This elegant maple cream tart deliciously highlights maple products. The meringue crust is crisp on the outside and pillowy on the inside. A cloud-like delight!
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Maple season has to be my favorite time of the year. Not only is it sweet in every sense of the word, but it’s also synonymous with the end of winter in Quebec, where I live. Getting to indulge in all things maple means snow is melting and temperatures are rising—exactly the conditions required for maple sap to flow.
I’m lucky to live where most of the world’s maple products originate. According to recent numbers, the province of Quebec produces 75% of the world’s maple syrup, so you better believe I’ve had a lot of practice baking with—and eating!—maple products over the years. Some of my favorite treats to make with maple include muffins, madeleines, financiers, French macarons, cookies, cupcakes, candies… alright, I’ll get straight to the point: I like to use maple products in EVERYTHING! But one of my favorite ways to showcase both maple syrup and maple sugar is this sweet, cloud-like dessert: Walnut and Maple Cream Tart.
I’m pretty sure I won’t need many words to convince you that this maple cream tart is special occasion–worthy. It looks spectacular and tastes even better. The crust and glazed walnuts can be made in advance, and assembling the tart is as quick as whipping a cup of cream―making it perfect for a busy day. The maple cream tart’s deep maple aroma makes it addictive, but its light texture won’t make anyone feel guilty for indulging.
What’s interesting in this maple cream tart is the use of crushed crackers in the crust: they are indiscernible, taste-wise, in the baked result: they simply help give body to the meringue crust. While you can make the crust the day you plan on serving it, it’s even better if you can make it ahead and store it overnight in the fridge. Resting gives it a slightly chewy texture that’s especially delightful against the silky whipped cream.
Helpful Tips for Making Walnut and Maple Cream Tart
Hunt for real maple sugar:Maple sugar can be harder to find than maple syrup, but it does add an incredible depth of maple flavor to the crust. Maple sugar has a golden color and a powdery texture—you can buy it from online retailers if you can’t find it in local stores. If you can’t find it, you can substitute regular granulated sugar.
Beware of “maple-flavored” anything: There are a lot of maple-flavored syrups on the market, which are less expensive and smell like maple. Don’t be fooled! There’s nothing like real maple syrup. It has a lighter, more fluid, less sticky texture than imitations, and of course, the flavor has no match. It is more expensive, it’s true, but refrigerated syrup lasts forever. Make sure to steer clear of decorative bottles, which target the gift market, and try to find cans, which offer the best value. Here in QC, an 18 oz (540 ml) can of Grade A maple syrup is sold for about CAD$8 in all grocery stores.
Switch up the cookies: This maple cream tart is made with unsalted soda crackers (Premium Plus types, also called saltine crackers), but you can also make it with unsalted water crackers.
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In a small bowl, whisk together the maple sugar and granulated sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer, beat together the egg whites and salt at high speed until soft peaks form. Lower the speed and slowly add the sugar mixture, two spoonfuls at a time, until all the sugar is fully incorporated and stiff and glossy peaks form. Slowly mix in the maple syrup (do not overbeat!). In a bowl, combine the walnuts, crackers, and baking powder, then add to the egg white mixture and use a spatula to gently combine.
Spread the crust mixture into the prepared tart pan, creating a well in the center to hold the maple whipped cream topping after baking.
Bake the shell for 25 to 35 minutes or until the meringue is golden but not brown. Remove from the oven, and cool completely. Refrigerate the shell at least two hours, or preferably overnight.
To make the candied nuts: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a nonstick skillet, combine the maple syrup and walnut halves, stirring to coat the nuts with syrup. Place the skillet over medium-high heat. The syrup will come to a simmer, then bubble up around the nuts. Using a silicon spatula, stir every few seconds. When the syrup is very sticky and the nuts are coated and shiny, take the skillet off the heat. Using a fork, lift the nuts out of the pan one at a time and transfer them to the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Let the nuts cool completely (the syrup will harden as the nuts cool), then store in an airtight container. The nuts can be prepared several days in advance.
SERVING: Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Add the maple syrup and whip to incorporate. Spread the cream over the refrigerated meringue crust. Decorate with the candied walnuts, then sprinkle with coarse maple sugar if desired. Serve within a few hours (keep refrigerated until service.)
Recipe adapted from Food 52.
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