South Africa: Tasting the Koeksuster Economy of the Karoo

Small-town bakers have become a critical financial lifeline for their families and communities.

Long before dawn’s early light streaks the Karoo skies, dozens of kitchens in the Eastern Cape town of Cradock are already on the buzz.

Activities are at fever pitch in the cool, quiet hours before daybreak down in Beeren Street near the Great Fish River, where Rika and husband Francois “Vossie” de Vos have been hard at work.

She’s doing the mini quiches, chicken pies, sausage rolls, worsie-in-a-doek (pastry around a small cheese griller) and other savouries that will be the first of their products to be delivered at the town’s beloved home industries shop, Dit en Dat on Adderley Street.

Vossie is baking the vanilla and chocolate cakes and putting them on the cooling racks, ready for Rika to ice. She has rolled out the milk tart pastry and is doing the carrot cakes next.

Over on Impala Street in Michausdal township, Ellen Taks has also been busy for more than an hour. In her oven is the latest batch of cupcakes. Meanwhile, she’s mixing a cinnamon-flavoured dough for the Malay-style koesisters (different in spelling, shape and flavour from the plaited koeksusters) that have made her a minor celebrity in town.

Taste one and you’ll see why.

King of…

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