Tapioca in the UK is only really known as the small white spheres that are cooked with milk to make a soft pudding people either love or hate texture wise. In the rest of the world, tapioca is simply another name for cassava which is a starchy tuber eaten across Asia, South America and Africa. In its various forms it can also be known as manioc or gari.
This very simple gluten free cake uses the fresh root and combines it with coconut milk to make a soft sticky texture that’s almost custard like in some ways. Based on a Malaysian recipe, I’ve given it a Brixton twist with a guave jelly glaze to sweeten it slightly as south east Asian desserts are almost savoury in comparison to Western ones.
Cassava is easy to find in Brixton. It looks like a long root with a pointed tip and very shiny waxed skin. It’s not the same as yam, but if in doubt ask on any of the stalls or in the Nour for it. Everything else for the recipes is available there too in proper one stop shopping. Apparently Chinese supermarkets often sell frozen grated cassava.
Coconut and Guava Tapioca Cake (serves 12-15)
- 1 kilo fresh cassava root (roughly two average sized tubers)
- 100g desiccated coconut, toasted
- 1 x 400ml can coconut milk
- 1 x 297ml can condensed milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 100g guava jelly
Begin by cutting your cassava in half and peeling it with a vegetable peeler. The white flesh may discolour slightly when it hits the air but that’s absolutely fine. Wash the cassava after peeling to get rid of any little bits that might stick. Grate it on the largest hole of a box grater into a large bowl, reserving any starchy liquid. Leave aside.
Toast the desiccated coconut in a dry frying pan on a medium heat until golden, moving it round with a spatula to prevent burning. Keep a close eye, it tends to go from stubbornly pale to carbonised quickly if you don’t monitor it.
Add it to the grated cassava. Pour the coconut milk and condensed milk into it all and crack the eggs in. Splash in the vanilla extract and stir it all together well. It should be just wet enough to look like a batter, but not be runny.
Pour it into a 23cm square brownie tin or glass or ceramic oven dish you have lined with greaseproof paper. The works best in this shallow style so don’t adapt it to a loaf tin or deep cake tin. Bake for 1 1/2 hours in a 180℃ oven, turning it round in the oven after a hour to make sure all sides of the top brown evenly.
Take it out of the oven and immediately glaze with the guava jelly. You can use the back of a teaspoon or a pastry brush but the heat of the cake will allow it to move and spread easily. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes in the tin and then use the paper to lift it out of the tin and cool on a wire rack. The paper will peel away easily when the cake cools.
Serve in small slices. It’s surprisingly rich and filling compared to flour based cakes. It makes an easy dessert and a change from the traditional gluten free cakes made with ground almond or polenta that are the usual offering. If you don’t eat dairy, simply replace the condensed milk with the same again of coconut milk and add 250g sugar. It will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container.