Cape Malay Koeksisters

You read right, koeksisters. The Cape Malay version of koeksisters. Koeksisters remind me of generosity and diversity.  They are a reminder of home and the big-hearted, humble, creative, resilient and selfless fellow humans that live in Cape Town and the rest of South Africa. I have fond memories of my Muslim colleagues (Dilshaad and Nabu) who fed our cookery department team [very] well during Eid or any special occasion with mutton breyani, chicken curry, roti and of course, koeksisters. A simple spiced yeast dough shaped into oval balls and deep fried until golden brown, then boiled in a light syrup until cooked all the way through and lastly sprinkled in desiccated coconut. I like to soak them once more in the remaining syrup until plump before sprinkling with coconut.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Dessert
Servings 40



  • 700 g cake flour
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) ground ginger
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) ground aniseed
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) castor sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 10 g active dry instant yeast
  • zest of 1 orange or 2 naartjies
  • 100 g butter
  • 200 ml milk
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla essence
  • +- 250 ml lukewarm water
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying


  • 2 cups (500 ml) white sugar
  • 4 cups (1 L) water

To Sprinkle:

  • +- 2 cups desiccated coconut


  • For the dough:
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir in the zest.  Heat the butter and milk together until melted and lukewarm. Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients and start mixing, add the lukewarm water and continue mixing until a soft dough forms. Knead for no more than 2 minutes to shape into a ball.  Cover and allow to proof until double in size (1 hour is good).
  • Divide dough into roughly +- 40 pieces and shape into round oval balls. Think rugby balls.
  • In batches, deep or shallow fry the oval balls in moderately hot oil (turning occasionally) until they are evenly golden brown (more brown than golden). Set aside to cool completely.
  • For the syrup, slowly heat the sugar and water together until sugar dissolves. Turn the heat up and simmer until the liquid is reduced to about half (a light syrup).
  • While the light syrup is simmering, add a few cooled koeksisters and simmer for about 2 minutes. Turning them occasionally. Remove and set aside in a large baking tray. Continue with the rest of the koeksisters.
  • Pour the remaining, even more, reduced syrup over all of the koeksisters in the baking tray. Allow them to soak up the remaining syrup (30 minutes).
  • Lastly, sprinkle as generously as you like with coconut.
  • Enjoy immediately, share with your neighbours and store the remaining (if any) in an airtight container.


If you don't want to make 40 koeksisters. Take left over dough, knead in some soaked raisins (or whatever you fancy) and shape into a small loaf tin, score and brush with egg wash. Proof for +- 40 minutes. Bake at 180 Degrees Celsius for +- 20 minutes (depending on size of loaf). Brush immediately with sugar syrup.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!