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Monday, August 3, 2020

Cotton-Soft Ube Cake


Whoa. Technicolor.


Can we be real for a second? Sometimes, you want cake. You really want cake. But it's in the middle of the summer and it's just too dang hot and humid to even think about turning on the oven. Even during the famous Midwestern False Fall, it's humid. So what's one to do when you want that cake but don't want to heat up your whole house? Use a rice cooker to make a cake! 

This is the perfect recipe for that summery situation of wanting a light spongecake without sweating yourself into a puddle. If you have no choice but to cook this cake in an oven, keep reading! I've got your answer below...

Disclaimer: I'm an Asian-American person that (mostly) grew up in a white family. I had a brief phase where I wanted to be in fashion design, but once I realized that I'd much rather be tubby and eat good food, I signed up for culinary school. I went to Culinary school and learned the old-school French ways of cooking, which means my first formal exposure to cooking rice that was of the Western-style, which is to say in a pot on the stove. It wasn't until living with my mom, a full indigenous Filipino woman of Pampanga, that I learned the proper way to cook rice. She never had a rice cooker but just used a pot and the old finger-trick. (Jo Koy talks about it here.) I didn't buy my first rice cooker until I was 30 and am decidedly ignorant about all the glorious things you can do with this amazing machine. I am now in love with it and use it constantly. I stand before you now and I'll say it out loud: I'm a Janie Come-Lately. Please be kind to me, fellow Asians.

Cotton-Soft Ube Cake
adapted from Cooking Tree's recipe
yields 1 cotton-soft cake
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 150 g sugar, divided
  • 30 g raw honey
  • 1 Tbsp ube extract
  • 110 g all-purpose flour
  • 20 g tapioca flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 40 g olive oil
  • 40 g almond milk
  • 30 g ube jam
Gently oil the bowl of your rice cooker or steamer with either olive oil or coconut oil. If you do use a steamer, you can either use a bowl or little individual ramekins. I wouldn't use paper cups for this, as it's going to be steamed for quite some time! 

Separate the eggs, with yolks in a large bowl and the whites in the bowl of your standing mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment. Combine the honey, egg yolks, half the sugar, ube jam, and ube extract in a large bowl with a balloon whisk until light and fluffy. It's good for your arm to work this hard, so spend at least 60 seconds on whipping by hand! The idea is to dissolve everything together in a beautiful, thick purple paste. 



Measure out the olive oil and almond milk in a small, separate bowl, and set this aside. Whisk together the two flours, the baking powder, and the salt in another bowl. Spoon in your flour mixture to your egg yolk mixture and whisk gently to create a paste. You're only going to want to do this about a third of the dry ingredients at a time to prevent lumps. Don't worry too much about the gluten!

Whip the egg whites with the other half of the sugar until stiff peaks form. It's going to be tripled in volume, and oh-so-glossy. If they look dry, you've over-whipped them, and the cake won't be as nice, so please err on the side of 'under'-whipping, as you're going to already have some leavening from the baking powder. Does that make sense?


Whoa. Groovy, man.


Add in a dollop of the egg white meringue to your purple yolk mixture. Use the whisk to stir it gently and lighten your batter. It's going to be a little thick, and it's a-okay if you lose a bit of the volume of the egg whites in this step. Add in about a third of your remaining egg white mixture and fold in gently, using the whisk instead of the spatula. It's going to take a little longer than usual; be patient.

Switch to the spatula and fold in your remaining egg whites as gently as you can. The most important thing in this step is to make sure that they are fully incorporated with no streaks of white in your purple batter. Next, take a healthy spoonful of the batter and add it to your almond milk and oil mixture and stir together until homogenous. Scrape this mixture into your big bowl of batter and fold it all together as gently as you can. 

Pour your batter into the prepared bowl of your rice cooker and smooth out the top. Give the pan a few good taps from the bottom to break up any large bubbles, so the only bubbles you get are fine and even. Ten taps usually do the trick for me!



Put your rice cooker bowl in the machine and push to the "STEAM" function, and set it for 65 minutes. 

