Wednesday, July 04, 2012

sugee cake (semolina butter cake)

If there is one thing that makes me feel Eurasian down to the tips of my toe nails, it's making sugee cake. Seeing as how tiny a community we are and how the things we can truly call our own don't go past the fingers on one hand, I need to state that Sugee Cake while often mistakenly assumed to be of Nyonya origin  and commonly served by all the major communities in Singapore during Chinese New Year, Hari Raya (Eid) and Deepavali, remains uniquely and unequivocally, a Eurasian creation.  Semolina itself is an ingredient used around the world to make all manner of semolina cake particularly by the Greeks, Indians, Germans, Sri Lankans and the Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews, but, this particular permutation is Kristang.  Thank you all for endorsing it, embracing it and wishing you had thought of it, first ;)



The thing about sugee cake is I know of no one who is indifferent to it. Those who love it, wax lyrical while those who dislike it, scrunch up their faces at the mere mention of  the word sugee. It's not your everyday, nibble with your cup of tea or coffee kind of cake.

Neither is it meant to be eaten as dessert, as it is probably too stodgy and substantial, to serve as the close of a full meal. I suppose it's best described as a festive or commemorative cake and is traditionally served in Kristang (local Portuguese descended Eurasians) homes to commemorate and celebrate occasions such as Christmas, christenings, weddings, funerals, birthdays and anniversaries. Many people know it as a happy occasion cake and are surprised to learn of its sombre connection to funerals.

soak that semolina till it becomes like ...

..... porridge!




While you will often see platters of rich, golden, fragrant sugee cake being served at christenings, weddings and yes, even birthdays and anniversaries (if you really like the cake), you will hardly see it at funerals. These days, a surprising number of younger Eurasians too, do not know that sugee cake is also a funeral cake. I have to elaborate though that it is traditional to serve sugee cake at the funerals of the unmarried deceased only, including infants.



The rationale behind this almost forgotten practice is to give those souls who left this earthly existence deprived of the opportunity to experience the joy of marriage, or the pleasure of planning a wedding, a taste of a bride's or groom's joy on her or his wedding day. Hence the deceased, if over the age of thirteen, would be dressed in full wedding regalia. Infants would be dressed in a christening gown and bonnet while the very young would be dressed in First Holy Communion garb before being laid to rest in their coffin. For departed babies, and the very young, sugee cake would be served with cocoa, while at the funerals of unmarried teenagers and adults, it would be sugee cake and sweet wine.



It may appear unseemly to serve sweet, luxurious treats at such a solemn occasion, especially in the past, when foods like butter, almonds, eggs, sugar and wine were beyond the reach of most people, but in the Christian context, physical death is only the beginning of a better and eternally joyful existence in the kingdom of God. Hence we who remain on earth celebrate the release of our departed loved ones from the struggles and sorrows of earthly life and believe physical death to be a happy occasion, though we feel the pain of parting and miss their presence in our daily lives.

cake magic, mix with coke and lime, sip while whisking batter. your cakes will never be the same again



To this day, my mother always feels a pang when she eats sugee cake as it brings back memories of the death of her beloved eldest brother, Anthony.  He died at the tender age of 15, just three days after his birthday, from a freakish traffic accident, while on his way to work. I never met my uncle, who was by all accounts, an angel walking this earth, but my mother's tears, vivid recollections and recounting of how loving and protective he was, make me long to have known him personally. I suppose it's true; the good do die young....

even a cake is happy when full of rum



Back to more mundane, earthly matters, there are as many sugee cake recipes as there are krill crammed into a brick of belacan, but all revolve around the same basic ingredients, semolina, ground almonds, sugar, lots of butter and lots and lots and lots of eggs. So many eggs, that when I've eaten 2 slices and still long for another, I fear the third slice will make me keel over from a heart attack.



So, I have devised this recipe which uses less than half the usual amount of egg yolks. The unique flavour and aroma of sugee cake comes from the insane amount of yolks, the rivers of butter and piles of ground almonds. Many Eurasians also include brandy, sweet spices like ground cardamom, nutmeg, ginger or cinnamon and even rose or almond essence for added fragrance.



I like to keep things simple so I only use dark rum which I think is more fragrant than brandy and vanilla which combines well with rum. You may also use sherry or whiskey if you have no rum or brandy. I like the nutty flavour of semolina and the almonds to ring through so I omit the spices. While it's fine to serve the cake unadorned, for weddings and christenings,  a covering of apricot jam, marzipan and royal icing is de rigeur. If it's for a boy, the royal icing decoration on the white icing covered cake is done in blue and for girls, a pretty soft pink. Wedding cakes are grand multi tiered affairs, intricately adorned with sugar scrolls, wreaths and flowers, traditionally all in pristine white.



I usually omit this step as our hot and humid weather makes working with marzipan and icing tricky, but I am all happy squeals when I am served a beautifully iced slab of sugee cake as the icing really adds to the flavour and texture, turning sugee cake into a moist, super rich and almost fudgy treat.  This is not an easy cake to make, and requires careful handling and a little mollycoddling too. 




