Yesterday was my birthday. I didn’t make a big fuss about it, because I just didn’t feel like it. I was just thankful that I was granted another day to spend with my family, and waking up with my daughter laughing at me and cuddling with me (she doesn’t sleep with us but the night before was an exception) was the most precious gift of all. Anyways, I didn’t want a spongy cake with frosting or anything like that. When I went back to California last November, my friend Phi made a cassava cake that was delicious and I thought of it again for my birthday. Cassava, also called manioc or what many recognize as yucca, is a starchy root vegetable (they have yucca root fries at a local Mexican restaurant that are out-of-this-world!). When it’s dried to a pearly form, it’s called tapioca, what many people know.
The cake is called banh khoai mi in Vietnamese. I think Filipinos have their version of the cake too, called bibingka. It’s very simple – you mix grated cassava that you find in the freezer section of your Asian grocery store, along with sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk. The result is not what you’d regularly think of as a cake but gelatinous and mochi-like, something you can eat with your fingers. I loved Phi’s version, but I made a few tweaks to the recipe she sent me, because I didn’t want to make a 13×9-inch baking pan full of cassava cake. Just a 8×8-inch pan would do (because if y’all know my husband, he’s not really into sweets and normally it would be up to me to finish it! I always end up freezing a lot of the desserts I make!). I also decreased the sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk and added in water and an egg.
The result? Well, I thought it was a perfect birthday cake for myself! Lightly sweet, soft and chewy, and not greasy or sticky-sweet as a lot of cassava cakes are. It does have some uneven browning to it but looks didn’t matter! I think you’d like this too, Phi!
makes an 8×8-inch square cake pan
16 oz (1 lb) frozen grated cassava, thawed in the fridge for one day
6 oz sweetened condensed milk (you can use fat-free too if you like, this is just what I had!)
6 oz coconut milk
2 oz water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Nonstick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix all ingredients (except cooking spray) in a large bowl, whisking until combined. Coat an 8×8-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Pour the whisked ingredients into the baking pan and bake for 45-48 minutes, until the center is no longer wobbly and the top of the cake is lightly browned (there will probably be some darker spots than others and that’s ok!). Cool in the pan before cutting with a serrated knife into 2×2-inch squares. You can cut the ends off before cutting them in squares like I did – I also ate the ends because they were so good! Heehee!
Nutrition facts per serving (1 serving = 1/16 square of cake, or a 2×2-inch piece): 117 calories, 3.9 grams fat, 19 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein