For the Women Who Baked Before Me

A South African 'melktart'


By Anelia Van Zyl


I come from a line of strong women, some of whom faced challenges during the Anglo–Boer War and in British concentration camps. My grandmother, Hendrina, from the Free State, South Africa, worked hard alongside her husband, displaying remarkable strength and determination. She was tough—a true example of resilience, determination, and hard work.

My grandmother had seven children, including my mother, Christa, who sadly passed away in 2005. My mom was a remarkable woman, deeply passionate about classical music and literature. Her life exemplified kindness, compassion, and unwavering moral integrity. She set a standard of virtue that left a lasting impact on everyone that knew her.

After losing my mother, her youngest sister, Drice, became my closest companion. Through our highs and lows, she has proven to be a steadfast presence—one I can turn to for support and guidance in times of need. This aunt isn’t just an amazing cook; she is also a bundle of energy and dynamism, with a voice that can bring any song to life, just like my mom’s captivating singing. 

Despite facing some troubles, my aunt stands as an example of the transformative power of determination and unwavering commitment. She has shown that with resilience, one can overcome any obstacle and reach remarkable heights. 

This month, I pay homage to my ancestors—my grandmother, my mother, and my aunt—by sharing this traditional South African delicacy, Melktert (milk tart). This is a tart that my grandmother and mother used to make, and one that my aunt still makes! 

These remarkable women have taught me that when life offers you milk, the art is in crafting a delicious milk tart!

The women who baked before me: Hendrina, Christa, Drice and Gladys


  • Medium-sized tart / pie dish 
  • Pot
  • Whisk
  • Spatula
  • Tablespoon
  • Measuring cups
  • Food processor / rolling pin and sealable plastic bag
  • Large bowl



  • 200 g digestive biscuits
  • 100 g unsalted butter, melted


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt


  • 10 g cinnamon powder
  • 20 g sugar


  1. Crush the digestive biscuits into fine crumbs. You can use a food processor or place the biscuits in a sealed plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin.
  2. In a bowl, mix the biscuit crumbs with the melted butter until well combined.
  3. Press the mixture into the base of the dish to form an even crust. Use the back of the spoon to compact the mixture. 
  4. Place the crust in the refrigerator to set while you prepare the filling.
  5. In a large pot, combine the milk and condensed milk over a medium heat. Heat the mixture until it just starts to simmer, but do not let it boil.
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, flour, eggs, vanilla extract, and the salt until smooth and well combined.
  7. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the simmering milk mixture while continuously whisking to avoid lumps.
  8. Continue to cook and whisk the mixture until it thickens to a custard-like consistency. This takes about five to seven minutes. 
  9. Once thickened, remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool slightly. 
  10. Pour the milk filling over the chilled crust.
  11. Smooth the top with a spatula to create an even layer.
  12. Allow the milk tart to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least two hours or until set. 
  13. Combine the cinnamon and sugar then sprinkle over the tart before serving.

Note: This no-bake South African Melktert can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. It's best consumed within three or four days for optimal freshness and flavor. The crust may soften over time, but the flavor should remain delicious.

Photos courtesy of the author.

About the Author

Anelia is a performing artist from South Africa. She has been living and working as a teacher in Thailand for nine years. She also writes educational children’s books, makes music, and loves to spend time in the kitchen. Follow her adventures on IG @aneliavz.