Whatever you do, do not skip soaking the semolina in the melted butter or you will be very sorry to have wasted a good chunk of your time and a pile of rather pricey ingredients, as the cake will be oozing ungodly amounts of unabsorbed butter all over your plate, fork or fingers and all over your lips :P Also be sure to whisk the yolks and sugar very thoroughly before adding the soaked semolina and almonds. Finally, ensure the egg whites are whisked to a stable foam that forms soft peaks before folding into the batter. Do not overwhisk the whites or they will turn grainy and disintegrate as you fold them into the batter and fail to aerate the batter, resulting in a low rising cake.






Don't be intimidated by the large amount of baking powder. This is a very dense cake and it needs a lot of help to rise well. It will improve the texture of the cake and you will not taste the baking powder in the finished cake because of all that butter, almonds, rum and vanilla. The one golden rule for good cake remains this, as often repeated by my grandmother: be happy and calm when baking a cake. If you're in a bad mood, your cake won't rise. That's probably the best advice anyone can give you!





Sugee Cake

Prep 7 hrs      Cook 1 hr      Makes 2 loaves


300 g (3 cups) fine semolina (sugee)
500 g (3 1/3 cups) butter melted
300 g (2 cups) sugar
7 yolks
160 g (1 1/2 cups) ground toasted skinless almonds
4 tbsp dark rum, brandy or sweet sherry
3 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
7 egg whites





Combine semolina and melted butter in a large mixing bowl and stir to mix well. Set aside for 6 hours, giving mixture a few stirs every 30 minutes or so, to ensure even absorption of the butter.

Line two loaf pans with parchment paper and preheat oven at 150 C (310 F).

Combine sugar and yolks in a separate bowl and whisk until very pale and creamy and sugar has completely dissolved.

Alternately add large scoops of the soaked semolina and ground nuts to the yolk and sugar mixture, beating each addition in thoroughly  before adding the next.

Pour in the rum and vanilla and fold in thoroughly. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in gently but thoroughly.

Whisk the egg whites to soft peak stage then fold gently into the batter until well combined. Do not overmix or you will deflate the batter and your cake will not rise well.

Tilt pans gently to level batter and bake for 1 hr - 1 hr and 10 minutes or until cakes start to shrink back from tins.

Remove from oven and cool on rack. Store cold cake in a clean, dry air tight container. Eat within 4 days.

97 comments:

  1. what a perfectly gorgeous cake Denise! I have been looking for a semolina cake recipe, and it looks like I've found a good one!

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    1. Thank you Dennis :) Hope you try this one and it's all you're looking for!

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  2. Oh dear, Denise, love the texture of your semolina cake and I have to agree with Chef Dennis. I don't often seen this kind of texture in many semolina recipes. Yours looks incredible.
    Thanks so much for sharing it, dear. ((hugs))

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    1. You're welcome Kristy and thank you for your always kind words :)

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  3. Such a beautiful and delicious cake! :D This must be the yellow one that you made. I love the texture - so fine and tender, the taste and fragrance. Definitely a celebratory cake especially when wrapped in marzipan and royal icing. I do remember having tasted it once or twice in my childhood. Thanks for sharing the significance of the cake in Kristang culture. Very interesting indeed!

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    1. Yes Biren this is the true blue (yellow) sugee cake lol Felt a little bad that the one I made for you didn't turn out the right colour because I had to substitute with pecans at the last minute :( I wanted you to at least see what it's supposed to look like and I'm very happy that the cake turned out beautifully, as it can be a temperamental little diva :D Glad you enjoyed the story behind it. Next time you visit, it will be a proper, iced one. My boys will be pleased as punch as they too love the icing!

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  4. Cannot wait to try it. Straight forward recipe. I love dense cakes and the story behind this one is compelling. Never heard of it - and cannot wait to taste it.
    :)
    V

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    1. Hope you do try the recipe Valerie and that you enjoy the unique flavour of this beloved Kristang cake :)

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  5. Love semolina: with milk as a cereal, in bread, in frosting, I even made something like semolina tiramisu once. This cake looks delish! And the photos are beautiful!
    p.s. love your tip/warning/threat :-) about soaking semilina in butter
    p.p.s You have this pick of 2 loaves in pans in parchment paper, and I have 2 bread loaves rising in a very similar setting right now. But I Hate folding the parchment paper to fit in the pan... I wish they made pre-cut parchment lining for loaf pans.

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    1. You have to share your semolina frosting recipe Elana - it's something I've never heard of and now I'm terribly intrigued!! You have the most fantastic ideas - like brownies in eggshells, and now, precut to fit paper for loaf pans!! I too absolutely hate trying to fit the parchment in because its so stiff and unyielding. *arrggh* As you can see from the pics, I just carelessly scrunched and jammed the paper in quite messily *sigh*

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  6. I had never heard of this cake before. Looks fabulous. Those pictures of yours actually makes the cake emote :)

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    1. Hi Paaka, I'm happy to be the one to introduce you to this lovely cake! And thank you for your very kind words :)

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    1. Hello :) Thank you for your kind words.

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  8. Huh? Doesn't sound like you, Denise... 7 hours prep work? Then again, the end result's GORGEOUS!! I bet it was worth the wait and the cake, I'm sure, tasted divine. Thanks for sharing with us the Kristang culture and tradition.

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  9. Beautiful cake Denise. I enjoyed reading the history and think it perfect for a funeral celebration!

    Have a great week!

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    1. Thank you Kathy, you're always so gracious and kind :) Hope you have a great weekend up ahead!

