Mamma’s coconut tart (klappertert)



One of the things in life that has held a fascination for me for as long as I can remember is language. My mom always maintained that this was because she was pregnant with me while she was doing her Honours degree in English, and that I attended most of her lectures with her, but I maintain that she and my father instilled this fascination in me.

She loved poetry and read it to me from when I was very young – and I loved it.  Whereas most people make acquaintance with poetry in school and think it is desperately dull because they are started off on stuff like Elegy in a Country Churchyard, I grew up on TS Eliot’s joyous Macavity and Skimbleshanks, Hillaire Belloc’s atmospheric Tarantella and the fabulously evocative Cargoes by John Masefield.  What’s not to love?  How do you end up not loving language when you are surrounded by all these fabulous words?

But it’s not only English words that fascinate me – Afrikaans words do too. As you probably know, Afrikaans is one of the 11 official languages of South Africa and is derived from the Dutch spoken by colonists who established a refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope in the mid-1600s.  Afrikaans is not merely a watered-down version of Dutch has evolved under the influence of other languages such as French, English, portuguese, native African languages, and the Indonesian language spoken by slaves at the Cape.  For instance, on a recent trip to Amsterdam we had been speaking Afrikaans to our bemused Dutch waiter and we were all understanding each other, but he was clearly struggling to figure out why our “Dutch” was so oddly accented.  When he asked how the food was and we responded “baie goed” (very good), his face lit up: “Oh, so you are South African!”.  How did he know this from a 2 word-answer?  Because in Dutch the word for very is heel.  Afrikaans, on the other hand uses the word baie (say bi-ya), meaning both very and many, which is derived from the Indonesian word banyak (meaning many) which became baiang, and then baie.  Other Indonesian words snuck into the Dutch language even earlier and were inherited into Afrikaans as “Dutch” words, even though their roots lie in Indonesia.  A nice example is coconut which is called klapper, derived from the Indonesian word for coconut kalapa (or kalepa).

Mmmm, coconut.  Growing up in Port Elizabeth in the 1970s, we did not really see fresh coconuts, so when a recipe called for coconut, it was the desiccated flakes that were referred to and that I learned to love.  People are still slightly filled with horror when they see the dessicated coconut in my store cupboard (gasp – you mean she does not crack open fresh coconuts and grate the flesh herself??).  It’s almost as bad as having a little shaker of ready-grated Parmesan “cheese” :o)  But it is pretty good for baking one of my favourite tarts from childhood.  As I’ve mentioned before, I am clearly an anomaly as I am a South African who does not much like milk tart – but give me a coconut tart and I am in heaven. These tarts are ubiquitous in South Africa – available at every school bakesale and home industry shop – and my mom made a mean one.

This is my mom’s coconut tart recipe, taken from her hand-written index book which I inherited. Sadly, she did not include a recipe for a crust, so I used her standard shortcrust pastry recipe from elsewhere in the book.  There are other coconut tart recipes that call for a sweet crust but as I recall my mom’s recipe, the crust was almost a savoury quiche crust, which was perfect to counteract the sweetness of the filling. However, if you have a sweet tooth, make a normal sweet shortcust base.  The apricot jam is a typically South African touch and seems to help stop the base from absorbing the filling’s liquid and stay crisp.  The tart is best served warm, straight from the oven with a chewy golden crust on top, but can also be kept in an airtight container for a couple of days, or even frozen.



COCONUT TART (KLAPPERTERT) (makes one 18-20cm tart) For printable recipe, click here


1 cup (250ml) plain flour
pinch of salt
113g butter, cubed
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
iced water

2 cups (500ml) desiccated or fresh grated coconut
1 cup (250ml) granulated sugar
2 Tbs (28g) butter
1 cup (250ml) water
pinch of salt
2 eggs, separated
3/4 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp almond essence
3-4 Tbsp apricot jam (preferably smooth)


Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

In a small saucepan, gently simmer together the coconut, sugar, water, butter and salt for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, make the pastry

In a mixing bowl, using either your fingers or a food processor, rub the cubes of butter into the flour and salt mix.  The mixture should end up resembling breadcrumbs. Stir in the lightly beaten egg yolk and iced water and mix until the dough comes together to form a ball.  If mixture is too crumbly to come together in a ball, add iced water 1 Tbsp at a time, mixing between each addition.  Knead mixture lightly with your hands until it comes together.  Press into an 18-20cm loose-bottomed pie dish.  Spread the apricot jam over the base of the pie crust.

When the coconut mix has cooked for 15 minutes, remove from the heat and stir in the lightly beaten egg yolks, vanillla essence and almond essence.  Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold into the coconut mix.

Spoon the filling into the pie crust and bake in the bottom half of the oven for 30-45 minutes, or until the coconut filling has set in the centre and is turning golden brown. (To check, wiggle the oven shelf a bit – you will be able to see whether the centre of the tart wobbles or not!).

Serve hot, with cream if desired.

