Tan Square or Tan Slice is a Classic New Zealand recipe. It is super simple - comprised of a shortbread and a caramel filling. The shortbread is pressed into the pan as a crust, topped with the caramel, then additional shortbread is then crumbled over the top for a perfect, buttery textured slice.
Table of contents
What is Tan Square?
Hi hi! Just popping in to re-share this recipe for Tan Square with you! I updated the photos, and added a tiny bit more butter to the base to make it extra tender, but aside from that the recipe is exactly the same.
Tan Square (or Tan Slice) is a New Zealand classic recipe. It is made up of two components - a shortbread base and a caramel. Some of the shortbread is reserved and sprinkled over the top of the slice and then the whole thing is baked. It is super, easy to make, and so, so good!
Tan Square from Grandma's Recipe Book
The original recipe for this one came from my Grandma's recipe book - it was given to her by a friend and I changed it up just a little bit so that it uses up a whole can of condensed milk rather than just a few tablespoons, because nothing is worse than a half can of condensed milk in the fridge.
This recipe is super special to me - it was one of the first ones I shared from Grandma's book, which I was lucky enough to inherit when she passed away. We used to spend every summer together at her house at the beach, where I spent many many hours standing on a stool in her kitchen while learning how to bake - I have her to thank for where I am today I think!
Components of Tan Square
Tan Square is a clever recipe in that it only has two components - a shortbread base and a caramel topping, but the shortbread base also serves as a crumb topping.
- Shortbread base - This is just a standard shortbread base which is made up of butter, sugar, vanilla, flour, and salt. It also has a little baking powder in it just to give some lift.
- Caramel Topping - The caramel topping for Tan Square is super simple and made of butter, golden syrup, and condensed milk. I also added in a little salt and vanilla to add depth of flavour. You cook it together until smooth and then pour it over the base.
How to Make Tan Square
Tan Square is extremely easy to make, and it comes together all in one go. There is no par-baking of the crust or cooling of the caramel topping needed.
- Make the Shortbread Base - The shortbread base is super easy - cream together butter and sugar, and then add vanilla, salt, baking powder, flour.
- Divide Shortbread Base - Set some of the shortbread base aside, to use later to form the crumbs on the top of the Tan Square.
- Press Shortbread into Pan - It is going to look like there isn't enough shortbread - but don't worry, you will be fine. I often find it easiest to break up the shortbread dough and spread it out within the pan first, and then press down with my fingers and an offset spatula and bottom of a measuring cup (shout out to the ⅓ cup measure)
- Make Caramel Topping - The base goes into the fridge while you make the topping. The condensed milk, golden syrup, and the butter get combined in a saucepan. Then, they are cooked together until the butter melts and the mixture comes to a boil, then cooked until the mixture thickens slightly and darkens in colour a little. You are just looking for it to thicken up a little. It will cook more in the oven while it is baking.
- Add Topping - Pour the caramel topping over the base, and then spread out.
- Crumble Remaining Shortbread - The remainder of the shortbread base is crumbled over the caramel topping, and then spread out evenly.
- Bake - Bake the Tan Square until the shortbread is done and the filling is a deep golden brown.
- Cool - remove the Tan Square from the oven, then finish with flaky sea salt if desired. Leave to cool and then slice into pieces.
Do I have to use Golden Syrup for Tan Square?
This recipe for Tan Square uses Golden Syrup, which is a sugar syrup. I have not tested it without it, however you could likely try subbing honey and it should be totally fine, but just know that I haven't tried it!
I get golden syrup online, and sometimes supermarkets may also carry it in their baking aisle!
FAQ for Tan Square
I used a 9"x13" (23cmx33cm) pan to bake this in. It comes out quite thinly but this works well as it means you get a thin caramel layer. If you want it to be thinner I would recommend halving the recipe and doing it in an 8" square pan. Make sure you have a little parchment sticking out from the sides of the slice to help you remove it from the pan. The parchment is important as the caramel can be sticky.
That happens! The very edges of the caramel will get a little dark. Just slice them off with a sharp knife.
