Friday, February 13, 2009

Cassava Heavy Cake

Cassava heavy cake

I have to admit, that is not the most photogenic slice of cake. But that cake is kind of a big deal, just like Ron Burgundy. Two years ago I went with Susan and Kristine to Grand Cayman, where we got to try local Caymanian food at Vivine's Kitchen. The kitchen is literally her home's kitchen; we parked in her driveway, walked up the front steps to her front door where she met us and guided us out back to her porch. We tried the conch stew, turtle stew, and whelk, all of which came with plenty of sides including plaintains, rice and beans, potato salad, corn bread and some unidentified tuberous roots. The best part of the meal, however, was the cassava cake. As I recall, it was dark, dense, and moist with a glutinous chew to it. Basically, it was unlike anything we had ever had before, and it was delicious.

Fast forward to 2 days ago when Susan sends me this link for a recipe for cassava heavy cake. At first I was really excited and planned on making this as soon as I could find cassava in Boston. But then I read through the recipe and realized that even if I found cassava, I probably wouldn't be able to make it. I mean, you are basically making your own coconut milk from scratch which takes at least 3 hours to boil, not including the time it takes to peel, cut, and blend the coconut meat, and then the cake takes 3 more hours to bake. I think I'd rather just fly back to Grand Cayman and have some there; it might be quicker.

But then I figured I'd look and see if there were any other recipes on-line and found these two which looked a lot simpler. I still didn't know where I'd find cassava, but then Tammy tells me that it's the same thing as yucca. I almost smacked my forehead. Duh! So I head over to Harvest after work, and what do I see but a whole basket of yucca! I bought about 3 lbs of it, hoping that I would be able to get at least 2 lbs. of grated cassava after peeling and everything. I decided to use both dark and light brown sugar because the original recipe called for dark, but the other ones called for either light or didn't specify. So anyways, here is an amalgam of all 3 recipes.

Ingredients for cassava heavy cake

Cassava Heavy Cake
makes 24 slices

3 lbs. cassava (yucca root)
1 lb. dark brown sugar
1/2 lb. light brown sugar
2 (14 oz.) cans coconut milk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick butter
4 heaping teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350 °F.

Cut off the ends of the cassava and cut crosswise into manageable lengths (about 3"-5"). Set a piece down on one of the cut ends and peel by cutting down along the edge and rotating the root. Once you have peeled all the pieces, wash with cold water and grate.

In a large mixing bowl, add grated cassava, coconut milk, vanilla extract, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir well.

Dissolve the cornstarch in a little water and add to the cassava mixture.

Melt one stick of butter in a glass 9"x13" baking dish on high for 2 minutes in the microwave. Tilt the dish to coat the bottom and pour the rest of the melted butter into the cassava mixture and mix well.

Bake for one and a half hours or until a firm top is achieved. Cool completely and serve at room temperature.

Cassava cake with toasted coconut ice cream

See, even with some of my toasted coconut ice cream on top this cake isn't very pretty. But it sure is yummy! Definitely not as good as I remember Vivine's to be, but then, not many things can stand up to the taste of sweet memories. If I ever make this again, I would probably grate the cassava more finely or food process it before mixing it with everything else, although some of my taste testers said they like the texture of the grated cassava. And while you might be tempted to try the cake while it is still warm, it tastes a lot better once it has cooled and set a little more.

7 comments:

  1. We go to the Cayman Islands almost every year and love eating at Vivine's Place. My favorite dessert while on the island is cassava heavy cake. (Usually bought at the farmer's market from local ladies.....). Will have to try your recipe!
    Matt

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  2. You forgot to add cloves to your list of ingredients. You also have to boil the coconut milk with the sugars and spices before you add the grated cassava.

    I don't know where you got your information from, but making coconut milk from scratch does NOT require boiling - just husking the coconut, removing the flesh from the shell, blend the flesh, add water and squeeze the water from the grated coconut.

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  3. Sounds amazing, and looks delicious...can't wait to try it out! but you might want to tell your local store selling Cassava that "Yucca" is a flower and "Yuca" is Cassava.

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  4. Oh! question! I was reading up on Yuca and it supposedly has some mild toxins in it, and it is suggested to soak for a full day to "wash" the toxins out...i notice you didn't do that here and so was wondering if cooking breaks down the cyanogenic glucosides or if you were just sure that the type of Cassava you were using had a minimal amount?

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  5. There is a "Cassava Pone" recipe on Zorina's YouTube channel that shows how to core the cassava. She cored the cassava as there's a pithy, hard center. Maybe that's why the texture of yours was different?

    For Onmyknees' question about the cyanide: There's many varieties of "sweet" and "sour" cassavas. The ones imported to the US and sold in groceries are safe for consumption when cooked. Tapioca, Fahrina (Cream of Wheat) and other food products are made from dried Cassava.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the tips! If I make this again I'll definitely try coring the cassava!

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