If you liked this tart, you might also like my South African milk tart (melktert), my rhubarb, strawberry and ginger tarts, or my nectarine and ginger tarte tatin


Other bloggers baking with coconut include:


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  1. says

    My Mum used to make something very similar to this as well as a fantastic Bakewell tart. She always baked on Tuesdays and Thursdays so coming home from school to see what delights were on the kitchen table was something to look forward too when running reluctantly up and down the wing on the hockey field. What is nostalgia except a longing for the food of childhood…(as someon wiser than me said)

  2. says

    Klappertert is lekker. My mom used to bake it as well when we still lived at home, but these days she doesn’t bake that often and I seem to be forgetting all these lovely things

  3. says

    love this post, and not only because it’s dessert time ! i am fascinated by languages – studied linguistics at university and just love the different sounds. fun to be living in a swiss region whose spoken and written languages are not the same ! OY !
    and i also do have a sweet tooth, surprise surprise. so i am loving this recipe here. with shortcrust for me. in the place of the apricot jam, what do you think about coating the pastry with melted white chocolate ? would also prevent it from getting soggy. hmmm, another sweet idea. either way, looks fantastic above !

  4. says

    With the jam in the bottom this reminds me of tarts my mom used to make. When I figure out a way to open a coconut easily and remove the flesh I may consider making my own shredded coconut. It does sound worth it, but I would be just as happy with your mom’s tart.

  5. says

    This made me very nostalgic for my own mum’s cooking. I still make the things she used to cook and they always cheer me up. Your mum’s coconut tart looks like heaven and I love the fact that baie means very and many x

  6. says

    I bet this tart smells amazing while baking in the oven. The scent of coconut fills the kitchen. I’ve eaten a similar tart in my childhood and can’t wait to bake this beauty.

  7. says

    This tart looks superb. I too am a huge coconut fan, although I’ve never bought a real one!
    There is a simalar english version with raspberry jam as the base, however I imagine aprioct lends a slightly more bitter taste, no doubt perfectly offsetting the sweet coconut.
    I think I will be giving this a go over the weekend! Thanks

  8. Barbara @ Modern Comfort Food says

    What a joy to find your site! Although a vreemdeling, I lived and worked in Pretoria for 12 years until very recently and frequently get cravings for South African dishes, including klappertert, bobotie, rusks, and many others. I love your take on this oh so temping tart, particularly the wise use of an unsweetened pastry shell and the delicious-looking, nicely browned, crunchy top you’ve achieved here. Wonderful! Many thanks for sharing your recipe with us!

  9. says

    mmmm I love dessicated coconut in baking – it might look like dandruff but it tastes wonderful – I grew up with it too and wouldn’t be without it in my pantry as it is part of some of my favourite comfort foods from childhood – this tart looks just my sort of thing and I know I would enjoy calling it klappertert

  10. says

    This tart looks amazing. I am a fan of coconut and will give this a try. I enjoyed reading about your like of languages. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Heather Davis says

    Who has time to grind coconut when you have a great alternative ready prepared? Life’s too short eh! The tart looks gorgeous and I love it’s name. Klappertert. Languages are fascinating and I enjoyed reading about your experiences in Amsterdam.

  12. says

    I am not usually one for coconut, but strangely enough I love Coconut tart. Growing up on the Highveld it, and melktert of course, were the staple at most braai’s. Not had it with apricot jam though, must get my mom to experiment.

  13. says

    i think it’d be absolutely awesome and amazing if the fact that your mother was taking english courses while pregnant with you was responsible for your love of languages!! what a cool notion. speaking of absolutely awesome and amazing things, i consider coconut the be one of god’s finest creations and this tart is perfect. i like the crust you chose and the images are gorgeous!

  14. says

    Great post, Jeanne! I love the melting pot that South Africa is, revealed in its food adn language. I’ve never yet made a coconut tart, so I’m going to have to try this one and add it to the repertoire. We always call it desecrated coconut… but I’ve never in my life grated fresh coconut and I always have it in the larder, mostly for crunchies till now.

  15. says

    I understand about your fascination with language: we play word and language games with the boys, comparing samenesses and differences, translating phrases from one to another. And when we travel we try and use our different languages in order to communicate as there are overlaps. And I love coconut and this tart is a beauty1 It looks and sounds delicious. And for you much more so as it was your moms. xo

  16. Ursula Garcia says

    To my sorrow, my American born children don’t care for milktart (I’m sure you can empathize), finding it too bland. However, my son adores all things coconut, so maybe this will be a pleasing substitute!

  17. Clare Binley says

    My husband is from the Strand and I want to make this for him. We live in LA and have sweetened shredded coconut on the shelves. Will this do or should I look for unsweetened shredded or simply buy fresh?

  18. says

    Are you supposed to blind bake the pie crust first? It’s not really clear from your recipe, but I’ve never not blind baked a crust before…

    • Jeanne says

      Hi Tash – no, you do not bake the crust blind – as the recipe says you simply press it into the pie dish and spread the jam over it before adding the filling. The jam forms a barrier between the filling and the crust, which fulfills much the same role as blind baking does. Hope that helps!