a classic buttermilk rusk recipe

classic south african buttermilk rusks

I needed a classic buttermilk rusk recipe to make rusks for my TV shoot last week, and where better to turn for this than my much revered and sought after: ‘The Snowflake Book of Baking’ (now out of print). So prominent are buttermilk rusks (and other rusks) in South African cooking, the book  features 2 versions.

The first was made with margarine which I am completely emotionally allergic to, and had eggs.  The second looked simpler and is made with butter.

This is what you need to make these:

buttermilk rusks

buttermilk rusks


  • 1.5kg self raising flour
  • 3ml salt
  • 2 tsp / 10ml cream of tartar
  • 500gm butter
  • 350gm (430ml) sugar
  • 500ml buttermilk


  1. Pre heat the oven to 180C / 350 F
  2. In a very large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together
  3. In a small pot, melt the butter and the sugar.
  4. Add the butter sugar mix and the buttermilk to the dry ingredients and combine.
  5. Shape into balls and pack into a lined or greased baking tray (I made mine very big for effect for the shoot, but think its preferable to make them smaller).
  6. Bake for an hour then remove and turn the oven down to 50C (100F).
  7. Break the rusks up into chunks and place directly on the oven rack or a wire rack and leave overnight to dry out.
Its always worth making the big batch because of the time it takes to bake and dry, but they really are so very easy.
On the whole I am more of a muesli, seed rusk kinda person, bit I liked these, they were not too sweet and had a nice solid crumb.

crunchy, but smooth and creamy, if that makes sense

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40 Responses to a classic buttermilk rusk recipe

  1. Lori July 12, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    A big cup of coffee and these rusks would be divine now!

  2. Alida July 12, 2011 at 8:24 am #

    I’m with Lori. That would be just perfect right now!

  3. Ming-Cheau July 12, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    mmmmm… looks too good! I’d have that with a cuppa Rooibos tea.

  4. Sam July 12, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    Thanks Ally and Lori – I have them in my house and nibble away. Time to find a worthy recipient of them 🙂

  5. Sam July 12, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Hey Minglet, what is it about rusks and a hot drink to wash them down with. x

  6. The Food Fox - Ilse van der Merwe July 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    I also have that Snowflake book! Mine is in Afrikaans: “Beter Gebak met Snowflake”. Got it from my mother in law – such a classic. Your pics a beautiful as ever, Sam!

  7. Sam July 13, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    Thanks Ilse, so pleased to hear there is an Afrikaans version. Such a great book with so many classic recipes. 🙂

  8. asmat August 14, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    Hi would like to know if you forgot the eggs in ths recipe as I have seen similar recipe wth egg in it.

  9. Sam August 14, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    Hi Asmat, No there are no eggs in this recipe.

  10. sj November 30, 2011 at 12:33 am #

    mmm, i made these rusks last night and they didnt rise very well.
    im not a seasoned baker or anything, but usually my experiments turn out
    allright. they tasted good, though a little dense…
    any ideas?

  11. Sam November 30, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    Hi Sj, this is a denser recipe, but they should have risen quite well. I liked the flavour. My advice would be to find a recipe that was a bit lighter. Could also be dense if you packed them too tightly into the baking tray, thereby not allowing enough space for them to spread?

  12. Bernadette Loock January 4, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    Please I also want this book where can I get it +2772 974 0809

  13. suey February 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    Hi. Made dese yest, turned out very nyce. I didn’t hav buttermilk tho so used greek yoghurt instead. D nxt tym I will add a lil more sugar coz I prefer dem slitely sweeter. Good recipe! Thank u 4 sharing:)

  14. Sam February 27, 2012 at 7:35 am #

    Hi Suey, glad they worked out and could do with a bit of extra sugar.

  15. Kerry March 6, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    I have a batch in my oven drying as I type! These were fantastic! Disappeared before I could get them to my father as a gift 🙂 I am under strict orders by hubby to keep them coming!

  16. Sam March 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    Thats Fab Kerry, enjoy. I like that this make quite a big batch and for me they are not too sweet.

  17. CAROL April 28, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    Does Suey intend that others should be able to read her comment without some effort. Others’ time is just as important as hers.