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  10. Huh? Doesn't sound like you, Denise... 7 hours prep work? Then again, the end result's GORGEOUS!! I bet it was worth the wait and the cake, I'm sure, tasted divine. Thanks for sharing with us the Kristang culture and tradition.

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  11. Hi Dora :) You're right! I'm not the type to invest 7 hours on just one recipe, but the actual preparation is just about an hour. The remaining 6 hours are for the semolina to soak in the butter. You seem to know me well for someone who hasn't met me LOLOL But as you say, the results are worth the wait, so worth the wait! Hope you have a great weekend!!

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    1. LOL!! It must be telpathy then.. :-D No, actually, I have been following your blog since Biren introduced you to the world (LOL) and I said to myself, hmmmm... something for me - easy peasy, no-hassle cooking and then, hey presto SEVEN hours (scarry...) but for the rest, yep, easy. I remain your follower, Denise :-)

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    2. LOL!! It must be telpathy then.. :-D No, actually, I have been following your blog since Biren introduced you to the world (LOL) and I said to myself, hmmmm... something for me - easy peasy, no-hassle cooking and then, hey presto SEVEN hours (scarry...) but for the rest, yep, easy. I remain your follower, Denise :-)

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  12. Oh wow Denise...totally scrumptious!

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  13. Denise a truly lovely cake. thank you for sharing a bit of history with us and sending hugs to your mom. I have a nice dark rum that would be perfect for this cake, thanks!

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  14. Denise, your cake looks yummy..can I bake it in a 10" pan rather than 2 loaf pans??
    thanks for sharing...

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    1. Hi Kueh, I have always baked my sugee cakes in loaf pans and since they have always come out very well, I never thought of using any other size pans. Of course you could use a square 10 in (25 cm) pan but you will have to adjust the baking time. It will probably take longer than the 1 hour it takes to bake in loaf pans as the oven heat will take longer to reach the centre of the batter in a 10 in square pan as compared to a narrower loaf pan, to be able to cook the batter right through. If you use a 10 in pan and still stick to my recommended baking time of 1 hour, your cake will probably be underbaked in the centre and probably sink on cooling. Baking is chemistry at work and much more precise than cooking. Changing any one aspect of a tested recipe will give different and probably undesirable results so it's best to stick to the given recipe for more predictable and assured results. If you really want to use a square 10 in pan, I suggest you keep a close watch on the time as you bake and check the centre of the cake with a satay skewer when the cake looks done (cake starts to pull away from pan and the centre is no longer wobbly. Best of luck with your endeavour, Hope it turns out well :)

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  15. Dear Denise,
    Just came across your blog for the first time whilst looking for sugee cake recipes and baking techniques. Providential indeed! Thanks also for the insight into Eurasian culture- I had never heard about the cake being served at funerals till now, just for festive occasions. Best of luck with the book launch - will keep an eye out for it in whatever bookshops we have left in singapore ...

    Looking forward to more shiok recipes and gorgeous photos!

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  16. Hi Katong Gal :) Thank you for your kind words. I'm so glad to know that you found the post informative - there is another funeral cake in Eurasian tradition that is not really well known except amongst Eurasians of a certain age ;) It's called goreng sagu and I will be posting it some time in the future. Hope you will keep a look out for it. I managed to track down the recipe after determined research and really look forward to sharing another slice of Eurasian food culture here.

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  17. Eileen@Hundred Eighty DegreesJuly 24, 2012 at 8:42 PM

    Hi Denise, thanks for dropping by my blog. I am keen to try your recipe and will try one day. Great looking!

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  18. Hi Denise, I've tried baking sugee cake before but am totally hopeless. Your cakes here look moist & scrumptious so I would love to try them out. Just wondering what size for eggs do you use? Thanking you in advance

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    1. Hi Anonymous, sugee cake is not the easiest cake to make, but if you stick to a few rules, yours should be fine. Don't even try to make this without soaking the semolina in butter. Whisk the yolks and sugar really well before adding the other ingredients. Do add baking powder though many traditional recipes don't include it. Don't overmix the flour and egg whites into the batter. Make sure your ingredients, except for the melted butter which will be warm, are at room temperature and not fridge cold. Use medium sized eggs weighing about 50 - 60 g (still in shell) each. Don't bake at a high temperature. Don't keep opening the oven door before time's up. Hope your cakes turn out fine, but if they don't, do let me know.Happy baking :)

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  19. Hi Denise,
    Tried your recipe and its yummy!! Except that certain parts of the cake looked a bit wet at the bottom...maybe i did not mix it well enough ? I soaked the butter & sugee for more than 6 hrs but the cake pans were still oozing with butter, not sure if this is normal? Nevertheless, i am still happy with the results bcoz this is my first time baking sugee cake. Thank u so much for this yummy recipe. I like it bcoz it uses less yolks and the same amount of whites so i dont have to waste the whites.

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    1. Hi Anonymous, are you the same Anonymous who wanted to know what size eggs to use for this recipe? Glad the sugee cake turned out well for you. Generally speaking sugee cake is very buttery and a good example of a sugee cake will leave traces of liquid butter on your fingers when you eat a slice, however it should not be excessive. If it happens, it could be one of three things -

      1. there is an excessive amount of butter in the cake. I have not strayed from the classic semolina/flour/butter proportions in my recipe, so this is not the likely reason.

