Bingka sarang semut/honeycomb cake
Bingka sarang semut (Ants' Nest) is an Indonesian-Malaysian cake. 'Honeycomb cake' is a more befitting description of the appearance of this cake. Do not confuse it with the Jewish honey cake, which has honey and doesn't look like honeycomb, while this cake looks like honeycomb but has no honey.
This is the hardest cake to perfect for me. I must have attempted this cake at least 10 times through the years, quitting for long periods each time the cake is a failure. I have about 6 honeycomb cakes recipes from friends, who all warned me, "This is a difficult cake. Good luck." And they were right. I never got any combs. I got many air bubbles instead. In my frustration, I turned to the net and followed a You-Tube video recipe. It totally didn't turn out any honeycomb, and I was upset that people can post recipes that don't work. Still not giving up, I found a Chinese cake called bak tong go on a reputable food blog, and the cake had lots of comb but it wasn't the same thing as the baked honeycomb cake. I asked Nee, who obligingly made a beautiful honeycomb cake and posted it on her blog but her complicated steaming method and equipment discouraged me, plus I still wanted a baked honeycomb cake recipe. I then made Elaine's honeycomb cake, but although it tasted very good, it too didn't have honeycombs. In the last couple of months, many people whom I've asked gave me certain tips such as: you must let the cake sit undisturbed for 1 hour before baking; you must bang the cake tin a couple of times before putting it into the oven, you must cook it with heat from the lower element only, you must cover the cake with foil while baking...
Rather resignedly, I recently tried again using Elaine's first recipe because while it gave no comb, it tasted superb. This time I let the cake sit for an hour before baking. The result was better than all my previous tries, but still not there. Because it was a hit with my family (and me. Gosh, are my thighs happy!), I'm sharing this recipe with you. The texture was chewy but not hard, and the flavor caramelly and buttery. I think I am getting closer to perfecting it, and next time I bake it, I will use some yeast like for the steamed honeycomb cakes which gives more comb, bake it using the lower element, and cover it with foil. In the meantime, I am sharing this recipe because it really is very good. Elaine was given another recipe recently ("Hyatt's own honeycomb cake recipe, true!") and although it uses the exact same ingredients, but in different proportions, the cake (not very comby, like my cake) was harder and didn't taste as good. I've compared the recipes, and taste notwithstanding, I'd still use her 1st recipe because it uses less butter and eggs.
Here's my call to you out there. Do any of you have a honeycomb cake recipe that tastes heavenly and look like honeycomb?? Denise? Mandy? Rei? Hungry Hamster? Bee? Nee? BBO? Anyone?
2 cups plain flour
4 t bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 cups sugar (I've reduced from 2 cups)
2 cups water
100 to 120 g butter
1 tin (380 ml) condensed milk
1. Sift the flour with the bicarb. Switch oven on to 170 C. Line a 22.5 cm/9 inch square pan with baking paper.
2. Put sugar into a small pot and melt the sugar under low fire until golden-honey brown (you can caramelize it further but the cake will have a slight bitter taste) without stirring. Add the water carefully because it will sputter. Let sugar water (very watery, not syrupy) cool.
3. Cream butter and eggs, blend in the condensed milk and flour. Add the sugar water into the batter and stir well to mix. Cover and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.
4. Bake 1 hour 30 minutes. Maybe you can try baking the cake on the lower rack of the oven instead of the usual middle rack--tell me your result. Test with a wooden skewer which should come clean if cake is done. If not, give it another 10 minutes or more. Some ovens are hotter, some cooler so you just have to know your oven.