Cornflake Tart


cornflak c-upMister North and I must be very rare specimens indeed because we went to a primary school that served excellent school dinners. The only thing I remember hating was the cabbage which they served minced and overcooked. Otherwise, I have very fond memories of eating lunch at school. There were proper hand cut twice cooked chips that I still dream about, Irish stew and of course, proper puddings with custard to match.

Most people liked the chocolate sponge and custard best, but my favourite was the cornflake pudding. A slab of crumbly pastry topped with red jam and sweet crunchy cornflakes on top, served with simple yellow custard. I last ate it when I was no more than 11 years old and I’ve spent years trying to track a recipe for it down. I’ve asked many people if they remembered it and in between triggering memories of Spam fritters, people have either rhapsodised about it or looked blank.

I was starting to think it was a Northern Irish thing when eventually I came across something about on Mumsnet and realised it was actually very simple to make and just the thing to use up some spare pastry. But would it taste the same or was I about to destroy a treasured childhood memory like the time I rewatched Button Moon and realised it was just an actual button?

Cornflake Tarts (makes 4 individual sized tarts)

For the pastry:

  • 175g plain flour
  • 45g cold cubed butter
  • 40g lard
  • 2-3 tablespoons cold water

For the topping:

  • 150g raspberry jam
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 25g sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 75g cornflakes

Start by making your pastry. I like the incredible shortness you get using half lard and half butter (plus it’s much cheaper too) but if you prefer, you can use all butter.

Put the flour in a large bowl and rub the lard and butter through it. I think I’ve mentioned before that my pastry always shrinks massively in the tin and some plaintive wailing about it to a friend, established that I was rubbing my fat into the flour too much and over working the pastry. So don’t be afraid to leave some lumps of fat in this instead of trying to get only tiny crumbs.

Add two tablespoons of ice cold water (I’ve also been using too much water because overworking the pastry had made it dry) and bring it all together neatly in a ball without too much fiddling and poking. Chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

When you are ready, roll it out and line the tart tins. I had 4 small ones but this will also do a 23cm tart tin nicely. Don’t trim all the pastry off the edges, but leave some overhang and then chill again for 15-20 minutes while the oven heats up to 180ºC.

Line the pastry with greaseproof paper and fill it with rice or dried beans and blind bake for 12 minutes. In the meantime, heat together the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan until it is all melted and runny. Put the cornflakes in a large bowl and pour the butter and syrup over them. Gently stir it through until they are all coated. Set aside.

Now put the jam into the same saucepan and warm it through too. I used some homemade stuff, but a decent shop bought one will do. Try not to use indeterminate ‘red jam’ like the school dinner version did. It’s better with a bit of flavour and texture.

Take the blind baked tarts out of the oven. Remove the baking beans or rice and prick the base of the pastry several times with a fork. Trim the edges of the tarts with a sharp knife and then spread the warmed jam over all the base of the tarts. Sprinkle the cornflake mixture over the top of the jam, making sure you don’t skimp.

Bake the tarts for another 8 minutes and then allow to cool for at least 10 minutes to give the cornflakes a proper crunch. You’ll probably want to serve this with a generous pouring of custard. I can’t help you here as custard is my nemesis and my most recent attempt at heating some fresh stuff from Sainsbury’s ended with me curdling it!

I ate my tarts just as they were and they tasted exactly like I remember, but actually slightly better for not being made with marge and cheap jam or washed down with tepid water in a metal beaker! I am now convinced Proust was really on about cornflake tart rather than madeleines…

What about you? Do you have a school dinner memory that’s surprisingly good or was it all crimes against food?

9 replies
  1. Audrey
    Audrey says:

    I think the appalling quality of the food served at the schools I went to really contributed to mess up my relationship with food. It was all pretty much indefinite. Except for the rice pudding. That was lovely. Creamy, soothing, hot and milky. And the wonderful thig is that there was some everyday because it was the pudding for those who didn’t want the pudding of the day. I think rice pudding is what kept me going!

  2. simba
    simba says:

    Curry pie. It was literally just chicken curry, Irish-style (i.e. kind of grainy and totally inauthentic), in a pie. No vegetables or anything. It was exceptionally good for that kind of curry, too.

    I got a curry pie recently from Tesco and it had celery or something in it? It just wasn’t the same. May have to go get a carton of curry sauce for chips, and try to recreate it.

    That and the BLTs. Good lettuce, day-glow white rolls, and that industrial bacon which has little fat and is kind of solid from being left out under heat lamps. And tomato, too. Mmm.

  3. Mister North
    Mister North says:

    There were a few things I didn’t like: the industrial instant mash (although I loved how they served it with an ice-cream scoop); the odd pink custard-esque gloop for dessert (cornstarch and food colouring) but it definitely wasn’t bad food compared to most school kitchens. I too loved the cornflake tart, though you’ve been *much* more generous with the jam than they were. I might have to branch out from the standard chocolate cornflake buns and add these to the list… yum!

  4. Ricardo
    Ricardo says:

    No way, Jose!
    What a blast from the past. I had completely forgotten about these. And now that I’ve seen them again it feels like only yesterday that I last had a taste. I’m going to make some of these and eat them for lunch at work. Then I’m going to leave the office at 3.30 to run home and watch Rentaghost. I’ll probably get sacked.
    If you went to primary school under the ’70s Labour Government every dinner lady across the whole land was given the same standardised recipe book. So these probably were enjoyed by everyone.
    In our school the dinner hall doubled as the gym. Gym meant listening to ‘Music and Movement’ on the big radio whilst following the imaginative instructions to become a snake, or the wind, or whatever. The dinner ladies weren’t the most vigilant about cleaning up so if you had ‘gym’ after lunch time you could very well end up doing your creative snake writhing amongst bits of peas and gravy – and, as I now recall, cornflake tart.
    But, you know, we were happy.

  5. kelly
    kelly says:

    Thankyou for putting this recipe, I too loved this desert and had the same problem with people not remembering it. I tried to make it once but failed because I thought you just chilled the cornflakes in syrup and they would set but it never happened. I still ate it but as you can imagine was a little disappointed. I will be baking this very soon

  6. Nasiba Wasim
    Nasiba Wasim says:

    Ive just finished making a batch of cheese whirls then came across this post! I used to love them in school and just about perfected the recipe! Here it is if anyone wants it x

    ●Cheese whirls●
    (Makes 2 just roll puff pastry packs)
    8 large potatos
    2 Just roll puff pastry packs
    2 packs of cheese (i use 1 chedder and 1 red leicester)
    3 eggs
    3 red onions
    Chives (if desired)

    Peel and chop the potatoes into 6 and let them boil until you can easily put a fork through.
    Whilst they are boiling finely chop 3 red onions and pan fry them on a low heat…we want them soft not crispy.
    Mash the potatoes (add salt, pepper and finely chopped chives) and add the onions wait for the mixture to cool down before adding 3 eggs and 2 packs of cheese.

    Roll out the pastry in a rectangle shape not too thick or thin. Spread the mixture evenly with a fork and roll from your side like a long swiss roll. Pat the roll down gently so it is a squashed shape so when you cut it the pieces can rest pastry side down and not fall to the side.Cut around 1.5 inches in width for the perfect swiss roll size!

    Bake on a tray with a layer of margerine so the pastry doesnt stick for around 35 mind until the pastry has risen and golden brown.


  7. Joanne campbell
    Joanne campbell says:

    My husband raves about a pudding that was served in Belfast Inst in the sixties. He says the pupils called it Black Death but I am sure it has a proper name. The only thing he can tell me is that it was spongy and had black treacle in it!

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