Desserts & Baking


50 to 60
2 hours
30–40 minutes

"These are a firm favourite on a Sunday morning, when the aroma of traditional Cape Malay koesisters wafts through the house. They take you on a nostalgic journey and evoke emotion with every bite. Sweet, spicy and delicious!" – Fatima Sydow

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  • 625 g cake flour
  • 3 T aniseed
  • 2 ½ T ground cinnamon
  • 2 T instant yeast
  • 1 T ground ginger
  • 1 T ground cardamon
  • 1 T naartjie zest
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1¼ cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 T butter
  • 4 T sugar
  • 1 large free-range egg
  • 2 litres oil, for frying
  • 300 g desiccated coconut, for sprinkling
  • For the syrup:
  • 3 cups water
  • 600 g sugar
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 3 naartjie peels (fresh or dried)

1.  Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well.

2. Place the water, milk and butter in a separate bowl and microwave for 35–40 seconds. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. The water should be lukewarm, not hot.

3. Whisk the egg in a small bowl. Add half the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, then add the egg and stir. Add the remaining wet ingredients and mix with your hands until a sticky dough forms. Using your hands, oil the dough to make it less sticky.

4. Cover the bowl with clingwrap and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.

5.  Once risen, flour a work surface and place the dough on the surface. Use a knife to cut it into 40 g balls. Using greased hands, shape the dough balls into oblong shapes and let it rest on the floured surface for 10 minutes.

6. While the dough is resting, prepare the syrup. Place the water, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and naartjie peels in a large, deep saucepan and cook over a high heat for 20–25 minutes or until a syrup forms. Set aside.

7. Heat the oil in a large, deep saucepan or pot until hot. Fry the koesisters in batches until golden brown, about 2–3 minutes on each side. Drain on kitchen paper.

8. Heat the syrup over a high heat and place the fried koesisters in the boiling syrup and allow to soak for about a minute on each side.

9 Sprinkle the coconut on a plate, place the koesisters on the plate, then sprinkle with more coconut. Serve with coffee or tea.

Cook’s notes: Koesister dough should be sticky, not smooth, because they should be light and airy. If you prefer darker koesisters, add more sugar and cinnamon. If you’re in a hurry, add a bit more sugar to the syrup to make it cook faster.

The syrup is ready when it drips slowly off a spoon and when it forms bubbles while boiling. When you’re soaking the koesisters in the syrup, add 4 T water to the syrup after each batch to keep it at a good consistency.
You can fry a big batch of koesisters and freeze them. To use, thaw and soak in the sugar syrup.

Find more South African recipes here.

Production: Khanya Mzongwana
Photographs: Jan Ras 

Fatima Sydow

Recipe by: Fatima Sydow

Fatima made her first 100-litre pot of curry at the age of 16 and has been sharing her popular recipes ever since. She built up a worldwide following with her Facebook page, Cape Malay Cooking with Fatima Sydow and is a cookbook author and TV cook.

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