Why you should care
Tweegevrietjies let the baking do the talking.
After Prime Minister J.B.M. Hertzog promised to give women the vote and Coloured people (the accepted South African term for people of mixed race) equal rights, Cape Malay women created a tartlet in his honor: the hertzoggie. When, a couple of years later, the Women’s Enfranchisement Act of 1930 made it clear that he’d be following through only on the first of these promises, the women once again took to their ovens, creating a 2.0 version of the tartlet with brown and pink icing, calling it the tweegevrietjie — or “two-faced cake.”
Unlike the man they were named after, hertzoggies — delicately spiced biscuit cups filled with apricot jam and desiccated coconut — have become a firm favorite among South Africans, although most don’t know about their history. (There’s even a non-spiced Afrikaner version that’s adorned with lightly singed meringue peaks.) Tweegevrietjies, their two-tone stepsiblings, aren’t quite as ubiquitous, but they are still a regular feature on Cape Malay festival tables, says cookbook author and TV chef Fatima Sydow. It is no coincidence, one suspects, that tweegevrietjies are almost too sweet to stomach.
“My people could not express themselves vocally because they would be arrested,” she adds. “So they let their baking do the talking.”
If you’re not about to be invited to a Cape Malay wedding, birthday or funeral, Cape Town’s iconic Wembley Bakery in the former Coloureds-only suburb of Belgravia is your best option for sourcing and sampling the delicacies. Despite being packed to the rafters with all manner of sweet treats, the bakery still sells 1,500 classic hertzoggies and 800 tweegevrietjies every week, says manager Kashiefa Abrahams.
… ..the icing was a visual representation of the Group Areas Act that underpinned apartheid.
Or you can bake them at home. Whip up a basic pastry — butter, flour, egg, baking powder and vanilla essence — and while it’s chilling in the fridge, get started on the filling. For both hertzoggies and tweegevrietjies you’ll need to simmer desiccated coconut, sugar, water and the all-important cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods over medium heat for about 10 minutes, says Sydow, before adding vanilla essence and leaving the sticky mixture to cool.
The only other ingredient in classic hertzoggies is apricot jam — and store-bought is totally fine. Tweegevrietjies require (just a little) more work. Mix two cups of icing sugar with a little milk and divide in two. To one half add a drop of pink food coloring; to the other a couple spoonfuls of cocoa powder.
By now your pastry should be ready to party. Roll it flat, cut into 1-inch rounds and press these into a greased “hertzoggie pan” before dolloping a teaspoon of the coconut mixture into each shell. (In South Africa mini-muffin pans with concave bottoms are readily available, but overseas bakers might have to make do with a flat-based number). Bake the shells at 350 F for 10-12 minutes, “or until the edges turn golden-brown,” says Sydow. Once cooled, decorate as the political mood dictates — and enjoy.
While Sydow knows all about the origin of tweegevrietjies, in her family the biscuits also hold a secondary meaning. Her late aunt, Faldiela Kamalie, always said that, for her, the pink and brown icing was a visual representation of the Group Areas Act that underpinned apartheid. “It reminded her that she couldn’t sit on that bench or swim at that beach,” says Sydow.
Either way, the tweegevrietjie was — and still is, according to Sydow — a deeply political bake. “Sometimes people ask me to create a driegevrietjie [three-faced cake],” she says in reference to South Africa’s continuing political issues. “But I prefer to focus on the positives.”
Get some: Hertzoggies and tweegevrietjies
- Buy them: Wembley Bakery sells freshly baked hertzoggies and tweegevrietjies (both $4.50 for a pack of 15) and loads of other sweet and savory treats. An Uber from the city center will set you back around $10.
- Bake them: Fatima Sydow’s Facebook page has detailed recipes for both hertzoggies and tweegevrietjies. For the full story of Aunty Faldiela’s relationship with the biscuits, get Fatima’s first cookbook, The Journey of Cape Malay Cooking.
- Pro tip: The Wembley Roadhouse, a couple of doors down from the bakery and owned by the same family, serves up Cape Malay savory classics including bredies, salomis and breyanis.