I am a HUGE fan of cassava cake. Since childhood I have always relished a large slice of this delicious dessert or snack at any time of the day. The richness and consistency of the cassava, the sweetness, coconut flavor, and saltiness of the topping is burned into my memory banks in a big way. Yet, as of last week, I had never attempted to make it for myself. Worse, I had not seen anyone else make it. Growing up it just seemed easier to buy it while on road trips or else it arrived in boxes as presents during the holidays, etc. I know this delicacy was made in our home kitchen on occasion, but I must have been at school or out hunting green spiders to incarcerate in empty match boxes whenever cassava cake was being baked. Lay a plate out of kakanins in front of me and I will hit the cassava well ahead of the rice-based goodies.
The cassava-can-poison-you-threat has always made me wary of this humble tropical root crop. Even the kitchen crew I have had all sorts of advise like soaking, squeezing, etc. to make sure it was absolutely poison-freeâ€¦ letâ€™s just say I was a bit intimidated. I first washed and peeled the bark of several large pieces of cassava. I made sure the outer layers were totally removed and the cleaned ivory root rinsed carefully. My sister says you can just go ahead and put this in the food processor but I went a few steps further. First, I grated all the cassava on a box grater (pain in the rear), then I soaked it in cool water and then squeezed out the excess liquid. Essentially, this has the effect of removing some of the starch and any potential toxins left. Once the grated cassava was drying, I measured out approximately 6 cups of it.
This recipe is attributed to Mariquita Adriano in The Philippine Cookbook though I have altered it somewhat for my attempt. First, beat 3-4 large eggs with 2 cups of granulated sugar. Add 3-3.5 cups of thick fresh coconut milk and 1 cup of canned evaporated milk. Add the 6+ cups of grated cassava (frankly, you can use a little more if you like, depends on target consistency of the cake once baked), Â¼ cup butter (melted) and stir. It should have a consistency of sludgeâ€¦ Not too thick and not too watery. This is nebulous but key â€“ look at the consistency and add eggs, cassava or coconut milk to achieve the one you like best. Much of the liquid will evaporate or be absorbed by the cassava. Pour this into a shallow pan lined with oiled banana leaves. Cook in a 330-350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.
I like to aim for a 1.5 inch thickness for the finished cake. For the topping, mix 1 cup of coconut cream/milk with 2 tablespoons of flour over low heat. Add one can (about 400grams) condensed milk and stir until thickened, 5-12 minutes. Remove from heat and add two egg yolks and stir well. Return to heat and cook a few minutes more. Pour this thick, sweet mixture over the cooked cassava cake and sprinkly with grated cheddar cheese and broil for a few minutes until golden brown. Cool before eating â€“ this is wonderful! Two recipes worth disappeared within 24 hours in our house.