amy chaplin

celebrating the art of eating well

Strawberry custard tart

POSTED ON June 28, 2009

Strawberry custard tart

I have a visitor arriving tonight; she’s one of my oldest friends. Our connection began at her kitchen table when I was four years old and she was a mother of three. I used to draw pictures while she cooked and baked for the many children and friends that passed through her home.

Now she’s a meditating world traveler, dividing her time between India, Holland and Bali.

She visits me wherever I live: we have baked cakes together at 6 am in Amsterdam, catered parties in London, and as I prepare this tart for her in New York I reflect on how my life has changed since we last cooked together in my kitchen. It has been a long time since I made her a birthday cake and deciding on what kind it would be took days of rumination.

In the midst of my usual flurry of activity before her arrival, cleaning and beautifying the house, shopping for her favorite tea, making up a bed and trying to get to the farmers market before the rain did, I reached a verdict. The fact that it’s peak strawberry season confirmed the tart below.


tart side view

I have been making versions of this strawberry tart since my career in pastry began, but this one was going to be special. Organic macadamias left from my last trip to Australia and vanilla beans from you-know-where, create the base for this rich custard filling sans dairy.
I decided on a toasted coconut cookie crust, and this paired with fresh local strawberries and the macadamia vanilla bean custard created a tart that turned out delicate and refreshing, leaving us feeling light and elated; not heavy and regretful.
I use agar agar to set the custard and arrowroot to thicken it. The right amount and combination makes for a perfect consistency.
If you don’t get a chance to make this while the strawberries are around, use blueberries or raspberries.

pressing crust

agar, macadamia milk and vanilla bean


the end

the end

Strawberry macadamia vanilla bean custard tart with toasted coconut cookie crust

2 ½ cups dried coconut flakes (unsweetened) * see note
¼ cup rolled oats
1 ½ cups whole spelt flour
large pinch finely ground sea salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (mild tasting)
6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*If you can’t get coconut flakes, use dessicated coconut reducing amount to 1  1/2 cups

Custard filling
¾ cup raw macadamia nuts, soaked in a cup of water while making the crust
2 cups plus 2 teaspoons filtered water
1 vanilla bean, split
¼ cup brown rice syrup
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons agar flakes
pinch sea salt
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
2 teaspoons filtered water

Strawberry topping
½ cup plus 1 teaspoon apple cider
½ teaspoon agar flakes
½ teaspoon arrowroot
1 quart fresh strawberries, cut in quarters
1 teaspoon maple sugar or other dry sweetener
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Pre-heat oven to 310 degrees, use a convection setting if you have one.
Spread coconut onto a baking sheet and toast for 4 minutes or until golden brown.
Place in a food processor with oats, spelt flour and salt. Blend until it’s a coarse flour-like texture, about a minute.
Place in a bowl add the olive oil and mix well, use your hands or a fork. Drizzle in the maple syrup and vanilla and mix until completely combined. You should have a nice moist dough that isn’t sticking to your hands too much. If it is just add a little more flour.
Oil a 9-inch spring form cake pan. Press crust to about ¼-inch thick a little over half way up the sides of the pan (see photo).

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and smelling absolutely delicious. Set aside to cool.

Confession: I had a little dough left over and made 6 one inch jam dot cookies that I baked for 8 minutes. (sorry no photo proof)

Custard filling

Drain macadamias and place in a blender along with the 2 cups water. Blend on high speed for 2 minutes.
Place in a small-medium pot. Remove seeds from vanilla bean, using the tip of a small knife, add to the pot along with the pod. Also add rice syrup, maple syrup, agar and salt.
Place pot over high heat and whisk almost constantly until mixture comes to a boil.
Lower heat, cover pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Whisking every 5 minutes or so.
Using a small spoon look closely at the custard mixture to see if all the agar flakes have dissolved. If not cover and simmer a couple more minutes.

In a cup place the arrowroot and remaining water mix well to dissolve, add to the simmering custard mixture and whisk until mix returns to a boil. Remove from heat. Mixture should be a heavy cream like consistency. Let cool for 10 minutes, whisk again, then pour into baked crust. Once it has stopped steaming place in the fridge and chill until set, about 2 hours.

Strawberry topping

Place ½ cup cider and agar in a small pot, whisk and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer until agar flakes are completely dissolved about 8 minutes. Dissolve arrowroot in remaining cider and whisk into simmering mixture. Once it returns to a boil remove from heat.
Place strawberries in a bowl, add the maple sugar and vanilla and toss gently. Pour over the glaze and mix with a rubber spatular until all the straws are coated with the glaze. Spread onto cooled tart and return to the fridge to set the glaze. Serve cold.

Makes 8-9 pieces.


never miss a recipe!


  • thecatskillkiwi says:

    Mr Weiss is strongly hinting that I hurry up and make this one.. soon!

