Apparently I am the resident baker of the family. A big hullabaloo ensued when I decided to bring store-bought kueh instead of a homemade cake for Christmas last year.
(Btw, my store-bought kueh was from an authentic shophouse kind of kueh shop in Katong, okay? Still, no pardon for me).
So this year, for Chinese New Year, lest I disappoint my cake-loving fans, I decided to go for a classic – Sugee Cake.
Now for those of you who have watched that Brit TV series, Goodness Gracious Me, you might recall the Indian dad to whom everyone and everything is, “Yindian”. Here’s one of the sketches from the show “Da Vinci is Indian”. Well, he’d be thrilled to know that (and I can hear my Eurasian friends shaking their whisks at me in protest) Sugee cake is…Yindian, of course!
Okay, so I got that reference from this blog – https://nicerecipes.wordpress.com/2008/02/06/soogee-cake/, and I must say, it makes sense, the whole thing about the Portuguese colonizing Goa, and then the Portuguese-Indian Eurasians from Goa (hence, the Indian connection) having migrated to Malacca and bringing along their culture and recipes.
So yeah, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Sugee cake, which is so entrenched in the Eurasian community here, has its origins in India..but hey, let’s not have any Sugee Wars on account of ethnicity. ♥
Back to the cake. Seeing as how it was CNY, and oranges were hitting me left, right and centre, I decided to add that orange element to the semolina/almond based cake.
Now, I’m not usually a simple butter or sugee cake kinda girl (I love my decadent chocolate cakes) so I wouldn’t say I am an expert in sugee cake tasting, but the golden oldies (who have definitely had more than their fair share of sugee cakes in their lifetime) who tried my cake loved it, so I’ll take their word for it that this recipe works. There are many recipes around but I like this for its hedonistic approach and I amped it up with various orange-based elements. Try it – baking a sugee cake isn’t difficult at all! And it gets better over a couple of days, so you can bake in advance.
Ingredients for Orange-Almond Sugee Cake:
250g ground almonds (I bought ready-ground but to save costs, you can blitz your own whole almonds. If they have skins, bring water to a boil, add the almonds for about a minute, remove, cool under tap water, and the skin should just peel off)
250g Castor Sugar + 1 Tbsp additional for when you beat the egg whites
125g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon powder
7 Eggs (whites and yolks separated. And at room temperature)
2 Tbsp Orange Essence
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
100g candied peel (orange peel or mixed citrus peel)
½ Cup Sliced Almonds
20-cm square baking tin (You can use a round one if you prefer)
Ingredients for Orange Syrup:
½ Cup Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
½ Cup Castor Sugar
The Day Before:
- Butter – leave it out to soften at room temperature. I wouldn’t nuke it in the microwave cos it just becomes an oily mess. You still want it to resemble butter, just pliable so you can easily mix the semolina with it later.
- Semolina – dry-roast (no oil) the semolina on a frying pan. Keep your eye on it (you don’t want to burn it), and stir it around – it should take about 3 minutes before the wheaty waft of the semolina comes out. Let it cool, about 10 mins.
- Mix through with the softened butter, and let it soak overnight, at room temperature.
- Set oven at 150°C.
- Butter the base and sides of your baking tin.
- Separate* the eggs into two different bowls – see Tips*** below.
- Whisk the egg yolks with the 250g sugar on high speed, occasionally stopping to scrape down the sides, for about 3-5 minutes, till light and frothy. Almost like a milkshake. Don’t worry too much about overmixing.
- Add in your orange essence and vanilla extract, and mix till incorporated.
- Add the buttered semolina to the egg/sugar mix in batches. You don’t want to deflate the egg/sugar mix. Everything from now on is done by hand. A lot of people would add the egg/sugar mix TO the buttered semolina bowl, but I do it this way because the egg/sugar bowl is my primary bowl and I am confident of doing this gently enough not to knock out too much air.
- Once the above is combined well, add in your ground almonds. Again, mix quickly but gently by hand.
- Add in your candied peel and combine.
- Sift the dry ingredients (flour + baking powder) into the mix, add the cinnamon and mix. At this stage, you don’t want to be aggressive with stirring the flour into the mixture, just gently and quickly mix it in till just combined.
- Finally, my favourite – beating the egg whites! I definitely use a mixer for this. I use my handheld, but you can use your stand mixer, if you have 2 bowls for your stand mixer. Otherwise, it’s really quite fast with a handheld. Start slow, when it’s foamy, add in your tablespoon of sugar, and go faster. You’ll see soft, cottony peaks, then it rather quickly will start to go into firmer peaks, at which point, you should keep stopping to check. Do not overbeat – it will liquefy and there’s no turning back! You don’t need meringue-worthy stiff peaks, it’s enough that the peak holds its shape.
- Take a spatula-full dollop of the fluffy whites to mix into the batter, to loosen the batter first. Then start adding the whites in batches by folding** it into the batter, yes you know it – gently but quickly. You want to see your batter looking almost like an airy mousse.
- Pour it into your tin and quickly sprinkle the sliced almonds all around the cake – you can slightly press them down if you want.
- Bake for about 60 minutes, or until the top is browned, the cake pulls away slightly from the edges and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Method for Making the Orange Syrup:
- Simply add the Orange Juice and Sugar into a saucepan, give it a stir and set it on the stove on medium heat. Bring to a boil, and keep stirring till it thickens. About 5 minutes. Occasionally, lower down the heat if you’re afraid that you might burn it.
- Poke holes around the baked cake with a toothpick, and drizzle the syrup over.
*Tip for Separating Eggs:
I crack them usually over the bowl for the whites and let the whites flow out, while transferring the yolk from hand to hand. If, unfortunately, as you crack the egg, you see that you have broken the yolk somewhat, quickly pour the yolk into the bowl for yolks. It’s ok if there’s a little bit of white in the yolk bowl, but it’s not ok for the whites bowl to have any yolk in it at all.
Those who are not comfortable with separating eggs will want to use a 3rd “spare” bowl to crack the egg over. So you break the egg, let the whites drip into the spare bowl while transferring the yolks from hand to hand, as above, then when all the white has dripped through, you plop the yolk into the yolks bowl, and you pour the “clean” whites into the whites bowl. And repeat the process. This is in case you irreparably break the yolk and it’s all mixed up with the whites, you can just set aside the mixture and use it for scrambled eggs or something.
**Tip for Folding Egg Whites into Batter:
To fold, when you put a dollop of white into the batter, you use your spatula to “cut” the white down the middle to the bottom of the bowl, lift the mixture up from the bottom over to the other side. You turn the bowl 90 degrees and again, cut the white down to the bottom, lift and fold over. Repeat with the next batch of whites – keep turning the bowl as you cut, lift and fold over. Stop when you don’t see any white streaks.
***Tips for saving wash-up effort:
In the interest of reducing wash-up effort, I plan my utensils usage with military precision. I have 3 bowls for this recipe.
Bowl 1 – For Egg Yolks and Castor Sugar. Stainless steel and large enough to eventually take on the entire cake batter. This is the primary bowl.
Bowl 2 – For Egg Whites. Stainless steel, fairly large bowl.
Bowl 3 – For the dry ingredients (Flour, baking powder, cinnamon). Any type of medium-sized bowl will do.