This South African pie is a holiday treat featuring a
silky custard and spiced with cinnamon



A rich yet light dessert graced my “5 Holiday Desserts from Around the World,” and I am delighted to share this creamy, sweet South African milk tart called melktert. Similar in flavor to horchata, this dessert consists of a sweet custard filling encased in short crust pastry, dusted with cinnamon, and chilled in the refrigerator. This is an excellent holiday dessert you probably haven’t tried before! 

This recipe came from Nikita, who is from South Africa but now resides in the United States. Introduced by Dutch settlers, the dish gained popularity throughout South Africa. Cape Malay people added cinnamon for further flavor, which was fitting given that warm spices like cinnamon are often used in preparation of food and drink in Indian cuisine.  

For Nikita, the use of this spice connects her to melktert via her Indian roots and beloved flavors. She and her brother would even fight over the last slice, which I totally understand. I particularly enjoyed the Indian aspects of melktert, and it was nice to make an Indian dessert instead of a meal for once! 

Although my custard didn’t quite set, I still tasted it, and I really appreciated the sweet, milky, warm cinnamon taste. The combination of vanilla and cinnamon come through particularly beautifully! It is rich and light at the same time, Despite the simple ingredient list, melktert possesses complex flavors greatly reminiscent of South African flavors. 

Melktert is a wonderful holiday dessert. Nikita feels that anyone who samples it will experience South Africa’s melting pot of flavors, and I second this. This region is known for its diverse population, which is reflected in South African food. It is remarkable and inspiring how its people embrace the different cultures and therefore different cuisines and flavors! 

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  • 1 store-bought pie crust
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon


  • Bake pie crust according to package instructions. Cool completely.
  • In a heat proof bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, cornstarch, flour and vanilla. Set aside.
  • In a medium size saucepan, heat the milk and butter at medium setting. Do not bring to a rolling boil.
  • Add about a fourth of the milk to the egg mixture, whisking to incorporate it evenly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the remainder of the milk. Return to heat and stir constantly until it thickens. Do not boil!
  • Pour the filling into the pie crust and let cool completely. Refrigerate until custard is solid. Sprinkle with cinnamon before serving!


Recipe inspired by Feast + West
Course: Dessert
Region: Africa
Keyword: Holiday Inspired, Party Food


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