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Malva Pudding: A South African Christmas Pudding Tradition

Simone Jonker
Simone Jonker worked in NTD Inspired for two years. She wrote light articles and inspiring stories.
Published: December 22, 2021
Malva pudding is a sweet, fruity cake seeped in a cream sauce, traditionally served at Christmas time in South Africa. (Image: Jon Mountjoy via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

A South African pudding, Malva pudding, became popular in the United States after Art Smith, Oprah’s personal chef at the time, served it at The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy’s first Christmas dinner in 2006.

What is Malva  pudding?

This wonderful traditional South African delicacy is a pudding with a Cape Dutch origin.  It is a sweet and rich cake made with apricot jam and a dash of vinegar, which gives it a caramelized texture that is to die for.  It is topped with a cream sauce while it is still hot, which is readily absorbed into the pastry as it cools, transforming this unassuming cake into a sensationally squishy pudding. The pudding is often accompanied by a custard such as crème anglaise or vanilla ice cream. This is one of those recipes that one may tweak to taste by adding spices such as ginger.

Origins of Malva Pudding

Due to its long history of colonialism, South African cuisine is a mash-up of cultures. Overall, there are Dutch, English, French, Portuguese, Bengalese, Java, and Malaysian  influences.

Malvapoeding means marshmallow pudding in Afrikaans. The texture of the pudding resembles marshmallow, or its Afrikaner equivalent ‘malvelekker,’ which is created with mallow extract. 

Some claim the sauce in the Dutch recipe originally included Malvasia (or malmsey) wine, or that the pudding was eaten with this sweet wine from the Mediterranean, particularly Madeira. Others believe that malva pudding was originally flavored with pelargonium leaves, a rose-scented geranium endemic to South Africa. Another idea is that the pudding was named after a lady named Malva

Whatever its origins, Malva pudding is highly praised for its honey-toned flavor. If you’re ready to plunge your fork into the dark scrumptious depths of delicious richness that is one of the best of South African desserts, read on for an authentic recipe.

The marshmallow-soft texture and honey-like flavor of Malva pudding make this South African recipe irresistible. (Image: Jon Mountjoy via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Malva Pudding (Malvapoeding)

In the Cape Dutch tradition, malva pudding is a honey-toned rich cake coated in cream.

  • Prep Time:  10 mins 
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Rest Time:  15 mins
  • Total Time:  55 mins



  • 1 tablespoon butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup white sugar/ Xylitol
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon apricot jam
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup brown vinegar (e.g. malt or balsamic vinegar /  white or apple cider )
  • 1 cup flour, sifted
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  • 1 cup double cream
  • ¾ cup sugar/Xylitol 
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

The most important part of this malva pudding recipe is getting a soft texture, similar to that of a marshmallow. Overbaking will compromise both the texture and flavor of the malva pudding.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C.
  2. Whip butter with sugar for 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, and continue to whip well after each addition.
  3. Add the apricot jam and mix well.
  4. Add the milk and the baking soda, then the vinegar.
  5. Add the sifted flour gradually and continue to mix.
  6. Pour batter into a 9-inch ( 22 cm) square greased baking pan. Don’t use a smaller container. 
  7. Bake for 45 minutes in the oven or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  8. While the malva pudding is baking, mix all the sauce ingredients in a saucepan on medium/high heat.
  9. Bring to a boil,  remove immediately from heat. Cover.
  10. Remove the pudding from the oven, then pour the sauce on top. Set aside for 15 minutes before serving so that the cake has time to absorb the sauce to saturation.
  11. It is best served hot with custard (like creme Anglaise), vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream, but is still delicious after it cools.



Individual portions may be created by cutting out shapes using a cookie cutter. This way everyone will be able to enjoy their own personal malva pudding.