  18. Deborah April 30, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    live in the UK now, and we can pretty much get anything we are homesick for – but home-made rusks are another thing entirely! Made your recipe and they are fantastic – really good – even managed to convert some of our British friends to them! Thanks for this

  19. Sam May 1, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    Hi Deborah, so glad the rusks worked out. They are such a South African thing aren’t they?

  20. Jess November 30, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    Hi Sam, I found your recipe for buttermilk rusks doing a google search. I want to use it but it calls for cream of tartar. I have never used this ingredient before and the research I have done on it says it’s always used with baking soda. Did you by any chance forget to list baking soda in your ingredients? Just want to make sure before I attempt making these. Thanks Jess

  21. Sam November 30, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    HI Jess, the recipe uses self raising flour so the baking soda is in the flour. There is no need to add more. This is the correct recipe.

  22. RAV April 20, 2013 at 12:42 am #

    Hi Sam

    Please excuse my ignorance but when I have reached the step of turning the oven down to 50C, how long should the oven be on for ? And can I use a cutter for these rusks ???

  23. Sam April 20, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    Hi Rav, I mention in the recipe to leave them in the oven overnight at 50 C – you really want them to dry out. Why would you want a cutter for them? – you simply roll the dough into balls, pack them in a baking pan and bake 🙂


  24. sj July 15, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    I wrote before about my rusks not rising well. I make these rusks all the time, they are amazing!
    I think my first batch was a bit of a flop, but they still tasted great. Every batch I have made since have been incredible and I just wanted to say ‘Thank you!!!’
    I have converted my Aussie guy to a traditional Saffa breakfast of hot tea or coffee and rusks!

  25. Sam July 15, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    Thanks for letting me know sj, that’s fabulous.

  26. nancy December 28, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    Thanks for the recipe. Ive got my first batch in the oven. It didnt say how big or small the balls should be, so ive tried various. Let you know how the turn out.

  27. Sam January 2, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    Please do Nancy. I made super big ones, but think smaller is better. let me know.

  28. zoe August 30, 2014 at 8:19 am #

    So I made these yesterday and they are delightful! An added bonus was forgetting the butter sugar pot for a while and having some delicious fudge at the bottom!! Taste just like woolies rusks. I made them small – golf ball size and they didn’t rise a lot but very tasty.

  29. Sam August 30, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    HI Zoe, glad you enjoyed. Yeah the ones I made were ginormous, smaller is better.

  30. Edwina September 21, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

    Oh! Beautiful recipe ~ thanks for posting and THANK YOU SNOWFLAKE!!! I’m looking for a good, basic, original SA Buttermilk rusk to serve our guests with coffee on their dawn game drives…. (We run a guest lodge near Kruger) THANKS A BILLION <3 <3 <3

  31. lin September 25, 2014 at 11:40 pm #

    buttermilk rusk recipe

  32. Dianne December 16, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

    Just moved house couldn’t find my recipe so found this. Only suggestion here in Canada is to use unsalted butter and no extra salt as the self-raising flour has it all. Christmas without rusks is a no go thing in our home

  33. Sam December 17, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    Glad you found the recipe Dianne

  34. Chris October 13, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

    Point 7: Do you break them up and leave them on oven rack inside oven overnight at 50C…or remove from oven?

    Point 6 and 7 are a bit vague. Thanks

  35. Sam October 14, 2016 at 7:42 am #

    Hi Chris, Yes you break them apart and put them back in the oven at 50C. There would be no point in turning down the oven and then leaving them out? Rusks need to dry out in the oven overnight (or in a warming drawer if you had such a thing). They are essentially twice baked like biscotti. So you turn down the oven. Take them out. Break them apart, put them on a wire rack or the oven rack and leave overnight to dry out (about 8 hours should do it).

  36. Chris October 14, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

    Thank you. It was my 1st attempt at baking rusks. They come out lovely…had to make sure how to dry them…I am a guy after all…new to baking yummie stuff…thanks again!

  37. Sam October 14, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

    HI Chris, Im glad it worked out for you. Rusks can be a a bit of effort, but at least you make a large batch which lasts for ages.


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