Signature desserts from around South Africa

South Africans love sweet things  – we sweeten veggie dishes, we love  barbecue sauce on meat and at least  one of our puddings has its own day.

While we’re completely okay with  celebrating milk tart on February 27  each year, we can’t help feeling  that our multicultural country might  be hiding more dessert gems.

Dietitian and food anthropologist  Mpho Tshukudu says: "there  aren’t a lot of desserts in indigenous  South African food genres – mostly  in township cuisine what you find  are lovely retro Eurocentric things  like Queen cakes, rice puddings and  trifle.”

Cape Town 

Capetonians love dessert so much  that we sometimes have it as part of  a meal – or even as a meal on it own.
A perfect example of this is a  warm koesister in the morning (very  different to a koeksister), which is a  Cape Town staple.
Similarly, many other sweet  treats are quintessential Cape Town  desserts – think trifle, milk tart and  even fridge tart.
As the colder months draw near,  other staples like malva pudding,  bread pudding, fritters, sago pudding  and banana loaves mixed with  custard will become more popular.

Koesisters FatimaSydow - Signature desserts from around South Africa
Koesister Pictures: Fatima Sydow
Author and television chef,  Fatima Sydow says: “our taste in  Cape Town is so varied because we  have so many different cultures. E clairs are a top favourite, (as well as)  Romany Creams, biscuits, and simple  plain cakes. Banana loaf, lemon  loaf, vanilla loaf are also favourites  because it’s an easy one-mix-wonder
that you put in the oven.”
“My favourite dessert of all time  is jelly and ideal milk with canned  fruit.”
In conclusion, Sydow adds:  “Many restaurants do their own  takes and there’s nothing wrong  with that, as long as you respect  the story behind it. Many people  make something and change it  completely. It’s not so much that  you’re changing the recipe but you  are changing our story.”


Speaking to the Chilli Chocolate  Chefs, Zainub and Faatimah Paruk,  about Durban’s signature dessert,  they said from chocolate bars to  ice cream,  Durban is truly spoilt with such a  vast myriad of gourmet flavours and  cuisines.
“Our diverse cultures reflect  in our food and this means that  we have a selection of the most  delectable pastries and desserts. If  there was one dish that Durban has  added to the dessert scene, it has  got to be Caramel Peppermint Crisp d essert,” said Zainub.

“All you need are four ingredients  and 20 minutes, and you have a  drool-worthy dessert.  Also, the great thing about this  dessert is that it can be adaptable
in so many different ways. You can  make individual servings in little  mason jars or even make it into a  stunning large tart,” she said. 

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Stewed pears with custard.

South African desserts, particularly  in the melting pot of cultures that  is Gauteng, take on many forms,  names and versions.

Don Pedro 

Don Pedro is an adult milkshake,  usually served in a wine glass and  made from either a whisky or liqueur  like Amarula, Kahlua, or Frangelico  and ice cream and a tot of cream.

Isijingi (as it’s called in Zulu) or  setjetsa (in Sotho) is a comforting  dish made with cooked maize and  pumpkin. 

It’s traditionally served as  a savoury main, but more recently  has been converted into a dessert by  chef Nompumelelo Mqwebu.


Marnus Scholly, executive head  chef at Clico Boutique Hotel, in  Rosebank, said chocolate is the  quintessential Johannesburg dessert.  

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