Sandakan UFO Tarts Recipe (Cow Pat Tarts Recipe) V3

Originating from the city of Sandakan in Borneo, Malaysia – where my mum grew up – Sandakan UFO tarts are one of my favourite Malaysian cakes.

Also known as cow pat tarts (or cow dung pile tarts) depending on the shape the meringue is piped on top, UFO tarts are made with a flat sponge cake base, a thick custard filling and a toasted meringue topping. Some bases are completely flat and made by dropping the batter directly onto a flat sheet (which is how I've always made them), and some are made with a slightly thicker sponge base where the batter is baked in cupcake cases.

This isn't the first time I've posted a UFO tarts recipe on this blog – I first posted about them in 2013, and then again in 2014 with an updated recipe. This latest version updates the quantities to be a bit more sensible and weigh-able (as opposed to tablespoonfuls for everything). I also changed up the order of which components to make first – this time I make the custard first, because you need to let it cool down before you put it on the cake discs. So it makes sense to make the custard ahead of everything else.

You can also watch how I make these on YouTube:

Ready? Let's go.

(Makes about 15 UFO tarts, depending on how big or small you make the sponge discs.)

Ingredients for Custard:

3 egg yolks
1 tbsp custard powder
1 tbsp sugar
55ml condensed milk
1tsp vanilla
150ml milk

Ingredients for Sponge Base:

3 eggs, separated
85g caster sugar
40g plain flour
Pinch of salt

Ingredients for Meringue:

3 egg whites
75g caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour


1. Make the custard first: in a small saucepan, whisk the egg yolks, custard powder and sugar together until combined, stir in the condensed milk and vanilla, and then gradually stir in the milk. Place on a medium heat, stirring constantly, until very thick – scoop the custard into a bowl, and place some clingfilm over the top so it touches the surface of the custard to stop a skin from forming. Leave to cool completely, then spoon into a piping bag with a large round tip.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C, and line a couple of large baking sheets with nonstick baking paper.

3. To make the sponge, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until they form stiff peaks like a meringue, and set aside.

4. In another large bowl, whip up the egg yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy. Fold the flour and salt into the yolks, then carefully fold the egg whites in to make a thick, fluffy cake batter.

5. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto your baking sheets, spreading them out lightly with the back of a spoon but not flattening them. Leave a couple of inches of space between them to spread as they bake.

6. Bake in the oven for 8–10 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Leave to cool completely, and peel away from the nonstick baking paper.

7. To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then whisk the caster sugar and cornflour in until glossy. Spoon into a separate piping bag with a large round tip.

8. To assemble the UFO tarts, pipe a ring of meringue on a sponge disc, leaving about 1cm of space around the edge of the sponge. Pipe the ring so it forms a two or three-ring-high spiral. Then pipe custard into the centre to fill the space.

9. Repeat until you've used all the custard and meringue up (you may have some spare sponge discs left).

10. Pop the tarts under the grill for a minute or two (keep a close eye on them so they don't burn), or toast the tops with a cook's blowtorch, until the meringue is lightly brown and crisp on the outside, and serve immediately.

Enjoy, and have fun.


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