cape malay koeksisters

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If I was to choose something sweet that signifies my Cape Malay heritage, it has to be a traditional Cape Malay koesister. I remember many Sunday mornings, getting up early to go and buy koesisters from an Auntie in our neighbourhood. There I was, along with so many other boys and girls, walking with our empty bowls that would soon be filled with the most deliciously warm and fragrant koesisters.

The Aunties who made the koesisters made them with love! You could just taste it in every bite. These days, I have become our resident koesister maker. My recipe is a combination of my grandmothers potato koeksister recipe and little things I have learned making them over the years. The aromas that linger in the kitchen when these little doughy wonders are frying will transport anyone back to a time where our Sunday mornings began with love and comfort, in the form of a warm, coconut-covered koesister and a refreshing cup of coffee.

I should mention these sticky and spiced-filled treats are not to be confused with the other traditional South African-Dutch-styled plaited koeksister. These are more fragrant and I’ll be honest, require less work.

cape malay koeksisters

  • serves makes roughly forty to fifty
  • prep time sixty minutes
  • total time forty-five minutes


  • three cups of milk
  • sixty grams of butter
  • two eggs, room temperature
  • half a cup of granulated sugar
  • six cups of all purpose flour + plus extra for dough
  • one large potato, boiled and smashed
  • one teaspoon of baking powder
  • half a teaspoon of salt
  • one tablespoon of dried active yeast
  • one tablespoon of ground cinnamon
  • two teaspoons of ground ginger
  • one teaspoon of ground cardamom
  • two tablespoons of fine aniseed
  • one teaspoon of orange zest
  • two cups of vegetable oil
  • two cups of sugar, for the syrup
  • two cups of water, for the syrup
  • one cup of desiccated coconut, for sprinkling


  1. In a small saucepan on medium heat, warm the milk and butter together until the butter has melted and mixture is evenly combined. Mash in the potato and then set aside. The mixture should not be boiling, just warm.

  2. In a mixer or using an electric hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together at high speed until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is light and fluffy.

  3. In a large mixing bowl, sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Finally, add the yeast and all the spices, and mix the ingredients together using a wooden spoon.

  4. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and mix well with wooden spoon.

  5. Transfer the dough into a large bowl that has been greased with oil or butter. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise and double in size in a warm area.

  6. Once the dough has risen, moisten your hands with oil and coat the working surface and your hands with flour so you can work with the sticky dough.

  7. Using your hands, shape the dough into a long log-like shape, about five centimeters high. Use a sharp knife to cut three centimeter-wide pieces of the dough.

  8. Take each cut piece and roll into an oval-shaped ball. Stretch it gently until it is five to six centimeters long and three centimeters wide and place on a well-floured surface. These little puffy pillows should rest for about thirty minutes minutes where they will puff up again before frying.

  9. Heat a large pot on medium to high heat. Gently place the koesisters one by one into the warm oil and deep-fry for about three minutes on each side.

  10. Avoid overcrowding when frying the koesisters because they need space in between to accommodate further rising when they come into contact with the warm oil. Remove the fried koesisters with a slotted spoon and allow to rest on a paper towel.

  11. To prepare the syrup, place the sugar and one cup of the water in a deep pan and cook over a high heat until the sugar starts dissolving. Stir frequently.

  12. Turn the heat down to a medium setting and stir until the sugar syrup becomes slightly sticky. Gradually add the remaining one cup of water to stop the sugar from crystallising.

  13. Place the koesisters in the syrup for one to two minutes, ensuring that they are well coated and then remove with a fork.

  14. Give the koesisters a generous dusting with coconut and serve while hot.

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