have a cream filling as well, and a two tone icing over the top so the filling is like a hidden surprise. This sweet, decadent Aussie treat is a classic.
So what is a Neenish Tart?
A neenish tart is a sweet small round tart filled with jam, mock cream and topped with a two tone icing. The base is a crisp, buttery pastry and just deep enough to hold a little filling.
Don’t be fooled by their size – one neenish tart, whilst delicious, is often enough due to their supreme sweetness.
- The crispy crust: Neenish tarts start with a good buttery flaky tart crust. This recipe is so good you’ll have to stop from eating them all on their own (or is that just me?).
The crust is filled with jam, traditionally raspberry, however, if you’re very lucky just like me to have a mum who just made a batch of sweet and lovely strawberry jam, you should definitely use that. And I did. Thanks mum!
- What is mock cream, you ask? Mock cream is a little like buttercream but uses a very simple mix of butter, milk sugar and gelatine resulting in a creamy, stable filling. It’s like a combination between whipped cream and buttercream.
Mock cream is super smooth, super buttery and quite sweet too and as Neenish Tarts have a tendency to be very sweet, I make my mock cream a little less sweet so that one bite doesn’t send you into a sugar coma.
- The two tone icing: This is an absolute must. Neenish tarts are just not neenish tarts without the two-tone icing. The two colours always include dark chocolate icing and either white or pink icing on the other side.
Where do Neenish Tarts come from?
While their history is shrouded in mystery, Neenish Tarts have truly become an Australian icon. The earliest dated reference to them was in an Australian newspaper advertisement in 1895 and I like the romance behind the thought of a home baker inventing these in their kitchen way back when.
The tart shells I use here are a slight variation on my perfect tartlet shells recipe.
A few simple ingredients are all you need and you probably have most of them already in your store-cupboard.
- Sugar, flour, butter egg and sugar: These make up that flaky buttery crust.
- Strawberry jam: Buy a good quality one, make your own or swap it out for another favourite jam. See substitutions below as well.
- Milk, sugar, gelatine powder and butter: These make up the mock cream which is very quick to make.
- Icing (powdered) sugar, cocoa and milk: These make up the icing on top. While one side is always chocolate icing, the other is either white or pink so grab some food colouring if you want to turn it pink.
How to make Neenish Tarts
- Using my favourite buttery shortcrust pastry recipe, you simply blitz flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor, before adding an egg yolk (photo 1) and some water until it’s clumping (photo 2).
- The dough is chilled then rolled out before using a simple round cookie cutter to cut large rounds (photo 3). Push these into a floured and greased muffin tin, then prick the bottoms with a fork (photo 4). They get another quick chill then they’re baked until golden.
- To make the mock cream, heat milk and sugar to dissolve before pouring in a gelatine mixture (photo 5).
- Beat butter until pale and creamy, then beat in the room temperature milk and gelatine mixture until it’s light, creamy and whipped (photo 6).
- Jam is divided between the 12 baked tart cases (photo 7), then topped with mock cream.
- The last step is to make a simple icing, divide it in two parts and flavour one with cocoa while leaving the other plain (or colouring pink). Spread one side of each tart with pink icing, then follow with the chocolate icing (photo 8).
Tips and tricks
- Don’t blitz or knead the dough too long: You only need to pull the dough together into a smooth-ish disk. If you knead it too long, you’ll melt all the butter and not get the nice flaky layers.
- Don’t skip the chilling: It’s vital to chill the dough. As you blitz and knead dough, the gluten in the flour develops causing it to become tougher and more elastic. Relaxing it in the fridge for a little while allows the gluten strands to relax so your pastry cases don’t shrink as they bake.
- Roll the dough out quite thin: The pastry will puff up as it cooks, ending up about 1 ½ times as thick as when it started. So that you have plenty of room for filling, roll the dough out to about 3mm thick.
You could swap the raspberry or strawberry jam for another flavour. While they aren’t really neenish tarts without the jam, there’s no harm in trying something like this lemon curd or blackberry curd too.
All summed up Neenish Tarts are sweet and decadent but they’re also quite small so you can afford to have a couple …. at least, right???
If you try this neenish tarts recipe, make sure to come back and leave a rating and comment below. I love hearing from you.
More great Aussie desserts
- No Bake Chocolate Meringue Pie (with its Tim Tam base)
- Lamington Cupcakes
- Fudgy Tim Tam Brownies
- Milo Mars Bar Slice
- My Golden Gaytime Slice
- Mini Wagon Wheels
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Traditional Neenish Tarts
For the pastry
- 130 g plain (all purp) flour (1 cup / 4.6oz)
- 85 g unsalted butter, cubed and cold (3oz / 3/4 stick)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (note 1)
- Pinch of salt
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 ½ tablespoons cold water (note 1)
- ½ cup strawberry jam (155g / 5.5oz)
For the Mock Cream
For the icing
- 130 g icing (powdered) sugar (1 cup / 4.6oz)
- 4-5 teaspoons milk
- 2 teaspoons dutch cocoa (natural is also fine)
- Pink food colouring (optional)
For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided
To make the pastry:
- Place the flour, butter, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until it looks like wet sand. Add the egg yolk and pulse until mixed through. Finally add the ice water ½ tablespoon at a time and pulse between each until the dough just starts clumping together.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly flour surface and knead just until smooth (not for too long). Press into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F / 180C fan forced. Grease and lightly flour a 12 hole muffin tin (notes)
- Roll the dough out to about 3mm thick and use a large round cookie cutter (8.5cm / 3.5in), to cut rounds of pastry. Gently drop them down into each hole of the muffin tin, making sure they’re level. The pastry should come about 2cm up the side of the holes. Return to fridge for 15 minutes.
- Prick the base of each pastry case with a fork and bake for around 10-12 minutes until starting to turn golden. Then transfer to a cooling rack until completely cooled.
- Spread about 1.5 teaspoons of jam over the base of each tart case.
To make the mock cream
- Tip the boiling water into a small dish and sprinkle the gelatine over the top. Mix with a fork, then allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- Add the sugar and milk to a small saucepan and heat over very low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Give the gelatine another stir, then pour it into the hot milk and stir until completely dissolved.
- Let the milk mixture cool to room temperature before continuing
- Beat the butter and vanilla until light and creamy. Slowly pour in the milk mixture while constantly beating.
- Spread the mock cream over the tarts and use a spatula to make the top level.
For the icing
- Mix the sifted icing sugar and the milk together until you have a smooth spreadable consistency (see notes).
- Transfer half to a separate bowl and add the cocoa, mix well.
- In the other half add just a small amount of pink food colouring (optional) and mix.
- Use a small spatula to spread the pink icing over half of each tart then allow them to set a little at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes.
- Repeat with the chocolate icing.
- I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (4 teaspoons worldwide)
- I like to grease and flour my tin just to be on the safe side, so that the cooked pastry cases turn out easily.
- You don’t want the icing too runny, so it drips down the sides of the tarts. A great way to test the consistency is to give it a mix around then let it sit and it should take about 7-8 seconds to totally smooth out again.
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