  • Mr Weiss says:

    Yes indeedy, good god woman this is torture! From what I can tell you can do no wrong with desserts, and this looks just particularly luscious. I know that it will have that trademark chaplin texture and lightness/richness. Mmmmmmmmmm.

  • Your friend is lucky, Amy. I can sense your love and admiration of both her and the food you made to celebrate her. Thanks for sharing.

  • Bonnie says:

    OH WOW…Amy, that looks so good!! I would have left Greece a day or 2 sooner to have a slice of that!!!!

  • Guinny says:

    YUM…..I wish i could have been with you to polish that one off.


  • Guinny says:

    dear amy ,
    when i come to newyork make all your delicious dinners and deserts. i
    know they ‘ll all be good.

    love eros

  • Jess says:

    Oh yum!

    Looks divine and no doubt tasted suberb! You’re doing a great job with the blog. I never knew what a good writer you are!


  • orlanda and dida says:

    Amy you’re amazing and obviously fully connected to your dinner diva. Of course the dessert brought out guinny and bonnie’s inner strawberries, not to mention that we are macadamia nuts for your luscious blog. Send us a piece right now !!!xxxxxxxx love orlanda and dinner dida, always hungry for sweets

  • woodenspooning says:

    Absolutely perfect and your instructions are exact. I was so very happy with this and the offshoots are many. You ride a very delicate balance between various indulgences and you do it with such grace. Beautiful work.

  • Liz Bonney says:

    OMG actually THIS is the LOVE plate x WOW X

  • gene says:

    Your ideas are terrific. I want to try a dessert soon.
    Could I sub lemon for the vinegar? I don’t tolerate vinegar and always sub lemon. What do you think?

  • Marcie says:

    Amy I have been a big fan of your website for a little while now and can’t stop gawking at all the amazing looking recipes! I’m a vego and I try to eat organic and I just love the beautiful ways you combine food! I finally made this one – strawberry custard tart is one of my fav desserts of all time (along with cheesecake!) and it was amazing! Made it for a dinner party with friends and they were all very impressed!

    One question – where do I find Brown Rice Syrup? I live in Melbourne and tried markets, supermarkets and health food stores but no luck. I used extra maple syrup + extra arrowroot instead, but would be nice to try it how you did it!

    Keep the recipes coming! So excited to try more of them 🙂

    • Amy Chaplin says:

      Thanks for reading my blog! So glad you like the tart. It is fine to sub with maple. I know you can get brown rice syrup in Australia and I think I may have seen it at Macro years ago. Maybe they can order it for you, they actually used to sell it in bulk in Sydney which was great.
      Good luck and let me know, you could always try ordering on line too.
      Happy baking!

  • Marcie says:

    Hey Amy, I thought I should let you know, I finally found rice syrup in Melbourne! Spiral Foods have been my go-to brand for organic tamari sauce but it turns out they now might be my best option for organic rice syrup! It isn’t brown rice but this is definitely the best I’ve found so far, though I will keep a look out. Excited to try making the tart again with my new find sometime soon. Will let you know how it goes 🙂 I also made your curried quinoa pilaf at the same dinner party – also so yum. Next up might just be the pumpkin scones.. I managed to score some cheap organic pumpkin at the market over the weekend.

    Cant wait for more of your recipes!

  • Natali Gill says:

    My goodness you area talent! I love the hands photo.

  • Tracy Johnson says:

    This is beautiful and sounds delicious. I would love to watch you cook, are there any videos or clips?


  • nancy says:

    I made this yesterday for my dad’s 69th birthday celebration last night. It was delicious and much appreciated by all. I used a spelt and coconut oil crust and spread the bottom of the blind baked crust with shredded unsweetened coconut (to keep the crust from getting soggy), subbed almonds for macadamias, and spread the nut creme with a CSA sourced rhubarb compote and then topped with the strawberries. The owners of the restaurant we ate at sampled it too!
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  • Em says:

    Ever since I’ve become vegan I have been looking high and low for a good custard dessert, and yours is one that I am definitely going to try out in the next week or two (using blueberries!). The custard filling sounds absolutely delicious and easy to make, and I’m excited to see a vegan pie crust recipe that uses olive oil instead of vegan butter or shortening (or other specialized vegan ingredients). One question I do have though – I absolutely adore coconut, but the rest of my family (which I would like to bake this for) is not very fond of coconut 🙁 Can it be replaced by more flour or nut meal for the crust? If so, how many grams (or cups) would you think would work?

    I apologize for troubling you with this, but this blog is one of my favorites and would really like to make this dessert as close to what you’ve written! Thank you for any assistance and keep up the wonderful work you are doing!


    • Amy Chaplin says:

      Yes you can sub anyother nut for the coconut. I would use the same amount or a little less, you really can’t go wrong with this crust!
      Happy baking!

  • Spoons says:

    Can you substitute the spelt for something completely gluten-free?

Leave a Reply