Silky smooth and creamy, our version of Melktert is made with custard spiced with nutmeg and cardamom. Topped with a good amount of cinnamon, this South African Milk Tart, is a wonderfully rich custard tart that can be made with everyday ingredients you will find in your cupboards! We made our own shortcrust pastry, but if you wish you can simply use shop-bought shortcrust or puff pastry, or even a pre-baked tart case. The star of this South African-inspired Melktert is its spiced custard filling!
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The Best Custard Tarts in The World?
I will admit to never liking a traditional British Egg Custard Tart. But I will also say that I’ve only tasted the ones from supermarkets and never had anything remotely homemade with love. So I was going through my baking journey without ever even attempting to make any custard-based tarts on the basis that I simply don’t like them.
Did things change when we went to Portugal 5 years ago and I had my very first Pastel de Nata!? Two years later my love for egg custard tarts was confirmed by Chinese-style Custard Tarts we had in Hong Kong. And finally, the newest addition to the tart family – South African Melktert. The latter is the closest to the traditional British tart but hundreds of times better than the shop-bought version. And if you fancy something in between a cheesecake and a custard tart, you must try Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tarts!
Buttery shortcrust pastry, sweet cardamom and nutmeg spiced custard and a layer of earthy and aromatic cinnamon. What’s not to like? The Melktert recipe I make only requires baking pastry crust. The creamy filling itself is poured into the tart case and is left to set without baking it. The custard mixture is similar to French Creme Mousseline and is enriched with butter that helps the custard set when chilled.
Melktert, a delightful South African dessert, holds a rich history rooted in the early 17th century. Derived from the Dutch influence in the Cape of Good Hope, Melktert, meaning “milk tart” in Afrikaans, is a custard pie renowned for its simplicity and delicate flavours. With its origins tracing back to the Dutch settlers who arrived at the Cape Colony, this beloved treat quickly became a staple in the local cuisine. The secret to its light texture lies in the combination of silky custard filling made with milk, eggs, sugar, and a hint of fragrant spices like cinnamon. As time passed, Melktert has become an emblematic dessert cherished by generations, representing the fusion of Dutch heritage and South African culinary traditions. Its enduring popularity continues to enchant taste buds worldwide, a testament to its timeless appeal.
Tips & Tricks
The main tip I’d give you is to be patient and wait for the custard to thicken quite a bit before beating in the butter.
Secondly, chill this South African classic for at least 4 hours before you safely cut into it. But I would strongly recommend leaving it to set overnight. The pictures of the Melktert in this post show a wonderfully creamy texture after 4 hours of chilling. It is lovely, but you may not get a very clean cut if you aren’t patient enough.
To make this tart recipe you will need a loose bottom 20cm (8in) tart tin, like the one here. You may also use a pie dish. Other than that, you will need a few bowls, a few pans, pie weights and a whisk! That’s all!
How to Make A Milk Tart?
To Make the Sweet Pastry Crust
Place flour in a large mixing bowl. We used all purpose flour, but cake flour will work too. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the icing sugar. Then add the egg yolk to the flour mixture and mix to combine. If the pastry feels too dry to form a dough, add 1 tablespoon water. Shape into a ball, flatten, wrap it in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
If you have a food processor, you can make the pastry by pulsing the flour, icing sugar and butter until it looks like breadcrumbs. Then add the egg yolk and pulse again until clumps of dough start to form. Finally, tip the mixture out onto the surface to bring it together into a ball.
Preheat the oven to 180°C Fan. Roll out the pastry into a circle that’s approx. 5cm larger than the tart tin, to about 3mm thickness.
Lift the pastry over the tart tin. Push the pastry into the corners gently. Leave the pastry overhanging the sides of the tin (they may fall off during cooking, so I’d suggest placing a tray underneath to catch them). Prick the base of the pastry case all over with a fork. Place a large sheet of baking parchment on top of the pastry and fill it with ceramic baking beans.
Blind bake the tart case for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and baking parchment and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely before adding the filling.
If you don’t want to make homemade crust, you are welcome to use shop-bought ready-rolled pastry. Or try it with our Sourdough Pie Pastry instead!
To Make Milk Tart Filling
Heat the milk, double (heavy) cream, vanilla, nutmeg and cardamom in a pan over medium heat.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar, flour, cornflour (corn starch) and salt. Vigorously whisk the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture (if you’re too slow, the egg may scramble).
Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook until thick and smooth, whisking continuously. Cook the custard until thick and smooth. It should be so thick that it would be reluctant to drop off the spoon.
Take the mixture off the heat and beat in the butter.
Pour the custard into the buttery crust. Lightly brush a piece of baking parchment with odourless oil (like rapeseed, sunflower or vegetable oil), then press it onto the surface of the creamy custard filling to avoid skin from forming.
Place the whole thing in the fridge and chill for at least 4 hours or ideally overnight.
Just before serving, finish the melktert with a generous dusting of cinnamon over the custard. Slice the Melktert and serve. Keep the leftovers in the fridge!
Recipes Featuring Various Versions of Custard
If you liked this South African Milk Tart, we think we can tempt you with other recipes of ours, featuring creamy rich custard:
- Eclairs with Orange Crème Diplomat and Cranberry & Pistachio Topping
- French Fruit Tart (Tarte Aux Fruits)
- Napoleon Cake (Napolyeon Tort)
Have a Bunch of Egg Whites To Use Now?
Head straight t our article on The Best Ways to Use Up Leftover Egg Whites! Our favourite recipes include:
- White Chocolate and Cranberry Macarons
- Gluten-Free Coconut and Pineapple Roulade
- Refined Sugar Free Cranberry Mousse
Melktert | South African Custard Tart
- 20cm (8in) Tart Tin
- Ceramic Baking Beans
For Sweet Shortcrust Pastry:
- 150 g plain flour
- 75 g butter unsalted
- 50 g icing sugar
- 1 egg yolk medium
- 1-2 tablespoon water
For The Filling:
- 470 ml milk
- 120 ml double cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla paste
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 cardamom pods seeds crushed to a powder
- 5 egg yolks medium
- 120 g caster sugar
- 25 g cornflour
- 15 g plain flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 30 g butter unsalted
For the Topping:
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
To Make the Pastry:
- Place flour in a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Mix in the icing sugar. Then add the egg yolk and mix. If the pastry feels too dry to form a dough, add 1 tablespoon water. Shape into a ball, flatten, wrap it in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C Fan. Roll out the pastry into a circle 5 cm larger than the tart tin, to about 3mm thickness.
- Lift the pastry over the tart tin. Push the pastry into the corners gently. Leave the pastry overhanging around the sides of the tin. Prick the base of the pastry case all over with a fork.
- Place a large sheet of baking parchment inside your pastry and fill with ceramic baking beans.
- Bake the tart case for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and baking parchment and cook for another 5 minutes.
To Make the Filling:
- Heat the milk, double cream, vanilla, nutmeg and cardamom in a saucepan over medium heat.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar, flour, cornflour and salt. Once the milk mixture is hot (but not boiling), vigorously whisk in the milk into the egg yolk mixture (if you're too slow, the egg may scramble).
- Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook until thick and smooth, whisking continuously. The mixture should be thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Cook the custard for 2-3 minutes until thick and smooth.
- Take the mixture off the beat and beat in the butter.
- Pour the custard into the tart case. Lightly brush a piece of baking parchment with oil, then press onto the surface of the custard to avoid a skin from forming.
- Place the melktert in the fridge and chill for at least 4 hours or ideally overnight.
- Just before serving, dust the cinnamon over the custard. Slice into individual portions and serve.