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South African Milk Tart

Recipe Level: Moderate

If you've never tried a traditional South African milk tart, it's about time you did! Its made with a flaky sweet pastry and has a milky, velvety custard that's light as air. It will easily become an exciting new dessert to share with friends.

Baked by Alie Romano

Professional Baker and Recipe Developer

* Make sure to read the entire blog post. Every step matters, and I’ll provide helpful tips along the way!

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South African Milk Tart

A South African milk tart is similar to a custard pie but with a sweet pastry crust and a custard that is lighter and of course milkier.  I adore the name/sound of it – a Milk Tart; in Afrikaans it’s called a Melktert.  It’s two things that I enjoy dearly – dairy and pastry; how could you go wrong?! 

My love for South Africa and its food are intertwined. Tradition and culture is about storytelling shared from one generation to the next – a story that I love to hear and to learn. The milk tart is a popular dessert that’s been passed down for generations.

The South African milk tart is that the dessert itself can vary depending on where you grew up and who baked it for you. This will dictate what you like in a milk tart (like the saying goes, “my grandma made it best”). There is the no-bake version and the baked version, a sweeter version and little tweaks from grandmas that you’ll only know if you were in the kitchen with them (I hear nutmeg is one of them).  One thing that is always the same; the love for this dessert and of course the milky custard that feels like you’re eating a cloud of light fluffy air.

South African Milk Tart

Ingredients

Each ingredient plays a vital purpose but it’s important to use full-fat milk to get a silky custard-like (pudding) filling. The flour and cornflour provide structure and thickness, while the vanilla adds depth to the tart. Together, they create a dessert rich in history and flavour.

  • Unsalted butter
  • All-purpose flour
  • Full milk (full-fat, or whole milk)
  • Eggs
  • Granulated sugar
  • Cornflour
  • Baking powder
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon
  •  Salt

Substitution

Cornstarch can be used interchangeably for cornflour. So don’t stress if you can find cornflour, use a 1:1 ratio.

Tips For The Perfect South African Milk Tart

  1. Pie weights: If you don’t have pie weight to blind bake your pie pastry you can also use uncooked rice, beans and even granulated sugar. The weight is important as it helps to weigh down the pastry and prevents it from rising or forming air bubbles during baking.
  2. Prevent overcooking the eggs: When making the custard on the stovetop, it’s crucial to be patient and take your time. The key is to avoid cooking the eggs too quickly or at too high of a temperature. This can result in cooking/scrambling and ruining the custard. Keep the heat low to medium and stir continuously to distribute the heat evenly and prevent the eggs from curdling.
  3. Use a Large Mixing Bowl: Ensure you use the largest mixing bowl available for your mixer or mixing by hand. This provides ample space to incorporate the hot milk gradually, minimizing the risk of spilling and ensuring thorough mixing without splattering.
  4. Allow sufficient time for setting: It’s crucial to resist the temptation to cut into the tart too soon. Allow the milk tart to cool in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours before serving. This extended chilling time allows the custard to set properly, resulting in a creamy texture and well-defined layers.

My Love for South Africa

My love for South Africa runs deep and I’ve been lucky enough to work and live in Cape Town. The people, the food, the sun, the mountains and the ocean fill my heart and inspire me. One of my favourite recipes from Cape Town is The “Bunny Chow” Banana Bread recipe that comes from a Cafe I used to visit often. You can also read up on a few of my favourite wineries in SA too!

How To Make a Milk Tart

Step One: Make your pastry in a large bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and beat until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix until dough comes together. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough with a rolling pin. Place dough into a pie dish and using your fingers gently press into place. Using a fork prick the dough all over the bottom. Trim edges and shape as desired.

Step Two: Use parchment paper to cover the base of the pastry and place pie weights over the paper to weigh the pastry down. Place in the middle of the oven and blind bake for 15 minutes. Then carefully remove the paper and beans/rice and continue to bake for an additional 5 minutes until light brown. Set aside.

Step Three: In a large pot bring milk to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and set aside. Using a mixer beat eggs and sugar together. Add flour, cornflour and salt. Mix well. While the mixer is running on low carefully pour the boiled hot milk into the mixture – making sure to slowly pour small amounts at a time. Pour the milk mixture back into the pot, return it to the stove and stir for 10-12 minutes on medium heat until the mixture thickens. Add butter and vanilla and mix. Pour into your pastry shell.

Step Four: Allow the tart to cool in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours. Sprinkle with cinnamon when ready to serve.

South African Milk Tart
South African Milk Tart
South African Milk Tart

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do. It’s become my new favourite dessert to bake and share with friends. Happy Baking Friends!