      2. the butter was overheated when melting it, causing the liquid butter to separate into milk solids and pure liquid butter fat. when incorporated into the batter along with the semolina, after baking, the butter fat which became a separate component from the milk solids, will slowly leak out of the baked cake onto any surface it touches. the milk solids being 'solid' are not able to flow out like the butterfat and remain snug in the gluten structure (the crumb) of the cake, while the butter fat is all around each grain of semolina, but not absorbed into it and continues to flow through the spaces between the grains of semolina until they reach outside the cake. to avoid this, when melting the butter, keep the heat gentle and turn it off when the butter is half melted and stir until it becomes completely liquid. this way the butter remains a liquid emulsion of the milk solids and butterfat instead of separating. if it remains an emulsion, it will be a thick, creamy yellow liquid throughout and look like thin yellow mayonnaise. if it separates, you will see tiny whitish curds (milk solids) at the bottom and a deep, almost clear yellow liquid (clarified butter, ghee or pure butter fat)on top. did this happen to you, when you melted the butter?

      3. the lining paper and tin were brushed with too much butter before pouring in the batter. to avoid too much grease, do not butter the tin or paper. just line the bare tin with parchment or non stick baking paper.

      Hope this helps!

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  20. Hi Denise
    Thanks so much for sharing your recipe and the amazing photos. I baked two loaf cakes with your recipe and it was so good. One thing though- I think 300 gms semolina is actually two cups , not three as in your recipe. Unless the cup you used was smaller than mine. Since I followed the cup measurements, the cake was more firm than I expected. But the taste was what I always dreamt a suji cake should taste like. I omitted the brandy and rose essence though as I just wanted the butter to stand out.
    Today , I am reducing the semolina and adding brandy and rose essence.
    I am hooked on suji cake and to your credit, my husband who is really picky says not to change anything in the recipe I followed the first time.
    Thanks again. I loved your information that came with the recipe.

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    1. Hi Anonymous, I am so happy to hear that the recipe worked well for you :)

      About the cups, yes, I use a standard teacup which has a capacity of 200 ml. Measuring cups have a capacity of between 225 - 250 ml, depending on whether they are British, American or Australian. To avoid all the possible confusion, I use a teacup as it is almost always of a 200 ml capacity (I measured the capacities of all my teacups and found this out) and because I don't want my readers to spend money on a measuring cup if they don't already have one and because most people who have a kitchen will have a teacup. I can't say the same for a measuring cup. Hence my 3 teacup measurement will yield less semolina than your 3 measuring cup measurement. I think you should use 2 1/2 or 2 1/4 measuring cups of semolina to attain the texture that I intended for this recipe. Thanks to your feedback, I have decided to highlight this on my sidebar.

      The cake should not be too firm - I developed this recipe to yield a cake that is softer than the traditional sugee cake as I find it too firm. It should be moist and dense enough to support marzipan and icing, but be quite tender when bitten into. I agree with leaving out the rose essence as I find it too pronounced but I do like vanilla and rum as they both compliment butter and the nuttiness of this cake very nicely.

      I hope you continue to get years of satisfaction from this recipe, as it is my best sugee cake recipe and one that I have shared wholeheartedly and sincerely to make the Kristang-Eurasian culture a little more understood and appreciated.

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  21. Hi Denise....this sounds like the perfect sugee cake recipe. I am eager to try it out this weekend. I have one doubt though. Do you melt the butter and then weigh it or do you weigh the butter and melt it?

    I also read your comments on the cup measurement and was wondering, is the cake very sweet? Nowadays everyone is about health and just wondering how the sweetness of the cake is and if it is too sweet, can the sugar be reduced?

    Thanks

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    1. Hi Veronica, sorry I missed your comment here, but if I remember right, I have answered your questions about sugee cake, in another post you also contacted me on. I hope the information was helpful and you got the results you hoped for.

      If I haven't answered you, please feel free to let me know in another comment here - I will check back. Or alternatively, click on the contact link beneath my page banner at the top of this page and email me directly.

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  22. Hi Denise :-) Wow, I haven't given an in-depth perusal of your blog till today. LOVE IT!! The wonderful thing about sugee cake is that no two recipes are exactly alike.There is some leeway for those who like more almonds in their recipe, or who substitute vanilla essence for brandy.

    I too did not know that sugee cake was a funeral cake for us Eurasians; I was always under the impression that pulot tatal was THE funeral cake par excellence. Good to know this new piece of info.

    I will do weekly trips to this wonderful blog, so keep up the excellent work.

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    1. Hi Lance!! What a lovely surprise to see you here :) Hope you're doing well. You're right - many sugee cake mavens decry the use of any flour at all in sugee cake, and insist on 100% ground almonds, but I stubbornly add a small amount of flour because it makes the cake crumb softer and more absorbent so you won't have liquid butter oozing out of every slice. I think there should be room in cooking, for personal preference, and a bit of diversity and discord makes anything more interesting ;)

      I think even in a group as small as local Eurasians, traditions will vary from one family or group to another. It's hard to be completely homogenous, when no two Eurasians, (except for siblings) have exactly the same origin. A is of Chinese-Dutch descent, B has Indian-Portuguese origins, while C's ancestry is Malay-Nyonya-British. Add to that, the Eurasian tendency to marry outside our race, and things get really mixed up. With so many influences, it's no wonder you say "pulut tatal", I say "sugee cake" and my third cousin says "kueh koci" when the subject of funerals comes up. In my family, sugee cake and goreng sagu (fried sweet sago pearl patties) are funeral must haves and pulut tatal is a delicious tea time treat that makes us smile!

