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A Tale of Two Countries, In One Unifying Cake

posted on: May 21, 2024

By: Blanche Shaheen/Arab America Contributing Writer

Many people do not know that a close relationship between Palestine and South Africa has spanned for decades. Just two weeks after Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, wearing his keffiyeh headdress, traveled to see the newly freed Mandela in Africa. Arafat grabbed Mandela in a bear hug and kissed him on each cheek, congratulating him in dismantling the apartheid system in South Africa. 

There was true solidarity between these two leaders who considered their peoples’ struggles for liberation and freedom to be the same. When Mandela was elected president in 1994, he said “But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

Today, the town of Ramallah in the Palestinian West Bank commemorates Mandela with a massive statue in his honor. 

Even today, South Africans continue to support the Palestinian cause, as the country took the rare step of bringing a genocide case to the International Court of Justice in December of 2023, because of the gravity of horrific war crimes committed against the people of Gaza. 

To commemorate this loving bond between the two countries, today’s recipe features a South African “fridge cake” with a Palestinian twist: 

This dessert is no-bake with only 4 ingredients, so there is no need to turn on the oven in the summer. The “cake” layers are made of cookies, spread with a caramel flavored icing, then the confection is finished off with crushed candy bars. 

The original cake uses a South African cookie called Tennis Biscuits, which are like coconut shortbread cookies, and a South African chocolate bar called Peppermint Crisp. If you do not have these ingredients you can use your own substitutions with fantastic results. For instance instead of Tennis Biscuits, you can use Biscoff cookies or even graham crackers for the cake layer.  

Instead of crushed Peppermint Crisps for the topping, I used crushed Palestinian wafers called Ali Baba Bars, which you can find on Amazon here:  Ali Baba’s logo and brand name have become a national Palestinian symbol for over 30 years. This sweet has been the number one wafer in Palestine and one of the most beloved Palestinian products internationally. The crispy chocolate wafer is not overly sweet, and melts in your mouth like butter. 

If you prefer another kind of confection, you can use crushed toffee bars, or even crushed sandwich cookies.

The icing layer made up of whipped cream and canned dulce de leche is light and refreshing, and when kept overnight the biscuits get a soft texture, like ladyfingers in a tiramisu. This is a sheet cake so there are plenty of servings for a crowd. To see the technique, click on the video below:

South African Style Fridge Cake

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream (no substitutions for this)
  • 1 can of creme caramel – you can  also use a can of condensed milk plus a teaspoon of vanilla extract if you prefer a vanilla flavor over a caramel one
  • 2 packages of your favorite cookie (like Tennis Biscuits or Biscoff) You can also use sandwich cookies if you prefer
  • 4-6 candy bars that are easy to crush, I used Ali Baba wafers, but you can use Heath Bars, Peppermint Crisps, or any chocolate bar variety you wish
  • Ali Baba wafers:
  • Tennis biscuits:
  • Peppermint Crisps:

Start by whipping the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Gradually pour in and fold the creme caramel until well incorporated. In a 13 by 9 baking dish, add one layer of cookies. Spread half the icing on top, Sprinkle with half the crushed candy bars if you like the candy in the filling as well. Add another layer of cookies, then spread the other half of the icing. Sprinkle the top with the remaining candy bars. The magic happens when you refrigerate this cake. I recommend a minimum of 4 hours or overnight. If you want a fancier presentation, you can drizzle Biscoff Butter or even chocolate hazelnut butter on top. 

Blanche Shaheen is the author of the cookbook called “Feast In the Middle East, a Journey of Family and Cuisine”  which you can order here:   She is also a journalist, and host of the popular cooking show called Feast in the Middle East. She specializes in Arab cuisine of the Levant and beyond.  You can check out her cooking video tutorials at    Her recipes can also be found at

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