Manchester Tart Cake

Last month’s Clandestine Cake Club meeting was great, the theme was ‘Places’ and although at first I struggled to decide what type of cake to make, eventually the answer seemed obvious to me. I would make a Manchester Tart Cake! I love Manchester, I went to University there and I love the relaxed feel to the City in fact, I often refer to Manchester as my spiritual home! I have not made this type of cake before but a few months back, when I bought Lynn Hill’s (the creator of Clandestine Cake Club) cake recipe book, I’d stumbled upon a fellow member’s cake version of the baked tart and thought it looked tasty! Other ‘Places’ themed cakes present at our last meeting included a Chocolate Battenburg, a Yorkshire Rhubarb Triangle cake, a Bakewell cake, a Madeira cake and a Somerset Apple cake. They were all delicious!

Manchester Tart is a traditional English baked tart consisting of a short crust pastry shell, spread with raspberry jam, covered with a custard filling and then topped with coconut and a cherry. The tart is thought to have originated in the 1800s in Manchester, and from the 1940’s until the mid 1980’s Manchester tart was most commonly seen on the school dinner menu and enjoyed probably quite regularly by many Children. It is a very traditional dessert in British cuisine, which tends to historically consist of simple dishes with few ingredients and history wise, Manchester Tart is derived from ‘Manchester Pudding’ which was first recorded in Mrs. Beeton’s Cookery Book and Household Guide written by Mrs Isabella Mary (Mayson) Beeton, published in 1861.

The recipe I have used to make this cake is a rather indulgent variation of the recipe by Joanne Jessop, included in the Clandestine Cake recipe book, but essentially it is the same idea. A homemade vanilla pod custard and raspberry jam filling, sandwiched in between custard flavoured sponge, topped with icing and of course coconut. Making custard from scratch if you are not used to it can appear daunting, although it is actually relatively easy. If you are short on time however, ready-made custard works well too. I used shop-bought raspberry jam (good quality) although of course homemade would taste delicious if you have the time, or have some in at home.

The original recipe for Manchester Tart has not changed much over time, although variations such as using strawberry jam instead of raspberry jam or adding fresh fruit like bananas, apples and grapes (mixed into the custard filling or layered on top of the jam) can be made, and equally can be added to this cake recipe easily. You could also use whipped cream to top the cake and then garnished with coconut and cherries, however the cake would require eating immediately. Made using this recipe the cake will keep for a few days, but store in an air-tight container.

This cake looks very pretty topped with the coconut and the sponge has a lovely yellow colour and it tastes good too! Why not give it a try?

Manchester Tart Cake Recipe

Serves 8


225g butter
200g caster sugar
2 tbsp custard powder
200g self raising flour
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence


4 tbsp. raspberry jam

For the custard

1 vanilla pod
250ml milk
3 large egg yolks
75g caster sugar
25g corn flour


100g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp. milk
2 tbsp. desiccated coconut


1. Preheat the oven to 190 fan (gas mark 5) Grease two 20cm round sandwich tins.

2. Beat together all the sponge ingredients and divide the mixture between the two sandwich tins evenly. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until a knife/skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool and remove from tins.

3. To make the custard, place the milk and vanilla pod into a saucepan with one tablespoon of cold water and slowly bring to the boil, remove from the heat. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and creamy, then whisk in the corn flour. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk a pour over the egg mixture, whisking continuously.

4. Add the mixture back to the heat, and continue to whisk. Once the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, remove from the heat and cover with cling film, this stops a skin forming. When cooled, transfer to the fridge.

5. To assemble the cake, spread the jam over one of the sponges. Beat the custard to loosen it then spread it on top of the jam (you will not need all of it) then top with the other sponge.

6. For the topping, mix the icing sugar with a tablespoon of the milk, and add milk until you have the desired consistency, (you will need it fairly stiff). Spread the icing on the cake and immediately scatter over the coconut. You can then add a cherry if you so wish!



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