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’.
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.
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.
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.
- Macerated Strawberries and mascarpone cream with balsamic vinegar
- Whipped Yogurt mousse
- Roasted Figs with honey and orange
- Caramel Peppermint dessert – Peppermint crisp pudding
- Best Glazed Orange Bundt Cake
- Carrot and beetroot cake
Traditional South African Milk tart (melktert)
- 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
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.
Disclaimer: Nutritional information for the recipe is an approximation and varies according to the ingredients and products used.
This recipe was first published in March 2015 and has been updated.
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