Killer Sugee Cake

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Wanna make a sugee cake that's light and fluffy? That's right, the Eurasian classic doesn't have to be dense and heavy. Let me, a half-Eurasian, show you how. What? You didn't know I'm half-Eurasian? Hey, half of Eurasian is Asian and I'm 100% Asian. That makes me 50% Eurasian, right?

There're many sugee cake recipes out there and after comparing several, I became very confused. How much sugee 
should you use? Do you fry it? Do you soak it? If you do, how long should it be? A few hours? Overnight? What do you soak it in? Melted butter, soft butter or creamed butter? Or maybe it's milk? How many egg whites? How many yolks? Baking powder, baking soda or neither? How much flour? How much almond?

So many questions and, I tell ya, soooo many different answers. Every recipe I looked at was different. The conclusion I came to was: sugee cakes are like zebras; no two are alike.

Guess what? Another zebra just joined the herd zeal. Here's my take on the Eurasians' most loved cake:

To fry or not to fry? The sugee, that is, aka semolina. Definitely fry. If you don't believe me, try it
and see how fragrant the semolina is after it turns brown. Too lazy to stand by the stove and stir? You could do what I do. Just bung the semolina into the oven. Baking browns just as well as frying, minus the
stirring . . . . Oh hang on, you do have to stir but it's just once midway whilst baking.

To soak or not to soak? Definitely soak because browned semolina is very dry and sandy.

What to soak in? Definitely butter, whipped to within an inch of its life. Why not softened or melted butter? Because the butter must have lots of air if you want a light and fluffy cake. Why not milk? Because the batter has the right thickness without any milk (or cream). It's what I call the "plop consistency", i.e. the batter goes "plop" when you drop it from your spatula/spoon/whatever.

For how long? Till the semolina loses its crunch but not its bite. I find that an hour is ample. How do you tell when it's done? By tasting, of course. How else?

How many egg whites? Two. How many yolks? Five. To be exact, it's 80 g each for a 18 cm cake. This is the right amount if light and fluffy is your kind of thing. The cake rises well but doesn't collapse or crack. There may be a slight dome but it subsides nicely once the cake is removed from the oven.

Should you add a leavener? Definitely, to help the cake rise. I go for baking soda but I'd imagine an appropriate amount of baking powder works just as well.

A light sugee cake is nice but a denser version has its merits too (and character). Why? Because you can get a grainier, nuttier crumb by using coarsely ground almonds. The dense batter prevents big almond bits from sinking to the bottom of the pan. For a fluffy cake, the almonds must be finely ground.

How much semolina, almond and flour? The first cake I baked had one part plain flour, two parts almond and four parts semolina. I'd never eaten sugee cake before and was expecting something dense because that's how everyone describes it. To my surprise, what I got was very light and fluffy. I liked the cake very much but thought it could be nuttier. The second time round, I used an equal amount of semolina and ground almond and, hey presto, magic happened. The cake knocked everyone's socks off. It was so light it flew off the table (into everyone's mouth). The third time, I used cake flour instead of plain flour. That cake didn't send any socks flying. Instead, it knocked everyone dead. They all died, smiling and still wearing their socks.

Would you dare bake a killer cake? Of course you would! Good cake is worth dying for . . .  isn't it?

Here it is, the making of a killer:

The Eurasians serve sugee cake on special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, Christmas, New Year, christenings and, I hear, funerals.

Source: adapted from Rose's Kitchen
(Recipe for one 18 x 5 cm cake)

165 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
35 g castor sugar
1 tsp golden syrup
2 tsp brandy
60 g semolina
spread thinly on baking tray lined with aluminium foil; bake 10 minutes at 180°C; stir thoroughly; continue baking till light brown and fragrant, another 5 minutes or so; leave till cool

80 g yolks
35 g castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
60 g almonds
bake at 180°C till brown and fragrant, 6-8 mins; chop roughly when cool; grind till fine
20 g cake flour
1/6 tsp baking soda

80 g egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar 
35 g castor sugar

Whisk 165 g butter and 35 g sugar till thick and pale. Add 1 tsp golden syrup and 2 tsp brandy. Mix till combined. Add baked semolina. Mix thoroughly. Set aside till semolina is soft, about 1 hour, in air-conditioned comfort if weather is unusually hot.

