a peek inside the fishbowl

19 Sep, 2009

My MIL’s recipe for butter tart squares (easier than actual butter tarts but just as delicious)

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Recipes and Food

When people ask me about Canadian cuisine (not that they DO, but if they DID) I give them poutine. And smoked salmon. And pea soup. And caribou steaks. And beaver tails. And BUTTER TARTS.

Canadian readers have probably eaten a butter tart or two in their lifetime, but not everyone knows about butter tarts. (!)

Butter tarts are like pecan pie without the pecans, made in smallish individual servings that are about the size of a donut. Butter tarts have been traced back to pioneer days. That’s how long we’ve been enjoying this delicious pastry!

This is a recipe for butter tart squares. There’s no fiddling with individual pastry shells, which is great for me because I’m terrible at pastry and am an impatient and inexperienced pastry baker. In this recipe, the crust is a layer of buttery goodness (OH THE BUTTER) which holds it all together. It is killer simple.

Gooey. Delectable. Easy. And it feeds a crowd. It is perfect for this time of year.

Anyway, I’m sorry I don’t really have a photo.

butter tart squares are all gone

I cannot walk past a tray of these and not eat one. Or two. It is dangerous. On a diet? You’re in double danger. The great thing about making butter tarts in “square” format is that you can cut these as small (YOU CHEAPSKATE!) or as large (YOU GLUTTON!) as you like.

If you cut them smallish you’re more likely to eat more of them and think that you’re getting away with something.

I haven’t made these myself. I’ve just eaten them. I requested the recipe from my MIL knowing that some of you would love to try these too.

Andrea’s MIL’s Butter Tart Squares

First, the “crust”:

  • 1 cup of butter, softened
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt

Next, the filling:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup raisins

Make the crust: Cut butter into dry ingredients with pastry blender or fork until crumbly. Press firmly into an ungreased 9″ x 13″ (23 x 33 cm) pan.

Make the filling: Melt butter; add eggs and remaining ingredients. Mix and pour evenly over crust. Bake at 350°F (180C) for 30-35 minutes. Cut when cool.

I think this would make a great Thanksgiving dessert, or something you can whip up for a bake sale. It makes a LOT of squares.

Let me know if you try this recipe. You won’t regret you did!





(That is, unless you are trying to abstain from sweets and carbs in which case, yes, you may just regret making these.)

18 Responses to "My MIL’s recipe for butter tart squares (easier than actual butter tarts but just as delicious)"

1 | Rebecca

September 19th, 2009 at 8:42 am


omg these sound delicious! Anything in ‘bar’ form is one of my fav desserts ;)

will try these for sure

2 | Scattered Mom

September 19th, 2009 at 5:09 pm


I love butter tarts! Just to keep the work to a minimum, I buy the tart shells. I love them best right from the freezer. Weird, I know. And they can’t have nuts.

I may have to try these when I need to bring a sweet treat for a staff treat day. Yummy!

3 | Laura

September 19th, 2009 at 8:29 pm


I like the idea of a butter tart recipe that doesn’t have corn syrup! I will make these for Thanksgiving since my family loves this type of desert. I love the photograph of the empty pan – I’m sold. :)

4 | Shannon

September 19th, 2009 at 8:48 pm


Oh.MYGAWD. I LOVE butter tarts. And am 39 weeks pregnant. And was wanting some today. MUST.MAKE.THESE.TOMORROW. *dies*! :)

5 | Amy

September 20th, 2009 at 10:09 am


I had a roommate who always makes these as Christmas baking. The year we roomed together, she put on only one oven mitt to take the hot and extremely heavy 9×13 pan out. And dropped it. All over the oven and oven door and the floor. We spent the next hour cleaning splattered butter tart squares out of everything.

6 | Hilary

September 21st, 2009 at 5:48 am


I love butter tart squares even more than butter tarts! And as you say, they are so much easier.

Shockingly, some people DO put pecans in them. I discovered this when doing butter tart research this summer – I found it totally shocking and bordering on butter tart sacrilege.

7 | Alina

September 27th, 2009 at 4:17 pm


We made the squares yesterday and today there is nothing left. They were delicious!!! (although I had doubts about 1 tbsp of baking powder…it seemed too much)

8 | Beverley

October 4th, 2009 at 1:54 pm


I went looking for a butter tart recipe for squares I have to take to a function tomorrow night…yours looked the best…am going out to buy butter right now! Will let you know what I think later :)

9 | Beverley

October 6th, 2009 at 6:36 pm


just wanted to let you know that the squares were a HUGE hit…so delicious! I will be making them instead of butter tarts from now on….so yummy & easy :) Thanks!

10 | Lee

October 15th, 2009 at 9:20 am


Oh my gosh. I made these and they are fabulous! (And easy enough for me to pull off on the first try!)


1. About how thick is the crust and how thick is the topping when your MIL makes them? (I don’t have a 9″ x 13″ pan and the crust looked like it was going to be hugely thick so I didn’t use all the dough.)

2. Does the crust keep together when your MIL’s squares are cut? (Mine is very crumbly — perhaps I didn’t press the dough firmly enough into the pan?)

11 | Maria

December 13th, 2009 at 8:10 pm


These look so good! I made a pecan pie, but not buttersquares!

12 | Meechie

August 31st, 2011 at 3:49 pm


This dessert is a classic for our family at xmas time. I’ve made it with mom for decades (so sad that i can say that!).
We always add walnuts too… YUMMY!

13 | Butter tarts! >> a peek inside the fishbowl

September 7th, 2013 at 3:12 pm


[…] If you’re not the kind of person who likes sweet treats (but not rolling out crust) you can try this recipe that involves read-made tart shells. OR you can try this recipe for butter tart squares. […]

15 | Kate

November 4th, 2015 at 9:10 pm


For a crunchy crust, pat the dough into the pan and chill. Then bake for 15 min at 350. Then add filling and finish baking. Makes a real difference to the base of these delicious bars!

16 | andrea tomkins

November 5th, 2015 at 9:00 am


Great suggestion. Thank you!

17 | Kerri

November 8th, 2020 at 7:14 pm


Thank you! I was looking everywhere for this recipe. It is called ’Mel’s butter tart squares’ and was published in the Toronto star in 1993 or 94. I left my recipe book at the cottage and wanted to make them at home tonight. I searched the internet 15 minutes before finding your post.

18 | andrea tomkins

November 9th, 2020 at 8:34 am


Yay! Glad it worked out Kerri!

comment form:


Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Jenn Jilks: That is really exciting! Break a leg!
  • fun88: I was excited to discover this page. I want to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!! I definitely liked every part of it and i also
  • Gretchen Humphrey: I had a beautiful bee& birdbath filled with a solar fountain and dozens of antique marbles that were suddenly disappearing. At first I thought my
  • Jinjer: I am sobbing reading this post. And you're right, companion is not enough. Little furry treasured gifts that they are. Thanks for sharing cutie-pi
  • Karen: Dear Andrea, Mark and your daughters I am so very sad for your family xxx Piper was/is my favourite Instagram post. You shared with us so intimately
  • Christina Banuelos: Thank you for sharing Pipers life with us. Your posts of Piper brought me joy. Every time I see your post and see what kind of mischief Piper was gett
  • Carla Slocum: I am sitting here yet again crying at your loss. We have known that loss with Asta the WFT our first pup but now have the enormous gift of Stryker the

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


Connect with me at these places too!

Still calling it Twitter