20 Best South African Desserts To Try This Year

From South Africa’s milk tart to India’s jalebi, beloved desserts span continents and cultures. These sweet treats showcase regional ingredients and baking techniques, reflecting each country’s distinct food heritage.

In this article, “25 Iconic Desserts from Around the World,” readers will be transported on a global dessert tour to discover the stories and flavors behind 25 quintessential recipes. Ranging from the Netherlands’ stroopwafel to Australia’s ANZAC biscuits, each dessert is brought to life through mouthwatering images and detailed descriptions of its origins, ingredients, and taste.

As you read about the comforting cinnamon-spiced malva pudding and crispy, syrup-soaked koeksisters of South Africa or the rosewater-infused Bombay Crush of India, you’ll gain insight into the cultures that crafted these edible masterpieces.

Malva Pudding

The origins of malva pudding are somewhat shrouded in mystery, but it is generally accepted that the modern version of this delicious dessert was invented by South African food writer, Maggie Pepler.

Originally created in the Cape Dutch kitchens of the 17th century, malva pudding is a sweet and sticky cake-like dessert that is typically served warm with a dollop of cream or vanilla custard. While Pepler’s recipe for malva pudding has been adapted over the years, it is said to be the original and most authentic version of this classic dish.

One of the key differences between Pepler’s recipe and others is the use of less bicarbonate of soda. This ingredient is known for its ability to create a light and fluffy texture in baked goods, but too much can result in an unpleasant bitter aftertaste.

By reducing the amount of bicarbonate of soda in her recipe, Pepler achieved a perfect balance of flavor and texture that has stood the test of time.

Classic Milktart Recipe

South African cuisine is a melting pot of cultures and flavors, and nothing exemplifies this more than the country’s desserts. From malva pudding to koeksisters, there is no shortage of sweet treats to indulge in.

However, there is one dessert that holds a special place in my heart – milk tart. I make sure to try military from as many bakeries and coffee shops as possible.

Each one has its own unique twist and flavor that makes it a delight to savor. But even when I’m not in the country, I can recreate that South African feeling with a homemade milk tart.

The process of making the pastry, mixing the filling, and waiting impatiently for it to cool down is as much a part of the experience as the first bite.

Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Cornbread

The sweet potato adds a subtle sweetness to the cornbread and also makes it extra moist and tender. To make this recipe, I start by preparing some mashed sweet potato and mixing it with the dry ingredients.

I then add in some brown sugar, which gives the cornbread a deliciously rich sweetness. After mixing everything together, I bake it in a cast-iron skillet until it’s golden brown and perfectly crispy on the outside.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy this Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Cornbread is with a generous slathering of molasses butter. The combination of the tender cornbread and the sweet and tangy butter is simply irresistible.

This recipe is perfect for any occasion, from a cozy family dinner to a southern-style barbecue with friends.


did you know these sweet treats actually have political origins? Dating all the way back to the 1920’s, Hertzoggies were invented by supporters of then Prime Minister and Boer War General J.B.M. Hertzog, affectionately known as Barry.

These supporters were so dedicated to Hertzog that they created a cookie in his honor, naming it Hertzogkoekie in Afrikaans, but it’s more commonly known as Hertzoggie in English.

While Hertzoggies may look like a simple cookie at first glance, they’re actually more of a tartlet, filled with apricot jam and a delicious coconut meringue topping. These treats have remained a staple in South African cuisine for decades and are enjoyed by people of all ages.


These pancakes are truly a work of art, with their swirling colors and vibrant toppings. Using food coloring, you can create a stunning watercolor effect on your pancakes, and then top them with fresh berries and a drizzle of maple syrup. Serve these on a sunny morning, and you’ll instantly brighten up your day!

Next up, we have chocolate chip pancakes with homemade strawberry syrup. This recipe takes classic chocolate chip pancakes to the next level, with a sweet and tangy strawberry syrup that’s easy to make at home.

The combination of fluffy pancakes, melty chocolate chips, and fruity syrup is pure heaven. Perfect for a lazy weekend brunch with friends or family.


These tiny treats combine the richness of pumpkin with the lightness of fritters, creating the perfect balance of flavors and textures. The soft and fluffy texture of Pampoenkoekies, combined with the sweetness of caramel sauce, will leave you craving for more.

Being a popular South African dessert, Pampoenkoekies have a fascinating history. Made by Dutch colonizers, pumpkin fritters were introduced in South Africa very early on in history.

