twists of sticky fried dough dipped in lemon ginger syrup best served cold

Koeksisters (not to be confused with the Cape Malay Koesister) is a South African speciality that should be tried at least once in your lifetime. Wikipedia defines it as ”

A koeksister or koesister comes from the Dutch word koekje, which translates to “cookie”. It is a South African syrup-coated doughnut in a twisted or braided shape (like a plait). It is prepared by deep-frying dough in oil, then dipping the fried dough into cold sugar syrup. Koeksisters are very sticky and sweet and taste like honey.[1]Koeksisters are of the Cape Malay origin.[2] The Afrikaner version is much more syrupy and crisp while the Cape Malay version’s texture is more like that of a cake, spicier, and usually covered in dried coconut.”

My husband is a huge fan of these syrupy treats and the moment I made it the first time early on in our marriage, he was hooked. Like many baked treats, it is easier than you think to make yourself and I hope you will give it a try. Note, please make the syrup first (the night before if possible) as it needs to be icy cold to ensure better adsorption into the hot fried dough. The prepared dough can also be made the night before and left in the fridge as it needs to rest for a few hours before using.

Here is how you make it:


  • 500g cake flour
  • 30ml baking powder
  • 2ml salt
  • 50g butter, diced
  • 1 jumbo egg
  • 250ml milk, sour milk, or buttermilk
  • oil for frying
  • 500ml water
  • 1kg sugar
  • 2ml cream of tartar
  • 2 thin slices ginger
  • 1 lemon, finely grated rind and juice


SYRUP: Combine ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil, without stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until a light syrup forms. Strain into a large bowl. Cool, then refrigerate until well chilled. DOUGH: Sift flour, baking powder and salt. Rub in butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Whisk egg with 200 ml (4/5 cup) milk, add to flour mixture and knead to make a soft, pliable dough. Add remaining milk only if dough is too stiff. Shape into a ball, wrap in waxed paper and chill for a couple of hours, or overnight, if possible.
Roll out to 1 cm thick on a floured surface. Cut into 4 x 8 cm strips, then cut each into 3 strips lengthways, almost to the top. Plait together and pinch ends tightly to seal. Place on a tray and cover with a damp cloth. Deep fry, a few at a time, in hot oil, turning constantly. Watch the heat: koeksisters take 2 to 3 minutes to cook through and turn deep golden brown.
Drain briefly on kitchen paper and then, while still hot, dip into chilled syrup. (If syrup gets too warm, place it in a larger bowl of cold water and ice blocks.) Strain off excess syrup back into bowl. Drain koeksisters on a rack.


  1. Flee

    September 10, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Oh Wow… So much for behaving myself this week. Would love to try, easier than I think you say… HHhmmmm Thank you so much

    1. rumtumtiggs

      September 10, 2012 at 11:23 am

      Thx for the comment Flee. What I love most about this recipe is you can flavour the syrup the way you want to which makes it taste more than just sweet…the lemon rind and ginger takes it to a new dimension 😉

  2. Flee

    September 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    MMM Yummy, Thank you so much …. will definitely try and give it a bash… (plucking up courage)

  3. Jeanne @ CookSister!

    September 13, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    OMG YOU ACTUALLY MADE YOUR OWN?! *bows down chanting we are not worthy we are not worthy*

    Awesomeness! I am a bad, lazy blogger and buy mine from home industries ;o) Great post – thanks for the step-by-step pics!

    1. rumtumtiggs

      September 14, 2012 at 8:39 am

      Lol. You know me, I don’t judge. My motto is strictly “do whatever works for you” and supporting the home industries is not a bad thing. Thank you for the lovely comment Oh Great One :) xx

  4. Turkish Delight | Rumtumtiggs…

    September 23, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    […] while ago I did a post on koeksisters http://food.rumtumtiggs.co.za/koeksisters/ that are one of my hubby’s favourite treats and I was overwhelmed by your responses to it. One of […]

  5. Turkish Delight

    September 23, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    […] while ago I did a post on koeksisters http://food.rumtumtiggs.co.za/koeksisters/that are one of my hubby’s favourite treats and I was overwhelmed by your responses to it. One of […]

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