A koeksister is gooey, sweet, syrupy and very sticky; crisp on the outside and soft inside. Biting into one can only be described as a taste-explosion!

Koeksisters are often sold at South African flea markets and church fundraiser functions.

Although sometimes misspelled as koeksusters (cake sisters), the name comes from the hissing sound it makes when the dough is dropped into boiling oil.

Makes about 2½ dozen koeksisters.


Ingredients for syrup

  • 4 cups (1000 ml) sugar
  • 2 cups (500 ml) water
  • ¼ teaspoon (1 ml) cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cm piece of gingerstem (optional to enhance flavour)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional to enhance flavour)

Ingredients for dough

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (2 ml) salt
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) butter
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) sugar
  • ½ cup of water and milk mix (100 ml water, 25 ml milk)
  • 1 egg
  • Cooking oil for frying


Please note: it is important to prepare both the syrup and dough in advance, before using it.


  1. In a saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water.
  2. Add golden syrup, cream of tartar, lemon juice and optional spices. Stir and bring to the boil.
  3. Put lid on and boil for 1 minute.
  4. Remove the lid, reduce the temperature boil for another 5 minutes.
  5. Leave to cool and then chill overnight, or for at least six hours, in refrigerator. Must be ice cold.


  1. Sift dry ingredients together. Rub butter into mixture.
  2. Mix sugar, water, milk and egg together and cut in into mixture.
  3. Knead the dough for at least 5 minutes until smooth. Add a bit more flour or water if necessary - the dough needs to be soft, but easy to roll out.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest for six hours (or overnight)

Making the koeksisters

  1. Take syrup from refrigerator and keep it ice cold by placing the syrup's container inside a larger container that is filled with ice and water. Another trick to keep the syrup cold is to use two bowls of syrup. Keep one in the refrigerator while using the other .
  2. Roll out dough to a thickness of 7 mm. Do not use dry flour as it will cause the oil to foam, rather roll it out on waxpaper or use sunflower oil to prevent sticking.
  3. Cut strips 15cm long, twist in opposite directions and join ends
    Heat the oil over medium heat until warm but not too hot. If the oil is too hot, the koeksisters will be brown on the outside, but raw on the inside. When the oil's at the correct temperature, it takes 10 seconds for a piece of dough to pop to the surface after it has been dropped into the oil.
  4. Deep-fry four koeksisters at a time, in until brown on both sides.
  5. Remove two koeksisters using a slotted spoon and immediately submerse it in the ice cold syrup. Don't allow them to breathe air. A plastic potato masher is an ideal tool to keep it submersed. Remove the other two koeksisters and drown them in the syrup too.
  6. Keep the koeksisters submersed until it has they are soaked through.
    Remove from syrup with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack. Use a deep plate to collect the syrup that drips of them.


To keep them crisp, store the koeksisters in the refrigerator, or even better, in the deep-freeze.