How to Make Cassava Cake (Balinghoy, Kamoteng Kahoy)

cassava cake

Cassava cake is one of my favorite merienda during my college years. A regular slice was so affordable and power packed with carbohydrates that can fill in my angry stomach. Studying consumes a lot of energy so a regular refill was necessary.

My mom occasionally cooks cassava cake. Though it’s a little short of ingredients. She is just adding little sugar to grated cassava. Then cook it on frying fan over a very low fire. The method is like frying egg without cooking oil. The resulting cake is tougher than what I used to buy from school canteen.

Today, she just cooked a cassava cake. Her recipe is different from my mom’s. Here it is!

cassava cake

Ingredients:
1/2 kilogram cassava (balinghoy, kamoteng kahoy)
1/4 kilogram refined or brown sugar
1 medium can of evaporated milk
margarine

Procedure:
1) Wash cassava thoroughly under running water to remove all adhering soils. Rinse well. Be sure to choose cassava that are not more than one year old – those are doubt to have high levels of toxic cyanide. Buy raw materials only from trusted sources.

2) Too peel off cassava, make a narrow spring like cut pattern and gently prick off the peel continuously. The peel and flesh adhesiveness is weak so it can be peeled off easily.

3) Repeat washing.

4) Grate on a stainless steel grater. Care should be taken not to include the thin woody strand along the center.

5) Transfer the grated kamoteng kahoy to a mixing bowl. Add evaporated milk and sugar. (Brown sugar is preferred for health reasons though it results to a not so appealing cake color.) Mix well until smooth.

6) Fill mixture to aluminum molds (lyanera). Apply thin coat of margarine before filling to facilitate easy removal. Banana leaves can be placed on lyanera as alternative. Leave an inch head space.

5) Preheat the cooking oven to 400ºF.  Baked for 30 minutes at the set temperature.

6) If a cooking oven is not available, the mixture can be steamed for 45 minutes. Texture will slightly differ.

7) Top with grated cheese while still hot. Can also be done before cooking.

The Poisonous Cyanide in Cassava

cassava

Cassava (Manihot esculenta) root is long and tapered, with a firm homogeneous flesh encased in a detachable rind, about 1 mm thick, rough and brown on the outside.

When I was  in high school years. My mom and dad always plant cassava in our farm and sell it for a living. I love broiled and boiled cassava without knowing that the food I was eating contain cyanide.

cassava

Cyanide is a naturally occurring chemical, generally considered to be poisonous if consumed in large amounts.Exposure to high levels of cyanide for a short time harms the brain and heart and can even cause coma and death. Workers who inhaled low levels of hydrogen cyanide over a period of years had breathing difficulties, chest pain, vomiting, blood changes, headaches, and enlargement of the thyroid gland.

Cyanides are naturally present in plants. Amounts are usually low in the edible portion but are higher in cassava. Pits and seeds of common fruits, such as soursop, apricots, apples, and peaches, may have substantial amounts of cyanide.

Cassava roots and leaves cannot be consumed raw because they contain two cyanogenic glucosides, linamarin and lotaustralin. Cassava varieties are often categorized as either sweet or bitter.  The  sweet cultivars can produce as little as 20 milligrams of cyanide per kilogram of fresh roots, while bitter variety may produce 50 times as more, 1 g/kg. Cassavas grown during drought are especially high in these toxins. A  40 mg of pure cassava cyanogenic glucoside is sufficient to kill a cow.

A safe processing method is to mix the cassava flour with water to form a  thick paste and then let it stand in  shade for five hours in a thin layer spread in tray. Through this method, 5/6 of the cyanogenic glycosides are broken down by the linamarase; the resulting hydrogen cyanide escapes to the atmosphere, making the flour safe for consumption .The traditional method used in West Africa is to peel the roots and put them into water for 3 days to ferment.

More info at ATSDR .