Ube cake is one of the most beloved Filipino cakes. It is made from ube, or purple yam. Purple yam is a tuber or root crop that is vivid purple, hence the name.
Ube-flavored desserts are so popular in the Philippines and are currently making a splash in the US. It´s all over my Instagram account. On a daily basis, I see pictures of ube cake, ube cupcakes topped with leche flan, ube crinkles, halo-halo topped with ube ice cream, and a lot more. I swear, next time I visit Los Angeles, I will make it a point to go to those cafes and try them. But for now, I make my own.
I first attempted to make ube cake several years ago in Luxembourg. My friend, Bobbi, and I were experimenting with my chiffon cake recipe (see here) and our first try wasn´t exactly a success. We added too much grated ube and not enough flavoring. The cake was so heavy and lacked flavor. But of course giving up was not an option because we wanted ube cake! It took a few more tries, but I finally got it!
Special Ingredients for ube cake
For us abroad, it will be very difficult to find fresh ube. To be honest, I’ve never seen fresh ube! These are what you need to buy for that perfect ube cake:
Frozen grated ube
This is the heart and soul of your ube cake. If you don´t have ube, it won´t be an ube cake! I buy frozen grated ube in an Asian store in Trier and lug it back to Biel. I have been to 3 Asian stores here in Biel, but I haven´t found frozen grated ube. There are recipes online that use bottled ube halaya, but I have never tried it that as I would then have to tweak the sugar and I am now happy with my recipe.
This enhances the ube flavor. I buy a lot whenever I go home to the Philippines, or ask friends who go home to bring me some. They´re tiny 20ml bottles so it´s not that much of a hassle for them to bring back. For you guys in the US, it is available on Amazon. Just pretty pricey though…
Optional macapuno filling/topping
Macapuno is a coconut mutant, which occurs naturally and has softer and more meat than a normal coconut. This is used in many desserts in the Philippines, including Halo-halo, ice cream, and it also pairs well with ube. If I have this on hand, I fill or top (depending on the design) the ube cake with it.
Making the ube cake
Note on the baking pans:
You can bake the ube cake in 9-inch or 8-inch baking pans. But if baking in 8-inch baking pans, it should be 2-inches tall otherwise the batter will overflow.
The procedure is similar to the chiffon cake I made earlier, but I will run you through it here as well.
Set out your ingredients.
In a large bowl, mix cake flour, 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar, baking powder and sea salt. Make a well in the middle and pour in the milk, grated ube, ube flavoring, canola oil, egg yolks and vanilla. Mix well until smooth.
Prepare mixing bowl by wiping it thoroughly with a paper towel soaked with lemon juice or white vinegar to get rid of any remaining grease. Pour in egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat gradually at low speed until frothy (I start at 2 for 30 seconds, and then increase to 4). When frothy, increase to medium high (6 on my mixer) and gradually add in the remaining ½ cup (100 grams) sugar until stiff.
Gently fold in the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mixture.
Divide the mixture into the two prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
Cool completely before icing. Invert the pans on a cooling rack.
I found it best to refrigerate the cakes overnight before icing. To remove from the cake pans, run a knife around the cake so that the cake pops out easily. If it doesn’t, help it a bit by lifting the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake pan and lifting the cake out. Once cool, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate.
Make the icing
Please refer to my post of Swiss Meringue buttercream for step-by-step instructions.
Assembling the cake
Top with macapuno. Top the cake with the macapuno and put icing instead in the middle. The one below I made for Becca’s birthday party in Germany.
Use cream cheese icing. Make cream cheese icing instead of Swiss meringue buttercream. I have also included below the recipe for cream cheese icing if you prefer this. I make it from time to time to change things up.
I also want to try this one soon. This uses whipped cream and cream cheese!
Frost with whipped cream. You may use sweetened whipped cream (from a can in a pinch!) to cover and decorate the cake.
Cover with cake crumbs. If you need to cut the top of the cake to flatten it out, cut a bit thicker than needed, then crumble the extra cake and cover the icing with it. To make fine crumbs, use a food processor, but your hands will also do fine. Pipe rosettes over the cake crumbs.