Thursday, October 1, 2009

Caramel Honeycomb Cake/Kuih Sarang Semut

The name for this cake in Malay, Kuih Sarang Semut, is more appropriate as translated, is Ant's Nest Cake cos i don't see any honeycomb in the cake except for tunnels and holes. Trying to achieve the so called 'honeycomb' is not easy as i thought although most of the recipes say that this is an easy recipe. This is my third attempts and i managed to get some tunnels and holes after blaming on the baking soda being old for the first attempt and for the second attempt, i blamed on whatever i could think of, although i bought new baking soda which will only expire in 2012.
I am glad i failed, as it is time to learn about Baking soda as this is the only chemical leavener used in this cake. Baking soda(sodium bicarbonate) when used alone, breaks down when heated to form carbon dioxide gas, however, if baking soda is combined with an acid, carbon dioxide gas is produced much faster and only a small amount of a milder-tasting salt is left behind. Baking soda does not create new bubbles in a batter, the carbon dioxide that they release only enlarges bubbles that already exist in the batter. This means that bubbles created during mixing are a vital part of leavening. The other factor that will inflate bubbles is steam from liquids, including eggs and this too will not create a single new bubble.
The bubble-holding capacity of solid fats like shortening/Crisco, is a another vital part of leavening and Crisco has an advantage over other solid fats in that it already contains millions of fine bubbles to aid in leavening.
If leavener is unevenly distributed in the batter, the cake will have boles here and there, along with areas that are tightly compressed - this is exactly what this cake wants - uneven distribution of baking soda and that is why it is left to the last stage of mixing.
The cake is baked in a cold oven so as to allow the cake batter to warm up and allow the baking soda to produce gases vigorously to enlarge bubbles and create a good rise to the cake before higher heat starts setting(crusting) the top of the cake and holding it down.
With this knowledge, i think it is time for the third attempt to this cake. What i need to do is the opposite of how a cake - cake should be made. This cake should be chewy and have tunnels and holes - large ones, and i would have to create bubbles in the batter. The only way is - to beat the caramel into the flour until bubbles are visible. Whisking eggs and condensed milk will create a lot of bubbles too. I guessed i figured it right, now it is an easy recipe - the cake was chewy and had tunnels and holes.
Recipe source : Sunflower's Food Galore


1 1/3 cup/8 1/2 ozs/250 gm fine granulated sugar
250 ml of water
4 ozs/1 stick/113 gm Crisco - butter flavor
2 cups/8.8 ozs/250 gm all-purpose flour(for cup - spooned and level)
1/2 cup/4 fl oz/160g condensed milk
6 large eggs
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
Grease a 9" round cake pan, then line the bottom and sides with greased parchment paper. Make the sides higher than the cake pan.

In a small saucepan, add in sugar and heat at medium heat till the sugar begins to melt. As soon as the melted sugar has turned golden yellow, turn the heat to right low or remove from the heat if using an electric stove. Continue heating till the sugar turns golden brown and turn the heat off. Allow the caramel cool for 30 seconds. then add one tbsp of water at a time, the hot sugar will spit and splatter. Continue adding water one tbsp at a time till it stops sizzling, then pour in the rest of water. Turn the heat on, stir and scrape the side to release any un-melted sugar. Remove from heat and turn heat off . Add in the Crisco and stir till melted. Allow to cool.

Put flour in a large mixing bowl and pour in about 1/2 the caramel, beat with a electric beater till smooth, continue adding the rest of the caramel. Beat on medium speed until bubbles are visible, then let the mixture stand for about 10 - 15 minutes.

In another large bowl, whisk eggs and condensed milk until foamy with a lot of bubbles.
Beat the egg mixture into the caramel flour batter , lastly sieve in the baking soda and mix till well combined.

Pour into the the prepared cake pan. Leave it to stand in the cold oven for about 30 - 40 minutes.

Turn the oven to 300f and bake the cake from cold for 1 hour or till it is cooked. Check for doneness - cake is done when a skewer comes out clean and the center feels firm to the touch.


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