Milk Tart

Milk tart slice

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

~ Virginia Woolf ~


To say South Africans get obsessed with Milk Tart could be a bit of an understatement. My friend even has a recipe book with only milk tart recipes! This delicious custard tart can be found in most supermarkets, bakeries and home industries. Many South African restaurants have milk tart derivative desserts on their menu’s. We are also lucky in that milk tart-flavoured milkshakes and liqueurs are found everywhere. To put it simply: it’s a classic and it’s here to stay! And what’s not to like? It’s sweet and custardy and spiced with cinnamon. It’s one of those comfort foods that bring back memories of grandmothers’ kitchens and family gatherings. In fact, my mother used to make milk tart filling if we had the flu or needed something soothing for a sore throat.


Is it all in the crust?

As with many traditional foods, there are numerous recipes for milk tart, and everybody swears by theirs. Most are made with shortcrust pastry, but some people opt for the easier option of a biscuit base (crushed biscuits mixed with melted butter and pressed into a pie dish). As with many of the recipes in my mom’s scrapbook, the recipe I grew up with doesn’t use either of these. It calls for a crust that is more like a batter and is spread into the pie dishes using the back of a spoon. The cool part about this pie crust is that it doesn’t need pre-baking, and can be used for savoury dishes like steak & kidney pie if you leave out the sugar.


Or is it that milky filling?

The filling for a milk tart is basically milk and sugar, thickened with flour and enriched with eggs, butter and vanilla. No cinnamon goes into the filling but is rather sprinkled on top. Again my mother’s recipe deviates from this as it calls for condensed milk instead. But I believe that this is what makes this recipe delicious. The combination of the crust and condensed milk filling also makes it possible to serve this milk tart cold. Of course, condensed milk comes in tins and using one tin creates three big tarts! So be prepared to share the love and give your extra milk tarts to friends or relatives. Then again, when those beauties come out of the oven, you might decide to keep them all to yourself!!


Traditional South African Milk Tart

Milk Tart

Traditional South African custard-like tart with cinnamon
Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: South African
Keyword: Cake batter milk tart crust, Melktert, Milk Tart, Milk tart made with condensed milk
Servings: 3 tarts
Author: Melby



  • 1,5 cup cake flour
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 15 ml baking powder
  • 125 ml milk
  • 1 ml salt


  • 1 tin sweetened condensed milk (425g)
  • 3 tins water (use the condensed milk tin to measure the water)
  • 1 ml salt
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • T cake flour
  • T corn flour
  • 2 T butter
  • 10 ml vanilla essence
  • ground cinnamon



  • Cream the butter, sugar and egg together until pale and fluffy.
  • Sift the dry ingredients and mix into the butter mixture.
  • Dilute with the milk until it is easy to spread.
  • Spread into three 22 cm greased pie dishes with the back of a spoon.


  • Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  • In a large pot, dilute the condensed milk with the water and make sure all the condensed milk has been dissolved.
  • Heat the mixture until it steams, stirring continuously. Don't let a come to the boil.
  • Mix the dry ingredients with a little cold milk or water to form a paste. Mix until there are no lumps.
  • Once the milk mixture is steaming, remove from the heat and temper the flour mixture by adding a ladle or two of the hot milk mixture to the paste and mix.
  • Now add the flour and milk mixture into the hot milk and stir well.
  • Return to medium heat and stir continuously until the mixture thickens.
  • Stir in the egg yolks and remove from the heat.
  • Add the butter and vanilla essence to the thickened milk mixture and stir - leave to cool.
  • Beat the egg whites until light and fluffy.
  • Fold the egg whites into the mixture carefully.
  • Pour the mixture into the 3 unbaked pie crusts and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the filling is set.
  • Remove from the oven and sprinkle lightly with ground cinnamon. Serve hot or cold.


  • This recipe makes 3 large tarts. If you want to use smaller pie dishes or aluminium foil pie dishes, use 4 rather than 3.
  • The mixture is very much like a sweet soufflé and puffs up in the oven. Once out of the oven it will settle down and then the cinnamon can be sprinkled on top.
  • Most people seem to prefer warm milk tart. This milk tart can definitely be served warm, but it is delicious straight out of the fridge too.

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