Sunday, 25 December 2011

Sugee Cake – A Rare Festive Guest

When I was a kid, home visits were planned semi-formal affairs; dates would be arranged and fixed days beforehand. Quite commonly, such visits would extend over meal times; and, if the hosts happened to be relatives, the visit would even allow staying over for a game of mahjong.

Remember Singapore in the 60s? There were no expressways; buses were few and infrequent; taxis were reserved for the rich; and only a handful of Singaporeans owned cars. While you could go almost anywhere in Singapore today with just a 30-minute ride on the MRT; in those days it took hours to get from A to B!

And…it would be unthinkable to arrive empty-handed. I remember lugging bags of fruits, and containers of home-cooked food or cakes, to the home we were calling on. And if they were close relatives, we even brought expensive dried foodstuff such as mushroom and abalone.

The hosts would reciprocate of course, with loads of food to make their guests feel welcomed. And this always included home-baked cakes followed by a sumptuous dinner. Sugee cakes and butter cakes were commonly served.

I love sugee cake; it’s rich, grainy and has a unique taste. Sad to say, good sugee cakes are hard to find these days, and they seem to make an annual appearance in homes only at X’mas and Chinese New Year.

Sugee, or semolina, is in fact durum wheat, which is commonly found in Italian and Indian cooking. I’m not sure how and when sugee made its way into our Singaporean cuisine, but it has become identified with the Eurasians and the Peranakans, and every household among these seems to have its own ‘version’ or ‘recipe’ of the cake.

So, this being Christmas, I’m baking Sugee Cake to fulfill this year’s quota. : )

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Osmanthus Sugee Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Unsalted butter          114 g
Semolina                     75 g
Caster sugar                100 g
Cake flour                   28 g
Baking powder           ¼ tsp
Almond                       38 g, blanched and finely chopped
Egg whites                  1½
Egg yolks                    3
Milk                             20 ml
Rum                            1 tbsp
Osmanthus                 30 g
Salt                              ¼

Cream Cheese Frosting
Cream cheese             100 g
Butter                          55 g
Icing sugar                  150 g
Osmanthus                 3 tbsp

1.      Cream butter with 25 g of sugar till light and creamy. Add rum and semolina and mix well. Cover and let it stand in a cool place overnight.
2.      Preheat oven to 170° C.
3.         Beat egg yolks with 50 g of sugar until thick, add osmanthus flower. Fold in chopped almonds and cake flour.
4.         Beat egg whites with remaining 25 g of sugar till stiff.
5.         Add egg yolk mixture to butter mixture and finally fold in the stiff egg whites.
6.         Pour into cupcake moulds and bake 30 – 35 minutes or until golden brown.
7.         Let the cake cool on a rack before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1.         Beat butter and cheese until creamy.
2.         Add ½ of the sugar and osmanthus and beat until combined.
3.         Gradually add the remaining sugar until the consistency is achieved.
4.         Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes.