The pudding's name is derived from Malvasia wine from Madeira. The dessert and dessert wine used to be served together after the main course at Cape tables. It is of distinct Cape Dutch origin with many unique additions which may differ from one area to the next, e.g., ginger or apricot jam. There are also many variants of this dessert, namely, the Cape Brandy Pudding which also includes brandy and dates and the Tipsy Tart which contains only brandy.
In December 2006, Oprah Winfrey's personal chef Art Smith traveled to South Africa to cook Christmas dinner for the pupils of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. The big hit of the night was his malva pudding. Smith stated that according to Colin Cowie, his hospitality ambassador in South Africa, it was named after a woman called Malva.