In praise of the stickiest, sweetest sweet of all
You’d be hard pushed to find a sweeter ‘sweet’ than a treacle tart. So sweet it’s rhyming slang for ‘sweetheart’ and with the ability to make your molars ache just looking at it and enough sugar in it to fell a cart horse, it’s little wonder it looms large in our collective childhood consciousness (it’s probably still looming large in our collective bloodstreams, too).
So redolent is this pud with memories of cosy, carefree days, and wide-eyed pure childish gluttony, it’s made its way into many a children’s book and film, too.
Treacle Tart is as Enid Blyton as lashings of ginger beer and for many of us Blyton was our first literary encounter with the rib-sticking open-topped tart. What picnic, after all, would be complete without a sweet and impressive centrepiece perched in the middle of a field on a red-checked tablecloth and surrounded by grubby knees and ankle socks?
It also appeared, memorably, as bait for the children The Child Catcher lured to his caged van in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with the cry “Cherry pie, cream puffs, ice cream… and TREACLE TART!” The children swiftly forget all advice administered thus far by Truly Scrumptious. “Treacle tart! Ice cream! And all free!” Jeremy gasps, as they both bowl headlong through the door and into The Child Catcher’s cage. And who can blame them?
But, more recently, treacle tart has become particularly known as the dessert of choice for one very famous fictional boy. It’s Harry Potter’s most loved pudding. Early in the first book we see a medley of desserts magically appear in front of the new pupils and witness Harry quickly snaffling a treacle tart. It’s apparently a favourite in the wizarding world, but Potter is particularly partial. In fact, in a much later book, under a love spell which smells to the bewitched individual of their favourite thing, Harry’s nose detects “treacle tart and the woody scent of broomstick handle”. Mmmmmm…
So if a wizard cannot resist a treacle tart, really what hope have we muggles? It’s certainly a favourite among children but we think adults should indulge themselves more often too.
To that effect, our January issue’s Cake in the House recipe is for a Treacle Tart with Thyme and Orange. The issue is in the shops now, should you care to make it. The recipe is from one of our favourite new cookbooks, Time: A Year and a Day in the Kitchen by Gill Meller (Quadrille). Once you’ve made it, do send us a photo of your tarts in the comments below (once you have made it to a standing position again). Treacle tart should really be eaten, prone, on the sofa, preferably in front of a roaring fire, so there’s really no rush. You just take your time, treacle.