My eldest brother has this notion that cassava is super-toxic, to the point where he refuses to let me cook with any of it. And while Wikipedia does say cassava is poisonous, it’s really raw and unprocessed cassava that you should be worried about. This cake goes through over an hour in the oven, so it’s all cooked away and safe I’m pretty sure.
I have had bibingka many times either made with rice and with cassava. Rice bibingka is more traditional and there even two types of rice bibingka: ‘cake’ bibingka and ‘sticky’ bibingka. Cassava bibingka is more like the sticky cake. The cake itself cuts nicely into slices, and becomes soft and jelly-like once it cools. The cassava has a mild taste and is similar to coconut once shredded. The coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk steal the show, lending a creamy taste to each nibble.
My brother’s stubborn embargo means I haven’t had cassava since I left the Philippines (it’s been a while), so imagine my surprise when Veronica had cassava in our apartment!
This is a recipe I made up as I was making the cake, one of the rare occasions when I wrote it down as well. I added sugar to the cake that’s pictured here but the sugar is an optional addition. The sweetened condensed milk is enough for the whole pan but I’ve included in here for those with a strong sweet tooth. You’ll also notice that my cake isn’t very brown — and that’s okay! I was getting pretty impatient and I really wanted to eat so I pulled it out of the oven after a few minutes. Feel free to brown the top to your own tastes.
Serves 9, each with one 3 inch by 3 inch slice
1 pound/16oz frozen grated cassava, thawed
1 13.5oz can coconut milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup white sugar (optional)
Banana leaves or heavy-duty foil, to line the pan
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9 by 9-inch pan with banana leaves or foil. Reserve two tablespoons of the coconut milk. Mix together the cassava, eggs, the rest of the coconut milk, and three-fourths of the sweetened condensed milk in a large bowl. Pour the cassava mixture into the pan and bake for 60 minutes.
Pull the pan out of the oven — the cassava at this point will have puffed up a little and will be a light brown. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, or if you’re feeling daring, turn it up to broil.
Mix together the reserved coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk, and spread this milk concoction over the cassava cake. Return the cake into the oven and bake for an additional twenty minutes (or ten if you are using broil).
Check every five minutes to make sure the milk topping doesn’t get too burnt.
Take out the cake once more and let cool completely. Cut into slices. Serve with toasted coconut bits on top or as is.