Mum’s recipe for milk tart

Classic recipes make light work of winning hearts and in search for special recipes handed down my mums, we felt Renée Nesbitt’s recipe for a crustless honey milk tart did a pretty sterling job. Here’s the how to and her lovely words to mum.


‘My mom is without a doubt the loveliest person I know and if I weren’t lucky enough to be her daughter, I really do hope that I would have her as a friend. Not only is she immeasurably strong in character and the first number I dial when life feels overwhelming, but she also has the gentlest heart you’re likely to come across. Even when telling a happy story about someone she loves, her eyes well up with tears of joy and her huge smile lights up the room, reminding me again of what an extraordinary person she is.

The comforting taste of milk tart and ‘melkkos’ has always been a favourite in our home. Much like this recipe, my mom’s cooking style is simple and unfussy. Her focus is on the time spent around the table with the family, rather than on the preparation or cleaning up. Whether I wanted to or not, I have instinctively inherited her practical approach in the kitchen, often finding myself paging past a recipe because it is too finicky or it would just make too much of an unnecessary mess. Wholesome, tasty food and the people you share it with is all that matters.’ – Renée Nesbitt

Renee with her mum


30 g unsalted butter, melted
⅓ cup honey
Seeds of 1 vanilla pod
⅔ cups caster sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1l milk
1 cup cake flour
5 ml baking powder
A pinch of salt
Ground cinnamon for sprinkling


1. Preheat the oven to 180º C.
2. Cream the melted butter, honey, vanilla and castor sugar together.
3. Beat the egg yolks and add it to the butter, honey, vanilla and sugar mixture.
4. Add the milk bit by bit and stir into the mixture using a whisk (or a very gentle speed on your hand mixer, as it splashes easily).
5. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add it to the milk mixture and mix well.
6. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peak stage. Fold into the milk mixture (mix well, but don’t overdo it).
7. Pour the mixture into a well greased pie or tart dish.
8. Bake for 1 hour, then turn the oven off and leave the tart inside for a further 15 minutes with the door closed. The tart will still seem very wobbly (custard-like consistency inside) when you take it out, but don’t worry, it will set once cooled completely.
9. Sprinkle the top generously with the ground cinnamon and place it in the fridge for an hour or two to set before serving.

This milk tart is everything you could want from a classic South African recipe, the kind of dessert that can literally save the day. So a big thank you to Renée and her mum for their fantastic collaborative mother-daughter baking efforts and for sharing their family recipe for milk tart with us.

For some more delicious recipes passed down from mums to daughters, head this way.

With thanks to Sybil Doms for baking these classics in our kitchen.