South African Milk Tart

DSC_6210Milk Tart, called Melktert locally, is one of the most divine traditionally South African desserts. A sweet, creamy custard tart flavoured with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon, Melktert was introduced by the Cape Malays who used spices to add flavour to the solid Dutch fare served in the Cape during the 17th and 18th centuries.When Melktert is made in the traditional way, the milk is heated with a cinnamon stick or piece of naartjie (local orange-type citrus) peel and the custard filling is poured into an unbaked pastry shell. However, many, myself included, prefer to bake the pastry shell first as this gives the tart a much lighter crust.


Short crust pastry to line a 225mm diameter pie dish with a thin layer (about 250grams)


1 litre milk; 1 cinnamon stick or piece of naartjie peel; 100ml sugar; 100ml cake flour; 50ml butter; 4 eggs separated, pinch of salt; cinnamon.


Line a 225mm pie dish with a thin layer of short crust pastry and bake blind.

Bring milk and cinnamon stick or naartjie peel to the boil. In a heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and cake flour.

Add the hot milk very slowly to this mixture, stirring all the time. Return to the saucepan and continue stirring over a very low heat until thick and until the flour is cooked properly.

Remove from the heat, add butter, and leave to cool slightly then add the beaten egg yolks, stirring constantly.

Return the mixture to the saucepan again and stir over low heat until thick.

Remove from stove and fold in stiffly beaten egg whites and pinch salt.

Pour filling into pasty shell. Bake in a pre-heated moderate oven (180 C) for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 160 C for the last 10 minutes or until filling is set.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Serve lukewarm or cool.

Recipe from Sannie Smit’s wonderful Complete South African Book of Food and Cookery


2 Responses to “South African Milk Tart”

  1. 1 shoreacres June 10, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    This is a perfect dessert to try with my new treasure – freshly laid eggs. A new farmer’s market has opened in the area – the only farmer’s market, actually – and I’ve become friendly with one of the sellers.

    As it turns out she has more than veggies and fruit – she also has a large flock of chickens, goats, and an outdoor oven for bread. Day before yesterday I got some eggs from her. They’re so large you can’t even close the lid on the carton. These are brown, but she has chickens that lay blue eggs, as well. She says they’re quite in demand at Easter time.

    I got two gallons of blackberries from her, too. How do you think some fresh berries would be over that pie?

    Those eggs sound good – nothing beats a fresh, organic egg. Maybe on a slice of toast made with the outdoor oven bread!
    I think the berries would be fantastic with the melktert – we eat it plain here because that’s the way it’s always been done. Trust you to shake up a centuries old dessert!

  2. 2 wonk June 15, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Ooh, I love custard tarts etc, this one is a bit different from others I’ve seen too – sounds yummy.

    Definitely will add it to my (ever growing) cooking ‘to do’ list 🙂

    Let me know how it works out wonk!

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