Kue ubi panggang (baked sweet potato cakes) is one of the best way to enjoy sweet potatoes. Not only is this snack/dessert very easy to prepare, it is also vegetarian, gluten-free, and should be pretty healthy to boot. So if you have extra sweet potatoes around, do give this recipe a try.
If you look through the ingredients list, the only ingredient that may give pause is the milk powder. Believe it or not, most Indonesian don’t buy fresh milk in gallon jugs. Instead, we buy milk powder, and we make our milk by mixing milk powder with warm water. Back in Indonesia, there are so many competing brands to choose from, and honestly, milk from milk powder vs. full cream milk is pretty comparable. I guess you can use baker’s special dry milk if you want, but here in the States, whenever a recipe asks for milk powder, I always use Nestle Nido dry milk. And yeah, I also make milk from that and drink it like the stuff from gallon jugs.
Shaping the cake
The dough (a.k.a. sweet potato mixture) for this snack/dessert is on the wet side, so it will be impossible to shape using bare hands. Usually we use a piece of plastic such as saran wrap to shape the dough into a ball. This is a very rustic cake, so don’t worry if your cakes don’t end up looking perfectly uniform. Embrace the wonkiness, they are supposed to be like that.
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. 🙂