Rooibos has garnered international acclaim for its health benefits and distinctive, earthy flavour. This versatile ingredient, traditionally enjoyed as a soothing beverage, is also making waves in the baking world, particularly as a comforting addition to winter treats. 

One of the most delightful ways to incorporate Rooibos into baking is by infusing it into classic comfort foods such as cookies. Rooibos-infused sugar cookies, for instance, offer a subtle, yet distinctive flavour that pairs wonderfully with a hot cup of Rooibos. To make these, Rooibos leaves can be finely ground and mixed into the dough or the tisane can be steeped in the butter or milk used in the recipe. This technique imparts a gentle, caramel-like sweetness to the cookies, making them an instant hit for cozy winter afternoons.

Rooibos Sugar Cookies


Ingredients

60 g brown sugar 

20 g Rooibos leaves (10 Rooibos teabags)

Castor sugar for dusting

250 g butter (softened)

5 ml vanilla essence

150 g cake flour

150 g self-raising flour

Method

  • Pre-heat oven to 180 °C. Grease a baking tray.
  • Remove the leaves from the 10 Rooibos teabags.
  • In a saucepan, lightly toast the Rooibos leaves. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with the toasted Rooibos leaves.
  • Add the vanilla essence and continue beating.
  • Slowly add in the two flours and mix until dough is formed.
  • Roll into 25 g balls and place on a greased baking tray. Press down with a fork. Allow to rest for a minimum of 30 min. Bake for 12 minutes.
  • Dust with castor sugar.

Recipe courtesy of Unilever

Cakes and muffins also benefit from the addition of Rooibos. A Rooibos chai cake, infused with the warm spices of cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and ginger, transforms a simple cake into an aromatic, comforting dessert. Similarly, Rooibos can be steeped in the milk used for muffin batter, adding depth and complexity to otherwise straightforward recipes. For a more pronounced flavour, the tisane can be steeped twice as long as usual, ensuring that its unique taste shines through in the final product.

Rooibos Chai Tea Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


ingredients

Cake
1 cup Rooibos Chai infused milk
¼ cup sour cream
2 ¼ cup flour
¼ cup cornstarch
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cloves
1 cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened, cubed
4 large eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla

Chai syrup
¼ cup water
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tsp Rooibos Chai

Cream cheese frosting
1 cup cream cheese, softened
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
4 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla

Method

To make the Rooibos Chai infused milk, heat up the milk and 2 tsp of Rooibos Chai tea on the stove. Once almost at a simmer, remove from heat and steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and set aside to cool.

  • To make the Rooibos Chai simple syrup, bring the sugar, water and tisane to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, strain through a fine mesh strainer and set aside to cool.
  • Preheat oven to 180°C and line 15 cm cake tins with parchment paper.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a bowl and hand mixer) sift together the flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. With the mixer running, add in the cubed butter one piece at a time until combined. It will look a little like wet sand. Add in eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is combined before adding another. Stir in the vanilla and sour cream. Slowly pour in the Rooibos Chai infused milk until it’s all combined and smooth. Divide batter between the 3 parchment lined pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in
    the middle comes out clean. Cool cakes for 10 minutes in the tins/pans, then remove from pans and cool completely. Once cooled, cut the top of the cake layers off to make sure that they are smooth for when you assemble the cake.
  • To make cream cheese frosting beat the cream cheese and softened butter together until light and fluffy. Add in icing sugar one cup at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Whip the frosting until light and fluffy. Set aside until ready to put cake together.
  • To assemble the cake, start with the first layer on your cake stand/plate. Brush the cake with the Rooibos chai syrup liberally. Spread about ½ cup of the frosting on the cake layer. You want the icing to go all the way to the end. If you use more than ½ a cup, that’s okay too! Just make sure that you have enough icing left to cover the outside of the cake. If you put too much icing in the layers, it can also make it harder to stack the other layers on the top.
  • Once icing is spread, add the next layer of cake and repeat. Once you have the final layer of cake on the top, you can start spreading icing on the sides of the cake. You can chose to spread icing very lightly on the outside of this cake, to make it have a “naked” cake look. You can also decorate the top with a sprinkle of cinnamon, some star anise and cinnamon sticks. The cake will last for up to 3 days.

Make sure to cover the exposed cake with plastic wrap to help the cake from drying out.

Recipe courtesy of Preserve Co.


