Traditional South African Milk tart (Melktert)

South African Milk tart slices

This classic baked Traditional South African milk tart recipe with sweetened condensed milk is scented with vanilla and cinnamon and will have you coming back for more.

The South African Milk Tart is such a well loved traditional South African dessert that there is even a National Milk Tart day. Yes, that’s really a thing in South Africa because we really love our old fashioned milk tart or ‘melktert’.

South African Milk tart unsliced

Whether you know it as old fashioned custard pie, South African custard tart, egg custard tart or egg custard pie, melktert recipes in each family are often strictly guarded and handed down from generation to generation.

The two South African milk tart recipes used my maternal and paternal aunts use similar ingredients for a baked milk tart recipe but the filling looks and tastes totally different, though equally delicious. There are also no-bake milk tart recipes but I have never acquired the taste for them and prefer the taste of the baked milk tart filling.

South African Milk tart with a wedge cut out

Unfortunately for me, the South African milk tart recipes that I loved most growing up are not recorded anywhere. I spent a few hours browsing through my recipe files, and the closest I came to finding my late Aunty Josie’s easy traditional milk tart recipe, was a comment on her pineapple tart recipe saying ‘use the same base as the milk tart’.

Aunty Josie showed me how to make a milk tart when I was still in high school and drawing on those memories, I developed my own South African milk tart recipe with condensed milk instead of sugar in the filling. I remembered that when I used to make a traditional Cape Malay milk tart recipe from a cousin back in the day, I used condensed milk and hot water in the filling.

South African Milk tart slices

How to make a milk tart

  • Method 1: Use an uncooked short crust pastry base and very liquid filling of milk, eggs and condensed milk that is baked once only
  • Method 2: Use a blind baked short crust pastry base and cooked filling that is baked again to set the custard.
  • Method 3: For my baked South African milk tart with condensed milk I combined the two techniques above, using my own homemade short crust pastry. The cooked filling for the easy milk tart recipe is scented with vanilla and cinnamon and is smooth and creamy without being overly sweet.
  • The pastry can be made ahead and frozen for up to 6 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight before use.
  • Bring the milk to the boil on a medium high heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden to stop it catching on the bottom. If it does burn, pour the milk into a clean pot to continue or the dessert will have a bitter scorched flavor.
  • Add the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture a little at a time so it doesn’t curdle the eggs.  Return to the heat to cook out the flour and thicken.
  • Leave to cool before folding in the whipped egg whites.
  • Pour over the pastry case and cook until the milk tart is set. Don’t overcook as it will souffle and then sink.
  • The filling must be used immediately but the cooked tart can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

For more delicious desserts Click on the links below.

South African Milk tart slices

Traditional South African Milk tart (melktert)

Razena Schroeder
This classic baked Traditional South African milk tart recipe with sweetened condensed milk is scented with vanilla and cinnamon and will have you coming back for more.
4.56 from 18 votes
Prep Time 50 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 1 hr 25 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine South African
Servings 12
Calories 301 kcal

Ingredients
  

Shortcrust Pastry

  • 125 grams cold butter approximately 1 stick or 1/2 cup
  • 36 grams fine granulated sugar approximately 45 ml or 3 tablespoons
  • 225 grams cake flour approximately 400 ml or 1 2/3 cups
  • 1 egg large
  • 30 ml cold water approximately 2 tablespoons

Milk Tart filling

  • 65 grams butter approximately 1/2 stick or 1/4 cup
  • 25 grams cake flour approximately 45 ml or 3 tablespoons
  • 198 grams sweetened full cream condensed milk approximately 1/2 large tin
  • 500 ml milk approximately 2 cups
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1.25 ml salt approximately 1/4 teaspoon
  • 5 ml vanilla extract approximately 1 teaspoon
  • 2.5 ml cinnamon powder approximately 1/2 to 1 teaspoon for dusting before serving

Instructions
 

Shortcrust Pastry base

  • For the pastry, pulse the butter, flour and sugar in a food processor until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Alternately, rub in the cold butter with two knives or a pastry cutter. Try not to use your hands as it will warm up the butter.
  • Add the egg and water and mix until just combined.
  • Bring the pastry into a ball and flatten into a disk on a piece of cling wrap. This makes it easier to roll into a round shape later.
  • Chill and rest the pastry for about 30 minutes before use.
  • Roll out the pastry and line a 25 cm tart pan ensuring that the pastry overlaps the sides a bit as it may shrink during baking if not rested enough. I chilled it again for another 10 minutes before baking.
  • Switch on the oven and heat to 200 degrees celcius / 400 F / Gas mark 6.
  • Prick the base and line with parchment paper and baking beans or beans, and bake blind for about 10 minutes.
  • Remove the baking beans and bake for another five minutes. Be careful not to get a burn as you may drop the beans and damage the tart case.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 170 degrees celcius / 350 F / Gas mark 4.

