South African lamingtons (Ystervarkies)

Ystervarkies (South African lamingtons) are small cubes of cake that are dipped in chocolate sauce and then rolled in coconut, to resemble hedgehogs.

We call them “ystervarkies”, because that is the Afrikaans  word for “hedgehog”. South African lamingtons are much smaller than the Australian and New Zealand versions, usually measuring only 3 or 4 cm.

Makes 25 ystervarkies.


Sponge cake:

  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1/3 cup (85 ml) milk
  • 3 jumbo eggs or 4 smallish eggs
  • 1 cup (250 ml) sugar
  • 1 ½ cup (375 ml) flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (7 ml) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (2 ml) salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Syrup and coconut :

  • ¾ cup (180 ml) boiling water
  • 1 ½ cups (375 ml) sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) cocoa
  • 1 ½ teaspoon (7 ml) butter
  • ½ teaspoon (2 ml) vanilla
  • less than 200 gram desiccated coconut


Sponge cake:

  1. Boil the milk and oil together. Allow to cool
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180°C and grease or line a square baking tin sized 22 x 22 x 4cm.
  3. Beat the eggs and sugar together until light and creamy. The mixture should be pale and thick. Add the vanilla.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt over the egg mixture.
  5. Fold the milk-and-oil mixture and the flour mixture alternately into the egg and sugar mixture and mix gently.
  6. Spoon batter into pan and ensure that the batter is evened out.
  7. Bake for about 25 minutes until done.
  8. Turn out and leave to cool down completely, preferable overnight (warm, oven-fresh cake crumbles too much), before cutting into squares that measure about 3 cm by 3 cm.


  1. Mix the sugar, cocoa and boiling water in a saucepan.
  2. Heat the mixture over medium heat to boiling point, while stirring continuously. Boil for 2 minutes.
  3. Add butter. Turn heat down until it is just enough to keep the syrup warm.

To make the ystervarkies:

Dip the cake blocks into the syrup, leave to drip out for a few minutes on a wire rack and then roll the blocks in coconut.