Warning: This cake may cause a stampede. We were at a friend's party recently when out came the plate of bibingka and suddenly everyone was abuzz. It took some maneuvering to get past the mob of partygoers clamoring for the recipe, but we managed to push through and meet the baker, a Los Angeles resident named Mark Marking. Even better, Marking happily agreed to share his recipe with The Kitchn. Bibingka is a sweet, chewy Filipino dessert made with rice flour and coconut. If you like mochi, you'll like this, and even if you've never had anything of the sort, we're pretty certain you'll fall for it, too. It has a rich, buttery, coconut flavor with the addictive textural combination of a crackly crust and eggy, chewy center. (We now believe the song "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" was written with bibingka in mind.)
Marking says bibingka is traditionally served at any and all gatherings, from family mahjong night to baby showers. He loved bibingka as a kid, always grabbing his favorite crusty-chewy edge pieces. As an adult, Marking has developed and refined his own recipe, and it's now so acclaimed that his mom, sister, and friends all use it. He took the texture and flavor he remembered from childhood and then made it his own, playing with the proportions, and adding new ingredients like cinnamon and brown sugar and tools like parchment paper (though he wants to experiment with baking it on traditional banana leaves at some point, too).
This one-bowl recipe yields 48 pieces of bibingka, making it the perfect, easy dessert for potlucks, parties, and big gatherings. The best time to eat bibingka is when it's still a little warm. As it cools, the consistency becomes harder, though it's still delicious. Marking suggests reheating in the microwave or toaster oven and serving it with vanilla ice cream.
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
2 (12-ounce) jars macapuno coconut strings in heavy syrup*
1 (16-ounce) box mochiko sweet rice flour*
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup wheat germ (or finely chopped almonds for a gluten-free recipe)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 13" x 18" x 1" baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, beat coconut milk, condensed milk, and melted butter until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Do the same with both jars of macapuno strings. Gradually beat in mochiko flour (do not pour all at once or it will get clumpy). Follow that with the brown sugar and wheat germ. Once you achieve an even consistency, add vanilla extract and beat until combined.
Pour batter into lined cookie sheet. Bake until lightly browned, about 45 minutes. Sprinkle cinnamon evenly over the cake. Continue to bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, between 2-15 minutes longer.
Remove from pan and let cool on the parchment paper. Once cooled down, cut into to 2-inch squares. A long ruler and pizza cutter work nicely.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks.
*Available at Filipino and many Asian markets.
Originally published October 23, 2008.
(Images: Emily Ho)