Cassava Cake - Banh Khoai Mi
Easy - You got this
A gluten-free cake made of a combination of cassava, coconut cream and tapioca starch. Expect a textural cake similar to mochi but with the delicate natural flavour of cassava, and enhanced with the rich and creamy notes of coconut cream.
A common mistake for newcomers to Vietnamese cuisine is confusing banh xeo, a savoury dish often referred to as ‘Vietnamese pancakes’ or ‘Vietnamese crepes’, for a sweet dessert. While you can find pancakes and crepes in Vietnam, traditional Vietnamese desserts (che) are much more layered and typically feature a combination of rice flour, tapioca starch, glutinous rice flour, coconut and of course sugar. Vietnamese desserts can be served hot or cold making them perfect for consuming throughout the day. There's nothing better than indulging in a refreshing che ba mau (Vietnamese three colour drink) on a warm day, or enjoying a fresh slice of banh khoai mi (cassava cake) in the evening with a warm cup of tea. As its name suggests, the star ingredient in this cake is cassava.
Cassava is sometimes referred to as manihot, yuca, cassava plant or cassava root. In Vietnamese, it’s called ‘khoai mi’. Cassava is a root vegetable prominent in South America, subtropical and tropical regions of the world. It is an edible starchy root that when grated can be used to provide a soft but firm texture within a cake.
Growing up, whenever Mum made Vietnamese sweets, the whole family couldn’t wait to devour them and always made sure to take extra servings back to their respective homes; There is no doubt she was the Vietnamese dessert queen in our family. Living in Australia at a time when fresh cassava wasn’t readily available, Mum always opted for frozen grated cassava. The grated cassava she used made this recipe incredibly easy to follow.
Mum’s cassava cake recipe was flawless and sound. However, with a few additions I’ve learnt along my culinary path, I’ve managed to enhance the cassava cake experience. The addition of ground almond praline in this recipe further emphasises the subtle naturalness of the cassava and the nuttiness of the coconuts. Serving it alongside a scoop of your favourite classic vanilla ice cream enhances its vanilla profile and adds another sensory layer.
This cassava cake recipe is incredibly versatile which means it can be made in a bread maker, (I use the Panasonic bread maker) or your standard household oven. So do yourself a favour and grab some frozen cassava the next time you are at the Asian supermarket, to enjoy the addictive flavours in this Vietnamese sweet on any given day.
500g grated cassava
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon tapioca starch
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
400ml coconut cream
½ tablespoon of neutral cooking oil
Almond Praline (optional)
50g slivered almonds
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
To serve (optional)
Vanilla ice cream
How to make cassava cake:
1. Pre-heat oven to 200°C.
2. In a large bowl combine all cassava ingredients except coconut cream and oil. Mix well until well-combined.
3. Add coconut cream and mix well.
4. Lightly oil a 9 inch cake tin, pour in cassava cake mixture, then place into oven for 1 hour or until golden. Use a skewer to check if cake is done in the middle.
Duncan’s tip: In the meantime start on the almond praline.
5. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing.
How to make almond praline:
1. Place almonds on a baking sheet and roast in preheated oven (180°C) for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove and set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, add sugar and water over low to medium heat. Allow the sugar to dissolve, then reduce to low and allow the mixture to lightly boil until it turns golden or light copper. Immediately remove from heat.
Duncan’s tip: Step 2 can take up to 15-20 minutes. Be careful when handling the hot sugar mixture and ensure it doesn’t make contact with your body.
3. Carefully add butter and almonds to the saucepan and mix until almonds are well coated with sugar mixture.
4. Pour mixture onto baking paper and with the back of a tablespoon, spread evenly to create a thin layer. Allow to cool, set and harden.
5. Break praline into small pieces and place in a food processor and process into a fine dust, then set aside.
How to serve cassava cake:
1. Slice cassava cake into thin slices and coat both inside layers with a dusting of almond praline.
2. Serve alongside a scoop of your favourite vanilla ice cream, and dusted with almond praline.