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South African Milk Tart

A traditional South African dessert made with sweet pastry and a milky custard. Recipe makes one large deep dish pie or 2 smaller tarts ( approx. 8-9″ each).

  • Author: Alie Romano
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 50 mins
  • Yield: 1 large pie or 2 smaller tarts 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: South Africa

Ingredients

Units Scale

Pastry

  • 1/2 cup (125g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt

Filling

  • 4 1/2 cups full milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons cornflour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Cinnamon for dusting on top

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F and set out a standard-size pie plate.
  2. Make your pastry. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and beat until light and fluffy.
  3. In a separate bowl mix flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add to butter mixture and mix until dough comes together.
  4. On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out approx. 2 inches larger than your pie plate.
  5. Gently place the dough into the pie dish and using your fingers gently press into place. Using a fork prick the dough all over the bottom. Trim edges and shape as desired.
  6. Use parchment paper to cover the base of the pastry and place pie weights (or dry beans/rice) over the parchment paper to weigh the pastry down.
  7. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Then carefully remove the paper and the weights and continue to bake for an additional 5 minutes until light brown. Set aside.
  8. Make your filling: In a large pot bring milk to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  9. Meanwhile, using a stand mixer beat eggs and sugar together. Add flour, cornflour and salt. Mix well. While the mixer is running on low carefully pour the boiled milk into the mixture – making sure to slowly pour small amounts at a time (approx. 1/4 cup until halfway then add the rest) stir well. You don’t want to cook your eggs (Note: Make sure you are using the largest mixing bowl you have, so there is lots of room to pour the milk in. If you don’t have a large mixing bowl for your mixer, you can mix by hand using a whisk until smooth and there are no lumps).
  10. Pour the mixture back into the pot, return to the stove and stir for 10-12 minutes on medium heat until the mixture thickens. Add butter and vanilla and mix. Pour into your pastry shell.
  11. Allow the milk tart to cool in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours (you do not need to cook the tart any further).
  12. Sprinkle with cinnamon when ready to serve.

Notes

The milk tart will last in the fridge for 3-4 days before cutting and serving. You can make it well in advance. Just cover with plastic and once ready to serve dust with cinnamon.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 of 12
  • Calories: 340
  • Sugar: 30.2g
  • Sodium: 225mg
  • Fat: 12.2g
  • Saturated Fat: 7.1g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 0
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 51.8g
  • Fiber: 1.1g
  • Protein: 8.1g
  • Cholesterol: 92mg

Keywords: South Africa, Milk Tart, Milk Custard, Dessert, Tart

Did you make this recipe?

Write a review and let me know!

Share a photo and tag me on Instagram @bakingforfriends_

I can’t wait to see what you’ve made! xo alie

FAQ’s

How long does milk tart last in the fridge?

A milk tart will last in the fridge for up to 4 days before cutting and serving. Just cover with plastic and once ready to serve dust with cinnamon.

Why did my milk tart curdle?

Milk tart can curdle if the eggs are cooked too quickly or at too high of a temperature. To prevent curdling, make sure that you gradually add the hot milk to the egg mixture while stirring continuously. Cook the custard over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened.

Can I freeze a milk tart?

No, freezing custard-based desserts like a milk tart can cause the custard to become watery or grainy as it thaws, leading to a less desirable texture.

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Hema
Hema
3 years ago
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Thanks For Sharing this Amazing Recipe. My Family Loved It. I will be sharing this Recipe with my Friends. Hope They will like it.

Josefina
Josefina
2 years ago
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I love the recipe I have a new friend from Sudáfrica and the milktart rocks 🥰🥰 thanks for the amazing ideas for bake !

Debbie
Debbie
1 year ago

Hi Alie

I would like to try your milk tart recipe, I have tried others but I see yours calls for some all purpose flour to thicken the mixture, is there any reason why you use a combination of all purpose and cornflour? Also would this mixture fit into a 23 or 24cm round pie dish?

Thanks so much

Debbie
Debbie
1 year ago

Hi Alie, I have tried your milk tart recipe twice, wanting to make a bigger tart, and both times it has not set. I usually make one with only two cups(metric 250ml cup) of milk and I use 40g of cornflour and it sets well. The second time I tried I used 50g of cornflour and still it did not set. I used the 15ml and 5ml baking spoons levelled. Please could you advise whether you are measuring your flour/cornflour the same way, and if you could advise on how many grams of either flour/cornflour I should try. Thanks so much

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Alie Romano

Meet

Alie

I'm a professional baker, recipe developer & photographer behind Baking For Friends. I specialize in classic & comforting baking. I hope you enjoy the recipes & find inspiration of your own to bring your family & friends together over home-cooked food!

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