Preheat oven to 170°C. Line 18 x 5 cm round cake pan with parchment paper.

Whisk 80 g yolks and 35 g castor sugar till thick and pale. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and ground almonds. Sift 20 g cake flour and 1/6 tsp baking soda into mixture. Mix evenly. Add to butter mixture. Fold till almost even.

Whisk 80 g egg whites till thick foam forms. Add 1/8 tsp cream of tartar. Whisk till foam thickens further. Gradually add 35 g castor sugar as you continue whisking. Keep whisking till egg whites just reach stiff peak stage. Fold into yolk and butter mixture in 2 batches till just evenly mixed, scraping down thoroughly as you fold.

Pour batter into cake pan and level top. Bake till cake shrinks very slightly from sides, around 40 minutes. If cake browns too fast – check 25 minutes into baking – block oven's top heat with baking tray. Remove cake from oven. Let cool a few minutes. Unmould and leave on wire rack till completely cool.


Jeannie Tay said...

That is one good looking sugee cake!

kt said...

I think so too. : - )

Chef and Sommelier said...

Hi KT! That makes me half-Eurasian too! :D

Thanks for sharing the killer!

Mrs O said...

I will try your version later. Rose version, very rich, too much egg yolks, too much butter. Can you show us indonesian layered cake as well?

PJ said...

Hi, I noticed you whisked the batter. Can I just beat with the hand mixer instead?

kt said...

Why do you want to use a hand mixer?

PJ said...

I only have mixer. The only whisk I have is the manual which will take me ages to beat..

Lyn said...

Hi can confirm 180g of eggs white is equal to how many medium size eggs? If I use measurement cup, this 180g is pour into the flour or liquid side?

Juanasjuan said...

I have trouble sheltering the cake from the heat as the additional tray was too small to slot into the upper deck of the oven to suspend above the cake and i just covered the cake with the tray to prevent it from burning. The cake stopped rising and became very oily. :(

kt said...

Did you put the cake on a rack or tray in the oven?

Juanasjuan said...

i baked the cake on a rack. Batter is in a 7-inch non-stick square cake pan (not 18 x 5 cm round pan), does it affect the rising? I have a small oven, maximum 9 inch square pan.

I might try it again. Just bought a new stick of unsalted butter. Thanks for the recipe.

Juanasjuan said...

I tried it again some two weeks ago and it rised a little higher and got a little softer under a foil (perhaps in my first attempt the tray was too heavy and covered the heat totally, like steaming the cake in the oven), but I still find this cake quite oily. Perhaps I need to allow the cake to rise and stabilize before covering it. Still can't beat Chin Mee Chin's trained hands.

It taste good though. I froze the unfinished portion and reheated till it got a little more dry. My sister and helper finished the cake! Thanks for sharing and demonstrating it through your videos! Thumbs up. :)

Izzy said...

I have this obsession of finding the right recipe. I wanted the dense I can't resist urs. Just made it and it looks smells awesome! I love the batter too! Bt it's so light I don't the it can carry the weight of marzipan right? This for the killer! I'm gonna gobble this myself

Izzy said...


sand town said...

Hi, I know I'm very late to this post b coz just accidently found your blog. I tried your sugee cake tday and very happy to tell u that turns out very beautiful and nice. Thk you

maureen said...

sorry I'm a bit confused about the egg yolks and egg whites measurement. Earlier on you were talking about 5 yolks to 2 egg whites. In your recipe it says 80 g yolk and 80 g whites. Are you saying 5 yolks from an 80g egg and 2 whites whites from a similar size egg?
Do we use the coarse semolina or the fine semolina? the sugee cakes I have tasted I thought had coarse semolina in but I'm having a hard time finding coarse semolina.

nadia a.d said...

Hi KT...I tried your sugee cake for the first time and it was really good. It had quite a bit of bite...the nutty taste of the toasted sugee and almonds gave it a hearty texture. Thank you for the recipe :)

KT said...

I finally got round to tasting Chin Mei Chin's sugee cake this
afternoon. I am very disappointed. The cake is very dry, very sweet,
very salty, and there's a strong taste of artificial vanilla. Good
thing we only bought the tiny, 5-inch cake. We've eaten 1/5 of it. I
don't think anyone's gonna touch the remaining 4/5. This cake is
seriously BAD.

sathis said...

It did fly off the table. Thank you :)

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