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Review: Baking Secrets By Martjie Melan

Let Martjie Malan tell you about the way her gran made biscuits, the night a fig tart stole the show and why we need to create more moments to ‘refresh out souls’. Sjaan van der Ploeg delves into the fantastical world of Martjie’s first cookbook.  

Paging through Baking Secrets: Recipes for Every Occasion ignites the same childhood delight of paging through a storybook. You can’t wait to see what will unfold on the next page. Martjie Malan ‘has been involved in baking since she could reach the stovetop.’  

A teacher by profession, she was a part of the production of the baking TV programme Koekedoor in 2015. Since then, she has become the co-content and kitchen director of two children’s cooking and baking reality shows, as well as the founder of a cooking school for adults and children.  

This deep passion for baking and sharing knowledge dovetails in this cookbook. The beautiful collection of recipes and stories pulls you into a fantastical world of tarte tartin, lemon tea loaves and classic scones. French pastry is the backbone of this book, but Martjie’s warmth makes learning the classic techniques fun.  

From pretty petit fours, buttermilk rusks and mince pies, she caters to both the beginner and patisserie connoisseur alike. The warmth behind these pages evokes feelings of comfort and encouragement. Martjie’s presence can be felt, whisking readers through her informative baking tips, tricks and industry explanations.  

She dishes secrets on which ingredients work best and how to ensure the best baking result. She then dives, spatula-first, into baking basics such as achieving a golden pastry, a tangy lemon curd and a candied nut praline. All without failing to entertain with a personal anecdote before each recipe.  

Artist Claudia Liebenberg’s delicate watercolour illustrations of Martjie’s bakes evoke emotions rather than a standard of perfection. These paintings are also of help to those who might feel intimidated by the ‘perfect’ styled photographs in most contemporary cookbooks.  

They remove any pressure to replicate Martjie’s bakes down to the tee and, combined with her warm encouragement, will serve to boost confidence and creativity. With recipes that will teach and inspire your inner child, this cookbook will challenge you, inspire you and remind you of nostalgic bakes that will always warm hearts.  

As Martjie’s mantra goes: ‘Bake to remember, bake to forgive, bake to cherish and bake to love.’  


Courgette and raisin muffins
Makes 12–18 Muffins • Total Time 20–25 Min

Self-raising flour 185g
Wholewheat self-raising flour 150g
Brown sugar 155g
Buttermilk 375ml
Eggs, beaten 2
Sunflower oil 2 tbsp
Courgettes, coarsely grated 250ml
Raisins 125ml
Walnuts, roughly chopped 100g (optional)  

Top tip: Cour-what? Don’t worry! Courgettes, baby marrows and zucchini are all the same vegetable and add fibre and flavour to sweet and savoury bakes.  


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. 
  2. Spray the inside of paper muffin cups with non-stick spray before placing them in muffin pans. 
  3. Place the flours and the sugar in a big mixing bowl and combine. 
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the buttermilk, eggs and sunflower oil until combined. 
  5. Make a hollow in the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture. 
  6. Mix with a wooden spoon until just mixed – don’t be tempted to stir too much. 
  7. Add the courgettes, raisins and walnuts and mix through carefully. 
  8. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin pans and bake for 20–25 minutes.


Butter cake
Serves 8-10 • Total Time 90 Min



Cake flour 270g
Baking powder 20ml
Salt 1/2 tsp
Butter 250g
Castor sugar 270g
Eggs 5
Milk 50ml  


  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line two round 20cm cake pans. 
  2. Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. 
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric cake mixer. 
  4. Add the eggs one by one and scrape off the sides of the mixing bowl as necessary. 
  5. Add a third of the dry ingredients while mixing at a slow speed. 
  6. Add half of the milk and then another third of the dry ingredients. Repeat this process once more. 
  7. Mix the batter well, making sure that the batter at the bottom of the mixing bowl has also been combined. 
  8. Divide the batter between the cake pans and bake for 40–50 minutes. 
  9. Allow the cakes to cool a little before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely. 
  10. Using a cake cutter, cut off the domed tops and divide the cake into layers. Decorate with the icing of your choice.

 Top tip: We suggest decorating the cake with either cream cheese icing, butter icing or even a simple sprinkle of icing sugar.  


Baking Secrets: Recipes for Every Occasion (R450) is available from all good bookstores.  

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