Lots of people have asked me if I have an easy recipe for bika ambon. For Dutch Indo Magazine Moesson I make every month a recipe for one of their readers.
The fans ask for recipes they do not know the name of or for a simpler version of something they ate as streetfood. This month lots of readers asked for bika ambon.
Bika / Bingka
A bika ambon is also called bingka. Bingka is a cassava cake from Malaysia. It sounds like this cake comes from Ambon, but it is best known and famous in Medan, Sumatra.
According to the Indonesian wiki this cake is named this way because it was made on the Jalan Ambon in Medan. The Dutch wiki explains that this cake originally comes from Ambon, but was brought to Sumatra by merchants and then became popular there.
Whatever the reason for the name is; today we bake Bika! 😉
The structure of a bika ambon is very important. It needs to have those tiny tubes running through it from bottom to the top. The yeast in the batter makes those air tubes.
The bika is flavored with pandan leaf and lemon leaf (jeruk purut). That makes the cake almost savory, but don’t worry it stays a sweet cake.
Bika ambon is often sold as street food in a sort of small pancake pan made of cast iron. I do not have a pan like that, so I’m going to make my Bika in the oven.
I see a lot of examples online but most of the time the cakes are enormous. Some recipes uses 20 eggs. I’m going for 3. I make a round cake with a diameter of 20 centimeters.
170 milliliters of coconut milk
85 grams of tapioca flour
85 grams of sugar
3 eggs (large)
1 teaspoon of dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon kunjit (turmeric/yellow root)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3 jeruk purut leaves
2 pandan leaves
Baking dish of 20 cm diameter
Because this is a yeast batter I have to pay attention to two things:
- The batter must be warm and rest in a warm place
- The salt must come into direct contact with the yeast. Otherwise, yeast will die
Pandan leaf and jeruk purut I keep in the freezer. I buy these leaves at my local Asian store.
I cut pandan and the jeruk into rough pieces, so that they can give a lot of flavor to the coconut milk.
I bring my coconut milk slowly to the boil with the pandan leaf and jeruk purut. I add a little more than the 170 milliliters in my pan because some of the liquid will evaporate.
In the meantime, I mix the three eggs with the mixer at the highest level until they foam well. I use 1 whisk in my mixer. (Later on, I only need one whisk to stir in the flour).
But first, the sugar with the salt can be added to the eggs. I’ll mix this for half a minute.
Now it is time for the tapioca flour. I mix this in with one whisk on the lowest setting.
Meanwhile, my coconut milk is almost ready. It has not really cooked, but it has been quietly puffed a few times. I stir it and then take the gas off. I pour the milk into a jug so that it cools down quickly.
I put a milk thermometer in it and let the coconut milk cool down to about 45 degrees. If you put your finger in it does not hurt, but feels really well warm (that’s good).
Yeast, kunjit and coconut
Back to the batter. Now I mix in the yeast (in a few seconds) with the mixer on the lowest setting and a 1/4 teaspoon of kunjit (turmeric). That is yellow root powder. This gives the whole cake a beautiful yellow glow.
Then I slowly pour the warm coconut milk. I keep on mixing on the lowest setting until all the milk is in it.
Now I place a lid on the bowl of batter and put it away in a warm place. In my case on one of my central heating radiators.
I want the bowl to stay warm, but certainly not hot. Now the yeast has to work in the batter for a total of 2,5 hours.
After 1 hour, I stir everything through once. Because of the sugar that drops to the bottom foamy layer that stays on top because of the fermentation.
Prepare oven dish
After 1 hour and 50 min, I place my baking dish on a baking sheet. I pour in hot water and let the dish warm up slowly. I do not heat the dish in the oven because then the batter on the bottom is done too quickly and turns into a custard.
Now I crumple a sheet of parchment paper into a ball and then expand it again. Now it is more flexible for the runny batter.
The water can be removed from the dish. I dry it and the paper can go in. I do not cut it to a smaller size. That is just not necessary.
Fill the dish
I gently remove my batter from the radiator and pour into the dish, into the baking paper.
I do not stir it. The pouring already mixes a bit and I need those bubbles that are in there.
Now I leave the batter with a lid on for another half hour in the warm oven dish.
Oven 160 degrees
In the meantime, I warm my oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
When the oven is warm and the half hour is done, I turn the oven to only under-heat (but not on hot air).
I slide the griddle on the very lowest rack in the oven and bake my Bika Ambon for 35 minutes.
The top is already discolored a bit but is not really brown yet.
Now I place my Bika in the middle of the oven, turn up the heat to 180 degrees and keep it in there for about 8-10 minutes until it turns golden brown. The dark top looks beautiful when you cut the bika ambon.
I test the cake like I do with all cakes with a thin skewer.
I let the cake cool completely before cutting. I’ve made a round cake, but I cut long strips of 5 centimeters wide. With a square cake that is easier, but still, it works with my round bika.
I love this bouncy cake. It has the distinctive sweet flavor of pandan and the slightly acidic of the lemon leaves. You can keep the cake for a few days in an air-tide container in the fridge. I warm it up just before serving just a few seconds in the microwave.