Indonesian bingka is a magical cake where the cake batter transforms itself during baking into two parts, an outer crust, and an inner custardy portion.
Imagine a pie, if you will, with no need to separately prepare the pie dough, and the pie filling. With one bingka batter, you will get the pie filling and the pie dough in one go!
And just like pie, bingka comes in many variations: sweet potato, cassava, potato, pumpkin, and so on. Since I have some kabocha pumpkins that needs to be used up, let’s bake some bingka labu (Indonesian kabocha pumpkin and coconut milk cake)!
What you need to prepare bingka labu
A bingka cake does’t require a lot of ingredients. You only need:
kabocha pumpkin flesh, to be steamed and mashed
coconut oil (or melted unsalted butter)
toasted black and white sesame seeds, for garnish and totally optional
Which pan size to choose
For this recipe, I choose to use an 8-inch round cake pan. For this bingka labu recipe, you can choose from four different cake pans, so hopefully you already have one of these at home:
a 7-inch square cake pan
an 8-inch round cake pan
an 8-inch square cake pan
a 9-inch round cake pan
If you choose option 1 or 2, your baking time is 60-75 minutes, or exactly as written in the recipe.
For option 3 or 4, your baking time is only 45-60 minutes, but your will end up with a shorter cake.
Wait until the bingka is completely cool before cutting and serving
The only visual indication you get that your bingka is properly baked is from the crust that has developed while baking. Once you see that a uniform crust has developed and the color of that crust is golden brown, your bingka is probably done.
The center of the cake will remain very soft and custardy when the cake is hot, especially so when it is just out from the oven, so you need to be patient and let the cake cool completely in the pan.
Once the cake is at room temperature, gently remove the cake from the pan, and cut into serving slices. You should notice that the kabocha pumpkin center is firm, or very close to firm, with no leak.
Are you in the mood for a sweet potato pie but cannot muster the will to prepare a separate recipe for a pie crust followed with another recipe for the sweet potato filling? Then I got just the solution for you, try baking a bingka ubi jalar (Indonesian sweet potato cake) instead.
I will forever think of a bingka as a hassle-free, super easy, cheat version of a pie. A bingka cake batter is extremely easy to prepare, and at the end of the baking time, you will be greeted with a cake that has a magical outer crust encasing a soft custardy sweet potato filling. An instant pie!
What is a bingka cake?
Bingka (read: bing + car) is the traditional dessert of Banjar people, an ethnic group native to the South Kalimantan province of Indonesia. This dessert is made with flour, egg, coconut milk, and a main ingredient of choice.
I am using sweet potato as the main ingredient of choice in this recipe, but there are many other varieties of bingka too. Some other popular choices are cassava, fermented cassava (Indonesian: tape), pumpkin, kabocha, eggs, and pandan.
Ingredients for a bingka ubi jalar (Indonesian sweet potato cake)
We will need sweet potato, eggs, coconut milk, butter, all-purpose flour, vanilla extract, cinnamon powder, salt, and sugar. All are super common ingredients in all parts of the world, so everyone can enjoy this exotic Indonesian cake.
Traditionally we bake a bingka cake in a special flower shaped cake pan, somewhat similar to a dancing daisy cake pan. But since it is impossible to get this exact bingka pan outside of Indonesia, I simply bake this cake in a round cake pan instead.
You can use either an 8″ round pan or a 9″ round pan. Both will take the same baking temperature, but the 9″ cake will simply be thinner, and will bake slightly faster.
How to bake a bingka
First, peel and cut sweet potatoes into wedges, then steam until fork tender and easily mashable.
Meanwhile, grease and line/flour an 8″x2″ or a 9″x2″ round cake pan and set aside. Also, preheat oven to 170 Celsius (340 Fahrenheit).
Place the steamed sweet potato wedges in a blender, along with eggs, sugar, coconut milk, melted butter, vanilla extract, salt, and cinnamon powder. Blend until smooth.
Transfer the sweet potato mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the flour and mix with a spatula until well combined. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes to 1 hour. If using an 8″ pan, it is more likely that the cake will need the whole hour.
Interesting points regarding a bingka
1. Use a blender to prepare the batter
Bingka is the only cake I make using a blender instead of say, a food processor, or a mixer. I guess you can also use a food processor if you must, but if you harbor some deep dark fantasy about using a blender to make a cake, now would be the right time to turn it into a reality.
2. Wait until completely cool before slicing and serving
You can serve most cakes warm, or even right out from the oven. But you must wait patiently until a bingka is completely cool before slicing and serving.
When a bingka cake is just out from the oven, the center is usually still quite soft and gooey. Once the cake is completely cool, the center will harden, though it will still retain its custardy texture, it definitely won’t fall apart if you wait until cool to slice the cake.
3. No need for a cake tester
Since the center of the cake is most likely gooey even when it’s completely cooked, it is pointless to test for the doneness of the cake with a cake tester. You will only be guided with visual cues and your sense of smell.
When the cake is still in the oven, especially near the very end when it’s about to become fully cooked, you may notice that the cake rises quite dramatically in the oven, with the top portion making a dome shape like it’s going to explode.
Don’t worry though, once you take the cake out from the oven, the top part will deflate on its own and become slightly wrinkly and crunchy too. This is the magical crust of a bingka cake, and this outer crust gives a nice contrast to the dense and custardy inner filling.
Other Indonesian cakes to try
I must say that most traditional Indonesian desserts are not baked, instead many are either steamed or cooked on a stovetop.
If you love baked desserts/cakes like this bingka, you may want to try baking a lapis legit, an onbitjkoek, a kue sarang semut, a pie susu Bali, or a klapertart Bandung.
Or if you want to try other bingka varieties, you may want to try a bingka labu, a bingka singkong, or a bingka telur instead. You may think that all these different bingka cakes are similar, but I can attest that each of them not only has a different flavor, but each has its unique texture too. 🙂