These patches of bright light on my desk are rare, taking on sharp edges, hurting and twisting against the grim dark wall that is my computer screen shadow. A rare occasion, this sunlight. Its splendour screams safe but isn’t as unassuming and comforting as the 8am spillover of soft winter light, which funnily enough I do miss. Soft and unassuming. Just like the pot of homemade kaya sent all the way from Singapore. I can imagine my grandmother churning away with those pandan leaves on the weekend, thinking about how I would find her new recipe, sugar ratios in tow.
With school inevitably comes times of doubt and stress. I carefully pulled apart the bubble wrap neatly taped around the large tub of green. The smell of home propped my spirit on an invisible high horse and sent me straight to her kitchen thousands of miles away for a good 30 seconds. School didn’t exist for a good 30 seconds, too. Just standing there, one could believe nothing more than the present and past. Let the worries fade, let the senses of Now take over, and bake a cake.
There would seem to be a worrying mildness about kaya, yet when put together in a sea of cake batter and soft apple, its head pops out above the rest, an unmistakable coconutty hit serving well to blunt this seed of nonchalance.
A soft, cinnamony kaya apple cake, sandwiched with kaya, to be eaten only with something deliciously cold and creamy, as per pretty much everything I make.
This is an incredibly soft cake, more so than any of my other previous recipes. I suggest upping the amount of sugar by a few tablespoons for a more robust edge and crust, and feel free to use any sort of kaya; it need not be your traditional green kaya, for I envision the brown Hainanese sort works just as well, tailing along a more honeyed depth of sweet. And of course, the raisins are not de rigueur..
As usual, all substitutions are optional and vegan.
Kaya Apple Cake (makes one 9 inch cake)
200g plain flour
60g butter (sub: flavourless oil or vegan butter)
100g kaya+ 100g for the fun sandwiching bit
1 egg (sub: one banana)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda (eliminate if using self-raising flour)
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g raisins (optional)
190g chopped apple, peeled and cored (around 1 1/2 apples)
Preheat your oven to 177C and grease a 9-inch pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, sugar and salt. In a separate heat-safe bowl, heat the applesauce and butter together, either in a microwave or on a stove. Whisk in the egg, 100g of kaya and vanilla. Tip your raisins and chopped apple into the dry mix, before tipping in the wet applesauce mix. Mix everything together until just combined, then pour into your pan and bake for 35 minutes.
Once out, let cool for at least 10 minutes and ready the extra kaya. Cut the cake down the middle of the pan. Spread the remaining kaya onto the first half, sandwich with the second half, then cut everything into bars. Serve á la mode!