The Afrikaans translation for pumpkin fritters is “pampoenkoekies,” which means little pumpkin cakes. Although similar to American-style pancakes, they have a unique pumpkin taste that can be enjoyed either as a dessert or as a snack.

South African Melkkos

This recipe is made primarily of milk, flour, butter, and salt, the dish is served with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and sometimes a pat of extra butter. Its silky smooth texture, together with its rich and creamy flavor, is what makes it stand out from other porridges.

There are two ways to make melkkos, and this particular recipe makes use of the dough crumbs method. To make the dish, you begin by crushing butter and flour into small pieces before adding them to a pot of milk and cooking until it reaches the desired consistency.

The result is a filling and hearty dish that is perfect for breakfast or dessert and can be enjoyed hot or cold.


These poedings range from the rich, custard-based melktert to the sticky, toffee-flavored malva pudding, and the classic vinegar pudding. This unique vinegar pudding is a perfect example of how South African desserts stand out from the rest.

Despite its name, the vinegar does not overpower the dessert’s flavor but instead provides a delightful balance to its sweetness. When combined with the sugar syrup, the async adds complexity to the overall taste profile, making it a perfect ending to a hearty meal.

Its popularity among South Africans is evident in how it has been passed down through generations and has become a staple in many households’ dessert menus.


This South African treat is a plaited deep-fried doughnut that’s drowned in a sugary syrup. It’s a classic sweet delight that is as ingrained in South Africa’s food culture as milk tart, biltong, and beer.

For many South Africans, koeksisters are an indulgent snack that they cannot live without, and make them for special occasions like weddings, birthdays, and Christmas.

These delectable treats are so important to South Africans that they have their own monument dedicated to them. The Koeksister Monument, erected in Orania in the Northern Cape, celebrates the cultural significance of the sweet snack.

While it may not seem like a big deal to outsiders, koeksisters are a beloved delicacy that exemplifies the rich culture and history of South Africa.


To make a vegetarian version of vetkoek, you can add some delicious salads and beans or lentil fillings. Some of the popular fillings include curried beans, spicy chakalaka, or creamy spinach and mushrooms. If you prefer a meaty option, you can try filling the vetkoek with pulled pork, spicy sausage, or beef mince chili.

Add a dollop of sauce on top, and you will have a delicious and satisfying meal that the whole family will love. Before you fill the vetkoek, you need to make the dough first. This dough is easy to make and requires only a few ingredients such as flour, sugar, yeast, and water.

It is important to let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes to let it rise and become soft. Once the dough has risen, you can divide it into small balls and flatten them out to form the pastry. Fry them until they are golden and crispy on the outside, then cut them open to fill with your favorite toppings.


Betty’s Crunchies are made with simple ingredients such as oats, butter, and sugar, but when they come together, they create a delectable and mouth-watering snack that satisfies any sweet cravings.

The combination of sweet and crunchy flavors has become a local tradition that many look forward to. This recipe’s ability to withstand the test of time and bring people together to bond over food is a testament to its genuine appeal.

As new generations of Linsells rise, they are taught their family’s Crunchies recipe, keeping Betty’s legacy and the tradition alive for years to come. The snack has been passed down from grandmothers to their grandchildren, from parents to their children, and continues to be cherished and enjoyed by many.

Peppermint Crisp Tart

The creamy and indulgent filling makes it a mouth-watering treat that is perfect for any occasion – from a casual family meal to a special celebration. This no-bake fridge tart has become a staple in many South African households and is a recipe that has been passed down from one generation to the next.

Whether enjoyed as a refreshing end to a meal or a sweet treat on a hot summer’s day, peppermint crisp tart is sure to tantalize and satisfy even the most discerning palate. Make sure you try out this heavenly dessert and experience for yourself why it’s such a beloved delicacy across the nation.


This comfort food is a popular dish and is especially perfect for a rainy day. To make pannekoek, a basic batter is prepared with flour, salt, baking powder, eggs, milk, and butter. The ingredients are whisked together until the batter is smooth and then poured in thin layers into a hot skillet.

The pancakes are cooked until they turn golden on each side. Once the pannekoek is cooked, it is drizzled with freshly squeezed lemon juice and generously sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. To add to the flavor, the pancake is rolled up and served warm. It is still a popular dish in South Africa and is enjoyed by many.


It is a crispy, pretzel-shaped, orange-colored sweet that has a spongy texture and is made by deep-frying fermented batter and soaking it in sugar syrupThe secret to making the perfect Jalebi lies in getting the right consistency of the batter and the sugar syrup.

