How To Make Perfect Malva Pudding – A Recipe and some Twists

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The Banting version of malva pudding is a carrot.

Because there is just no way this sugar bomb of a dessert can ever be Paleo-fied. Can it? Do we want the world to end?

Rich, delicious and one spoon short of cardiac arrest, malva pudding represents everything that is glorious and good about traditional South African cooking. Some things deserve to be preserved in all their magnificent excess, and nobody wants to be touched on their malva pudding, do they? As with most traditional and heritage food, everybody holds their own version dear, if not exactly holy.

Yes, it’s loaded with calories, sugar and fat, which is precisely why you should be having lots of it during a South African winter – just think of it as your own personal Eskom, providing energy in abundance, and dish up, dear.

I’m not one much for sweets and desserts, but since my children are growing up in an Outer Mongolia of puddings and desserts, I figured I ought to try at least ONE pudding this winter. Malva pudding always gets enthusiastic response, except, of course, if you start fiddling with the recipe – which I usually do -and if you subsequently start a Facebook enquiry with your creative ideas.

‘Evaporated milk or cream? #MalvaPudding’ I mildly tweeted and Facebooked, and a deluge of opinions followed. Some friends who really know their way around a kitchen, like retired diplomat Derek Auret and food market magician Surita Riffel, offered swoony diversions from the standard recipe. Amarula was suggested by many as addition to the syrup, as was Kahlua, or star anise. Whiskey, brandy, sherry…it would be easy to guess that malva pudding is an excuse to get tipsy, but then we’d be intruding on Tipsy Tart territory, which is a whole different pudding altogether.

Bon vivant Derek professed to using treacle brown sugar with cream for his syrup, boiling it down by a third before pouring over the baked, warm pudding. He also scolded me for preferring evaporated milk to cream but hey, I grew up in the Free State, OK? We do things differently there. Evaporated milk was almost the only canned food my mother used and nope, I have no idea why cow country did not offer us regular fresh cream in the days back then. Perhaps it all went to make butter for you fancy city folk, who knows? But trust me, evaporated milk works just fine, and gives a lighter taste and finer mouthfeel to your malva.

Surita suggested adding a shot of whiskey to the syrup – AWESTRUCK! – and serving coffee ice cream alongside. Big win there, my friend. Big win.

Whether all these remain verifiable versions of malva pudding I could not possibly say, except that MY recipe comes from the cookbook Traditional South African Cooking by Magdaleen van der Merwe and Pat Barton. It was published by Struik in 1993 and has since been reprinted 5 times. If that doesn’t count as authority, what does?

Strangely, though, this recipe refers to malva pudding as ‘marshmallow pudding’ in the English edition, which I’ve never come across before. Perhaps a direct translation from the Afrikaans ‘malva’? Which is erroneous, anyway, as it does not refer to marshmallows in the Afrikaans version either, but rather to the wine thought to have been used originally in the ancestor of this pud, malmsey wine or Malvasia.

All a bit of a mystery really, but what’s no secret is that it is darned delicious, and you should be making it today. Or soon. But don’t wait too long, because come summer, you’ll be regretting every portion you scoffed in the grips of the big freeze…

Here is my friend the food and wine guru Michael Olivier’s tried and trusted recipe for Malva Pudding 1.0 on his blog:¬†Malva Pudding – the original

And below is the original recipe from the Traditional South African cookbook, along with my alternative suggestions –


Serves 10 – of which several portions will probably seconds, maybe thirds.


I stirred about 25 ml finely chopped preserved ginger into the batter before baking, because my son likes it. I also used 1 tablespoon of the preserved ginger syrup in the pour-over sauce. Of the liquid options for the pour-over sauce, I opted for the orange juice in the cookbook’s recipe and boy, oh boy, it worked like a charm. The combination of the ginger and orange juice, as well as the *ahem* evaporated milk lifted my malva pudding from the usual cloying density to something almost approaching freshness and lightness. Give it ¬†bash!¬†


250 ml (1 cup) castor sugar

2 large eggs

15ml (1 T) smooth apricot jam

(Optional: I added 25 ml or so of finely chopped preserved ginger plus 5 ml/1 t vanilla extract)

185 grams  cake flour

5 ml (1 t) bicarb

pinch of salt

20 ml (1 and a half T) butter

5 ml (1 t) white vinegar

125 ml (1/2 cup) full cream milk


250 ml pouring or whipping cream (or evaporated milk, in my case)

125 ml (1/2 cup) butter (I lessened this to 100 ml, even 80 ml)

125 ml (1/2 cup) white sugar (I used firmly-packed treacle brown sugar – the really soft and sticky one)

125 ml (1/2 cup) water, orange juice or sherry (I used 80 ml juice and found there was plenty of liquid sauce to pour over)

Optional – 15 ml (1 T) preserved ginger syrup


1. Preheat oven to 180 C or 160 C fan-assisted. Beat the castor sugar and eggs until fluffy and light. Add the apricot jam and whisk until smooth. (If using chopped preserved ginger and vanilla, add them now too.)

2. Sift together the flour, bicarb and salt no fewer than 3 times. (Yes, it is necessary. Mens stry nie met tradisie nie!)

3. Place butter, vinegar and milk in a bowl and microwave on medium strength until butter has melted. Whisk and add to the batter in thirds, alternating with the flour mixture, while the blender is running.

4. Spoon the batter into a lightly greased/Cook & Sprayed ovenproof dish. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until set and nicely golden brown on top. A toothpick inserted into the middle should come out clean if it’s done. If dough sticks to the toothpick, bake further in increments of 5 minutes until done. Remove from oven and keep warm. The pudding must still be warm when the sauce is poured over.

5. You will have made the sauce while the pudding was baking, dearest, unless you were whatsapping or taking selfies, so here is the method: put all sauce ingredients into a saucepan, bring to the boil, and simmer at a gentle bubble until reduced by a third. Pour the hot sauce over the warm pudding, and let stand for 30 minutes for the sauce to seep in deeply.

Because that’s what malva is all about – that sauce-steeped sticky, gooey gloriousness. Cream, custard, ice cream: the choice is yours.

Glorious malva pudding! Photo courtesy of Henk Hattingh
Glorious malva pudding! Photo courtesy of Henk Hattingh


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Celebrating life with food, wine, friends & happiness! Writer, cook and blogger. Author of four cookbooks. Passionately South African, proudly Capetonian.