Monday, April 6, 2015

Sweet Cassava Cake

Baked cassava cake with coconut custard topping
I grew up eating my Mom's cassava cake, a classic Filipino sweet treat that is enjoyed all-year round for dessert or as a merienda, a light afternoon snack.

This yummy gluten-free cake is densely packed with grated cassava and delicately sweetened with creamy condensed milk and coconut. Noshing into a slice of room temperature cassava cake, the best way to enjoy it in my opinion, has the consistency of soft and sticky-gelatinous texture similar to having cooled rice pudding.
Did you know: Cassava is a gluten-free starchy root vegetable grown in the tropics like South America, South East Asia and of course, the Philippines. 
Grated cassava pouch, you can buy frozen in oriental grocery stores
Raw grated cassava
It's more common to find frozen grated cassava in your local oriental grocery store (comes in 454g pouches) than the fresh long and firm starchy white root encased with a rough brown skin. I'd recommend that you to get the frozen grated cassava as its brown skin has already been removed, good that it is because it has some races of cyanide. Do not worry, the cassava flesh is very safe to eat and delicious!
Did you know: Cassava is the third largest source of carbs in the tropics after rice and corn.  
Baked cassava cake with coconut custard bubbling fresh out of the oven!
As a kid, cassava cake seemed to magically appear on our kitchen counter like dessert fairies had quickly whipped it up while we were busy elsewhere doing chores or homework.  Later I found out that my Mom just nuked the whole dessert in the microwave and the cake was done and ready to eat in minutes. Sorry Mom, your secret is out. She'd finish off her cassava with a thin layer of melted matamis na bao, a dark brown sweet coconut jam, to amplify the cake's coconut flavours.

The more traditional Filipino cassava cake is baked in the oven then topped with a creamy coconut custard which gets broiled to give it that spotty charred golden surface, similar to how you'd finish a creme brulee. It's really easy to make and hope you'll try this recipe at home for your next anytime snack.
Did you know: Other Filipino recipes that use cassava are sweet pichi-pichi (colourful gelatinous rounds topped with sugar and fresh grated coconut) and suman (cassava cake steamed while wrapped in banana leaves then eaten with sugar)

Cassava cake before the oven
Baked cassava cake base
Baked cassava cake topped with coconut custard and grated cheese

INGREDIENTS (serves 12)
Cassava cake base:
- 2 pouches (908g) frozen cassava, defrosted
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 can condensed milk (reserve rest of can for topping) 
- 1/2 can evaporated milk
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup medium cheddar cheese, grated
- 2 tbsp lemon zest, finely grated
- 1 can coconut cream

Cassava coconut custard topping:
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp tapioca flour (or cornstarch)
- 1/2 can condense milk
- 1 can coconut milk
- 2 tbsp medium cheddar cheese, grated (optional: extra grated cheese when serving) 

Cassava cake base:
1) Preheat oven 350 F. Grease an 9"x13" baking pan or 12 4oz porcelain ramekins.
2) Combine cassava, melted butter, condensed milk, evaporated milk, sugar and beaten eggs in a large bowl. Mix well.
3) Fold in cheese, lemon zest and coconut milk, mix until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Pour the batter in the prepared pan or porcelain ramekins, leaving about 1/4" room for coconut custard topping.
4) Bake for 50-55 minutes or until the cassava cake is just set. You know the cake is done when you wiggle the pan or ramekin the cake will jiggle slightly and evenly over the whole surface, not just at the centre. Remove from oven and set aside.

Cassava coconut custard topping:
1) Preheat oven to broil at 450F.
2) Combine sugar & tapioca flour (or cornstarch) in a sauce pan over medium heat. Toast for 3 minutes.
3) Pour in condense milk and mix thoroughly.
4) Add cheese and coconut milk, stirring continuously for about 10 minutes, until mixture has thickened and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
5) Pour topping over cassava cake and spread evenly with an offset spatula.
6) Place cassava cake on the middle rack until top turns golden brown, about 15 minutes. Make sure to keep a close eye on the cake as it can easily burn.
7) Cool down to room temperature (if you can resist!) before cutting and serving. Optional, sprinkle more grated cheese on top before serving.

A slice of heaven, baked cassava cake with coconut custard & grated cheese


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