Note: You will need a good rice cooker for this recipe to have the same results as I have here. I have this one here by Zojirushi, and it comes with all the bells and whistles. If you don't have a rice cooker and are absolutely dying to make this cake anyhow, you may do this:

Follow the usual instructions only pour the batter into an ungreased tube pan and bake at 350 degrees F for about 40-45 minutes or until the top of the cake is dry. Please note to not open the oven to check it until at least 35 minutes has passed. You must also note that it's very important that the oven be already quite hot and ready for this cake, as it won't rise the same without that heat.

This is quite a long time to cook for a steamed cake, so let's use up some of that time to talk about what ube (pronounced "oo-bay") is!

Ube is a beautiful species of the tuber family that is quite high in sugar, incredibly flavorful, and shines like a jewel with vivid purple color. This is also known as a purple yam or the greater yam. It has a creamy, almost coconut-like taste that's unique to Southeast Asia! You'll often see it in Philippine desserts, as well as Thai and Vietnamese cuisines. You can grow them, but most recipes you see calling for ube will usually mean ube halaya or ube jam. You will be able to find this item, jarred and ready to go, in any Asian grocery store with a Filipino section. The extract of this item is quite powerful, so use it sparingly. 

A note about this ingredient: it's very high in sugar already, and when you add sugar to preserve it, it'll be even sweeter in the jar. Make sure you taste it before you make it into a pie so you don't use too much sugar. To make an ube pie for Thanksgiving, I like to simply use a whole jar of ube halaya, some coconut cream, a few eggs, a dollop of tofu sour cream, and salt for the filling. Bake as normal for a pumpkin pie, and you'll have the most technicolor-looking pie you've ever seen. It's almost as bright and colorful as my Pandan Custard Pie!
 
When your timer signals that the cake is ready, open the rice cooker and let the steam escape for about 5 minutes. The cake will have pulled gently away from the pan and the sponge will be firm, yet springy, to the touch. 



Turn the cake upside down over a cooling rack and let sit for another 10 minutes before you gently remove it from the bowl. This may take a spatula, but please, for the love of all that is holy, don't use metal on your nonstick surface. Remember, the cake will have reached the top of the cooker, and some of the bubbles might have popped a little when you open the door to it. It's not the end of the world if, when you turn it out, it sinks just a tiny bit. I swear it'll still taste delicious! Let cool completely before cutting and serving. To cut, I suggest using a serrated knife and using long, gentle strokes. Don't push down - just let the weight of the knife to the work for you.  

You can enjoy a slice of this cake with some coffee or iced tea! This is a delicious cake all on its own, so I don't think this cake needs any kind of icing at all. If you absolutely must give in to temptation, may I suggest that some fresh whipped cream might not be amiss should you be so inclined? Personally, I just like this cake plain!

My dog is behind me, isn't he?


Store this cake in an airtight container. It keeps well for several days, just as moist and tender as the day you made it. If I'm being honest, though, I've never let it survive for longer than 48 hours before it gets gobbled up.

I love this cake because it's incredibly tender, so easy to do, and you don't have any baked-on mess to clean up. I know the value of easy-to-clean stuff at this time. Between volunteering, writing, schooling, and doing the part-time influencer thing, the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time on the dishes at home. I'm sure that a lot of you here in the United States are feeling some emotional exhaustion from the quarantine, and while I don't know how things are going overseas, I know that there are more than a few of you that have lost their jobs, lost their loved ones, and even more in this uncertain time. 

It's hard now, and it's normal to not feel normal. I understand that we'll likely never have our old 'normal' back again, and that's okay. We're in the middle of a global revolution, and I for one am ready to see what the next chapter holds. Keep holding on, just a little longer, and I know we'll be okay. In the meantime, find yourself some solace in happy distractions, like an oh-so-pretty ube cake. 

2 comments:

  1. I've been literally dreaming about this cake since you posted it on Instagram. Super excited to give it a run!

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    Replies
    1. I am so beyond excited to hear that!!! You absolutely have to let me know how it goes.

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