Milk Tart filling

  • Cook the filling while the pastry base is baking in the oven.
  • In a medium size bowl mix the butter and flour ensuring there are no lumps. Add in the condensed milk, vanilla and the egg yolks and mix until smooth.
  • Heat the milk until it reaches boiling point stirring occasionally with a flat edged wooden spoon to prevent it catching and burning on the bottom of the pot. 
  • Add a little of the boiled milk to the egg mixture ensuring that you whisk out all the lumps. Slowly add the rest of the milk while whisking or stirring and then return to the pot and place back on the heat.
  • Stir the milk mixture on the heat until it thickens and it starts to bubble.
  • Remove the pot from the stove and let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes.
  • Whisk the egg whites and salt until they are glossy but not too stiff. It should be soft peaks at this stage, not the 'tip it over your head and it doesn't drop' stiffness.
  • Fold the egg whites into the cooled custard mixture.
  • Pour into the pastry case and bake for 15-20 minutes until it is set. Do not over bake as it will rise and sink like an overdone souffle.
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon powder and serve.

Notes

I use cake flour or fine sponge flour for the pastry as well as the filling. If you are using any other type of flour the consistency may differ.
1 cup of All purpose flour is supposed to be equivalent to 1 1/4 cups of cake flour. 

Nutrition

Calories: 301kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 7gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 98mgSodium: 213mgPotassium: 155mgFiber: 0gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 585IUVitamin C: 0.4mgCalcium: 111mgIron: 0.5mg

Disclaimer: Nutritional information for the recipe is an approximation and varies according to the ingredients and products used.

Keyword cape malay recipe, easy holiday baking, make-ahead
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This recipe was first published in March 2015 and has been updated.

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72 Comments

  • Reply
    Sandra @ A Dash of Sanity
    September 1, 2015 at 8:27 am

    I have never made a milk tart before, but it sounds delicious! I love simple but yummy desserts like this!

    • Reply
      Razena
      September 1, 2015 at 11:04 am

      Simpler the better, especially if it is tasty 🙂 Most non-blogger cooks are too busy with other things to have time for complicated dishes unless they have something really special planned.

  • Reply
    Trish
    August 31, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    oooooh I love traditional family recipes. This one sounds delicious!

    • Reply
      Razena
      August 31, 2015 at 10:33 pm

      I hope you try it some time 🙂

  • Reply
    Chrissie (thebusybaker.ca)
    August 31, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    This looks like the kind of dessert I would love! Simple but SO good! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Razena
      August 31, 2015 at 10:32 pm

      You are most welcome 🙂

  • Reply
    Michelle@healthiersteps
    August 31, 2015 at 6:34 am

    I’m intrigued by recipes that are passed down from one generation to the next. My grandma and mother never cooked using recipes so I was taught the same way.

    • Reply
      Razena
      August 31, 2015 at 8:41 am

      That is so true, my mum and her sisters seldom had a written down recipe, except for baked goods. Most of my mum’s best recipes were ones she developed sitting at the kitchen table and wondering what to make for unexpected guests who were dropping by a short time later.

  • Reply
    Whitney @ That Square Plate
    August 30, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    I love authentic recipes like this one!! Thanks for sharing, it sounds delicious!

    • Reply
      Razena
      August 30, 2015 at 10:58 pm

      You are most welcome. I hope that you try it sometime 🙂

  • Reply
    Sabrina @ Dinner, then Dessert
    August 30, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    I’d never even heard of a milk tart before! It sounds like a very interesting dessert!

    • Reply
      Razena
      August 30, 2015 at 9:58 pm

      I’m sure you haven’t, it is one of the typically South African desserts that I love 🙂

  • Reply
    Claudia | Gourmet Project
    August 30, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    wow, great find! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Razena
      August 30, 2015 at 9:21 pm

      You are most welcome 🙂

  • Reply
    Katalina @ Peas & Peonies
    August 30, 2015 at 7:47 am

    I have never had a tart made with condensed milk, but as a condensed milk die hard fan I am sure I would love this one!

    • Reply
      Razena
      August 30, 2015 at 9:55 am

      I find that condensed milk gives milky and/or eggy desserts a much fuller flavor than plain sugar. I hope you will try it and let me know.

      • Reply
        MIchelle Rance
        March 21, 2019 at 9:15 pm

        Is it sweetened condensed milk? Since there is no added sugar int he recipe?

        • Reply
          Razena Schroeder
          March 21, 2019 at 9:21 pm

          Yes it is Michelle. I have updated the ingredients list, thanks. Any good quality store bought full cream sweetened condensed milk will do.

          I have seen recipes for homemade sugar free condensed milk using heavy cream, butter and low carb sugar free sweetener but I have not tried that yet.

  • Reply
    Tracy @ Served From Scratch
    August 30, 2015 at 6:48 am

    Old family recipes are the BEST. Thanks for sharing!