Sunday, February 21, 2010

Semolina/Sugee/Sooji Cake

Among my fellow Malaccans, semolina or sugee/sooji cake is believed to have been introduced by the Portuguese community in Malacca and has now become a favorite butter cake for many, especially the Peranakan/BabaNyonya families here. The Portuguese people in Malacca are descendants of their forefathers who sailed thousands of miles to South-east Asia in search of spice trading routes which resulted in an era of Portuguese colonization of Malacca during the 16th century. Like the BabaNyonya community in Malacca, the Portuguese community still retains its own cultural identity, Kristang language and famous cuisines.

There are many recipes for semolina cake but as I'm aware, often times each Peranakan family has their own secret version that was passed down by grandparents or parents who had earlier learned it from their Portuguese friends of their generations. Personally, I have 4 different recipes for semolina cake, in which 2 are considered 'secret recipes' passed down from earlier generations - one from my late Mom and the other from a dear Peranakan friend who is currently residing in Toronto and who inherited his family's secret recipe from his mother.

Basically, semolina or sugee derives from wheat and is great for making cakes and desserts. It's a popular ingredient for making Indian desserts too. Semolina cake has become very popular these days and many recipes are easily obtainable. Many love it for its rich buttery aroma and grainy texture which gives one a delightful eating taste. Since semolina cake is absolutely delicious and too good not to be shared, here is a wonderful recipe which I had cut out from a women's magazine a couple of years ago. My family loves semolina cake and I made this for them last week for our Chinese New Year get-together in Malacca. I decided to 'dress it up' with chocolate frosting and basic CNY-theme deco. I'm no expert at cake deco and this was made in quite a rush, thus the molding of the God of Prosperity (Cai Shen) was, as you can see, wayyyy less than perfect (thus, no close up shot of it..;). Well, it doesn't matter since the taste is in the cake and the crumbs were all wiped out by my nieces and nephews!

Semolina Cake

140g cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder (I used 1 tsp)
100g semolina
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs
100ml milk
2 tsp vanilla extract/essence
250g butter, at room temperature
200g sugar (I used only 170g)
2 tbsp honey

Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir in semolina and salt. Mix well.
Beat eggs, milk and vanilla essence together in a bowl.
Cream butter, sugar and honey till light and fluffy. Gradually trickle in egg mixture, beating constantly. Mix in flour mixture on low speed and stir till well combined.
Spoon the batter into an 8-inch cake tray lined with baking paper.
Bake for 45 minutes at 150 deg C or until an inserted cake tester comes out clean.
Cool cake for 15 minutes, then unmould and let cool.
Decorate as you like or have it as it is. Best served with a cup if tea.


Saturday, February 13, 2010



Based on the Chinese lunar calendar, Chinese New Year will be celebrated tomorrow, 14 February, Sunday, marking the start of the Year of the Tiger. The celebration lasts for 15 days ending with 'Chap Goh Mei' as the last day.

The buzz and preparations have already started more than a month ago and as we head closer to 14 Feb, one can feel the excitement and anticipation escalate. This escalation often reaches its highlight in the form of massive traffic jams along the highways of Malaysia as everyone rushes back to their original hometown for the family reunion dinner on the eve of new year (which is today). Anyway, for my family, this year will be a quiet and simple New Year as we remember and deeply miss our phenomenally amazing Mom who passed on a year ago.

For most, lanterns, cherry blossom and peony flowers decorations, pussy willows, blinking lights, firecrackers and all sorts of new ornaments are exhibited to maximum red effect by shops and residential houses alike. Red is the auspicious color for the Chinese culture.

At every corner one turns to at shopping malls, one cannot escape the audible upbeat tempo of Chinese New Year songs that reverberate through the air, and it's hard to not hum along the beat and drums if you know the lyrics! With Chinese New Year songs, you either hate them or love them. I simply love them! With all their chaotic music arrangements and drum beats! Even though my Chinese language skills is "less than a quarter bucket full", hold on tight and don't fall of your chair when I belt out (at full capacity of my lungs!) the full lyrics (yes, in Chinese!) of "Cai Shen Tau" ("The God of Prosperity Has Arrived")!! When we were little, my sisters and I got one of our friends, who went to a Chinese school and who mastered the language well, to translate the lyrics into "ABC" form for us. Ever since the numerous practices and memorizing processes we painstakingly went through during our younger days, the lyrics somehow stuck in my mind, albeit could be out of tune when I sing it ;).

Chinese New Year is also a time where the nurseries are abound with stocks of various plants and flowers and their businesses boom sky high. The Chinese believe that adorning the house with live plants and flowers signify boundless positive energy and welcomes good luck. Needless to say, most popular ones are the lime plants, pussy willows, chrysanthemum plants and flowers and many other gorgeous blooms like the famed and fabulous hydrangeas (my favorite!). So, from my small little 'potted garden', here's wishing all of you... abundance of prosperity, peace, joy, longevity and togetherness

'Ji Guan Hua'/'Cockscomb Flower'

...may the Year of the Tiger empower you with more great blessings and possibilities for all your good dreams and wishes!

Drive safely & Cheers for the New Year!