Magwinya / African Fat Cakes (Mini doughnuts)

Magwinya, also known as African Fat Cakes (or mini doughnuts as I like to them call them) are balls of fried dough, coated in sugar and dipped in jam. Delicious.


Prep Time

1 hr 10 mins


5 mins

Total time

1 hr 15 mins


20+ balls

Fat Cakes from Botswana

Fat cakes which are known by the name of ‘magwinya‘ in Botswana are really a lot easier to make than you might think! All that’s required is five ingredients: plain flour, sugar, yeast, salt and oil (and water but I’m not counting than one!) Everything gets mixed together in a bowl and then left for an hour. It’s that easy. They need a warm place, granted, but if you can find one, then you’re well on your way to making these tasty mini doughnut balls.

Tswana fat cakes are not only popular in Botswana but all over Africa, especially Zimbabwe where they are called ‘mafatcooks’. The Nigerians call them ‘puff puffs’ and the Kenyans call them ‘mahamri’. So as you can see, there are variations everywhere. In the UK, we’d call them ‘mini doughnuts’. They also appear very similar to the Italian ‘fritteline’ dough (a pizza-like dough which is fried flat in a pan and sprinkled with sugar).

Why should I make fat cakes?

  • One of the easiest dough recipes I’ve ever made!
  • Don’t be put off by the frying – it’s easier than you think!
  • Super TASTY rolled in sugar + dipped in strawberry jam
  • The dough keeps until the next day AND you can freeze them!

Ingredients for Fat Cakes

  • Plain flour – these fat cakes don’t need a lot of gluten so plain flour is perfectly fine. The dough balls are really soft from doing so!
  • Dried yeast – I used a normal dried yeast for this recipe. You can use fast-action but it’s not necessary.
  • Caster sugar – A lot finer than granulated sugar. Plus you’ll need some extra for rolling, so consider this when buying your ingredients.
  • Salt – helps control the growth of the yeast (but be careful to weigh separately because salt can also kill the yeast).
  • Vegetable oil – give the dough balls some colour but also helps combine the ingredients, a long with the water. You’ll need a lot of vegetable oil for frying too.
  • Warm water – the warm water helps activate the yeast. Too hot and it will kill the yeast! Make sure the water is ‘hand hot’ (i.e it doesn’t burn you) and you’ll fine.
  • Jam for dipping – I went for strawberry jam to dip mine in but raspberry or any other jams will be delicious too!

Equipment Needed

  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Measuring jug
  • Measuring spoons
  • Tea towel
  • Wooden spoon
  • Medium saucepan for deep-fat frying
  • Slotted spoon
  • Two dessert spoons
  • Dinner plate covered with paper towels for soaking up oil

How to make Fat Cakes

Fat cakes are probably one the simplest dough recipes you’ll ever make. All you need to do is mix the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl, a long with the water and oil. Give it all a good mix with a wooden spoon. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for an hour.

Once you notice that the dough has pretty much doubled in size, give it another mix with your spoon and leave it to rest for 10 minutes. Get your oil heated and up to temp for deep-frying (around 180°C or 350F).

Scoop out a spoonful of batter (you may need a little spoon to help as it’s very sticky) and drop it into the hot oil (carefully!). Fry them, turning over a few times, until golden brown. This will take around 5 minutes. Do a little test one first to see how long it takes with the temperature of your oil.

Leave them to drain on a plate covered with paper towels and continue frying! Coat in sugar and serve with a big pot of jam (or Nutella!)

Serving suggestions

Magwinya’s (fat cakes) are delicious when dipped into something sweet, such as jams of all fruit or even Nutella/chocolate spread. You could just leave them plain and coated in sugar. I have read that you can serve them with savoury dips too. Perhaps my spicy tomato chutney could be a good combo?

Magwinya / African Fat Cakes (Mini Doughnuts)

Magwinya, also known as African Fat Cakes (or mini doughnuts as I like to them call them) are balls of fried dough, coated in sugar and dipped in jam. Delicious.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine African, Botswana
Calories 2482 kcal


  • 600 g plain flour
  • 40 g caster sugar
  • 7 g dried yeast
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil plus extra for frying (about 200ml)
  • 250 ml warm water if too dry, add some more until a sticky dough is achieved.


  • In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, yeast, sugar, salt. Keep salt away from the yeast! Add the warm water and oil. Give it a good mix with a wooden spoon. Add more water if it's too dry. The dough needs to be sticky but not too wet.
  • Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for an hour. Once doubled in size, give it another mix and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat your vegetable oil up to deep-frying temp – 180°c/350°F. Do a test one first. Scoop a dessert-spoonful of dough out and use another spoon to drop it into the oil. Fry until golden brown (around 5 mins) ensuring you turn them every now and then. Check it's cooked through by cutting in half. Adjust time if needed and go ahead with cooking the rest in the same way. As I said, 5 mins is how long mine took but I can't guarantee that your oil will be a 180 – best to check with a thermometer.
  • Place all the cooked ones on a plate covered with paper towels, to drain the oil out. Sprinkle over lots of sugar and serve warm (or cold if you wish).


Storing – Fat cakes store well in the fridge. The sugar may go a little bit sticky but if you know you’ll be storing them, leave them plain and coat in sugar afterwards. I put mine in a freezer bag to keep them fresh. They’ll keep for a couple of days.
Storing fresh dough – You can actually make this dough the day before. I kept half of my dough (as I had too much) and cooked some the next day. The fridge will stop the yeast from continuing to rise and it’ll be ok to cook the next day. 
Freezing – I’d recommend only freezing once cooked and before you coat with sugar. The dough won’t freeze well (see above for how to keep dough overnight). Freeze them on and open tray first and once frozen, place in a freezer bag so you can take them out as and when you need them. They’ll freeze well for around 2 months. 
Re-heating – Place them in a hot oven for 5 minutes or zap in the microwave for 2 minutes. You could re-fry but that might be a lot of hassle just for a few balls!


Calories: 2482kcalCarbohydrates: 501gProtein: 65gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 12gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 610mgPotassium: 710mgFiber: 18gSugar: 42gVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 100mgIron: 28mg
Keyword Comfort, Deep Fried, Easy
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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