Cobwebs everywhere here.
I don’t want this place to be haunted, so I might as well just post anything. Well, not “any” -thing. Actually this is one of my favorite.. err, cake? I’m not sure this is really a cake, actually.
Before digging into recipe and all exaggeration I naturally do on food, let me tell you how my baking life is going on lately. I still bake, but sadly after baking I usually lost appetite to take photos. Yep, the down-side of passion-turns-into-a-job hits me with no mercy. I take photos for books and do it for demonstration while teaching. I have no time and energy to do personal photo session anymore. Not with the same enthusiasm I had in my early days.
I always have so many things to share, though. Not only baking stories, but also everything from taking photos within budget to my favorite tea with honey every afternoon. Remember when I still posted about my afternoon tea, or my sweet mango for breaking my fasting? How I miss my old me. For some reason, I envy her.
But hey, I won’t let anything get in the way. You know what I’m gonna do? I’ll just cheat. Ya-ha, a white-cheat. I’ll just take one photo at a time of my favorite recipes from the book I was working on, and write a story about it. I did try the recipes anyway and I was the one who took photos for the book, so it is practically no different than doing my personal baking and photo session. Hah. Problem solved. Now all I have to do is find the time to actually do that, not only plan to do that. *sigh*
Now let’s get into business. This caramel cake is way too special to not being mentioned as one of the most unique Indonesian culinary treasures. Because I can’t see anywhere else in the world a cake with this texture, taste and weird baking method except in Indonesia. We’ve been inherited it from our ancestors and it is one of the most favorites in every kids’ mind that they carried along for a life time.
When editing the content of the book, I was having trouble categorizing this cake. I mean, the texture is way far from cake we’ve known. The batter is so runny you won’t believe it would ever turn out to be a wonderful soft yet chewy cake. While the method is not rocket science, cooking abundant sugar into a pool of deep amber-copper caramel first is not something you found everyday in a cake recipe. Maybe never. With total ignorance I labeled the category: Cake That Is Not Cake. Seriously. *yea, my work is my playground*
*If you’re curious enough, yes, there is another cake fell into that category. Lapis Beras or Rice Layered Cake. That makes two of them. Oh, how weird.*
One obvious thing about Indonesian food is they are often not pretty to the eyes. I mean, how can you make pretty of Opor Ayam? I’m talking about the Sumatra version, the one that is pale brown sometimes turn into grey thing. How can you convey the deliciousness, the extremely creamy gravy that caresses your taste bud and your tummy through a photo? You take hundreds of them, what you have are hundreds of grey ugly mound. How about that blacked out Rawon? Or the mushy Mento and Jongkong? The shabby Krasikan? Oh, my. This Caramel Cake is no different. The color is dark shiny copper. Beautiful, but a challenge to take.
The taste and texture. You won’t find anywhere in the surface of this earth a cake that tastes and feels like this. The caramel turns into a bed of sponges full or vertical holes, like an anthill, hence the name. Springy to the touch, feels really nice in your mouth, and tastes oh so good. Like slurping a bowl of caramel candy soup, that’s what it is. Even Jamie Oliver will scream, “Ow-bloody-wow!”
Until now I can’t remember at what point exactly I was starting to care about my country and its legacy. I didn’t really care before if one food is Indonesian or not, and if it is, I didn’t feel anything except appreciation and gratitude for the food in general. Not a hint of pride, let alone feeling the obligation to bear the flag of a country with amazingly rich culinary treasure.
So here it is, my fellow humans. A simple Indonesian nibble. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face, from making it to eating it. It’s a promise and you know I keep mine.
Sarang Semut (Anthill)
a.k.a Indonesian Caramel Cake
Recipe by Fatmah Bahalwan
Taken from the upcoming book: “60 Recipes of Foolproof Cake & Cookies”
425 gr sugar
450 ml hot water
180 gr all purpose flour
50 gr corn flour
150 gr margarine
2 tsp baking soda
200 ml sweetened condensed milk
- Make the caramel: put the sugar into a pan. Cook on lowest heat until all the sugar melts and reaches deep amber almost copper in color, add the hot water, let it boil and all the sugar melt again into a thick liquid. Turn off the heat, let it completely cool.
- Turn the oven at 180 degree celsius.
- Beat margarine and sweetened condensed milk until fluffy and pale in color. Add the eggs one by one while continue beating until well blended. Turn off the mixer.
- Sift the flour, baking soda and corn flour together into the batter, fold it well.
- Gradually pour the cool caramel into the batter, blend well using wooden spoon or spatula.
- Pour the batter (runny batter!) into a greased and floured bundt cake tin.
- Bake for about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
- Let cool. Slice and have a blessed day
- When you make the caramel, do not ever stir the sugar while it is still in melting process. Hold your guts, I’m telling you. The mantra is: …be patient.. Let everything melt down first. After you pour the hot water, then you can stir. You can, though, shake the pan to spread the mounded sugar to help it melt evenly. If you are tempted to stir, the sugar will stick to your spoon, and the more you stir, the more sugar will escape the pan clinging to your spoon. Congratulation, you’re just ruining the whole melting process.
- Cook the sugar at lowest heat to prevent too much burning that will produce bitter taste. You don’t wanna end up with a giant bitter blob.
- Be extra careful when pouring the hot water into the caramel. Make a distance from the pan because the water will cause splatters. Burnt sugar is really REALLY hot it could burn your skin in a matter of seconds.
- Make sure to let the caramel cool completely before pouring it into the margarine mixture so it won’t prematurely melt the margarine.
- Do not be discourage by the look of the batter. Yes, it is runny. It’s good, it’s alright. It will turn into beautiful holes at approximately 3/4 of the baking time, creating thick springy fibery *like that is a word* bed weirdly known as Sarang Semut texture. Anthill.
Another legacy is (hopefully) saved. For the world. For the baking world we love.