Tan Square or Tan Slice is a Classic New Zealand Caramel Bars 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.
Hi hi! Just popping in to re-share this recipe for Tan Square / Tan Slice with you! I have a whole bunch of New Zealand baking recipes on my site, and this tan slice recipe is a classic. If you want to check out some of my other New Zealand baking, I love my Ginger Crunch Recipe, Louise Cake, and my Anzac Biscuit Recipe.
Tan Square (or Tan Slice) is a New Zealand classic recipe for caramel bars. 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! These are a super easy homemade bar recipe - I hope you love them!https://cloudykitchen.com/blog/category/bars-and-slices/
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 Slice
Tan Square / Tan Slice 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 Slice
Tan Slice 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.
How to substitute Golden Syrup
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!
Frequently Asked Questions
What pan did you use to bake this in?
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.
Why does my caramel look dark around the edges?
That happens! The very edges of the caramel will get a little dark. Just slice them off with a sharp knife.
How do you store Tan Slice?
Store your tan slice in an airtight container at room temperature.
How do you remove bars from the pan?
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.
What is the best way to get neat cuts on a bar?
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 homemade bar recipes, check out:
Made this recipe and love it?
If you made this recipe then I would LOVE for you to leave me a review below to let me know how you liked it! Also, please 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 / convection, you will need to adjust the temperature. An oven thermometer is a great investment to ensure that your oven is the correct temperature.
Using the double / triple function in the recipe card
You will notice that there is a '1X' '2X' '3X' button in my recipe card. This can be used for doubling or tripling a recipe. However, please note that this only doubles the ingredient quantities in the ingredients list and NOT in the method. If there are quantities or pan sizes in the method of the recipe (for example weigh out 150g brown butter), you will need to scale this number manually. It will also not change the baking time in the recipe so you will need to adjust this yourself too. It is always a good idea to read through a recipe fully before doubling it just to check this. If you would like to scale this recipe or convert for another pan size, use my calculator!
Tools and equipment
For a list of my go-to tools and equipment, I have a post you can refer to here.
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. 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, accurate, and also makes cleanup super simple. Here is the scale that I use if you would like a recommendation! Here's to accurate baking!Print
Homemade Tan Slice
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 12 large bars or 24 smaller ones 1x
- Category: Bars and Slices
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: New Zealand
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.
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)
- Make the base. 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 dry ingredients. 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 base into pan. 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.
- Make the caramel layer. 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.
- Add the crumble. Sprinkle the remainder of the base mixture evenly over the caramel - you want it to be in lumps leaving some caramel showing.
- Bake the tan slice. 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
I have made this recipe so many times and it's always perfect, thanks!
Aw yay you are so welcome! This post is on the list to be given a wee spruce up (new pics and text etc) and I cannot WAIT to make these again x
I made this recipe a couple months ago with golden syrup and had AMAZING results. Tonight I was set on making this again and after prepping the crust, realized I was out of golden syrup. In a pinch, I subbed honey 1:1 and can confirm they are just as delicious! Would give 10000 stars if I could.
Hi! Yayyyyy so happy you loved! That's so good to know it works out! x
Absolutely delicious! I first thought maybe a 9x13 tin amount would be too much, haha, but OH you would not want to bake a smaller batch of this! My colleagues gobbled it up, bound to become a regular favourite, bonus for me is how easy it is 🙂 I look forward to trying your other slice recipes! Tossing up between your ginger caramel slice, or the oaty ginger crunch... what do you reckon?
Hiiiiii so happy you loved them! Haha it looks like so much right, then suddenly it's all gone? I would go ginger crunch first! It's a forever fave for me x
These were fantastic and the recipe was super easy to follow. The pictures of the caramel colour were so helpful!
Unrelated to the recipe, double check your condensed milk cans tho—the one I got SAID 395g but was empty at 360g.
Hiiii! Ahhh sneaky sneaky! it should be fine with the smaller amount!
Kiwi also living in USA here...I use brown sugar (cane sugar-dark brown) instead of the golden syrup and it comes out just perfect Been making this in NZ for years but forgot my recipe, finding your recipe for this and many other things made my day. Thanks
Hi! So happy they came out well for you! I can get golden syrup online or at whole foods if you ever need some!
Another amazing recipe, as always!! Delicious!
Can I leave out the golden syrup all together ? Will the texture be right without it ?
Ahh! Just read through the whole article and I found my answer 🙂
Using maple syrup instead of golden syrup also works!
And if you prefer a thicker+ softer caramel layer (like me), cooking for slightly less time ~20 min in a smaller baking tray will still make a perfect slice
So so good!! This recipe is reminiscent of one my mom used to make, but subbed the caramel layer for a layer of jam. This is definitely more indulgent and comes together in no time!
Made this for Christmas and everyone raved! I even bought a kitchen scale so I could make these perfectly. Delicious caramel and shortcake, can’t go wrong!
I have been making this most of my adult life and I am 80. Out of desperation with the price of butter in NZ right now, I made it with 50% butter and 50% margerine. The family say it is the best one yet. Will do the same next time and if the results are the same I'll change my recipe! 🙂
This is a delicious slice and the recipe worked out so well first time. I was worried it would be overly sweet but it's a good balance as the shortbread doesn't have too much sugar in it. Made it for a family event and everyone raved about it. I didn't cut off the dark edges because in my family they are always fought over! The second time I made it I added passionfruit pulp to the caramel. Highly recommended!
I have been making tan square for over 60 years but I really like your recipe and it always turns out no problems.
Your instructions are always so good with weights and tin size that anybody can bake this recipe. Thank you.
Julia. New Zealand
Such a kiwi classic and this recipe is perfect! The ratios are just right, easy to double or halve as well. Thank you!
These are so easy to bake up, and they taste amazing!
I saw this recipe last week and am so eager to make it! I offered to bring something to a graduation party this weekend; my friend asked me to bring lemon bars, which I will do. I am also going to make a pan of these as an extra! 🙂 I am sure that everyone will be thrilled about this yummy dessert from NZ!
My question is if it is fine to make them a day ahead?? I would like to make them tomorrow and will just leave them in the pan---not cut them until the next day when I plate them. Will that work?
Thank you so much for your great recipes!
Hi hi! Yep you you can make ahead - just cover the pan with something if you are storing overnight!
Have made this so many times and it is a hit every time! my shortbread mix comes out a little more dry/sandy than the video on instagram but once its pressed into the tray its fine. Love this so much 😀
So delicious! We couldn’t stop eating it and didn’t last two days in the house. I’ve never had tan square before but was intrigued by the combo of shortbread and caramel. So yummy and very easy to make especially because the recipe is in grams!
It’s tasty, easy, fast and therapeutical: the process of smoothing the crust improves my mood, just focus on doing it and being present.
(Got intense for a second here).
This is a classic at home and a success everywhere I bring it ✨
Oh I realize now I can rate the recipe. Sorry hahaha
The most indulgent treat there is! Served it to guests and we all went for seconds
Thank you, Erin!!
Yum yum yum!!!
Husband has always been a fan of a good old tan slice.
So I made this and ahh it was so good.
So easy to make. The recipes are always so well tested and accurate. Thank you 🙂
this was the easiest and most delicious slice to make, it came together so quickly! thanks erin!
Forgot to rate!
Amazing recipe! Huge fan of Erin’s recipes so thought I’d try this instead of my usual tan slice recipe and OF COURSE, it wins over any I’ve ever made. 10/10 she does it again! X
Came across this recipe when I was looking for something to bake for good bitches baking. So easy to make and delicious - had to cut a slice off to try first of course. Will definitely make again.