      I'm really happy you visited and hope you'll find enough here, to keep you coming back. Looking forward to keeping our conversation going...

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  23. Hi Denise,

    Firstly, OMGGGG my mouth is watering and aching with pain!!!!!!!! Such beautiful soft, moist sugee cake on a traditional silver tray. Am so trying out your recipe this weekend alright, to perfect my baking skills for this Natal.

    And thank you for sharing some useful info that as a kristang, i myself never knew (and i grew up right smack in the Settlement!) You're absolutely right - this cake NEVER fails to turn up in weddings, christening, Xmas, u name it.

    Also for the Kueh Sagu, pls pls pls do post it as i've yet to discover a good recipe. Have attended few funerals recently (in anticipation for kueh sagu) but to my dismay. All they serve is black coffee and 'Char Kueh' these days. (Sorry for the bad joke, but it's true!)

    Am so very glad I've visited your page, am definitely hooked :)

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    1. Hi Karen, thanks for your warm and lovely comment. Maybe I should try hanging out at funerals too, for a taste of goreng sagu ;) I will try my best to post the recipe for it as soon as I get through the unbelievably busy final quarter of this year. Please do come back and look out for it. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my other posts too :)

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    2. Many thanks and definitely am trying your other recipes. The ones in your book seem so practical too.

      Grateful too for the explanation on the oozing butter, now i know how it happens. My cake turned out that way once and the worst part, it was my wedding cake! 1st day, the cake appeared too moist, 2nd day, the box was soaked with oil right to the table top and by the 3rd day, nearly all of the royal icing fell apart, leaving one messy unappetizing 5kg sugee cake.

      So yeah, tq so much for the explanation. At least i know now to prevent from happening to my own produce.

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  24. Hi!

    What size are the eggs used?

    Cheers

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    1. Hi Jane, they are medium eggs, each weighing about 50 g including shell.

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  25. Dropping a line to say thank you very very much for your delightful recipe - my cake turned out absolutely yummy!!! It was absolutely moist, buttery and crumbly, just as how it's supposed to be. Thank you once again. God bless and Bong Natal! :)

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    1. Hi Karen. I couldn't help laughing when I saw your comment as I have just finished baking two sugee cakes for some friends!! What a coincidence! I can smell them in the kitchen, from my balcony right now LOL I am so happy that the recipe worked well for you. I hope they continue to give you years of satisfaction. Bong Natal & Bong Anu Nobu :)

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  26. Hi Denise,

    Very excited to try your sugee cake recipe. Can you tell me what size pans you are using?

    Thanks,

    Jen De Cruz

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    1. Hi Jen, happy to know you plan to try the recipe. The pans I use for this recipe measure 10 cm (4 in) by 23 cm (9 in. Looking forward to hearing how things turn out :)

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  27. Hi Denise,

    Thanks for your recipe. Have been searching for one to satisfy my craving for sugee cake.

    Just a question. Would it be preferable to add the brandy into the batter or pouring it onto the cake after baking? It seems that there are varying views as to how it should be done.

    Thanks and blessings.

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    1. Hi Jeff, you're welcome :)

      To be perfectly honest, I have never tried pouring the brandy over the baked cake as opposed to adding it to the batter. Every recipe for sugee cake I have ever seen, including those from within my family and circle of relatives, has always called for adding brandy/sherry/rum to the batter. Since I have found this to work well, I've never tried it any other way.

      Don't see why it would not be good though, to try it the other way, after all, it works nicely for fruit cake! I suppose the brandy flavour would be more pronounced, and the cake more moist. Also, you would have to look out for the underaged sugee cake lovers, possibly getting tipsy on sugee cake, if you've been generous with the contents of the brandy bottle ;)

      Merry Christmas!!

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    2. Hi Denise,

      Yeah, true that on being overly generous with the brandy for that is always the case for me when it comes to fruit cakes. Haha. Maybe I should try both variations and update you with the outcome. Haha.

      Thanks once again.

      A Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year to you too. =)

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    3. Thanks Jeff! I would very much like to know the outcome of your experiment :)

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    4. Hi Denise,

      Tried it, and yes, pouring the brandy over leaves a more pronounced taste as well as making the cake more moist. Not an option for our junior sugee lovers. Haha.

      But it works for my alcohol loving friends. I poured my brandy over and let it soak through overnight before serving it. It was s hit for an early Christmas gathering last night.

      Thanks once again.

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    5. Hi Jeff - haha! Glad to hear your friends enjoyed your boozy treat :D I am going to make a couple of sugee loaves tomorrow, and I think I will douse them with rum or brandy, as well as include some in the batter. They will of course, be reserves as a special treat for the adults only ;)

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    6. Hey Denise, Merry Christmas. Hoped it all went well for you. =)

      Also, just to check with you. If i were to make the sugee cake without adding the almonds, would it affect the batter/taste in any way?

