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 story telling 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.
My understanding of 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.
Sadly, I never thought while I was in South Africa to ask any of my friends to spend a day in the kitchen with their moms (or them) learning how to make one (or even for their recipe). That would have been such a beautiful experience and I’m sad that I’m only thinking of it now. Instead I’ve scoured the internet and have found a recipe that I feel might be traditional. It’s a no bake version and I like the sound of that as baking custard can sometimes be problematic, and I’d like to steer away from that.
The pastry was the easy part, although I’ve adjusted the recipe a little as I found the dough too stiff to work with. Making the custard on the stove top wasn’t difficult but there are some tricks that I think would be useful, that’s if you’re not familiar with making custards (or a milk tart). You have to be careful not to cook your eggs when making a custard, so take your time, read the recipe and follow all of the steps.
The hardest part once all is said and done is waiting for the milk tart to set in the fridge. You don’t bake it, you wait… but my friends it’s well worth the wait! I absolutely love, love this recipe and I can’t wait to make it again! Thank you South Africa for opening my eyes to something new.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do. It’s become my new favourite dessert to bake and share with friends. I’d love to hear from anyone with experience on how they make their milk tart.
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).
- Prep Time: 30 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Total Time: 50 mins
- Yield: 1 large pie or 2 smaller tarts 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Cuisine: South Africa
- 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
- 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
- Preheat oven to 350˚F.
- Using a 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 together until dough comes together.
- On a prepared work surface lightly floured, roll out dough with a rolling pin. Place dough into pie dish/tin and using your fingers gently press into place (using either one or two round cake tins/pie dishes). Prick all over the bottom of the pastry with a fork. Trim edges and shape as desired.
- Use parchment paper to cover the base of the pastry and place pie weights or dry beans/rice over the paper to weight the pastry down. Place in the middle of the oven and bake blind for 15 minutes. Then remove the paper and beans/rice and continue to bake for an additional 5 minutes until light brown. Set aside.
- In a large pot bring milk to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile using a mixer beat eggs and sugar together. Add flour, cornflour and salt. Mix well. While the mixture is running on low carefully pour boiling 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).
- Return to 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.
- Allow to cool in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours (you do not need to cook the tart any further).
- Sprinkle with cinnamon when ready to serve.
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.
- 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
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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.
I love the recipe I have a new friend from Sudáfrica and the milktart rocks 🥰🥰 thanks for the amazing ideas for bake !
I’m so, so happy to know you enjoyed this recipe Josefina. South Africa holds a special place in my heart and to share some of my favourite recipes with all you brings me much joy! Thank you for sharing 🙂
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
Hi Debbie, you’ll love this Milk Tart it’s one of my faves! Yes, I use a mix of all-purpose flour and cornflour, simply because it’s what the South Africans do. Thanks for pointing out the dish size, as I see I never mentioned a size in the directions but yes any standard pie dish will work. Let me know how you like the recipe and happy baking 🙂
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
Hi Debbie, ohh no! My concern would not be the amount of flour and cornflour as mush as the boiling time when the filling is to thicken. The amount of flour and cornflour will help the milk custard thicken but the bulk of thickening happens in step 7. You don’t want to end this step until the mixture thickens. You also need to make sure it has time to set in the refrigerator, overnight is best (I’m assuming you did this though). But to answer your question I use a level tablespoon to measure 2 1/2 tablespoons for both the flour and cornflour (which equals 19.5 g). Hope that helps Debbie.