SHF23: Two-bite sticky rice cakes

This is it, my first-ever contribution to Sugar High Friday (SHF), the ultimate blogging event for dessert lovers (hosted this month by A Veggie Venture).

First, the bad news.

I’m not going to lie to you. The Two-Bite Sticky Rice Cakes* aren’t pretty. After countless photos of various poses from a variety of angles in different lights, this was the best I could do.

Now for the good news.

They're plenty edible. These rice cakes are not the dry rounds of Styrofoam that dieters quaffed in the ‘80s in an (often) unsuccessful bid to lose weight. Quite the contrary, in fact. The Two-Bite Sticky Rice Cake is a moist morsel in a crispy exterior, with a texture not unlike that of a jujube: chewy, but dense enough to see your bite marks.

I first tasted sticky rice cake (also called glutinous rice cake, and a variety of other terms in various languages I’m sure) in university when one of my housemates, E., baked up a batch. My initial skepticism (”That batter doesn’t look like it’s going to turn into any kind of cake I’ve ever seen”) was confirmed when the first squares were cut (“See, that definitely isn’t cake”). But the first bite brought me around, as I’m sure it will you.

In honour of the Surprise Inside theme of SHF23, I used E.’s sticky rice cake recipe but with a few adjustments. First, I used mini muffin tins rather than an 8” square pan. Second (and more importantly), I added the surprise(s).

There are two variations of the cake: one filled with sweet red bean paste and topped with sesame seeds; the other – perhaps more appealing to North American tastes – filled with semi-sweet chocolate and topped with sweetened coconut. (In theory, at least. I surprised myself when I bit into a coconut-topped cake and discovered sweet bean paste inside. Who’s in charge of quality control here?)

Two-Bite Sticky Rice Cakes

1/2 bag (200 g) glutinous rice flour (available at Asian grocers)
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup oil (I used canola, but any light tasting oil will do)
2 eggs

sweet red bean paste (available at Asian grocers)
semi-sweet chocolate
sesame seeds
sweetened coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease muffin tin, even if it's non-stick.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs using an electric mixer. Add the sugar and oil and beat lightly again. In a small bowl, whisk together the rice flour and baking powder. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk to the eggs/sugar/oil mixture, mixing between each addition and ending with dry ingredients.

Pour a small amount of batter into the bottom of each muffin cup until they are about 1/4 full. Bake for 5 minutes or until the batter just begins to set. Remove from oven and place a small amount of sweet red bean paste or melted semi-sweet chocolate in the middle of each cup on top of the batter. Pour more batter on top of the filling until you reach the top of the muffin cup. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or coconut flakes.

Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes or until tops are golden. Let cooked cakes rest in the pan for 5-10 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. I cooled the cakes upside down to help them maintain their shape.

Yields about 30 mini cakes.

*The name was inspired by the ubiquitous Two-Bite Brownies that seem to have found their way into every major Canadian grocery store over the last few years. A bit of a misnomer I fear, since it’s clearly possible to consume a Two-Bite Sticky Rice Cake in one bite. But I advocate the two-bite approach for those who want to really appreciate the surprise inside.