By Gian Franco 2021-09-26

Cassava Cake: A Healthy Filipino Dessert


Ever wonder how creative you must be to turn a root crop into a dense, sticky cake? Filipino cuisine truly has its delightful ways of surprising those who are unfamiliar. Cassava cake is a mainstay in special occasions and a popular “pasalubong” delicacy. It’s a crowd-favorite dessert for its rich and creamy custard top and springy base made of grated cassava.


Even with all the Filipino restaurants and grocery stores in almost every state, cassava cake is still difficult to find. If you happen to get your hands on the root vegetable, you’re lucky! You just need few more regular ingredients to make a cassava cake from scratch at home.


Full recipe here. Or you can also watch this cassava cake recipe:


What is Cassava

Americans look at cassava as a gnarly and intimidating thing to look at and bring to the dining table much more so. Meanwhile, one would be fascinated to see how a Filipino manages to peel back the bark with such ease and composure. Where cassava thrives, the people will live. Filipinos have learned through generations where to find the woody shrub even in the harshest land conditions where there is no irrigation. As long as there is soil around them, they can depend on its starchy, tuberous root as their staple food.


If cassava is a mystery to you, think of it as the tropics version of carrots, cucumbers, and potatoes in one. It’s a root vegetable more commonly known to have a nutty taste and starchy texture inside with a skin that is similar to that of potato but thicker. It’s an important source of calories and carbs for many people in developing countries. For every 3.5 ounce (100 grams) of boiled cassava, you already get 112 calories and immense amount of fiber. While it offers few protein and fat content, the tuber is popular for being containing key vitamins and minerals such as thiamine, phosphorus, calcium, manganese, potassium, and riboflavin. Cassava possesses nutritional value that help with weight gain and obesity, metabolic health, and resistance to diseases.


It’s a drought-tolerant crop that can be turned into a versatile food ingredient for many food applications including bread (using cassava flour or in combination with wheat flour), cassava fries, chips, tapioca (similar to the pearls in your boba tea!), flour products, alcoholic beverage, and—you guess it—cassava cake.


Is Cassava Toxic

Unfortunately, cassava gets a bad rap for being toxic to ingest. Even in countries where cassava is indigenous, there are incidents when the root crop is hazardous for human consumption. Indeed, cassava can be harmful only if not prepared correctly. Eating cassava raw or not cooking it long enough would lead to fatal illness because of the naturally occurring cyanide-producing sugar derivatives.


This is why peoples who have embraced cassava as part of their diet have come up with meticulous methods of ensuring that the poison is removed. The system is not limited to simply generously peeling off the skin and washing the cassava with clean water.   


How to Prepare Cassava to Make a Cassava Cake

There are many methods to safely prepare a cassava: by grating, pressing, or heating. For making a cassava cake, in particular, preparing the tuber requires careful attention on what you’re doing. Here’s the first thing you need to remember: do not hold back on scrubbing away the residue and dirt under running water before peeling the skin off. Then, cut both ends to remove the roots; remove any discolored or blackish parts of the meat that you will see.


To peel off the skin, a regular peeler just won’t cut it. Use a good, sharp knife that can penetrate through the wood-like skin to remove it entirely and avoid any injuries in the process. The more efficient way to do is to make a lengthwise slit along the root and moving the blade under the skin. Lift up the skin between the knife and your thumb as you go.  


The next thing you will do is to grate the meat of cassava using a cheese grater. Then, rinse the grated meat under cold water before squeezing the “milk” out of the cassava with your hands.


Photo from Pilipinas Recipes


How to Make a Cassava Cake

When your grated cassava is ready, get a 6 x 6 baking pan and line it with parchment paper. Alternatively, you can grease the surface with butter or oil if parchment paper is not available. Then, preheat an oven to 350F. While waiting, whisk together grated cassava, condensed milk, coconut milk, sugar, white, egg, and butter to make the batter. Afterwards, the batter goes into the baking pan to be baked in the oven for 20 minutes or until the top properly sets.


To make the creamy custard topping for the bouncy cassava base, simply combine condensed milk, coconut milk, and egg yolk in a mixing bowl. Remove the cake and pour the custard mix on the top. Top the custard with generous amount of grated cheese before returning the cake to be baked for another 20 minutes.


Finally, let the cake cool before putting it into the fridge to set overnight. 



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