      My friend requested for sugee for her wedding cake. But i was asked to not add in nuts if possible. Just checking with you on the possibility of this.

      Much thanks. =)

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    7. Hi Jeff, I did try drenching one of my sugee loaves with rum (I poured brandy over the chocolate loaf!) and my goodness, what can I say, but so "SHIOK!!" LOL Thanks for the idea. I will do both ways for Christmas, from now on :)

      I have not done sugee cake without almonds before, but I am guessing that the cake will be softer without the almonds and may not be able to support the weight of the marzipan and icing that well, especially if you are doing a multi tiered cake. You might find your cake sagging or sinking under the weight of the marzipan and icing in places, and thus looking lop sided.

      Flavour wise, the cake will definitely not be as flavourful. If the request is not based on an allergic reaction to almonds/nuts, I strongly advise against excluding them, more so if you plan to do elaborate decorations and many tiers.

      If her heart is set on a nut free cake, why don't you try a batch of nut free sugee cake and try decorating and layering it to see if it can take the weight of the decorations. It may well work....

      As always, I would love to know how it turns out!

      Delete
    8. Hi Denise,

      Attempted the almond-less sugee. I felt that it lost that certain richness and aroma that almond brings to it. Had to substitute it with more flour. Cake was drier and lack the sugee oomph. Haha. Never will i exclude almonds again.

      In terms of strength, i guess the addition of flour did help a bit. Though not much, as the cake eventually did sink in slightly after I decorated and tiered it.

      Final verdict, it wasn't the same kind of sugee i grew up loving. Haha

      Delete
    9. Hi Jeff, I'm not surprised at the outcome, but it's always good to find out for sure :) Thanks for taking the time to let me know.

      Delete
  28. I am a eurasian but i have never heard about sugee cake is traditional cake for funerals. thanks for that info.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I did make sugee cake. didnt look as good as yours but tasted great. i used brandy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jessie, yes, in the past, sugee cake was one of the cakes served at Eurasian funerals. This is no longer a common practice as Sugee cake is quite tedious and a rather costly cake to make. You will however get different answers from different groups of Eurasians or different Eurasian families as Eurasians are a mixed lot and don't always have the exact same origins, though there are many things in common. Hence some families will serve sugee cake, some may serve goreng sagu while others will serve kueh kochi or pulut tatal at a funeral. It has a lot to do with each group's unique origin and background, for instance, whether you have Nyonya, Malay, Indian, or Chinese ancestry in addition to European ancestry. For my family, it is sugee cake and goreng sagu. These days though, even at Eurasian funerals, you're more likely to be served just coffee or soft drinks. If the family of the deceased is more thoughtful, you may be offered foods like yew char kway and curry puffs, maybe some simple fried noodles.

      I'm so glad you liked the taste of the sugee cake, and yes, brandy too is wonderful in sugee cake. It's what my mum and most Eurasians use. I have a rebellious streak ;)

      Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year to you and your family!

      Delete
  30. Hi! Your cake looks really good, and I was wondering if I could substitute something for the alcohol in this? No one in my house drinks, so we only keep a bottle of white for the occasional pasta sauce. I would just leave it out, but I'm worried that removing 4 tbs of liquid would change the texture of the cake. I considered adding orange juice, but as far as possible I'd like to stick to the unadultered sugee cake taste, so I'm hesitant. Would water work, or could I just leave it out? Thanks so much and happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there :) I think the best solution for you would be too to mix 3 tbsp water (room temperature) with 1 tbsp brandy or rum essence, as a subtitute for the rum/brandy/sherry. I've never tried brandy or rum essence, but I think it should do the trick. If the brandy/rum essence smells very strong, use 3 1/2 tbsp water and 1/2 tbsp essence. Btw, do not omit or reduce the vanilla essence, or alter anything else in the recipe, including the size of the baking tins, for the best results. Hope it works well, but please do let me know how it goes.

      Hope you have a wonderful New Year too!

      Delete
  31. Hi Denise, I made your Sugee cake and it turned out a treat!! I'm going to make another one this time using rosewater instead of the rum/brandy/sherry component. Could you advise how much rosewater to add? Thanks so much

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jen, so glad to know it! I've never used rosewater in sugee cake, but I do know it's pretty strong smelling, so I would not use more than 1 - 1 1/2 tbsp. To make up the rest of the liquid component, I would add enough water to make 4 tbsp liquid. You may want to reduce the vanilla extract or remove it altogether, to let the rose water dominate, but I must say I'm not a big fan of rose scented sugee cake, so I would still include at least some vanilla, or even all of it. Please let me know how it turns out :)

      Delete
  32. Hi Denise,

    My friend Annie & I made your sugee cake last week when I was visiting her in Memphis, Tennessee. It turned out beautifully and is very delicious. I like that the cake was not too sweet. Thanks for sharing the recipe & the poignant story behind the sugee cake. Your recipe is a keeper. I will definitely be making your cake more. I've shared a photo of the cake on your facebook.

    Katherine Grant

    ReplyDelete
  33. Hi Denise,

    Thanks so much for sharing this lovely sugee cake recipe.
    I can't wait to bake one for Sunday tea.
    As for the brandy, I generally add it in with the batter, and then douse the cake with a bit more after taking it out of the oven. The warmth of the cake will cause the alcohol to evaporate while leaving a heavenly aroma of the brandy with each bite.

