The Canadian butter tart is one of the country's tastiest and iconic treats.
When it comes to finding the ooey gooey, flakey and oh so sweet dessert, Wellington County has much to offer along it’s popular Butter Tart Trail.
A variety of bakeries, farm markets and restaurants along this sweet road invites butter tart lovers to taste their way through the countryside and discover their favourite butter tart along the way.
Whether you prefer tarts plain, with raisins, nuts, blueberries, dark or white chocolate, the trail has it all.
Just west of Erin, Belwood Country Market, next to Belwood Lake, is a must visit destination for butter tart enthusiasts.
Renowned for its butter tarts, Belwood Country Market owners, Mike and Julie Woelfle, sell over 250,000 butter tarts each and offer a variety of flavours including plain, raisin, pecan, Skor, Reese’s peanut butter, white chocolate blueberry and coconut raspberry.
“We’ve been here 15 years, but we’ve been baking these tarts for nine. Originally, this all started this was my mom. She made four dozen one day when we first opened, and that lasted the day. Now, four dozen butter tarts might last 10 minutes,” Julie Woelfle said.
“Eight years ago, we started making 36,000 butter tarts a year. And now, it’s blown up to this. They do go fast, but we make lots. Over the years, we’ve had to get bigger ovens just so we can keep up.”
Mike Woelfle said that his store used to be more of a gas bar and convenience store, selling primarily, gas and cigarettes.
“Now, 75 per cent of our business is butter tarts and other groceries. So, it’s been quite an evolution,” he said.
“I just recently had a conversation with a local resident. We talked about how busy Belwood has become. And he said, well, It’s because of you and your butter tarts.”
A Belwood Country Market sign states 'warning' that 'the butter tarts do cause addiction'.
“There are a lot of great butter tarts out there. We often hear that ours are the best. I think alot of it has to do with our pastry. It’s not that heavy shortbread like pastry. Ours is very light and flaky, and just melts in your mouth. A lot of people say that’s what makes ours the best. Our fillings are popular too, but I think it’s all in the pastry,” Julie said.
“When we got into this, we had no idea that our butter tarts would become so popular.”
Just outside Elora, is Dar’s Country Market where you can find an assortment of butter tarts with gluten-free options as well.
“Our butter tarts come from the Stone Crock Bakery in St. Jacob’s. The pastry is light and fluffy. They are really good, and being on the trail, we get lots of people in looking for them,” said Heather Warne.
Fergie’s Fine Foods in downtown Fergus is a bakery and food store that offers a selection of prepared foods, desserts, and of course, butter tarts.
“We just had four people come in and they bought some of our butter tarts. They came back two hours later for more. They said these are the best butter tarts they’ve ever had," said store manager, Heather Kitto.
Fergies' Fine Foods offers two flavours, pecan and raisin.
"Sometimes, we bake maple bacon butter tarts. Those are a real specialty, and people just love them. They are just delicious,” Kitto said.
“I think our butter tarts stand out because of the way they are baked and shaped. You can tell they are not just a round grocery store type tart. These are made by hand.”
Kitto said that being a part of the county's butter tart trail is great recognition for the Fergie's Fine Foods.
"It's a lot of fun having people visit from everywhere and try out butter tarts," she said.
Another stop along the trail is The Right Spot Restaurant & Baked Goods in the town of Alma. This family restaurant sells classic butter tarts, including plain, raisin and pecan.
“They are made from scratch, including the pastry and the filling. We hand fill them. My favourite is raisin or plain,” said The Right Spot Restaurant & Baked Goods baker, Jess Jans.
“I’ve been making them for two years. And I see lots of people come in for them.”
Butter tarts were a common dish in pioneer Canadian cooking, tracing back to the early 1900's.
Traditionally, they have a thick, pastry crust filled with a rich, sugary syrup. Butter, eggs, syrup, and sugar make up the filling. There is continued debate among Canadians when it comes to additional flavours. The big question remains. Should butter tarts contain raisins or not?
Regardless, butter tarts are more than just a sweet treat. They’re considered to be a part of Canada's identity.
Leo Jacot, chef and owner of the Eramosa Café in Rockwood, said people from the UK or US often come in asking about butter tarts and what they are.
“I never used to make them. I first started making something similar, a classical French tartlet, 25 years ago," he said. "And now, here I am making butter tarts.”
Jacot said there’s a secret to the filling.
"There is one little difference in my filling. But it really is about the pastry. My butter tarts are dangerous. I can’t bring them home. My family is crazy for them. Are they the best? Lots of people think so," Jacot said.
“I never wanted to be known for my butter tarts, and yet here I am.”