I just keep it in an airtight container at room temperature.
When you go to spread the shortbread base in the pan, it is going to look like there isn't enough of it. Don't worry - it is the correct quantity. Just take your time spreading it out. You will get there.
Because the Tan Square is thin, it may seem a little bendy. If you have an extra pair of hands you can each hold two sides and pull the whole thing out, or I prefer to just make sure that it is loose and then tilt the pan to the side and carefully slide it out onto a chopping board.
Use a super sharp knife! I have a big knife with a 12" blade which is really helpful for this sort of thing. Wait for the Tan Square to cool completely before slicing. Wipe the blade between cuts to make sure that you remove any excess crumbs.
For more New Zealand baking, check out:
Made this recipe and love it?
I would LOVE if you could leave me a review below to let me know how you liked it! Make sure to tag me on Instagram if you make it!
A note on salt and oven temperature
It is important to note the type of salt that is called for in a recipe. I use Diamond Crystal salt throughout my recipes - if you use a different sort of kosher salt or regular table salt you will need to adjust accordingly as some salt is 'saltier' than others. Morton's salt is twice as salty, so you will need half the quantity. Same goes for a regular table salt. I am working to get gram measurements throughout my recipes for salt but still getting there.
All oven temperatures are conventional unless otherwise stated. If you are baking on fan, you will need to adjust the temperature. An oven thermometer is a great investment to ensure that your oven is the correct temperature.
Why is this recipe in grams?
I post my recipes in grams as it is the most accurate way to bake. Cups are not only inaccurate but they vary in volume worldwide. Therefore, there is no way for me to provide one cup measure that works for everyone. However, posting in weight fixes this issue. If you would like the recipe in cups you are welcome to convert it yourself via google, but please do not ask me to do it for you as I am not comfortable providing a recipe using a method that I have not tested. Baking with a scale is easy and accurate, and it also makes the cleanup super simple. Here is the scale that I use if you would like a recommendation! Here's to accurate baking!
For more Classic New Zealand Recipes:
- Custard Square with Homemade Puff Pastry
- Oaty Ginger Crunch
- Brown Butter Salted Caramel Slice
- Anzac Biscuits
- Peanut Brownie Biscuits (Chocolate Peanut Cookies)
Tan square is a Classic New Zealand recipe. It is super simple - comprised of a shortbread and a caramel filling. The shortbread is pressed into the pan as a crust, topped with the caramel, then additional shortbread is then crumbled over the top for a perfect, buttery textured slice.
Base / Crumble
- 260g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 125g graulated sugar
- 375g all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- One 400g (14oz) can condensed milk
- 75g unsalted butter (cold from the fridge or at room temperature is fine)
- 70g golden syrup
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp vanilla bean paste
- Flaky Sea salt, such as Maldon, for finishing (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°f/180°c. Line a 9"x13" (23cm x 33cm) baking pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhang to help with removal of the slice once cool. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until thick and pale, approximately 5 minutes.
- Add the flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla, and mix on low until combined. Place 165g of the base mixture into a small bowl and set aside. (This will form the crumb later).
- Press the remaining base mixture into the baking tin, spreading out with your fingers and then using an offset spatula or bottom of a measuring cup or drinking glass to compact and smooth down. Place in the fridge to chill while you prepare the caramel.
- In a medium pot over low heat, combine the condensed milk, butter and golden syrup. Stirring continuously, bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture has thickened slightly and is light golden brown in colour. (It will colour up more in the oven). Remove from the heat and add the salt and vanilla. Pour over the base. Spread evenly with an offset spatula.
- Sprinkle the remainder of the base mixture evenly over the caramel - you want it to be in lumps leaving some caramel showing.
- Bake the slice for 23-25 minutes, until the filling is a deep golden brown and the crumb is lightly golden. Remove from the oven and finish with a flaky sea salt. Cool completely before removing from the tin and slicing with a sharp knife.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.
Keywords: Tan square, tan slice, tan fingers, Tan square New Zealand