Bourbon Treacle Tart

18 Sep 2012

Tuesday. 9:30am. Phone rings. I answer: Hello?

Caller: I’m afraid your cows are having breakfast in my garden.

Me: Silence

Caller: Can you please come for them?

Me: Of course…gosh, I’m terribly sorry…can I…ummm…offer you some milk for your trouble? 

Caller: See you soon.

Me: Righ

Caller: Click.

Me: t.

And, so are the days of our lives.

But, this post isn’t about cows breaking into other people’s gardens. Of course not. It is about a sweet gooey classic Irish pastry. The more I research traditional recipes that originated in either Ireland or the UK, I am struck by the dimension of flavour that can be achieved with the simplest of ingredients. I like to imagine how some of these historic recipes may have been created. Close your eyes and picture a merry young woman in a pretty pinafore while standing in a kitchen circa 1800s. Or, if it’s easier, perhaps she looks a bit like Miss Patmore from Downton Abbey. She stands staring at a loaf of bread, a basket of eggs, some flour, sugar and jam, like a Master Chef contestant trying to crack what she can create for pudding that night. She decides to meringue the egg whites, crumble the bread and open the jar of freshly potted raspberry jam, and voila, she appoints a beguiling “Queen of Puddings!” The following week, she uses more breadcrumbs and a tin of golden syrup to make a treacle tart. For more variety, she swaps some black treacle from a neighbouring farm to make her treacle tart even darker and richer…macabre, if you  will.  Many years later, if she’s American, she’ll add a drop of bourbon to it…just for good measure.

Treacle tart is basically bread crumbs soaked with golden syrup and/or black treacle (molasses), poured into a sweet pastry case and baked. Apparently, Shoo-Fly pie from the American south was derived from treacle tart. We like to nibble on fingers of it while sipping a cup of strong espresso with a lemon twist. It’s very rich. And, with the black treacle, black licorice notes come through. The bourbon doesn’t make it boozy, it just knocks the sweetness back a bit. Geoffrey prefers the golden-syrup-only version as does Harry Potter.

I was inspired to make this treacle tart by a letter I received from an Irish Country Living reader. She spoke of a treacle cake that I must have mentioned in my column, but could not recall. It could have been my description of the hijinks that ensued when I attempted a steamed pudding made with golden syrup, which came out a bit lopsided (to be conservative). I never did send her a recipe, but I am sharing here and will send her this recipe as well. Here’s hoping she will like it. And hopefully you will too.

Here goes:

Bourbon Treacle Tart


Sweet pastry of your choosing

300g golden syrup (you can order from Amazon or other online retailers)

50g dark treacle (sub molasses)

25g Kentucky bourbon (I use Buffalo Trace, but any bourbon will do the trick)

150g fresh bread crumbs (whatever you have around)

zest of 1 lemon

a pinch of salt


Heat the oven to 160°c.

On a floured work surface, roll out the pastry to a thickness of about ½cm.

Line a 20cm flan ring or flan tin with a detachable base with the pastry.

Line the inside of the pastry with greaseproof paper, then fill the greaseproof paper with baking beans or rice, making sure they are into the corners, and put it into the oven for 20 minutes.

While the pastry is baking, put the golden syrup and treacle into a pan over a medium-low heat and warm it for about 3 minutes, until it becomes runny and easily pourable.

Add the rest of the ingredients for the filling to the syrup and stir them in.

When the pastry has baked, remove it from the oven, take out the greaseproof paper containing the baking beans and allow it to rest until it is cool enough to handle.

Pour in the filling mixture.

Put the tart back into the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove the tart from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before removing it from the flan ring or tin.

Cut into portions and serve.

A dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream is lovely with this…or just a strong coffee with a twist.

The winner of Catherine Fulvio’s Eat Like An Italian is:  Emily O’ Regan. Congratulations Emily! Please email your mailing address to Thanks to all who left a comment, Catherine’s book is well worth the asking price and is available at Eason’s and on

Slan Abhaile


Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2012





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16 Responses to “Bourbon Treacle Tart”

  1. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it, you’re a great
    author. I will always bookmark your blog and may
    come back sometime soon. I want to encourage continue your great job, have a nice weekend!

  2. Can’t believe I missed this lovely post. I can picture your cown breaking into neighbours gardens 😀 Very funny to read but I imagine not so in real life!
    I too enjoy exploring food history, I find myself trying to read 13the century cookbooks and believe me Middle English isn’t that easy especially when English isn’t your mother tongue. I’m planning to make a treacle tart soon!

  3. MikeVFMK says:

    Such a lovely looking tart, Imen! Bourbon and golden syrup just may be my favourite ingredients ever. And in tart form? I need some of this in my life. Looks beautiful.

  4. Canalcook says:

    Looks great, I wouldn’t have known treacle tart was from this part of the world. I’ll have to give it a try.

  5. Mairead says:

    Treacle tart was always a treat in our house when we were growing up. One of our Dublin neighbors made the best treacle tart ever, and I think like you she used golden syrup to compliment the darker, sticky treacle. I’ll have to give this a try, but living in America I think I’ll have to substitute molasses for treacle. I can get golden syrup in our local Meijers stores. Thanks for the recipe.

  6. Helen T says:

    Sounds delicious, don’t think you can beat a great treacle tart for sheer indulgence. Reading this has made me want to make one really soon. Good job it’s after dinner when I’m reading this!

  7. Caitriona says:

    I find treacle tart so heavy normally I can see why you would need the expresso to cut through it. Mind you there’s also the option of clotted cream and an apple sauce. I’m drooling now! Must give this recipe a try. Beautiful pictures as always Imen.

  8. Síle Nic Chonaonaigh says:

    Imen – my grandmother used to make treacle bread (a cake really, but she baked it in a square bread tin) and this just brings back such memories. Sadly, I don’t have that recipe, though you’ve made me want to do a little research now. But first, yes, I’ll be trying this. Thanks 🙂

  9. As lovely and dreamy as always, Imen. I’ve never tried Treacle Tart, but it looks and sounds absolutely divine. Your images are stunning. xo

  10. This sounds delicious, and I’m pretty sure I can get Golden Syrup, not sure about the treacle. It does bear some resemblance to Southern pies here in the States. And, as the commenter above already said, Bourbon makes everything better!

  11. Uncle Beefy says:

    This sounds perfect right about now! (Foggy outside my window with emerging colors of fall.) I don’t know why, but ‘treacle’ always sounds like some kind of animal innards…? So I guess I should make this and break that association, huh? Indeed!

  12. Kate says:

    I’m an American living in Wexford with my Irish husband and I’ve been enjoying your lovely blog for awhile– I can especially relate to some of your earlier “adjusting” posts. The recipe looks delicious, but what I really want to know is, where have you managed to find Buffalo Trace in Ireland?

  13. Kathryn says:

    One of my very favourite desserts and made so very beautiful.

  14. Bourbon simply makes everything, better. I must try this recipe soon! Off to the import shop for dark treacle..

  15. I love treacle tart, but have never managed to make a good one. No excuse now 🙂 Thank you.

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