A Sweet Story: South African dessert recipes

Firstly, there is often some confusion around the correct spelling of desert, or is it dessert? It’s funny how the addition of just one letter can change a word from an arid expanse of land to a delightfully sweet course of any meal.

South Africans love their sweets and sauces, which makes it no surprise that South African dessert recipes combine a fair amount of sugar and sweet sauces. With our rich, diverse culture, South Africa’s most popular desserts reflect a variety of tastes, each with their unique history.

We’ve rounded up our top 3 South African dessert recipes and shared them with you here. Just because we’re all about milktart, doesn’t mean we can’t spread the sweet dessert love of the other much-loved South African desserts.

The Malva Pudding

Possibly the most iconic South African dessert, malva pudding is served just about everywhere. A soft and springy cake with flavors of apricot jam and caramel is topped with a sweet creamy sauce and served with a thin custard and ice cream.

It was brought to SA by The Dutch, but made famous by Maggie Pepler, who taught cooking and even worked for South Africa’s ambassador in London, where she served the pudding to some fairly famous people – which they loved!

Here’s an easy recipe so you can also ‘wow’ friends and family:


375ml milk

30ml butter or margarine

15ml smooth apricot jam

15ml white vinegar

60g butter or margarine, softened

200ml (160 g) sugar

375ml (210 g) Snowflake cake flour

10ml baking powder

5ml bicarbonate of soda

3ml salt

2 extra-large eggs


250ml evaporated milk

100ml (80 g) sugar

60g butter or margarine

5ml caramel or vanilla essence


Place milk, 30 ml butter and jam in a small, heavy-based saucepan. Stir over low heat until butter and jam have melted. Remove from heat and add vinegar.

Cream 60 g butter and sugar together, add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition until light and creamy.

Sift flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together. Add, alternately with milk mixture, to egg mixture. Pour into a large, greased ovenproof dish or individual dishes and bake in a preheated oven at 180 °C for 45 – 60 minutes.

Sauce: Combine milk, sugar and butter in a small, heavy based saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add essence. Remove pudding from oven, prick the top and pour sauce over. Serve immediately.

The Melktert – A truly South African dessert recipe

Well, it’s little to no surprise that we’ve added the magnificent milktart to our list of favourite sweet treats. Lighter and more delicate than a custard pie, nothing quite beats a well-made Melktart. The milk-based custard is flavoured with cinnamon, sometimes with orange peel, and set in a shortcrust pastry. There is an ongoing dessert debate with this one though: to bake or not to bake? There are strong opinions about whether the custard should be baked or left to set in the fridge. What do you think? You’ll find some of our favourite milktart recipes here.

Peppermint Crisp Tart

Besides being famous for the first heart transplants and inventing the kreepy krawly , South Africa also changed people’s lives with the invention of the Peppermint Crisp. Say it again: Peppermint Crisp Tart! South African dessert recipes move aside. This blend of caramel, coconut biscuits, and Peppermint Crisp chocolate bars comes together with heaps of whipped cream into a super sweet, ‘save-room-for-seconds’ kind of dessert.


2 packets Tennis biscuits

1 x 380g tin caramel, softened

250ml (1 cup) fresh cream, lightly beaten

1 x 100g slab peppermint crisp chocolate, grated


– Grease a 30cm x 15cm tart dish.

– Arrange a layer of biscuits in the base of the dish.

– Mix together the caramel and cream and spoon a 1cm-deep layer on top of the biscuits.

– Sprinkle a third of the chocolate on top of the caramel layer.

– Repeat for another 2 layers or until all the ingredients are used, ending with a caramel layer topped with chocolate.

– Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight) before serving.

We don’t all necessarily have the time to put together a home-made or home-baked dessert, and often we’ll throw impromptu dinner parties, where the only thing you have time do is thaw some wors and throw together a salad! Tant Sannie se Melktert liqueur is here to save the dessert day. Simply pour some over ice (or even better, ice-cream) and you have a classic, in an instant. You’re welcome.