Cape Velvet Cream liqueur is a staple on South African bars. It’s a creamy spirit made from brandy, coffee and cream, that’s perfect for sipping on after dinner or mixing into South African cocktails. Enjoy a homemade version of this unique liqueur from the Rainbow Nation without the long flight.
Serving up nostalgia with food and drinks is one of the reasons I started a food blog.
For me, that’s often cooking recipes from my family in South Africa. I have been fortunate to visit a few times, and I always leave with amazing food memories.
And thanks to better imports, I can now find some of my favorites in the U.S., including Amarula liqueur and Cadbury chocolate. (And occasionally I find Smarties, Crunchie bars, Flake bars and Jelly Tots.)
But there’s one thing I miss a lot, and that’s Cape Velvet liqueur. It is imported to the USA, and it can sometimes be found at duty-free shops, but I have always had a hard time finding it here.
What is Cape Velvet Cream liqueur?
Cape Velvet Cream is a brand of creamy liqueur made with brandy, coffee, vanilla and cream.
It gets its name from Cape Town, which is one of South Africa’s three capital cities — and my favorite place in the entire world. There’s simply nothing like seeing Table Mountain peeking out of the clouds!
Anyone who has ever been to South Africa, has probably seen Cape Velvet Cream liqueur on a menu or in a shop. And hopefully, you tried it! If you didn’t, you’re in for a real treat.
Cape Velvet is a staple at Christmastime in South Africa! And now you can make it yourself at home, without having to take the long flight to Rainbow Nation.
It’s best enjoyed after dinner, straight or over ice. I remember my grandfather serving it this way to the adults at the table on my childhood visits!
For a garnish, you can sprinkle grated chocolate over top. (A chopped Flake bar would be amazing too if you can find one!)
South Africans also enjoy pouring it over ice cream for an easy dessert. It can also be mixed into cocktails.
Cape Velvet Cream vs. Irish Cream
The flavors and textures of Cape Velvet Cream and Irish Cream, such as Baileys or Carolan’s, are very similar, but they have one distinct ingredient: the base spirit.
Cape Velvet is made with brandy — ideally, South African brandy — whereas Irish Cream is made with Irish whiskey.
My recipe for homemade Irish Cream liqueur is very similar to my recipe for homemade Cape Velvet Cream liqueur (below).
Cape Velvet Cream vs. Amarula
Amarula and Cape Velvet Cream are both creamy South African spirits (and great souvenirs). These South African liqueurs are equally delicious, but they are quite different.
While Cape Velvet Cream is made with brandy, coffee and cream, Amarula is made with sugar, cream and the fruit of the African marula tree. Amarula has more of a fruity caramel flavor.
I imagine it would be tough to make homemade Amarula liqueur, as it would be difficult to replicate the flavor of the marula fruit. (Let me know if you have a recipe!)
Homemade Cape Velvet Cream liqueur recipe
Cape Velvet Cream is very easy to make at home! All you will need is a measuring cup, a whisk and a big bowl for mixing the ingredients, plus a bottle or jar in which to store it.
The result is a creamy, boozy liqueur that you’ll love sipping straight, over ice or poured over ice cream. You can also mix it into cocktails if you like! I have a few suggestions at the end of this post.
My recipe is inspired by my late Auntie Sue’s recipe. My cousin in South Africa so sweetly sent over her recipe, and I made a few modifications, mainly for product availability here in the USA, but also for food safety.
Hers called for egg yolks, which I chose to exclude for food safety. Eggs give drinks, such as eggnog, a silky texture. The sweetened condensed milk does this as well, so I felt fine excluding the eggs.
Hers also called for a mixture 1 cup brandy and 1/2 cup whiskey. I decided to keep this to brandy-only to make it more true to the original Velvet Cream, but that’s a modification you can make if you like! Dark rum would also be a fine substitution.
Lastly, hers called for 2 tablespoons Bosco syrup, which is a chocolate syrup I can’t find here. I chose to replace this with espresso for a stronger flavor, but you can make that swap if you like.
To make Cape Velvet Cream at home, you’ll need to pick up a few ingredients.