    Cheers, Jeff :- )

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hi Denise,

    I chanced upon your blog when searching for a sugee cake recipe,love the way you photographed your food and process,gives a homely and vintage vibe to it. I will definitely try your recipe when I find the time for the 7hrs of preparation needed! As well as your other recipes which look so tempting and spicy. I'm sure my Indonesian-descend husband would love it too.
    I am spurred by your passion for cooking the food you love and sense of humor. Will visit again!

    Cheers,
    Trina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Trina, sorry it took me so long to reply. Somehow your comment slipped through my net, until today. Thank you so much for your very kind words. I love weaving a tapestry of my culinary life. legacy and memories here and it gives me so much more pleasure to know that others appreciate it too :) I look forward to your return visits and feedback and hope they will both be frequent. Do have yourself a good week and a good life, in and out of the kitchen!

      Delete
  35. I tried your recipe and it turned out nice. Family and friends provided positive feedback. As I don't typically keep dark rum, brandy nor sweet sherry in the pantry I just used some fancy almond essence instead and that was just fine. The cake got whacked! Thanks for sharing your recipe...this one is a keeper.

    Best regards
    Mrs. L.K. Longbottom, Oleanas

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Mrs Longbottom :) I am so happy to know you were pleased with the recipe and that your family and friends enjoyed the cake. I look forward to your continuing readership and feedback. May you have many more successes in the kitchen, and a well fed and happy family!

      Delete
  36. Thank you for posting this. My Peruvian girlfriend tasted sugee cake for the first time in her life and loved it.

    Since then she's been dreaming of it. I'm sending her this link.

    Your pictures of the cake make me drool!!!!! <3

    ReplyDelete
  37. Hi

    Your recipe says 300gm semolina, but i was reading one of your comments tt you used 3 teacups (which measures 200gm), wont tt be 600gm semolina instead of 300gm? My mum loves sugee cake so i m gg to attempt to try baking...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, thanks for writing. Yes, 3 standard English teacups will give you 300g fine semolina, with slight variation (up to 120 g semolina per cup unstead of 100 g) depending on how you fill your cup. There are numerous articles online which show you the correct and incorrect way to measure ingredients by cup.

      Did you actually try measuring out a teacup of semolina and weighing it? Did it yield 200 g of semolina? I conducted a little experiment in my kitchen and only managed to get 200 g of semolina by filling a large COFFEE MUG slightly past the brim.

      I also measured again (just to be doubly sure) by TEACUP three times and got 100g twice and almost 120g the final time.

      Finally I bought a measuring cup and measured out my semolina and it weighed slightly more than 130 g.

      Perhaps there is confusion here? Teacups have a *liquid* capacity of 200 mililitres (ml) which is very different from 200 grams (gm). A teacup of water will measure 200 ml whereas the same teacup of flour or semolina will weigh 100 g while again the same teacup of sugar will weigh 150 g. Not the same weight for all ingredients as different ingredients have different densities.

      I'm very curious about how you got a measurement of 200g semolina per cup. Hope to hear from you again and also find out how the cake turned out :)

      Delete
  38. Hi

    Sorry for not teplying earlier i tried making the cake and it turned out great except tt maybe i was too eager to bake i didnt soak the semolina long enough!!but it stil tasted nice. When i read cup i assumed it was the usual measuring cup which measures ard 240ml. I just followed ur recipe of 300ml instrad of cups measurement. Thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Hi Denise,

    I'm an amateur baker who is trying out your Sugee Cake recipe out for the first time. My in-laws are dropping by tomorrow, so this would be the perfect cake to impress them. My semolina is soaking in the melted butter right now. Planning to use a springform cake tin as I only have 1 loaf pan. Keeping my fingers & whisks crossed that it turns out well! Will keep definitely keep u updated.

    P.S- Thanks a million for d wealth of info & tips. Its much, much appreciated especially by newbies like me!!

    -Sharm

    ReplyDelete
  40. Hi Denise,

    Sorry for the late feedback. Followed ur measurements to a tee. It did take much longer to bake which was expected due to the springform cake tin. The cake turned out moist & delicious. The buttery perfume that wafted through the house was an added bonus! This recipe is definitely one for the archives.Thank u for sharing & spreading the joy!

    ReplyDelete
  41. Hi Sharm :)

    Thanks for your feedback. I'm glad the recipe worked well, though you had some anxiety about the pan switch LOL Sugee cake does smell wonderful, doesn't it? Writing this makes me want to get in my kitchen and stir up a couple of sugee loaves right this minute! You're very welcome and I hope you will bake many, many more successful and delicious sugee cakes!

    ReplyDelete
  42. Hi! The recipe looks great! Can't wait to try it. However, I am currently in Melbourne, where it is not easy to get fine semolina. What sort of adjustments do I have to make it if I'm using a coarser semolina? Also, do I keep the semolina in melted butter at room temperature for the 6 hours?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! Thank you :) I don't know if the recipe will work with coarse semolina (or how coarse is the coarse you refer to) as I have never tried it with anything but fine semolina. If you are going to try a coarser semolina I would suggest that you soak it even longer than 6 hours, at least 12 or up to 24 hours even. For 6 hours hours its fine to leave the semolina and butter at room temperature. For 8 hours or longer, leave it room temperature for the first 6 hours then cover and refrigerate until soaking time is up. Hope this helps. If you do try it, please let me know the outcome.

