Malva pudding

Malva pudding: A South African favourite. Image: Carla Zinkfontein

Five iconic South African desserts RANKED

South African desserts come in many shapes and sizes and for that reason, they tend to cause a lot of disagreements. What’s your favourite?

Malva pudding

Malva pudding: A South African favourite. Image: Carla Zinkfontein

South African desserts come in many shapes and sizes.

Matters of taste and opinion mean that we tend to disagree on our favourites, but there are a few iconic classics.

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Five truly iconic South African desserts RANKED


Coming in at fifth is trifle. South Africans of various cultures might argue about what should go into a trifle, but they’ll unanimously agree that a combination of sponge, jelly and custard is a universal favourite. Especially around Christmas. Personally I am not a fan of this dessert because of the texture, but I couldn’t leave it out. Besides, this isn’t about me.


Amagwinya (or vetkoek) could just be South Africa’s answer to the doughnut. Vetkoek is served with sweet or savoury fillings, making it a favourite across the board and the best of both worlds. Butter and jam is all you need though if you’re in the mood for a doughnut that isn’t really a doughnut. In some ways it’s better. Fourth place in this esteemed top five.

South African desserts: Easy vetkoek.
Easy vetkoek: A South African favourite. Image: Supplied.

Malva pudding

A humble yet legendary South African dessert. Malva has a spongy, caramelized texture and plays nicely with cream or ice cream layered generously beside it. Malva can also be laced with booze, if you’re that way inclined. It’s like a sticky, hot cake, which can never be a bad thing. Malva has earned its bronze medal.

malva pudding
Malva pudding with creamy custard. Image: Marele van Zyl.

Milk tart

Milk tart, or melktert, is a truly iconic South African dessert, if ever there was one. Milk-based custard is flavoured with cinnamon and orange peel, and set in a short crust tart. R20 will get you a large melktert at Checkers too, which means you can grab one on the way to a braai. The best and most authentic version is probably the homemade variety made by your auntie though. The runner-up in our iconic South African desserts countdown.

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Peppermint Crisp tart

Like any good dessert, the base of the Peppermint Crisp tart is made of crushed tennis biscuits. They are topped with caramel caramel whipped cream with crumbled Peppermint Crisp chocolate folded through. Like koeksisters, don’t go close to this if you don’t have an extremely sweet tooth. I have extremely fond memories of this one when I was a kid visiting my grandpa’s house in Joburg. It’s no wonder that people around the world serve up this ridiculous concoction. My gold medal winner.

iconic South African desserts
Don’t give the peppermint crisp tart to your kids just before bedtime. Image: Australia’s Best Recipes

Did any of you attempt to make any of these South African desserts back in lockdown?

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Check out our top Cape Town hiking routes to explore this summer if you need to work off that dessert.