For those who enjoy a bit of indulgence, Rooibos can be used to create decadent desserts such as Rooibos crème brûlée or Rooibos-infused chocolate truffles. In crème brûlée, Rooibos is steeped in the cream, imparting a nuanced flavour that balances the dessert’s sweetness. In chocolate truffles, Rooibos is incorporated into the ganache, creating a luxurious treat that melts in your mouth, with the tisane adding a subtle complexity to the chocolate.

Rooibos Crème Brûlée


Ingredients

1/2 vanilla pod
400 ml double crème

100 ml milk
5 Rooibos teabags
5 egg Yolks

40 g sugar

Unrefined brown sugar, like demerara sugar, for sprinkling

Method

  • Pour the milk and crème in a medium pan with the Rooibos teabags. Cut the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape the seeds into the milk and crème mixture and place over medium heat. Once it just starts to lightly simmer, take the pan off the heat, leave the Rooibos teabags in and let them infuse for 20 minutes.
  • In the meantime, combine the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl, using a wooden spoon until the mixture turns a white colour.
  • Slowly add in the milk and crème mixture and mix well. Pour into ramekins, cover in cling film and leave in the fridge for 2 hours minimum.
  • Turn the oven on and preheat at 95˚C. Place the ramekins delicately in the oven and bake for 1h to 1h15 minutes. The custards should be just set. Once cooled, keep them in the fridge.
  • When ready to serve, uncover the ramekins – if any condensation has collected on the custard, gently place a paper towel on the surface to soak up the moisture. Sprinkle evenly each custard ramekins with a teaspoon of demerara sugar. Brulée the top using a hand-held blowtorch held 10-12cm away from the sugar. Move the flame over the sugar in a slow and even motion, until golden brown. Serve once it has cooled slightly.

Courtesy of My Modern Kitchen

Breads and scones are another excellent medium for Rooibos. A Rooibos and honey loaf, for example, combines the natural sweetness of honey with the rich, earthy notes of the tisane, resulting in a loaf that’s perfect for toasting and slathering with butter on a chilly morning. Rooibos scones, particularly when paired with a citrus glaze, offer another delightful twist on a traditional favourite, providing a comforting, aromatic treat that’s perfect for winter brunches or afternoon tea.

Rooibos Bundt Cake with Honey Glaze

Ingredients

125 grams butter

200 grams white granulated sugar (caster/granulated)

3 eggs (large)

300 grams plain flour (all-purpose/standard grade)

4 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon table salt

125 grams boiling water

125 grams milk

3 bags Rooibos

Honey Glaze

1½ tablespoon butter (melted)

2 tablespoon honey

75 grams icing sugar (powdered/confectioners)

1 tablespoon milk

Method

Cake

  • Preheat oven to 170°C (340F).
  • Prepare the cake tin(s) by greasing and lining with parchment where necessary.
  • In a cup add the boiling water and milk to the 3 Rooibos tea bags. Allow the tea to steep for about 5-10 minutes.
  • Cream together the softened butter with the sugar until light and creamy in colour and texture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula when needed.
  • Add in the eggs one at a time and mix until thoroughly combined.
  • Weigh out 300g of flour, add in the salt and baking powder. Mix together using a whisk.
  • Add in the Rooibos and flour to the butter and egg mixture, mixing at a low speed until just incorporated.
  • Using a spatula, make sure all the ingredients are combined.
  • Place the cake batter into the tins.
  • Bake the cakes for approximately 30-55 minutes or once the cake tester or toothpick comes out mostly clean, the cake is done. About 30 minutes for 20 cm layers, longer for a single cake.
  • Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for about 15 minutes before turning out onto a plate or wire rack to cool completely.

Honey Glaze

  • Combine all the ingredients for the icing glaze and mix until smooth and shiny with no lumps. You can add more icing sugar if you feel the mixture is too runny.
  • 1½ tablespoon butter, 2 tablespoon honey, 75 grams icing sugar, 1 tablespoon milk
  • Drizzle the honey glaze over the cooled cake.

Courtesy of Salty Ginger

Incorporating Rooibos into baking not only enhances the flavour profile of traditional comfort foods, but also infuses them with a sense of warmth and well-being. As the days grow shorter and the temperatures drop, these Rooibos-infused baked goods provide a delicious and comforting way to embrace the winter season.