Baked crustless milk tart - my favourite recipe for the all-time South African classic

It was only a matter of time before I would do a post on one of the most loved South African classic sweet treats: the dreamy milk tart. Being a huge fan of traditional South African dishes, I have written about koeksisters, malva pudding, hertzoggies and peppermint crisp tart. But surely the queen of all traditional SA desserts is the milk tart – a baked custard tart made with milk, flour, sugar, eggs and cinnamon.

There are hundreds of variations on the classic milk tart recipe: some with a short crust pastry base, some with a flaky pastry base, some without a base or crust, some infused with lemon and cinnamon, some without any cinnamon at all, most are baked, others using just a quick fridge setting.

The milk tart I love most is a baked, crustless, ultra-light, almost “foamy”-textured custard with cinnamon sifted on top, baked to a golden perfection, served at room temperature. I also love the subtle flavours or lemon and almond essence. I have tried many, many recipes for milk tart in my life, but the most perfect recipe for my preferences can be found in Ina Paarman‘s book “The Good Food Cookbook”, first published in 2000. It is a small book, containing a collection of absolutely timeless recipes – some of which have become regular favourites in my household. If there is one milk tart recipe you have to try, it is this one: it takes a little effort, but it is worth every second!

Ingredients: (makes 2 medium tarts or 1 large tart)

  • 1 litre milk (4 cups)
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • rind of 1/2 lemon (I used a peeler)
  • 3 T butter (45 ml)
  • 1 cup flour (120 g)
  • 1 cup sugar (200 g)
  • 1/4 t salt (1 ml)
  • 1/2 t baking powder (2.5 ml)
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 t almond essence (1 ml)
  • cinnamon for sprinkling
  • breadcrumbs for dusting tart dish


  1. On the stove top over medium heat, bring the milk, cinnamon stick, lemon rind and butter to a boil, then remove from heat and leave to draw for 20 minutes.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder together in a large bowl.
  3. Strain the milk and add it to the egg yolks, then beat this mixture into the flour mixture. Add the almond essence.
  4. Return the mixture to the stove and bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring with a wire whisk. (Don’t worry if a few lumps form, you can beat them out with a beater after you have whisked the egg whites). Remove from heat as the mixture starts to boil – it will be thick and glossy. Cool to room temperature by placing the pot in a sink filled with cold water.
  5. Butter your tart dish generously and sprinkle all over with breadcrumbs.
  6. Whisk the egg whites with a drop of lemon juice until they form soft peaks.
  7. Remove the tart mixture from the sink, then beat with an electric beater to remove lumps. Fold the egg whites into the tart mixture and pout into tart dish. Dust with cinnamon, then bake at 190 degrees Celsius for 30-35 minutes. Switch off the oven and leave to cool for another 15 minutes, without opening the oven door. Remove from oven and serve hot or cool completely and serve at room temperature.
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  1. love that this is crustless – sometimes that is such a great option 🙂

    1. I know – it saves a bit of effort, as well as a few kilojoules! 🙂

  2. My son is going to lov this. No crust, makes me miss my ouma!!

    1. Makes me miss my ouma too!!! She was a grand old lady that could bake the world’s best treats. She still is such a huge inspiration for my cooking. 🙂

  3. Lyk heerlik. Ek gan dit verseker probeer.

    1. Dankie Nicola! Jy sal nie spyt wees nie. 😉

  4. We tried your milk tart – loved by all. Your blog really does help us amateurs zoom into good workable recipes. Have been looking for something like this for some time. Perhaps you may share your knowledge regarding “melk kos” some time. Many thanks, Lance and Joan

    1. Thanks so much Lance and Joan! So great to get such wonderful feedback. I’ve never made melkkos, but my Mom has a great recipe. Will try to post about it soon. X

  5. […] loved by older generations in SA. There are hundreds of different recipes available (same with melktert and koeksisters), some even containing soft lard and sweet wine. I found this beautiful recipe many […]

  6. […] loved by older generations in SA. There are hundreds of different recipes available (same with melktert and koeksisters), some even containing soft lard and sweet wine. I found this beautiful recipe […]

  7. Your crustless milktart looks interesting!!I am quite to find out how I can use this milktart recipe and make the filling peak up in the middle?My favorite bakery sells this milktart and of course I cannot get the technique from her!!Any ideas?

    1. Hi Shereen, i’m not sure exactly what you mean, but I suppose you’re saying you want the middle to be higher than the sides? Are you sure your bakery’s milk tart is a baked one? If not, maybe they just pour the filling higher in the middle and let it set? 🙂

  8. […] only published one recipe for milk tart on my blog before, so it was time for a revisit of this stunning South African […]

  9. Hi there,
    Re:Crustless milk tart.I have a pie dish 24cm in diameter

    would you call that a large dish? Another question…

    can use lemon zest.Lastly can I leave the tart in the

    fridge overnight?

    Kind Regards, Erika

    1. Hi Erika, yes should work if the dish is at least 5 cm deep. Regarding the lemon rind/zest: peeled rind works best as it gives a more subtle flavour and can be removed from the milk mixture. Grated zest might be overpowering. And yes, you can leave the tart in the fridge. Enjoy!

  10. We are from Hermanus South African and visiting Wilberforce in Canada. Trying out your recipe for friends and family.

    1. Oh fantastic, hope it’s a great visit and that the milk tart is a winner! 🙂

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