A patriotic dessert recipe fit for the 4th of July.
A fresh berry American flag fruit tart with vanilla pastry cream and butter cookie crust makes an elegant, festive dessert for the 4th of July — or any patriotic celebration day. This fruit tart recipe may have French origins, but this patriotic dessert is dressed up with all-American style.
All About This American Flag Fruit Tart Recipe
There is something so special about a mixed berry fruit tart. Fruit tarts are elegant, sweet, and layer flavors and textures. A crisp cookie crust base holds silky smooth vanilla pastry cream and lots of fresh fruit–here, red, white, and blue mixed berries. The result is pretty much perfect dessert for any Independence Day, Memorial Day, Election Day, or other patriotic American celebration.
This mixed berry 4th of July fruit tart is a variation of a classic French fruit tart I collaborated on with the fantastic Jenn Segal of Once Upon a Chef — one of my most favorite cooking websites ever. Check it out. All her recipes work, and taste fantastic.
How to Make This American Flag Fruit Tart Recipe
There are three main components to this fruit tart:
- A shortbread tart shell, also known as a short dough crust or pâte sucrée
- Vanilla custard, also known as vanilla pastry cream or crême pâtissière
- Lots of beautiful fresh fruit
- Bonus: a simple apricot glaze to make it shine and lock in the fruit’s freshness
Let’s go into a little more detail.
Making the Pastry Crust
The first step to this American Flag berry tart is to make the tart shell. This shortbread cookie crust is easy to mix, but does require a little time to chill the dough fully, and then bake and cool.
- In a food processor, combine the ingredients and mix until the dough comes together.
- Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly-floured surface. Flatten into a disk and chill well.
- Roll the chilled, rested dough to about 10? diameter. Drape it into a tart shell. Trim the scrap.
- Dock the bottom of the crust all over with the tines of a fork. Chill again.
- Line the tart dough shell with parchment or two layers of foil. (I prefer parchment.) Fill the shell with dried beans or pie weights, and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove the weights, and continue baking for 5 to 10 minutes more, until golden brown. Cool fully.
The Vanilla Pastry Cream for the American Flag Tart
While the pastry crust is in process, make the vanilla custard filling. The custard is a traditional vanilla pastry cream, sweet and silky and made from milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, butter, and cornstarch as a thickener.
Pastry cream requires only a few ingredients, but you will need a little bit of technique savvy.
Here’s how to troubleshoot any potential pastry cream issues:
- Stir. A lot. Once you add the eggs to the pot of hot milk, the eggs risk cooking instead of emulsifying into a custard. So stir constantly and scrape the sides and bottom of the pot continuously. That’s where the “scrambled eggs” like to form.
- Eliminate clumps. If you do accidentally form coagulated egg bits, just strain the finished pastry cream with a fine mesh strainer. Done.
- If you’re storing your pastry cream, lay plastic wrap directly on top to prevent “skin” from forming.
- Use your pastry cream within two days (preferably one). The cornstarch will weep its absorbed moisture through a fancy-sounding process called starch retrogradation, and the pastry cream will become rubbery.
Choosing the Fruit for Your Patriotic Berry Tart
It’s berry season, and that’s what you need.
Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are the obvious choices. I love the look of these two red-hued and two blue-hued berries together, but you could also just do one blue and one red. Plus, berries look gorgeous and generally stay perky longer than cut fruit.
How to Arrange the Berries in an American Flag Tart
Here’s your chance to be creative and have fun. My biggest guideline for arranging fruit on top of the pastry cream-filled tart is to be generous with the fruit. I try to show as little pastry cream as possible.
You can do a more traditional flag design of carefully-arranged fruit, a more free-form fruit pattern, or a mix. Have fun!
To finish, heat some apricot jam thinned with a bit of water, strain, and dab it all over the fruit with a pastry brush. The jam will give a shiny, finished look to the tart, and help seal in freshness.
