It’s Christmas everywhere and in the Philippines no other treat says Christmas more than this rice cake. It’s available year round in most places. During the Christmas season, churches everywhere will have vendors setting up shop in the wee hours of the morning. These vendors will be selling bibingka or puto bumbong and cooking them right in their stalls. The Catholic faithful who hear the early morning novena mass before Christmas all flock to these stalls for their bibingka. It makes a perfect breakfast with your coffee or hot cocoa.
The best way to cook these cakes is in shallow pans made of clay lined with banana leaves set up over hot coals with more live coals on a movable tin cover to cook the top. My version is oven-baked for convenience. This was my first time to make this and I was not all that impressed by how it turned out. When I took it to my mom’s for merienda however, they all liked it. Youngest Sister even said the only thing missing was the distinct smell when you cook something over live coals….something we always called “charcoal smell.”
The toppings may not be readily available. The salted duck’s eggs can be homemade but it will take a couple of weeks to cure. The Filipino quesong puti is similar to the Mexican queso fresco or queso blanco. The Philippine version uses carabao’s milk and thus, richer. As for the coconut milk, there’s nothing like fresh since it has a natural sweetness you can’t get from canned coconut milk. If you are in a pinch, use cow’s milk or the canned/powdered coconut milk.
Here are the ingredients:
2 c. Jasmine or other fragrant long grain rice variety
2 c. water
3/4 to 1 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter
1 c. coconut milk
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
sliced salted duck’s eggs
sliced quesong puti
Soak rice overnight in the water to soften the grains. Put grains in a food processor and grind on high until fine. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350F.
Prepare two 8-inch round pans by lining with banana leaves that have been wiped clean and heated over an open flame to make it flexible.
Beat eggs, sugar and butter until frothy. Add the rest of the ingredients, not including duck’s egg and cheese. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and top with eggs and cheese.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middles comes out clean.
Serve with freshly grated coconut meat.