We put six different store-bought milk tarts to the Food24 Taste Test to find out which is the creamiest one worthy of a Milk Tart Day win!
Come winter or summer, a traditional milk tart will always be a firm South African favourite. A little reminiscent of classic custard pie but far more delicate, milk tart is all things creamy, luxurious, comforting and wonderfully decadent!
To South Africans, a milk tart is so much more than a creamy cinnamon-dusted tart – it is the sweet symbol of a shared cultural treasure in South Africa. A dessert so loved that even a day, 27 February, has been dedicated to its celebration!
You get two types of milk tart, fridge-set and baked. The difference is that a fridge-set milk tart is usually done in a sweet pastry crust that is filled with a thick milk-based custard filling and topped with a generous dusting of cinnamon, while a baked one sees layers of buttery golden puffed pastry filled with a milky firm custard base and a sprinkle of cinnamon to finish.
And while nothing is moreish and comforting than a homemade milk tart, we’ve not met too many that would turn down a store-bought one! So, from baked to fridge-set, we put six different store-bought milk tarts to the Food24 Taste Test, and one thing is for sure: only the creamiest most luxurious one will do for National Milk Tart Day.
The only two standard milk tarts we could find that were the same at retail stores across South Africa were from Woolworths (they do a classic fridge-set milk tart) and Checkers (they do a version of a large baked milk tart). The rest of the milk tarts that made up this taste test may vary amongst retailers, as each different version was baked in-house at select retailers’ own bakeries.
All of the six samples were held to a high standard, with milk tart being a particular favourite amongst the sampling group, and the results were close, with two different stores sharing a joint first spot.
SPAR milk tart 3.5/5
Purchased from the bakery at the Sea Point SPAR in Cape Town, this fridge-set version did not disappoint! Coming in joint first spot, this milk tart came with a generous dusting of cinnamon, which some samplers found a tad overpowering, noting, “The amount of cinnamon was overpowering, which made the flavour taste weirdly alcoholic.”
The pastry however was perfectly buttery and golden, and the filling was creamy and sweet, hitting all those characteristic milk tart flavour boxes. It’s no wonder this version managed to charm the sampling group so.
Here’s what some of the samplers had to say: “Prrretty sweet, but the crust had me hooked,” and “My fave but could do with a tad less cinnamon,” and lastly, “I loved the filling! It was milky and perfect!”
The sample cost R36.95.
Pick n Pay milk tart 3.5/5
Purchased from the bakery at the Tokai Pick n Pay in the Western Cape, this baked milk tart with a light, somewhat uneven, dusting of cinnamon and a shortcrust pastry crust shared first place with the version from SPAR. The only thing this sample lost marks on was the pastry itself, with samplers noting, “The crust/base on this was very doughy, a bit underbaked perhaps.”
Other comments samplers made were: “The perfect blend of a milk tart, have no dislikes of it,” and “A lovely milk tart,” and lastly, “This sample was the right amount of sweet and creamy. Not pleased with the soggy bottom though!”
The sample cost R36.00.
Woolworths milk tart 3/5
Advertised as being made with free-range eggs and finished with an artsy pattern of dusted cinnamon, this fridge-set version was definitely on the sweeter side. While the milk tart did have that characteristic look and feel to it that you would expect, the samplers had somewhat conflicting reviews.
While a sampler noted that “Sweet but exactly what you’d expect! Pastry had a good texture and taste too. Really loved this sample actually,” another noted that it was “Nice… but a bit too sweet and milky without too much depth of flavour.”
The sample cost R74.99.
Food Lover’s milk tart 2/5
Purchased from the bakery at the Food Lover’s Market in Roeland Street in Cape Town, samplers found this baked milk tart to be a little underwhelming overall.
Samplers noted things like: “The flavour of the crust actually overpowers the filling which is a bit eggy and a bit bland in flavour,” and “Not much in the way of flavour, in the crust or the filling. Could be sweeter too.”
The sample cost R32.99.
Checkers baked milk tart 1.5/5
Samplers found the texture and consistency of this baked milk tart somewhat off-putting, despite it being the costliest milk tart out of the six samples. On a flavour front, it was more characteristic of a sweet baked omelette than anything else and the pastry itself was also extremely blonde, seemingly missing out on heaps of golden buttery baked puff pastry flavour goodness!
Samplers noted: “It just tastes eggy. Pastry is bland, seems undercooked. Definitely not creamy or sweet enough,” and “This felt weird to eat due to the consistency of the filling,” and lastly, “No man… milk tarts are not meant to be baked. Not particularly flavourful and an odd spongy consistency.”
The sample cost R84.99.
Checkers milk tart 1/5
Purchased from the bakery at the Sea Point Checkers in Cape Town, this milk tart did not win too many favours with the sampling group. It lacked that sweet and creamy milky flavour and texture. The filling appeared to be very heavy on cornflour which gave it a rather light and gloopy feel.
Samplers noted things like: “Hands down the single worst milk tart I’ve ever tasted,” and “Tastes like cornflour that hasn’t been cooked out properly. The filling doesn’t look creamy, it looks gelatinous almost. Not a fave,” and lastly, “This sample is so gloopy! I couldn’t have more than a bite. It doesn’t taste like any milk was used in this recipe. Lacking cinnamon too. Milk tart? I think not!”
Updated on 27 February 2023: The team at Checkers has indicated that this tart comes from a kosher bakery and
as such is made using a ‘Bavarian mix’ which consists of synthetic milk. The customer profile of this store is different to other Checkers stores. Food24 is in the process of purchasing and tasting the brand’s standard milk tart.
Updated on 3 March 2023: We found a Checkers standard baked milk tart at Kloof Street store in Cape Town and these were the comments tasters noted: “The sample had the perfect depth of flavour, smooth and not too sweet,” and “Nice flavour and colour! Crust is a bit stodgy,” and lastly “The crust was soggy and seemed under baked but the filling was faultless. Creamy and delicious without being overly sweet.” No score was generated as the milk tart was tasted in isolation and there were fewer tasters than in the original tasting.
The sample cost R34.99.
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The rules of Food24 Taste Tests:
– All tasters tasted and scored all samples. Each individual taster’s preference impacts the score they give.
– The samples were tested without packaging and were not easily identifiable.
– The samples were not labelled and were tasted in random order.
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