You will love these other all-American desserts:
4th of July Desserts: American Flag Berry Tart
For the Pastry Crust
- 1 recipe pâte sucrée (recipe follows in link, below)
For the Pastry Cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 egg
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 pints or so fresh berries such as blueberries and strawberries, rinsed and fully dried
- ½ cup apricot jam
For the Pastry Crust
- Complete the pâte sucrée through baking and cooling.TIP: This will take a few hours total, though most of that is inactive chilling and baking time. This can be done up to 2 days in advance; store wrapped or in an airtight container.
For the Vanilla Pastry Cream
- Heat the milk with a couple tablespoons of sugar just until boiling. Remove from heat.
- While the milk is warming, in a heat-proof mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, egg, egg yolks, and cornstarch. Whisk until the mixture is very smooth and lightened in color, about 2 or 3 minutes.
- Whisking constantly, whisk about a quarter of the hot milk into the egg mixture.PRO TIP: This is called tempering. Tempering the eggs helps raise their temperature without cooking them, and helps emulsify them into the milk.
- Pour the milk-tempered egg mixture into the pot of the remaining milk. Whisk to combine. Return the pot to the heat and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent “scrambled eggs” on the sides and bottom, until the magic happens and the pastry cream thickens, about 2 minutes. Stir in the butter and vanilla and cook one minute more, stirring constantly. The pastry cream should make thick, lazy bubbles.
- Pour the thickened pastry cream into a clean, shallow bowl set over an ice bath. Stir gently until the pastry cream cools to warm room temperature and no more steam comes off the top.PRO TIP: setting the bowl on a bag of frozen vegetables works great as an easy ice bath alternative, and there’s no risk of water splashing in.
- Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap set directly on the surface of the pastry cream. This prevents a skin from forming on top. Chill.
- Transfer the tart shell onto a cardboard round or whatever serving dish you will be using. (Once it is filled with the pastry cream and fruit, the tart will be too heavy and delicate to move.)
- Pour the pastry cream into the tart shell, leaving a ¼” brim. (If you have any extra pastry cream, enjoy it as a parfait with some fresh berries.)
- Arrange a generous amount of fruit and berries in a layer over the pastry cream in your desired design.
- Heat ¼ cup apricot jam with 1 tablespoon or so of water over medium heat, whisking, until thin. Strain, if needed, through a sieve. Use a pastry brush to gently dab the entire fruit tart with a thin layer of apricot glaze. Chill until ready to serve.
This dessert is “dressed to impress”! I made this for Memorial Day weekend and it was a huge hit. The custard really isn’t that hard, and it was fun to arrange the fruit on top. Will make again.
Julie McConnell says
Hi Lisa ,
I actually made three of these this past weekend. My friend had a ton of blueberries come in so ….
The recipe is perfect ! The lemon zest in the shell with blueberries is spot on! All of my friends absolutely loved it. Thank you! Oh— I also saw this, with credit to you, on once-upon- a -chef , which I also love. Seeing this tart in two places seemed like a sign to me 🙂
On another note-I plan on using the pastry cream to make a Boston Cream pie. I thought I’d use your buttermilk sprinkle cake (without the sprinkles ) for the cake. Do you have a favorite ganache recipe to share ?
Thanks for the great recipes and tips to make them a success !
Hi Julie! That’s fantastic and I am so glad to hear that it all worked so well. A perfect summer dessert, I think. And that’s very exciting about the Boston Cream pie. For a pourable ganache, use a 1:1 or 1:1.5 ratio of heavy cream to chocolate. Chop the chocolate into small bits in a bowl, then pour hot cream over the top. Let it sit for a minute or so, then stir from the center until it’s emulsified. Adding a tablespoon or two of corn syrup to the cream while heating will make it a little shinier. Pour the ganache onto the cake while the ganache is still warm. It will set up as it cools. This inpsires me to put a ganache recipe on the website! Thanks!! In the meantime, this is very instructive: https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/blog/2019/02/13/how-to-make-ganache
Delicious and so pretty. The pastry cream came out very well, which I was a little nervous to try, so thank you for the very clear directions. I just poured mixed berries on top in a jumble and it had a very big wow factor!