By Marcus Samuelsson |

Cape Towners are justly proud of their koesisters, a doughnut that’s a traditional after-church treat on Sundays. My search for the perfect koesister took me to the home of Peter and Marilyn Carelon, an energetic South African couple who run a printing business and a bed-and-breakfast from their home. They had two kinds of koesisters to share – a sweet, braided crullerlike pastry and a dark, round, spiced doughnut. Another version made without spices and dipped in a sugary syrup, known as koeksisters, is typically served in the homes of Afrikaners, but I was particularly fond of the spiced version, which featured notes of cinnamon, ginger and cardamon.

Prep Details

Servings: Makes 20 Doughnuts


6 Tbs warm water

3 Tbsp granulated sugar

1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

3 extra-large egg yolks

5 Tbsp. milk

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. ground cardamom/preferably freshly ground

About 4 cups canola oil for deep-frying


Combine the water, granulated sugar, and yeast in a large bowl and set in a warm place until the yeast begins to bubble, 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the flour and salt to the yeast and mix with an electric mixer on low speed until well combined. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition until well incorporated.

Combine the milk and butter in a small saucepan and heat until butter is melted. With the mixer running, slowly pour the milk-butter mixture into the dough, beating until combined. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place until the dough doubles in size, about 40 minutes.

Punch the dough down and turn out onto a floured surface. Cut into 20 pieces, roll each one into a ball, and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Set in a warm place and let rise for 20 minutes.

While the dough is rising, toss together the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamon in a large shallow bowl. Set aside.

Heat 3 inches of canola oil in a deep pot to 350 F. Working in batches, add the dough balls and fry, turning occasionally, until golden on all sides, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Toss the doughnuts in the mixed spices to coat. Serve warm.