I did my best to include South African measurements as well as American ones, but please use your best judgment if you can’t find the measurements exactly as I have here! It’s going to vary from country to country.
- Sweetened condensed milk: This is what provides the silky, smooth texture, but it also adds creaminess and sweetness. If you find you would like it sweeter, add simple syrup 1 tablespoon at a time. You will need a 14-ounce can (USA), which is equivalent to 397 grams and just a few more than the standard 385-gram cans in South Africa.
- Heavy cream: Heavy cream or heavy whipping cream will work great. If you prefer a shelf-stable cream, you can use a can of Nestle cream, which comes in 7.6-ounce / 225-milliliter cans.)
- Espresso or instant espresso powder: If you can use real espresso, that will give you the freshest, strongest coffee flavor. About 2 ounces gives just enough coffee flavor without overpowering the brandy and vanilla and other ingredients. Otherwise, use 1 teaspoon of instant espresso powder to give it that intensely dark coffee flavor. Stir it with 2 ounces hot water until the granules fully dissolve. Let cool before adding to the Cape Velvet mixture.
- Vanilla extract: You probably already have this on hand, but use the best vanilla extract you can find for the purest flavor. I love the Nielsen-Massey brand!
- Brandy: If you have access to South African brandy, that would give your Cape Velvet Cream the most authentic flavor. I have a hard time finding it in the U.S., so I used an affordable American brandy. French cognac would be delicious as well.
Once you’ve made it, you’ll want to store it in a pretty bottle or a large mason jar. You can also make a double batch and divvy it up into smaller mason jars to give it as holiday gifts.
Best brandy for homemade cape velvet cream
Brandy is often thought of as a French spirit, but is has been made in South Africa for centuries.
Unfortunately, South African brandy is hard to find here in the States. If you are in Europe, especially in the U.K., you might have an easier time finding it.
If you can get your hands on South African brandy, that would be the best — it’s delicious!
Klipdrift is a South African brandy that’s very well known. Distell, KWV and Oude Molen are three other top producers.
If you’re not able to find South African brandy, I say use your favorite. If you don’t have a favorite, use the best brandy you can afford.
When I tested this recipe, I used Paul Masson Grande Amber VS, which is a California brandy, but you can use French cognac as well.
How to make Cape Velvet Cream
This is one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever make! Here’s how to make Cape Velvet Cream:
- If you’re using instant espresso powder, make mix 1 teaspoon with 2 ounces hot water and stir until the granules dissolve.
- Combine all the ingredients into a big bowl.
- Whisk them together until the sweetened condensed milk is fully incorporated.
- Pour it into a bottle or jar. You may want to use a funnel.
- Store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. (Pay attention to the expiry date on the cream if you are using fresh.)
Recipes that use Cape Velvet Cream
You can easily substitute Cape Velvet Cream anywhere you’d use Irish Cream.
It would be delicious in a hot or iced Irish Coffee. (Though wouldn’t that make it South African Coffee?)
You could also enjoy it stirred into hot chocolate as well.
Add it to boozy whipped cream to make a Cape Velvet Cream whipped cream.
Bake with it — this dark chocolate lava cake mixes Cape Velvet into the ganache!
More South African cocktails
Try my Amarula Brandy Alexander made with their premier liqueur made from the Marula fruit. While Cape Velvet Cream liqueur is harder to locate, you can find Amarula in most liquor stores in the USA! You could also substitute this Cape Velvet Cream into that recipe for another South African twist.
The Don Pedro is made with vanilla ice cream, double cream and whiskey. It’s an amazing dessert cocktail!
Rooibos Tea Punch looks like something I could enjoy every day of the year — so refreshing!
Let me know if you try making this Cape Velvet Cream! Please leave a recipe rating, review or comment below, or tag me on Instagram @feastandwest.
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (385 g)
- 1 cup heavy cream (225 mL)
- 2 ounces espresso or strong coffee* (60 mL)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (5 mL)
- 1 1/2 cup brandy (250mL)
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Whisk to combine.
- Decant into a jar or bottle. Keep refrigerated. Enjoy within 2 weeks.
Feel free to substitute instant espresso powder. Mix 1 rounded teaspoon powder with 2 ounces hot water. Let cool before using in recipe.
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