South African Sweets

Most traditional South African desserts reflect a strong Dutch influence harking back to the early settlers of the country. You won’t find heavy chocolate desserts or cheesecakes in South African cookbooks; most recipes have simple ingredients that are readily available.


MilktertThis sweet and creamy dessert is reminiscent of a cream pie, simple and delicious! The Afrikaans term, melk tert means “milk tart” in English.  A melk tert consists of a sweet pastry crust with a light, filling made from milk, eggs, and flour and is usually topped with cinnamon. It is a popular dessert or teatime treat. Recipes vary greatly from family to family and region to region.  Just about everyone who loves milk tart has a recipe handed down from “Ouma” (Grandma).


Beskuits or Rusks
Also known as a rusk, this double-baked snack is a staple in South Africa. Much like biscotti, rusks come in a variety of shapes and flavors. Traditional rusks are made with buttermilk or sour dough and sometimes have seeds and nuts baked inside.  Other varieties include orange with cranberry, almond and aniseed. The most popular commercial brand any native South African will tell you is “Ouma Rusks”. When eating a rusk, feel free to dunk it in your tea or coffee to soften the crunchy texture.


KoeksistersA koeksister (or koe’sister) derives from the Dutch word koekje, which translates to “cake” or “cookie”. There are two popular versions of this South African syrup-coated doughnut: an Afrikaans version which is a twisted or braided shape, and a Cape Malay version which is a spicy treat finished off with a sprinkling of coconut. It is prepared by deep-frying braided dough rolls in oilthen dipping the fried dough into cold sugar syrup. Koeksisters are very sticky and sweet and taste like honey.

Koeksisters are of Cape Malay origin where the women were known as koe’sisters, a term suggesting polite gossiping among spinsters. The Afrikaans version is much more syrupy and crisp, while the Cape Malay version is an oval, fried dumpling with a texture more akin to a cake. The dough includes yeast and is spiced with powdered cinnamon, aniseed, cardamom and ginger. It is deep fried, then placed in hot syrup and finally rolled in or sprinkled with dried coconut.