A Salute to the Cassava
Elena Peña (The Freeman) - November 15, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — In the Philippine countryside, next to rice and corn and banana, cassava is farmed abundantly. Many rural households would have 20 or so cassava plants in the backyard, for the family’s use. Aside from occasionally using cassava for human food, it is more commonly made into animal feed.

In the province where I grew up, we’d often have boiled cassava for snacks. Cassava and green breadfruit (“kolo”) were often alternated for the purpose. Then, we’d have “latik,” brown sugar caramelized in boiling coconut milk, as dip.

Some of our neighbors back then planted more cassava. When harvested, they would grate it and then dry it under the sun. It was a good feed for their pigs and chickens.

It was not actually called cassava back there. We called it by a poorly name – “balanghoy” or “kamoteng kahoy.” The name we gave it did not sound like we had much admiration for the root crop.

But such halfhearted attitude towards the “balanghoy” is true as well with anything in abundance. People tend to value more anything that is rare or require much effort to have. “Kamoteng kahoy” is abundant and readily available. 

As I was going to college in the city, it was my biggest surprise to discover that cassava had other, more sophisticated uses than being a poorly human snack and animal feed. Cassava Cake was served at classy refreshment parlors and sold at the better city bakeshops. I had come to realize how myopic our provincial view of the cassava back home was.

Cassava Cake is a Filipino moist cake made from grated cassava, coconut milk, and condensed , usually with a custard layer on top. It is a spinoff from the traditional “Bibingkang Balanghoy,” which is itself already a somewhat classy dessert or merienda recipe for cassava, and served during gatherings and special occasions. The Cassava Cake is certainly a big improvement of the “Bibingkang Balanghoy” that is made possible by better baking technologies.   

Like with most recipes, making Cassava Cake has two parts – the preparation and the actual cooking. The preparation entails uprooting fresh cassava from the ground. Then the dug cassava is cleaned, peeled, and shredded. This part can be a bit messy.

The actual cooking itself has two parts, too – making the cassava batter and preparing the topping. The whole process of making Cassava Cake can seem winding, but it’s not. In fact, it’s easy to make Cassava Cake at home, on any ordinary day.

Here’s a recipe from www.panlasangpinoy.com to try:

Cassava Cake

Ingredients:

2 lbs cassava, grated

2 cups coconut milk

½ of a 12 oz. can evaporated milk

3 pcs egg

¼ cup butter, melted

6 tbsp cheddar cheese, grated

½ cup condensed milk

14 tbsp granulated white sugar

Topping Ingredients:

2 tbsp flour

2 tbsp sugar

½ cup condensed milk

2 tbsp cheddar cheese, grated

2 cups coconut milk

Procedure:

1. In a mixing bowl, make the batter by combining the grated cassava, butter, ½ cup condensed milk, ½ cup evaporated milk, 6 tablespoons cheddar cheese, 14 tablespoons granulated white sugar, and 2 eggs. Mix thoroughly.

2. Add the 2 cups coconut milk in the mixing bowl where the mixed ingredients are. Mix again.

3. Grease the baking tray then pour in the batter (the ingredients that you just mixed together).

4. Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes then put in the baking tray with batter and bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and set aside.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the topping by combining 2 tablespoons sugar and flour in the heated saucepan.

6. Pour in ½ cup condensed milk, and then mix thoroughly.

7. Add 2 tablespoons cheddar cheese while stirring constantly.

8. Pour in 2 cups of coconut milk and stir constantly for 10 minutes

9. Pour the topping over the Cassava Cake (baked batter) and spread evenly.

10. Separate the yolk from the egg white of the remaining egg (only the egg white is needed).

11. Glaze the topping with the egg white using a basting brush. Simply dip the brush to the egg white and brush it on the cassava cake.

12. Set the oven to broil mode, and then broil the Cassava Cake until color turns light brown. Garnish with extra grated cheese on top.

Serve. Share and enjoy!

CASSAVA
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