Tips from the Experts

How to Get that Glossy Fruit Tart Top

Not just the stuff of bakery cases, a glossy glaze on fruit desserts takes them up a notch.

Published June 13, 2023.

Fresh fruit tarts are one of summer’s most stunning treats. 

Whether sporting a heaping tumble of berries or a more formal, carefully executed arrangement, these desserts always convey a sense of occasion. 

Fruit tarts taste as good as they look and are a frequent showpiece in refrigerated pastry cases. Perhaps their most iconic feature is the shimmering glaze painted across their tops, giving them a polished, professional look. 

You might think that this finishing touch is hard to create.

And it’s true that as simple as the glaze is to make, a lot can go wrong. It can range from overly runny to stiff and springy or cloudy and gummy. It can be so dull-tasting, it mutes the freshness of the fruit.

These issues extend beyond glazing tarts to lacquering a host of other fruit-topped desserts, such as summer berry pie, apple galette, and fresh strawberry pie

To ensure our fresh fruit desserts have the sheen, structure, and taste we desire, we have two methods. 

Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter

The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.

For desserts with little to no height, glaze with jelly 

With fresh fruit desserts that don’t need a glaze to provide structural help, the simplest option is the best: Brush the finished dessert with warmed jelly or preserves. Heating the product allows you to attain a more even coating, and once chilled, the glaze will rethicken.

For our fresh fruit tart and apple galette, we like the complexity and hint of tartness of apricot preserves. For summer berry pie, we prefer the slight red tint and utter clarity of red currant jelly.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Microwave your jelly or preserves on medium power until mixture begins to bubble, about 1 minute. Alternatively, heat jelly or preserves in saucepan on stove over low heat until fully melted. 

2. If your preserves contain chunks, pass them through fine-mesh strainer to remove any large pieces. 

3A. For an arranged dessert such as our fruit tart or apple galette, paint glaze over top of fruit with pastry brush

3B. For a dessert with a more casual mound of fruit, such as our summer berry pie, toss berries with melted glaze before spooning them into pie shell.  

For desserts with more height and in need of hold, add thickener(s) and puree

Some baked goods, such as our fresh strawberry pie, require added support to keep the fruit together in addition to shine. For a glaze that wasn’t too stiff but also had the glossy clarity we required, a combination of pectin (we prefer Sure-Jell) and cornstarch mixed with a puree of fresh strawberries proved ideal. 

Here’s how to it: 

1. Whisk ¾ cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 11/2 teaspoons Sure-Jell, and generous pinch of salt in medium saucepan. Stir in 6 ounces pureed strawberries (or other berries, depending on the dessert). 

2. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with heatproof rubber spatula, and bring to full boil. Boil, scraping bottom and sides of pan to prevent scorching, for 2 minutes to ensure that cornstarch is fully cooked. 

3. Transfer to large bowl and stir in lemon juice. Let cool to room temperature.

4. Add berries to bowl with glaze and fold gently with rubber spatula until berries are evenly coated. 

5. Scoop berries into pie shell, piling into mound. Refrigerate until chilled. 

NOTE: Make certain that you use Sure-Jell engineered for low- or no-sugar recipes (packaged in a pink box) and not regular Sure-Jell (in a yellow box); otherwise, the glaze will not set properly.

600+ Sweet Recipes!

Desserts Illustrated

Part cookbook, part handbook, Desserts Illustrated is the last word on the last (but definitely not the least) course.


This is a members' feature.