      Delete
  43. Hi! I'm eager to try this for my guy who is of the Kristang-Eurasian descent. Want to surprise him when he gets back from his business trip. A few things I would like to know before attempting this.

    1. I prefer to bake with cup measurements. So it would be ok to follow the cup measurement as long as the ratio of butter-semolina-sugar-almond is maintain?
    2. Butter used is salted or unsalted type?
    3. Plain flour = All purpose flour?

    Also, I only have one loaf pan. Would a springform pan be better? I have a 10 inch springform pan. Just wondering which is a better option.
    Can't wait to try it this weekend.
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  44. Hi Pei :) You can use cup measurements but please take note that I used a standard English style teacup with a liquid capacity of 200 ml and NOT a measuring cup. Please do likewise and use a teacup or you will not get the same results. Also do not pack down the flour/butter/almonds etc when measuring and where the ingredients go past the rim of the cup, do level off across the rim of the cup with the edge of a blunt knife or you will exceed the required weights. If its your first time baking this though I strongly recommend that you use a kitchen scale instead of cup measurements.

    I

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always use salted butter in my cakes as I prefer its flavour to that of unsalted.

      Plain flour is the same as all purpose flour.

      I have never tried baking my sugee cakes in anything else but the two loaf pans in the pictures above so I cant advise you on changing pans with complete certainty. The amount of batter is too much for a moderate sized baking tin of 17-23 cm (7-9 in) but a single tin/pan of 25-30cm (10-12 in) would probably work. With pans other than the recommended size you will need to adjust the baking times. Basically larger/wider pans which increase the surface area of the batter will require a longer baking time and vice versa. Dont change the baking temperature but keep watching the cake for shrinkage around the edges and a pulling away from the sides of the pan. When this happens test centre of cake with a fine skewer. If it comes out clean, youre done.

      Delete
    2. *** Sorry I meant to say larger/wider pans require SHORTER baking times and vice versa.

      Delete
  45. Hi Denise

    1. Loaf tin size
    Picking up on the point of baking tins. Which size loaf tins did you use? Smaller ones are for 1lb loaves and larger ones are for 2lb loaves.

    2. Egg size
    Did you use eggs of any particular size, e.g. 70g or 80g or M, L or XL?

    Thanks for pointing out the size of measuring cup. My UK cup measures are 1 cup=250 ml so it does help that you stated metric measurement as well. And for the other little hints and tip.

    By the way, have you tried making half quantity? Thanks

    - Nora

    ReplyDelete
  46. Hi Denise

    Chanced upon your blog while looking for sugee cake recipe for my mom. Love your blog, especially since it is in a local context. And I am blown away by the recipes of kuehs I grew up with, the privilege of growing up with a peranakan maternal grandmother...brings back sweet memories. Never knew the seranis and peranakans had so much in common! Looking at your recipes, you just reminded me how much I miss kueh keria. My dad used to buy them for me (for breakfast) when I was still living with my parents. Maybe now I can make some for him.
    Thank you so much for this blog!!

    Keep up the great job!

    ReplyDelete
  47. Hi there,

    First time trying to bake sugee cake, have not baked for a decade now...so hoping your recipe will help kick-start my baking adventure! ;)

    BTW, I have got a couple of questions:
    1. Should fry the coarse semolina until light brown and fragrant before mixing it with the melted butter?
    2. Can I add chopped nuts instead of finely ground nuts into the semolina/melted butter mixture to soak overnight?
    3. I can't use rum or whisky as I am planning to make this cake for my little daughter's birthday, so can I use 4 tbsp. of water instead?

    Thank you,
    Priscilla

    ReplyDelete
  48. Hi Denise,
    My name is Patricia and I would like to find out how many eggs should I use if I'm halfing the recipe? Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Technically it would be 3 and a half yolks and 3 and a half whites. I would do it that way, but would love to hear from Denise!

      Delete
    2. hi patricia. i've never halved the recipe so i wouldn't know the outcome but, i think it should turnout alright. i would use 4 small-ish eggs (50 g each in shell). if you're using a loaf pan of equal or similar dimensions to the ones i used, the baking time remains rhe same. S different shaped or sized tin will require adjustment onthe baking time. hope your cake turns out as you desire :) merry christmas!

      Delete
    3. patricia, pardon the typos. i' m frantically tapping on my tiny smartphone keypad while preparing to board a plane :D

      Delete
  49. hi sangeeta, thanks for chiming in. hope you're having a wonderful holiday period :)

    ReplyDelete
  50. Hello Denise, I was wondering if we can use cake flour for this. Your thoughts please. I had tried the recipe above and it toured out lovely! Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  51. Hi Denise,

    I just wanted to thank you for the recipe. I made it during the festive season and had rave reviews from the relatives. Just like my nana use to make it. The only thing I found was it's difficult to tell when the cake is done as the cake tester comes out clean. I went for using a touch/feel method so the firmer the cake it's probably done. Any other tips?

    Thanks.

    Regards,
    Amanda

    ReplyDelete
  52. hihi. .

    thanks for sharing the recipe, i tried it last night and the cake turns out great. . :-D

    cheers
    kenneth

    ReplyDelete

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