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Traditional South African desserts are a fusion of Dutch, Cape Malay and British recipes, flavored with spices, jam and fresh fruit. While iconic desserts like malva pudding are widely served at restaurants and supermarkets, most Cape Town favorites are made at home.
Malva pudding is a well-loved South African dessert of Cape Dutch origin. It has a spongy caramelized center flavored with apricot jam, and is served hot with custard or ice-cream. Due to its popularity, most Cape Town restaurants serve malva pudding as a dessert throughout the year. Other variants include Cape Brandy Pudding, which contains brandy and dates, and tipsy tart containing only brandy.
There’s nothing like a bowl of sago pudding on a cold winter’s day in the Mother City. This traditional South African dessert and winter favorite is similar to tapioca and rice pudding. Sago pudding is a rich and creamy dessert made from a blend of sago, milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla, and topped with a fluffy meringue of apricot jam and egg whites.
Milk tart, or melktert in Afrikaans, is a classic South African dessert adopted from Dutch settlers at the Cape. It consists of a sweet pastry filled with a creamy custard of milk, flour, sugar and eggs, baked in a round pie tin and dusted with cinnamon. This delicious, mildly sweet dessert is often enjoyed at tea parties and can be found at most supermarkets or bakeries in Cape Town.
Fridge tarts are a favorite summertime dessert served at parties, birthdays and family celebrations across Cape Town. They consist of a biscuit crust layer covered in a mixture of ingredients like condensed milk, jelly, fruit or caramel, and set in the fridge overnight before eating. There are many varieties of fridge tart but popular recipes include Peppermint Crisp, Rum ‘n’ Raisin and Pineapple.
Koeksisters are a traditional South African treat made by deep-frying plaited dough strips in hot oil, and submerging them in chilled syrup. This gives them a sticky, crunchy crust with a sweet and slightly runny center. Koeksisters are commonly found at supermarkets and bakeries across Cape Town.
Cape Malay koeksisters are round, coconut-sprinkled doughnuts that make a great teatime snack. They are made in a similar fashion to plaited koeksisters with the addition of spices such as ginger and cinnamon. As a result they have a subtle sweet and spicy taste. Once you try it, you’ll definitely want more than one!
This quick, no-fuss dessert is super easy to make and is sure to satisfy any sweet tooth. The ingredients for no-bake cheesecake is pretty much the same as for baked cheesecake (minus the eggs), the only difference being that it’s set in the fridge overnight. Popular offerings include decadent BAR.ONE chocolate and fruity flavors like granadilla and lemon.
Pumpkin fritters, or pampoen koekies in Afrikaans, is a moreish snack served as breakfast, dessert or a side dish depending on how it’s made. From a batter of mashed pumpkin, flour, egg, sugar and spices, the mixture is shaped into rounds, fried in oil, and served warm with a dusting of cinnamon sugar.
Bread and butter pudding is a hearty winter dessert adopted of British origin. It’s made the traditional way in Cape Town and served hot with either custard or as is. Some locals add apricot jam to their bread pudding for a delicious fruity flavor.