Cape Malay Koesister Recipe

Makes about 50 Koesisters 

From dried naartjie peels to the sweet and aromatic smell of warm Koesisters! Most of us have a food memory about these little gems which include their mom, grandmother, the aunty down the road or neighbour who would make Koesisters to sell. This tradition still lives on in our communities in South Africa and may it continue for many more years. I’ve brought this tradition to Dubai with me. No matter what day of the week it is, the revered Koesister still provides the same kind of love and warmth it does on a Sunday morning in Cape Town, here on foreign soil in the Middle East. The irony of it all is that, whilst miles away, it just takes one bite and I am transported back in time, the faces, the sounds and the flavours of my childhood ever present today, here in My Cape Malay Kitchen in the United Arab Emirates.

For the dough

3 C (750 ml) milk

60 g butter

2 eggs

½ C (125 ml) sugar

6 C (6 x 250 ml) cake flour

1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder

½ tsp (2.5 ml) salt

1 packet (10 g) instant yeast

1 Tbsp (15 ml) dried ground naartjie (clementine) peel

1 Tbsp (15 ml) ground cinnamon

2 tsp (10 ml) ground ginger

2 tsp (10 ml) ground cardamom

4 tsp (20 ml) whole aniseed (seeds)

1 C (250 ml) self-raising flour


For frying

2 C (500 ml) canola or vegetable oil

medium-size pot or a wok

1 chopstick to flip the koesisters


Traditional sweet coconut filling

1¼ C (310 ml) water

1 C (250 ml) sugar

2–3 cinnamon sticks

1 green cardamom pod, slightly bruised

1 C (250 ml) desiccated coconut


For the sugar syrup

2 C (500 ml) sugar

2 C (500 ml) water


  • To make the dough, warm the milk and butter in a saucepan on medium heat and then set aside. The milk should not be boiling hot, just warmed through and the butter melted.
  • In a mixer, beat eggs and sugar together on a high setting until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is light and frothy.
  • Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the yeast, naartjie peel and spices (both powdered and seeds). Use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients together until it’s all cohesively incorporated.
  • Add the milk mixture and egg mixture and mix well with wooden spoon or a spatula.
  • Transfer the dough into a large bowl greased with oil or butter. Cover this with a kitchen towel and place in a warm area in your kitchen or home.
  • Allow the dough to rise and double in size.
  • Once risen, moisten your hands with oil and ensure that the self-raising flour is used to coat the working surface and to add to the sticky dough.
  • Shape the dough with your hands, into a long cylindrically shaped piece of about 5 cm high.
  • Using a sharp knife cut 3-cm-wide portions of the dough – this is essentially your koesister (unshaped) at this stage of the process.
  • Keep your hands moist and shape the cut pieces of dough into oval-shaped koesisters.
  • Stretch the dough gently to secure the oval shape so that it is 5–6 cm long by 3 cm wide and place on a well-floured surface. These little puffy pillows should rest for about 30 minutes where they will puff up again before frying.


Preparing the filling

  • Bring the water, sugar, cinnamon sticks and cardamom to a boil for about 5 minutes. Stir in the coconut and allow the sauce to thicken and for the coconut to become sticky.


Frying the koesisters

  • Avoid overcrowding when frying the koesisters because they need the space between pieces to accommodate for further rising/expansion when it comes into contact with the hot oil.
  • Gently lift the koesisters one by one and deep-fry in warm oil for about 3 minutes on the one side and a further 3 minutes on the other side.
  • Once fried, remove the koesisters with a slotted spoon and allow to rest on a paper towel.


Finishing the Koesisters

  • Prepare the sugar syrup by simply placing the ingredients in a medium-size saucepan and cook on high heat until the sugar starts dissolving.
  • Turn the heat down to a medium setting and stir until the sugar syrup becomes slightly sticky. You can add more water if the syrup starts to thicken too much.
  • Place the koesisters in the syrup for 1–2 minutes, ensuring that they are well coated on all sides. Remove with a fork.
  • Once slightly cooled, make a small incision in the koesister – about 2 cm – and fill it with a spoonful the warm coconut filling or simply sprinkle with desiccated coconut and enjoy with a warm cup of tea.


Credit & Copyright
Publisher: Penguin Random House South Africa
Cook book: Cooking for my father in My Cape Malay Kitchen (also known as My Cape Malay Kitchen)

Author: Cariema Isaacs 

*Available on Amazon