Diane Rogers knows the sweet taste of victory, and it tastes like butter tarts.
The award-winning baker beat out 165 submissions, and 69 amateur and professional baker to take home the top prize for her decadent cheesecake butter tarts at Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival in Midland, Ont. this past weekend.
The one-day festival saw thousands of nostalgic visitors descend on the Ontario town eager to satisfy their sweet tooth on more than 100,000 of the best butter tarts in Ontario.
Among the thousands of pastries enjoyed on Saturday, one recipe stood above them all. Rogers’ sweet, gooey tart topped with a tangy layer of cream cheese wowed the judges so much, she took home the best in show. In fact, her bakery, Doo Doo’s Bakery in Bailieboro, Ont., snagged first, second and third prize in the professional, non-classic category.
“I knew the competition was going to be stiff this year,” said the two-time festival winner. “I was worried.”
On top of bragging rights, this year, the best in show title comes with an entry to the Canadian Food Championships in Edmonton later this summer. There, Rogers will be competing against pastry chefs from across the country to earn her tarts the title of best dessert in Canada.
“It is pretty exciting just to go to Edmonton. We are pretty pumped about that,” says Rogers. “We’re going to have to start practicing.”
While Rogers’ cream cheese tarts earned best in show, The Maid’s Cottage in Newmarket, Ont. earned top marks in the traditional professional category with their classic, gooey pecan tarts.
The top secret recipe is generations old, belonging to the great-grandmother of sisters Pam Lewis and Debbie Hill. Growing up, Lewis knew that her grandma’s butter tarts were good, but it took prodding from a local customer at The Maid’s Cottage for the sisters to enter their family recipe in the competition.
While Lewis won’t reveal the recipe, she will admit that the key to their flaky crust is lard, along with a commitment to good quality ingredients.
“It is made with all whole ingredients and a lot of love,” says Lewis. “They are our family pride and everyone loves them.”
The Maid’s Cottage has been serving up family recipes, like their now-famous butter tarts, since their mother opened the doors in 1998. Sisters Lewis and Hill joined the growing family business, which had grown to include a bakery, known as the “Tart Pit,” where their hard working bakers are busy creating beautiful hand-crimped pastries.
“My mom is a big part of this. She is always watching over us keeping busy — a real go-getter,” says Lewis who credits her staff for the hard work leading up to the festival. “Without our team it wouldn’t be possible.”
While their classic, pecan-filled tart earned first place, Lewis isn’t a butter tart purist.
“It is not that one is better than the other, it’s what one person likes, whether it is raisins or pecans,” she says.
Home baking champion, Jane Albert usually opts for the classic tarts, but the avid Ingersoll, Ont. baker couldn’t resist her own award-winning bananas foster butter tart. Her creativity earned her three festival titles, though she insists that the best tarts start with a perfectly flaky, handmade crust.
“It really doesn’t matter how ooey or gooey the filling is, the crust is the foundation for a good tart,” she says. “And you need to have your hands in it.”
Her first time entering the competition, Albert was excited to share her 200-year-old family recipe with the scours of butter tart lovers swarming Midland, looking to satisfy their taste for nostalgia.
“Midland seems to have captivated an amazing market and concept of a very nostalgic dessert,” says Albert.
Looking for sweet recipes? Check out these tasty Canadian treats.