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My inspiration for this dessert is the French Baba au Rhum, a delicious and decadent cake soaked in rum syrup! I’ve often wondered if I could turn our familiar, equally delicious bibingka into something similar. And here it is!
I used a basic bibingka recipe with rice flour and coconut milk, but reduced the amount of sugar since the syrup provides more sweetness. For the syrup, I used a pure distilled Lambanog (coconut wine) from Quezon Province, and lemongrass (tanglad) to add a subtle citrusy note. If you don’t have lambanog, gold (not clear) rum will work as well. The alcohol evaporates when the liquor is added to the warm syrup and only the flavor remains. And the cakes absorb every drop of that deliciousness!!
To expand the coconut profile, there’s coconut cream and toasted coconut flakes on top and coconut jam (matamis na bao) underneath. Berries or other seasonal fruit provide color and counterpoint.
I came across this wonderful quote in an online article on coconuts: “All you need is love and coconuts!” My version of that would be: “All you need is sweetness and coconut desserts!”
1 cup regular rice flour (not glutinous)
2 Tb unbleached white flour
1/8 tsp salt
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
3 Tb unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup canned coconut milk
2 Tb lambanog (or 1 Tb gold rum)
Softened butter & turbinado sugar (e.g., Sugar in the Raw) for ramekins
1 stalk lemongrass
2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup lambanog (or gold rum)
1/4 cup whipping cream
Reserved coconut cream
1 tsp turbinado sugar
1/2 Tb coconut extract (optional)
Sweetened coconut flakes, toasted in a small skillet over medium heat until golden
Coco jam, warmed over low heat in small saucepan and thinned with a little coconut milk
Assorted berries or seasonal fruit (sliced or cubed)
The night before: Chill can of coconut milk overnight in the refrigerator. Next day, spoon the thick cream that has risen to the top into a bowl and refrigerate until needed.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter 8 ramekins, then coat bottoms and sides thoroughly with turbinado sugar.
Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cream butter with an electric mixer in another bowl, gradually adding sugar and beating until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Alternately beat in dry ingredients and coconut milk, starting and ending with flour mixture. Add lambanog (or rum) and mix well.
Ladle the batter into the ramekins, filling them about 3/4 full. Place ramekins in a metal cake pan and bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool slightly, then run a sharp paring knife around the side to dislodge the cake.
Prepare syrup while cakes are baking. Cut off bottom 4 inches of lemongrass stalk and discard the rest. Lighly pound with a mallet or hammer until it splits. Cut into 1-inch pieces and place in a saucepan. Add water and sugar and boil uncovered until reduced to half, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Add the lambanog (or rum). Let cool and strain into a container.
While cakes are still warm, poke holes on each one with a fork or skewer, making sure you hit the bottom of the ramekin. Pour about 3 Tb of syrup over each cake and allow syrup to be absorbed. Repeat until syrup is used up. Let cakes cool completely.
In a bowl, beat whipping cream until it starts to thicken. Add reserved coconut cream, sugar and coconut extract (if using) and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
To serve, spread or drizzle some coco jam on serving plates. Unmold cakes and center them on the plates. Spoon a dollop of coconut cream on top, then sprinkle toasted coconut flakes on the cream. Scatter berries or seasonal fruit around the cakes.
Voltaire Gungab is based in San Francisco and currently retired after working in advertising/marketing and editing scientific articles. A self-professed foodie and recipe hound, he follows the San Francisco food scene avidly and occasionally prepares theme dinners for friends.
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