South Africans love sweet things – we sweeten veggie dishes, we love barbecue sauce on meat and at least one of our puddings has its own day.
While we’re completely okay with celebrating milk tart on February 27 each year, we can’t help feeling that our multicultural country might be hiding more dessert gems.
Dietitian and food anthropologist Mpho Tshukudu says: "there aren’t a lot of desserts in indigenous South African food genres – mostly in township cuisine what you find are lovely retro Eurocentric things like Queen cakes, rice puddings and trifle.”
Capetonians love dessert so much that we sometimes have it as part of a meal – or even as a meal on it own.
A perfect example of this is a warm koesister in the morning (very different to a koeksister), which is a Cape Town staple.
Similarly, many other sweet treats are quintessential Cape Town desserts – think trifle, milk tart and even fridge tart.
As the colder months draw near, other staples like malva pudding, bread pudding, fritters, sago pudding and banana loaves mixed with custard will become more popular.
Author and television chef, Fatima Sydow says: “our taste in Cape Town is so varied because we have so many different cultures. E clairs are a top favourite, (as well as) Romany Creams, biscuits, and simple plain cakes. Banana loaf, lemon loaf, vanilla loaf are also favourites because it’s an easy one-mix-wonder
that you put in the oven.”
“My favourite dessert of all time is jelly and ideal milk with canned fruit.”
In conclusion, Sydow adds: “Many restaurants do their own takes and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you respect the story behind it. Many people make something and change it completely. It’s not so much that you’re changing the recipe but you are changing our story.”
Speaking to the Chilli Chocolate Chefs, Zainub and Faatimah Paruk, about Durban’s signature dessert, they said from chocolate bars to ice cream, Durban is truly spoilt with such a vast myriad of gourmet flavours and cuisines.
“Our diverse cultures reflect in our food and this means that we have a selection of the most delectable pastries and desserts. If there was one dish that Durban has added to the dessert scene, it has got to be Caramel Peppermint Crisp d essert,” said Zainub.
“All you need are four ingredients and 20 minutes, and you have a drool-worthy dessert. Also, the great thing about this dessert is that it can be adaptable
in so many different ways. You can make individual servings in little mason jars or even make it into a stunning large tart,” she said.
South African desserts, particularly in the melting pot of cultures that is Gauteng, take on many forms, names and versions.
Don Pedro is an adult milkshake, usually served in a wine glass and made from either a whisky or liqueur like Amarula, Kahlua, or Frangelico and ice cream and a tot of cream.
Isijingi (as it’s called in Zulu) or setjetsa (in Sotho) is a comforting dish made with cooked maize and pumpkin.
It’s traditionally served as a savoury main, but more recently has been converted into a dessert by chef Nompumelelo Mqwebu.
Marnus Scholly, executive head chef at Clico Boutique Hotel, in Rosebank, said chocolate is the quintessential Johannesburg dessert.