Classic South African koeksisters with a spicy syrup

· ·
Classic South African koeksister recipe

Today is Heritage Day in South Africa and what better way to celebrate than with one of our most traditional confections? This classic South African koeksister recipe comes from my long-time foodie friend Michael Olivier and was published in my second cookbook ‘sweet’. It’s the best koeksister recipe I know and I adore the ginger and spice additions to the syrup which really make these so special.

Michael says: ‘A fond childhood memory was waking up on a Saturday morning when koeksisters were being made for a church cake sale. The syrup was always made on Friday nights and allowed to get really cold overnight, one of the secrets of the success of koeksisters. Even during use, it was surrounded with ice cubes so that the hot koeksisters would suck in the cinnamon and lemon syrup. The oil also could not be too hot (180 °C) otherwise they would be dark and hard on the outside and not properly cooked on the inside. Koeksisters – or as some would have it, koeksisters – were originally from Batavia and are generally plaited, though often in Malay homes will be made with mashed potato, called bollas, cooked in an oblong shape and not plaited, and served rolled in coconut.’

In case you missed it I have just published my first eBook called ‘Comfort’ and you can find out more about it here. It’s filled with 42 deliciously nostalgic and familiar recipes that are designed with the pure pleasure of eating in mind. In this crazy world filled with uncertainty, this is my idea of a culinary hug. With four chapters spanning eating occasions throughout the day, there is a little bit of everything in this eBook. From egg-centric breakfasts to casual favourites, as well as a few amazing & cheesy vegetarian dishes, and a load of hearty mains. I finish off with a sweet chapter filled with desserts and bakes. I hope that these recipes will find a permanent spot in your cooking repertoire and bring much delicious comfort.

Comfort eBook by Sam Linsell

You might also like:

Classic South African unbaked milk tarts

Earl Grey tea milk tart  -Baked milk tart 

Traditional South African Koeksisters

Orange malva pudding

Pear & ginger malva pudding

Malva pudding with cranberries & ginger

My grandmother Betty’s crunchy recipe

A classic buttermilk rusk recipe

Muesli rusks with oats & raisins

Easy peppermint crisp pudding

Traditional South African bobotie with fragrant yellow rice

Recipe – makes 24

Classic South African koeksister

A classic South African koeksister recipe.
Print Recipe
Classic South African koeksister recipe
Prep Time:20 minutes
Cook Time:2 minutes



  • 1 kg granulated white sugar
  • 500 ml water
  • 4 quills stick of cinnamon
  • ± 4 cm in length
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 2 pieces thumb size of fresh green ginger, well bruised with a rolling pin
  • 3 strips 4 cm long
  • lemon peel
  • 30 ml lemon juice
  • a pinch of salt
  • knifepoint of cream
  • of tartar
  • 5 ml glycerine add just before dipping to give the koeksisters a shiny coat


  • 500 g cake flour
  • 20 ml baking powder
  • 5 ml mixed spice
  • 3 ml salt
  • 60 ml butter frozen and cut into tiny squares
  • 250 ml milk
  • 125 ml buttermilk
  • sunflower oil for deep-frying


  • Prepare the syrup the day before. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and heat gently while dissolving the sugar, then bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Leave the spices and peel in the syrup and, when sufficiently cold, strain and pour into a glass bowl to refrigerate overnight. Shortly before use, place it in the freezer to get really cold.
  • For the koeksisters, keep 2 slotted spoons ready; one for lifting them out of the hot fat and another for putting them into and removing them from the syrup. Also, have a baking tray lined with a paper towel and another with a cake rack to drain the koeksisters after dipping them in syrup. Fill a large bowl with ice in which to stand the bowl with the strained syrup.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, mixed spice, and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the milk and buttermilk and pulse until combined. Turn out onto a floured board and knead gently until the mixture forms a soft dough. Divide it into 2, place it in a bowl, and cover it with a damp tea towel. Leave it for 30 minutes to rest.
  • Pat one of the balls of dough out on a floured board into a rectangular shape about
  • 2.5 cm thick. Using a floured rolling pin, roll it out into a rectangle 20 x 10 cm and 1 cm thick.  Cut the rectangle into 4 strips across the width and 6 strips across the length (for 12 koeksisters). Cut each into 3 strips, leaving them joined across the top. Plait them, seal the ends with water and tuck the ends underneath. Place them on a baking tray and cover them with a damp tea towel while you repeat the process with the other ball of dough.
  • In a deep, heavy saucepan heat the oil to 180 °C and fry the koeksisters 5 at a time, turning them with a slotted spoon to brown evenly on both sides. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel for a short while. While still hot, drop them into the syrup for about 1 minute, remove with a slotted spoon, drain for a moment and place them on the cake rack.
  • Serve them warm (when they are at their best) or at room temperature.
Servings: 24
Author: Sam



 Find me on Instagram & Pinterest




  1. 5 stars
    Hello Sam, I recently made these yummy delights and they were amazing. The taste and texture would give any koeksister a run for its money. Thank you for sharing this recipe, it is a keeper.
    P.S. Would you please share with me storing instructions. How should they be stored and how long can they be stored. Thanks in advance.

  2. Hi Marzia and I’m so glad you liked the recipe. I think its the best too :). Youcan store koeksisters in a sealed container in the fridge for a week or two thereafter you can free them. To that you can simply leave them out until they reach room temps or blitz in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute and then allow them to cool before eating.

Leave a Reply

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