The Origins of Milk Tart plus Recipes

Words: Julie Velosa

When you think ‘South African desserts’, Peppermint Crisp Tart or Malva Pudding are going to come up as favourites but none seem quintessentially more South African than the humble Milk Tart. The flavour has become so synonymous with South African culture and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a South African who doesn’t love it.

Custard Tarts Around the World

It should come as no surprise though that the idea of a set milk or cream tart is not unique to South Africa, in fact almost every country has a version of a similar dessert. Whether it be a French Flan Patissier, a Portuguese Pasteis de Nata or an Italian Torte della Nonna, there are definite similarities the world over.

The major difference in comparison of Milk Tart to these is the absence of lots of eggs in the custard. The result is the lighter, more milky style of set ‘custard’ that we love.

Tant’ Sannie se Melktert

Who Makes it Best

There are a lot of global versions of this pud, but even here in SA there are various kinds of Milk Tart and what you were brought up on often affects what you think is the real deal.

For example, there’s a classic and more Dutch version of an oven-baked Melktert and then there is its contemporary, the fridge set one. Pastry bases vary from the crumbled cookie kind to a rolled out biscuity base or even puff pastry. How ever you choose to indulge is up to you.

What we love about Milk Tart is really its simplicity.

Our top honours go to the fridge version – a smooth, creamy milk custard set in a crispy biscuit base. It has just the right amount of jiggle and just a whisper of cinnamon on top. It’s perfection and that’s all there is to it.

Inspiration Station

Quoting The South African Milk Tart Collection cookbook, the roots of Milk Tart can be traced back to the earliest Dutch cookbook, Een Notabel Boecxken van Cokeryen (1514) by Thomas van der Noot (a mouthful to pronounce).

In there is his version of a ‘Mattentaart’, a Belgian curd cake set atop flaky puff pastry, which is said to be the inspo behind our current day fav. However we got here is really just details, the fact is Milk Tart is a national treasure and we love it.


4 Milk Tart Inspired Recipes

We use one of our favourite flavours ever to create 4 tasty recipes.

Milk Tart Mousse Cookie Cups

If you have a sweet tooth or are baking for someone who does, then this is the recipe for you. An utterly decadent triple chocolate and nut cookie base, filled with a light and airy mousse, flavoured with Tant’ Sannie se Melktert liqueur. It’s a few of your favourite treats all melded together to make one seriously tasty dessert.

The crunchy base forms the perfect vessel for the mousse; sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon and serve. Your guests will love them.

Hot tip: If you can get a silicone muffin mould it makes creating the cups foolproof. A regular muffin tin needs to be greased exceptionally well. Possibly even lined, it can be tricky to get the cups out otherwise because of the sugar in the mix.

Recipe for Milk Tart Mousse Cookie Cups


Classic Milk Tart

As mentioned above, Milk Tart is a South African classic. It is, of course, the inspiration behind Tant’ Sannie se Melktert liqueur, so it has to be good. It makes sense then to make a regular milk tart all the more delish by adding its namesake liqueur.

This milk tart recipe is foolproof and will be the one you come back to make again and again.

Hot tip: The pastry base includes baking powder which puffs it up and forms a lovely biscuity base, for that reason, make sure when you are lining your baking tin that you make it very thin – thinner than you think, it will hold up well.

Recipe for Milk Tart


Milk Tart Eclairs

Eclairs are one of those pastries that you can pull together on short notice with ingredients you’ll probably already have in the house. What makes them really special though, is what goes inside. These have a double dose of deliciousness in the form of a custard made with Tant’ Sannie se Melktert plus an airy whipped Chantilly cream.

Top with white chocolate ganache and watch them disappear.

Hot tip: Dolly up with a sprinkle of gold dust for extra pizzaz.

Recipe for Melktert Milk Tart Eclairs


Milk Tart Panna Cotta with Coffee Caramel Drizzle

There is something so beautifully simple and elegant about a vanilla panna cotta, and this classic cold dessert is perfect for the searing mid-summer heat. Panna cotta is one of the most universally loved Italian desserts and the real vanilla flavour combined with a delicious coffee caramel makes this dish a natural fit for the fragrant spice and creamy notes of our very own Tant’ Sannie se Melktert liqueur.

It’s the finest traditional flavours of Italy and South Africa meeting in a thoroughly modern dessert that is both decadent and refreshing.

Hot tip: You can make your panna cotta in a mould or in a pretty ramekin if you have any concerns about de-moulding. It tastes just as delish either way.

Recipe for Melktert Panna Cotta with Coffee Caramel Drizzle


Coconut Condensed Milk Tart

This version is based on mom’s recipe but with a few twists and turns to kick things up a notch. We’ve added condensed milk because who doesn’t like condensed milk? Plus we’ve sprinkled the top with toasted coconut for a little crunch (this is optional of course if you’re a purist). It’s a twist on a classic but it’s still most definitely a good ol’ milk tart.

Recipe for Coconut Condensed Milk Tart

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