You’re Just 4 Ingredients Away from Sticky Rice Cake Paradise

updated Jun 12, 2023
Kitchn Love Letters
Biko (Bibingkang Malagkit)

This Filipino sticky rice cake, which requires just four ingredients, is topped with a layer of homemade coconut caramel.

Serves4 to 6

Prep5 minutes

Cook1 hour to 1 hour 5 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Credit: Jason Rampe

In the Philippines, there’s a group of glutinous rice desserts known as “kakanin” — and if they’re around, I am surely eating them. I particularly love suman, glutinous rice steamed in a banana leaf; carioca, rice flour balls that are fried and covered in caramel; and bibingkang malagkit or biko, a sweetened, super-sticky rice cake with a layer of coconut caramel on top. I have fond memories of my Lola making biko on special occasions and holidays.

As much as I enjoy eating these treats, for the longest time I was intimidated by cooking with glutinous rice flour. My sister-in-law, who’s a Filipina, has given me copies of a biko recipe and many of the ingredients didn’t have any actual measurements. It wasn’t until I picked up a copy of I Am a Filipino: And This Is How We Cook that I finally had the confidence to try my hand at kakanin. I quickly realized glutinous rice is actually really easy to work with, and now I’m mad I didn’t do it sooner. I could have been eating kakanin all along!

Credit: Amelia Rampe

Ingredients Needed for Filipino Sticky Rice Cake

Today, I want to share with you my recipe for biko, which has become my favorite special-occasion dessert that’s also easy enough for weeknights. You only need four ingredients: glutinous rice, coconut milk, brown sugar, and salt. I also included a few optional ones — fresh banana leaves and pandan — that are classically found in biko recipes. In the Philippines, the entire rice cake is sometimes wrapped in the banana leaf as it bakes, but for this recipe I simply line the dish so you still get all the delicious aromas. Neither of these ingredients are required, but if you’re able to source them, you won’t regret it.

How Filipino Sticky Rice Cake is Made

You’ll begin by simmering rice in coconut milk and some salt until it’s mostly cooked through. Since you only want the rice to be par-cooked, I prefer the stovetop to the rice cooker because it gives you more control. If you’re using pandan leaves, you’ll add them to the pot, too. If they’re dried, wrap them in cheesecloth for easy removal. Fresh pandan can simply be tied into a knot and dropped into the pot and removed before you add the caramel.

While the rice is simmering, combine brown sugar (I prefer a mix of light and dark, but just one is fine), full-fat coconut milk, and salt, and cook until it thickly coats the back of a spoon. I’ve experienced varied caramel outcomes based on the brand of coconut milk used, so use the richest one you can find, like this one. (Regardless, you’ll have a delicious sticky rice cake.) Remove some of the caramel for topping, then add the par-cooked rice and stir until there are no white rice streaks left. If you’re using a banana leaf, use it to line the bottom of the baking dish, then pour the sticky rice mixture over top. Top with the reserved caramel sauce and bake until the top is bubbling in the center.

While the biko is baking, I recommend making an easy topping used in the Philippines called latik: you simply render coconut cream until the curds turn deep golden-brown and toasty. Sprinkle it on top of the cooled biko, slice it up, and devour.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.

Credit: Jason Rampe

Biko (Bibingkang Malagkit)

This Filipino sticky rice cake, which requires just four ingredients, is topped with a layer of homemade coconut caramel.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 1 hour to 1 hour 5 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • Coconut oil, for coating the pan

  • 1

    fresh banana leaf (optional)

  • 2 cups

    glutinous or sweet rice

  • 2 tablespoons

    coarsely chopped dried pandan leaves (optional)

  • 2 (about 13-ounce) cans

    coconut milk, divided

  • 1 cup

    water

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/2 cup

    packed dark brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup

    packed light brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Coat an 8x8-inch square baking dish with coconut oil. Trim 1 fresh banana leaf, if using, to cover the bottom of the baking dish and line the baking dish with the leaf. Rinse 2 cups glutinous rice in a fine-mesh strainer until the water runs clear.

  2. Transfer the rice to a small pot or Dutch oven. If using pandan leaves, wrap 2 tablespoons in a cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine to form a sachet. Add the sachet, 1 cup of the coconut milk, 1 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt to the pot and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

  3. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer undisturbed until all the liquid has been absorbed and rice is slightly undercooked, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375ºF. Make the coconut caramel.

  4. Place the remaining 2 cups coconut milk, 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt in a large saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickly coats the back of a spoon and you can see the bottom of the pan while stirring, about 35 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Remove 2/3 cup of the coconut caramel and reserve for the top.

  5. Stir the cooked rice into the pot with the remaining caramel and stir until there are no white streaks and the rice is completely coated. Transfer into the baking dish and smooth the top. Pour the reserved 2/3 caramel sauce over the rice and smooth the top.

  6. Bake until the top is bubbly in the center and the caramel on top has thickened slightly, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool 30 minutes before serving. Slice the biko into squares and serve. Discard the banana leaf, if using.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Rewarm in the microwave.