Melktert, also known as South African Milk Tart, is a delicate but decadent dessert. With a flaky crust and topped with a generous dusting of cinnamon, this tart is creamy and luxurious — a traditional sweet pie South Africans love. Serve it after dinner or as a teatime treat!
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My sweet mom Andrea joins us again today! You might remember her recipes for South African Pannekoek and Cherry Clafoutis.
Today she’s writing about Melktert, or South African Milk Tart, one of my favorite desserts from South Africa. I always request one when I visit my family there!
When I was growing up in South Africa, there were two kinds of homes. Those where the mother made melktert, and those who didn’t! Mine was one of the latter.
A pie of Cape Dutch origin, melktert literally translates to “milk tart.” It’s a bit like a custard tart, but with a different, more delicate consistency.
South African Milk Tarts are luscious and creamy, and the best ones are topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
September 2021 Update: I’m so glad you found my South African milk tart recipe! I added some tips and additional step-by-step instructions to walk you through making your own milktert from scratch.
If you like melktert, try Melktertjies, my South African milk tart liqueur!
I adored it when my dad, who worked in downtown Cape Town, would sometimes special-order a melktert at an Afrikaans/Dutch-style restaurant called Die Koffiehuis and bring it home for the family.
This pie was the real McCoy — made with a flaky crust. It seriously melted in your mouth.
There are hundreds of melktert recipes. Somewhere along the line, my mom was given an untraditional recipe for a crustless milk tart, where the flour sank to the bottom of the pie during baking and firmed up, but it was not a favorite of mine.
I suppose technically, then, our home became one of the former where the mother made melktert! As I grew older and became more interested in cooking, I’d try out more melktert recipes.
MILK TART RECIPE
I tried to replicate the ones from Die Koffiehuis. I had many flops and many strange-looking tarts with centers that puffed up or sank.
The recipe I use now is not the type where the filling is baked.
It is cooked on the stovetop and poured into a crust that you bake blind ahead of time with pie weights. (If you do not have any, here are some alternatives to pie weights you can use.) I use a pie dish like this one.
You then let it set up before serving. It works for me and it never flops! Enjoy! // andrea
HOW TO MAKE SOUTH AFRICAN MILK TART
Can you see why Melktert has always been one of my favorite recipes? It’s so easy and so good!
Here’s a quick run-down of how we will make milk tart:
- First, make the crust. You’ll need a mixing bowl and a whisk to form the dough. Knead it and then chill it in the fridge for 10 minutes.
- Then roll it out onto a lightly floured surface until it’s 1/4 inch thick, and layer the dough into a greased pie dish.
- Next, bake it blind with parchment paper topped with pie weights to keep it from puffing up, and let it cool.
- Then we make the filling. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, cornstarch, flour and vanilla in a mixing bowl, then set it aside.
- Heat a saucepan over medium heat, and wam up milk and butter. Be careful not to boil it.
- Then add in a quarter of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture and whisk well. This warms up the eggs without cooking them.
- Pour it all back into the saucepan and return it to heat. Stir it until it thickens, but do not let it boil.
- We’re almost done! Pour the filling into the pie crust and let it cool to room temperature. Refrigerate it, then sprinkle with cinnamon just before you serve it!
Pastry for milktert
Even though South African Milk Tart requires making your own shortcrust pastry, it really isn’t hard to make!
This shortcrust pastry is actually a bit easier to make than what most Americans think of as traditional pie crust, because you don’t have to keep the fat (butter) cold.
Instead, you’ll cream together softened butter and sugar as the base, and eventually chill the finished dough for a few minutes before rolling it out.
The result is a pastry that is easier to work with, but is still a perfect base for the creamy filling.
TIPS FOR MAKING A MILK TART
When making the filling, make sure to keep the pan over medium heat. You don’t want to let the filling boil! (A reader commented that hers boiled and she still had success.)
I find that because South African Milk Tart uses such simple ingredients, it’s important to use good quality ingredients.
Splurge a bit for good butter, local whole milk and pure vanilla extract — I can promise you’ll be able to taste the difference!
For your starch, make sure you are using corn starch. If you’re in the USA, use Argo brand corn starch. If you’re in South Africa, use Maizena.
Do not use organic or tapioca starch (or any other kind of starch) or your milk tart may not set properly.
Lastly, one of my favorite tips for presentation is placing a paper or cloth doily over the top of the milk tart before sprinkling on the cinnamon topping.
I use this baker’s dusting wand tool from OXO to help me with the sprinkling of the cinnamon.
You can serve milktert for afternoon tea time. Its light texture makes it a lovely treat to enjoy with friends over tea. I have enjoyed many slices of milktert this way!
If you choose dessert (and I don’t blame you), might I suggest a nightcap to go with it?
This Amarula Brandy Alexander cocktail is made with South Africa’s most famous liqueur, Amarula. It pairs really well with the cinnamon topping and milky texture of the pie.
Cape Velvet Cream is another family favorite of mine, especially at the holidays.
More pies and tarts
Related recipe: Try these South African Pannekoek, another traditional food from my other “home” country. So wonderful for breakfast or dessert!
South African Milk Tart
This traditional South African dessert is creamy and delicate. Make it for Easter, Mother's Day or teatime any day!
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
- 6 ounces butter, softened
- ½ cup (100g) sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 cups (300g) flour
- pinch salt
- ¼ teaspoon (1.25ml) pure almond extract
- 4 cups (950ml) milk
- 1 tablespoon (0.5 ounces) butter
- ½ cup (100g) sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3 tablespoons (24g) cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons (24g) flour
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) pure vanilla extract
- pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon (14.3g) cinnamon
For the crust
- Cream the butter and add the sugar. Beat in the egg and almond extract. Stir in the flour and salt. Knead until a soft dough has formed. Chill for 10 minutes.
- Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and layer it into a greased pie dish. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper and fill the void with pie weights. Bake blind at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove parchment and pie weights. Allow crust to cool completely on a wire rack.
For the filling
- In a heat proof bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, cornstarch, flour and vanilla. Set aside.
- In a medium size saucepan, heat the milk and butter at medium setting. Do not bring to a rolling boil.
- Add about a fourth of the milk to the egg mixture, whisking to incorporate it evenly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the remainder of the milk. Return to heat and stir constantly until it thickens. Do not boil!
- Pour the filling into the pie crust and let cool completely. Refrigerate until serving. Sprinkle with cinnamon before serving.
I use American measurements for this recipe.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 491Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 129mgSodium: 273mgCarbohydrates: 61gFiber: 1gSugar: 25gProtein: 10g
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