To make this delicious dessert at home, you don’t need to be a professional chef. By following this simple recipe, you can easily recreate this Indian classic. The recipe is explained in detail and accompanied by step-by-step images to ease your cooking experience.

Queen cakes

During the colonial period, Queen Cakes were typically baked in a shallow mold and were smaller than most cakes today. Bakers added dried currants or raisins, lemon zest, and a bit of nutmeg to the simple batter to yield a delicately flavored cake with a tender crumb.

The modern version of the Queen’s Cake recipe owes its updates to current baking methods and combines flour, eggs, sugar, butter, baking powder, milk, and a few other ingredients.

The recipe has surpassed time, and it continues to be a popular dessert that can be enjoyed in the present day while taking a trip down memory lane to the past. The Queen’s Cake from Colonial Williamsburg is a modern adaptation of a recipe from 18th century England, which was enjoyed in Virginia homes during the colonial times.

The updated recipe is not to be confused with other similar cakes like the layer cake with jam in the middle known as Queen Victoria Sponge Cake or the chocolate layer cake called Russian King’s Cake


This mouthwatering trifle comprises six layers of pure bliss, each offering a rich and heavenly taste. What makes this dessert a true gem is the attention given to each layer, which works together harmoniously to create an irresistible taste that will leave anyone craving for more.

From the firm texture of the wafer crumbs to the soft and creamy mousse, and the crunch of the Ferrero Rocher chocolates, every layer of this dessert is carefully crafted to obtain an exquisite taste and texture combination.

The Ferrero Rocher Trifle is sure to impress not only your guests but also anyone who lays eyes upon its beauty. It’s a showstopper that’s perfect for any event, and with just one taste, you’ll be transported to dessert heaven!


Cake rusk is made by baking a cake until it is fully cooked, slicing it into thick pieces, and then baking it again until it becomes crispy and dry. On the other hand, milk rusk is prepared by baking bread dough that has been made with milk and butter.

After the first baking, the bread is cut into slices and then baked again to give it that characteristic crunchy texture. Although both types of rusk have different ingredients, they are equally delicious and appreciated by people of all ages.

The versatility of rusk as a snack or breakfast means it is a popular accompaniment to tea or coffee. Additionally, rusk can be enjoyed with milk, yogurt, or as a dessert by adding sweet toppings like chocolate spread or honey. Furthermore, rusk is easy to prepare and store, making it a convenient snack to have on-hand at home or for travel.

Bombay Crush

To make a delicious Bombay Crush, there are several ingredients that you need. Firstly, milk is an essential ingredient, as it is a milkshake, after all. You can use rose syrup or elachie syrup to add the desired flavor.

Then, you need to add sabja seeds that have been soaked in water for a few minutes. These black colored basil seeds look very similar to chia seeds, but they are not the same. To enhance the flavor of the milkshake, rosewater can be added.

It gives the milkshake a rose flavor and can be used instead of rose syrup. Agar Agar or China Grass is another ingredient used in Bombay Crush. While some people prefer to add China Grass to their milkshake, many others do not prefer it because of its texture. If you wish, you can add it to your Bombay Crush too.


the traditional preparation is a delight, the Millionaire’s Trifle elevates the dish to a whole new level of decadence. Imagine layers of chocolate custard, caramel, chocolate Swiss roll, brownies, cream, and more, combined to create a texture that’s a true slice of heaven.

To some, this might sound like indulgence taken to the extreme, but one bite of the Millionaire’s Trifle and you’ll understand why it’s everyone’s secret dream. Making Millionaire’s Trifle is a fun and rewarding experience.

The process is straightforward, and the finished product is always a crowd-pleaser. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll be able to experiment with the flavors and textures to create your unique version of this popular dessert. It’s my promise that once you try Millionaire’s Trifle, it’ll be tough to go back to the regular trifle-

Sago Pudding

This mouth-watering recipe takes less than 90 minutes to prepare and bake, and the result is an impeccable dessert that will melt in your mouth. The best part is that it can be easily doubled to cater to a larger crowd of 4-6 people.

This recipe will undoubtedly fill your home with the sweet aroma of warm baked treats, emanating from the kitchen. With every spoonful, you’ll savor the flavors of this sensational dessert, and the toasted edges will perfectly complement the softness of the treat.

Be it a quiet night in with your family, or a gathering of friends and cousins, this recipe is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser.