Milk tart with creamy filling and a homemade crust is a South African classic. Perfect as dessert or served for tea time.
What is milk tart?
Milk tart (or Melk Tert) is a South African dessert pie. A sweet pastry crust is filled with a custard filling and topped with a generous dusting of cinnamon. Some milk tart recipes call for the custard to be baked but my favorite version is unbaked custard gently flavored with almond extract, vanilla and nutmeg set in a flaky pie crust. If you love custard-based pies, you will LOVE milk tart.
How to make milk tart
- The crust: The crust recipe I use is one that doesn’t require any rolling out. You simply press the dough into the pie plate before freezing and then blind baking until golden brown and crisp. You can substitute with a cookie crust or use any pie dough recipe you like.
- The filling: As with all custards, milk tart filling starts with milk (use whole/full fat milk), cream and flavorings being heated together. To thicken and set the filling, I like using a combination of egg yolks, cornstarch and flour. Whisk together with sugar then ladle in some of the hot milk mixture and whisk to temper the eggs. Pour back into the saucepan and cook whilst whisking until the custard is thick, smooth and cooked through. I like to pass the custard through a fine mesh sieve to make sure there are no lumps or bits of coagulated egg. Beat room temperature butter into the custard (this adds extra silky richness to the finished tart) and pour the custard into the baked crust.
- Setting: I like to smooth the top of the tart out by spraying a piece of parchment paper with cooking spray and pressing it onto the surface of the custard. This allows me to smooth the top but also prevents a skin from forming. Place the tart in the fridge and allow to set for at least 4 hours but overnight is even better.
- Serving: Once you are ready to serve, dust the top of the tart with a generous amount of cinnamon then slice and serve.
Making ahead and freezing
- Make ahead: Milk tart can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept covered in the fridge. Leftover will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Freezing: Freezing is not recommended as the custard might change texture once thawed.
South African recipes
- Malva pudding with frozen custard
- Pampoen koekies (pumpkin fritters)
- Rooibos tea peach punch
- Cheese and corn samoosas
South African Milk Tart
For the crust
For the filling
- 2 cups milk
- ½ cup heavy / whipping cream
- 5 egg yolks
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2½ tbsp cornstarch / cornflour
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp salted butter
- ½ tsp almond extract
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of nutmeg
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- Make the pastry according to recipe instructions then blind bake until golden brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- To make the filling, heat the milk, cream, vanilla, almond extract and nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, sugar, flours and salt.
- Once the milk is hot, whisk two ladles full of the milk into the egg mixture to temper the eggs.
- Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook until thickened, whisking continuously. Cook the custard for 2-3 minutes until thick and smooth.
- Pass the custard through a fine-mesh sieve. Beat in the butter.
- Pour the custard into the prepared custard. Spray a piece of parchment paper with cooking spray then press onto the surface of the custard to avoid a skin from forming.
- Place the milk tart in the fridge and allow to set for at least 4 hours but ideally overnight.
- Before serving, dust the cinnamon over the milk tart. Slice and serve.