A classic buttermilk rusk

· ·

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.

It’s 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, but I liked these, they were not too sweet and had a nice solid crumb.

You might also like these South African recipes:

Classic South African unbaked milk tarts

Earl Grey tea milk tart  -Baked milk tart 

Orange malva pudding

Pear & ginger malva pudding

Malva pudding with cranberries & ginger

My grandmother Betty’s crunchy recipe

Muesli rusks with oats & raisins

Easy peppermint crisp pudding

Traditional South African bobotie with fragrant yellow rice

For more of my favourite recipes:

My 10 best cake recipes

Possibly the best banana bread ever

The best chocolate cake with fluffy chocolate buttercream frosting

Lemon poppyseed madeleines

Orange and pecan muffins

This is what you need to make these:

*If necessary, loosely cover the rusks with tin foil to prevent over-browning. 

buttermilk rusks

Print Recipe


  • 1.5 kg self raising flour
  • 3 ml salt
  • 1 tsp / 5ml cream of tartar
  • 500 gm butter
  • 350 gm 430ml sugar
  • 500 ml buttermilk


  • Pre heat the oven to 180C / 350 F
  • In a very large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together
  • In a small pot, melt the butter and the sugar.
  • Add the butter sugar mix and the buttermilk to the dry ingredients and combine.
  • 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).
  • Bake for an hour then remove and turn the oven down to 50C (100F).
  • Break the rusks up into chunks and place them directly on the oven rack or a wire rack and leave overnight to dry out.
Author: Sam Linsell




 Find me on Instagram & Pinterest




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  10. 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. 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 says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  30. 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. buttermilk rusk recipe

  32. 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. Glad you found the recipe Dianne

  34. 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. 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. 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. 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.

  38. Anything toasty and crunchy in the morning gets my full attention! Love these!

  39. Baked this today, love the taste. But I did not make balls, I pressed the mixture into a ruskpan/baking tray and then used the rusk cutter. It baked for about 30-35 min at 180. It did rise well. Only thing since this need to be made in a breadtin, the mixture is not that easy to work with in the ruskpan/baking tray, can one add a bit more liquid to make it easier to spread?

  40. Hi Dalene – I would definitely not add more water to make it spread, it is supposed to be a thick dough. I’m now sure what a rusk cutter is, or exactly what you did here but this recipe works well when you roll it in balls as per my instructions.

  41. I haven’t made rusks for years and was a little nervous… the kitchen is not my strong point ? but these worked wonderfully first time round and so yummy!

  42. HI DV – I am so glad these worked out for you

  43. Hi there. Baked for an hour as said, and alas they were burnt. Any ideas on what i could’ve done differently?

  44. Hi Deborah – I’m sorry they brut but this is a tried and tested recipe (it comes directly out of a very well known cookbook) and you can see the. many successes with the recipe form other people in the comments. I can only think that your oven is too hot and or it was not baked in the middle shelf. I generally always loosely cover my baked good with tin foil to pref=vent over browning but. They should not have burnt though.

  45. Great!

  46. Debbie Botha says:

    Looked for a rusk recipe and chose yours. Great taste but slightly disappointed, they didn’t rise. Made them golf ball size. Will absolutely make them again though.
    Thanks for sharing!!

  47. Hi there can’t wait to try ur recipe. Just wanted to know how much butter is needed

  48. HI Shahista the butter amount is as per the recipe, 500gms.

  49. Karen Walker-Love says:

    Absolutely delicious – thanks for this excellent recipe for a homesick saffa in Belgium. Really brightened my rainy day xxx

  50. Hi Karen, I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Rusks really do bring it back for ex pat saffers. Take care.

  51. Hi! I baked the rusks today but I didn’t quite get the shape to look like yours. How did you get the rusks to look like that?

  52. Hi Liebe – I baked those rusks extra large for a shoot. It doesn’t really matter what shape they are in as it won’t affect their taste. I hope you enjoyed them

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *