celebrating culture and tradition

kek batik1

Last Sunday marked the end of Ramadan here in Singapore, and in the last week, Muslim households have been abuzz with activities. Every year, there always seems to be a mad last minute flurry of baking, cooking, cleaning, decorating, and for some, it includes trips to the bank to change money to smaller denominations for the visiting little ones;– the culture here is for the working adults to give the young and elderly token sums of money when they go/come visiting.

Times may have changed, and societal culture definitely has evolved over the years, but Hari Raya Aidilfitri here never fails to bring out the purest and most colourful of traditions in all Malays, be it the older generation or the younger ones. Decked in ethnic clothes, families and relatives visit one another, exchanging well wishes and more importantly, seeking forgiveness for past wrongdoings and mistakes. In a way, Hari Raya Aidilfitri inadvertently becomes a pinnacle and manifestation of the individual’s self-reflection and repentance following the prior month of fasting.

Some say that since we fast for a whole month, therefore the celebration should last for the whole month of Syawal. Because of that, Hari Raya visiting usually lasts the whole month, with the first one or two weeks between families and relatives, while the last two weeks are mostly organised visits amongst friends, particularly the younger generation. In light of the month-long visitors, many houses seem to run out of traditional Hari Raya dishes towards the end of the month, so here’s a super easy non-bake cake recipe you can quickly whip up the day before you’re expecting guests.

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Kek Batik (Batik Cake) is said to have originated in Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the Borneo islands, and due to its proximity, became a popular fixture in the Hari Raya celebrations on the other Borneo islands as well;– Sabah and Brunei. Batik refers to the symmetric and typically repetitive pattern using a wax-dyeing technique prevalent in Indonesia and the Southeast Asian region. Traditionally, the colours used were dark brown and white, much like the patterns on each slice of this Kek Batik, hence the name.

Truth be told, I’ve never tasted Kek Batik before this, but in my search for cake recipes to bake this Hari Raya, I was definitely attracted to the fact that this was non-bake (yes ladies, you don’t even need the oven for this; just plonk it into the refrigerator!) and absolutely hassle-free. A quick google search would land you with a whole lot of varying recipes, but the fundamental concoction remains;– the dark brown comes from Milo (chocolate malt powder), whereas the intricate white pattern comes from broken pieces of Marie biscuits (a type of graham cracker commonly used in Malay desserts).

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Due to the myriad of recipes, I’ve noticed that there are varying descriptions of each slice, ranging in texture all the way from cakey brownie to hard fudge (candy). Three main determining factors lie in the ratio of fat-liquid proportion people tweak with, duration of heating the mixture till the ‘custard’ stage, and the duration of refrigeration. Those who freeze the loaf instead of refrigerating it would describe the cake to be more of a fudge candy, whereas the ones who refrigerate it for a couple of hours described them to be more of a chocolate pudding.

The recipe and method I’m sharing today boasts a great mixture of Milo and cocoa powder for those who fear it being too sweet, with an overnight refrigeration that would yield a soft and fudgey chocolatey cake (it can’t be Kek Batik if it’s not exactly cake, can it?) that proved its worth by being the first of all the cakes to be wiped out clean from the cake tray, lasting only two days. The only gripe is that you really must serve this chilled, which means that you have to keep it in the fridge until the guests arrived, but for something this good, even my mother had no qualms about it taking up her refrigerator space.

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Batik Marie Cake
(adapted from here)

100g milo (any sweet chocolate malt powder will do)
25g cocoa powder
125ml boiling water
190g butter
200ml sweetened condensed milk
90g white granulated sugar
5 eggs, lightly beaten
250g Marie biscuits (any graham crackers will do), broken into rough quarters

  1. Grease and line a 23cm x 9cm x 7cm deep loaf tin (or other loaf tin with a capacity of at least 5 cups or 1.25L) with baking paper, extending paper 2-3cm above edge of tin.
  2. In a deep saucepan, slowly add boiling water to milo and cocoa, stirring vigorously until it is smooth. Add butter, sweetened condensed milk, sugar, and eggs to the mixture.
  3. Place the saucepan over moderate heat and cook, stirring all the time with a whisk or a spoon, until you feel the bottom starts to thicken, about 5 minutes.
  4. Turn heat down to low, and continue to cook, stirring without stopping, for about another 20-25 minutes until a thick custard forms. (refer to recipe notes)
  5. Turn off the heat, and stir in the quartered biscuits. Mix until all the biscuits are coated with the custard.
  6. Transfer mixture to the prepared tin. Press down firmly so there are no air pockets in the mixture. Fold the paper extensions over the top and press down to even the surface. Then let cool to the touch.
  7. Cover with cling film, and refrigerate overnight.
  8. When the cake is firm, use the paper extension as handle to pull the cake out of the tin. Slice and serve chilled.

Recipe Notes:
It may look like the custard will never thicken, and when it already has, you may feel like it has thickened enough. I’ve found that the best way to gauge is when the mixture is reduced to about half of its original amount, and when stirring, you can actually see the mixture coagulate together, scraping off the sides of the pan perfectly; i.e. you don’t see any liquid remnants at the sides of the pan.

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33 thoughts on “celebrating culture and tradition

  1. the mister

    Hah! Kek batik! I’ve never heard of this delicious looking concoction before….

    Looks goose! :D

    Ooooh…. You think it’s possible to make like a rainbow batik cupcake?

    Reply
  2. grace

    thank you for the cultural lesson, and for a unique and spectacular recipe! i’m sure i’ve never eaten anything like this, but i want to do so immediately!

    Reply
  3. ovenhaven Post author

    bie: Ooooh, that sure sounds good, but since the white comes from biskut marie, I can’t quite think of what would contribute to rainbow colours :)

    The Little Teochew:
    Great sight! That’s actually rainbow cake :)

    grace: Oh do give it a try! You can easily substitute the biscuits with any graham crackers or digestive biscuits :)

    Reply
  4. Thumbie

    Sweetheart! My bf’s brother utterly ADORES this CAKE and I’d been searching for a good recipe to try! I’m rather averse to trying online recipes without pictures, but this is PERFECT coming from you! Thanks to you I can look forward to impressing the bf’s mom and brother soon (hopefully!), this has climbed to the top of my to-”bake” list! Perfect points for execution, your layers are so divinely perfect!

    Sarawak has so many cakes that are so aesthetically pleasing especially the Kek Lapis Sarawak!

    Reply
  5. jean-marie

    OMG so pretty! I clicked on d link,& it really looks like batik!

    Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to you and your family, doll! :D

    Reply
  6. ovenhaven Post author

    Thumbie: Glad to have helped you out, sweetie! Hope that it will turn out the best for you :) And yes, the Kek Lapis Sarawak is utter madness I tells ya! I’ve only recently discovered that there are even some where they’ll actually form SELAMAT HARI RAYA on the side using the layers! FUYOH…

    jean-marie: Thanks, babe!

    Reply
  7. ingrid

    Month long party? I’m in. LOL! I really enjoy reading about your culture and traditions as well as the recipes that you pass along. This one looks like a dessert that would go over well with a group of kiddos that I know! :)
    ~ingrid

    Reply
  8. ovenhaven Post author

    tracieMoo: Thanks, sweetie!

    ingrid: Glad to share a little of the culture here! Surprisingly, this dessert was a hit among the adults (currently company included, of course) :P

    Natalie: Oooh, I like the fact that the measurements for your recipe are easy to remember! Thanks for sharing the link; will try out yours :)

    Thumbie: Thanks for the heads up, sweetz! :)

    bie: Thanks, love! :)

    Reply
  9. Thumbie

    Hi dear, thought you’d might like to know my results with this recipe! Followed everything to a T, and the chocolate custard did thicken up as I stirred continuously. However, the texture of the custard seemed “off” because it had a speckled consistency, as it seemed like the eggs had curdled, but I pressed on anyway, hoping that the texture would change after being chilled.

    I was so happy to note the next evening that the texture of the chilled fudge had changed completely, and it turned out to be rather smooth and creamy! Cutting into the layers was such a visual treat, with every unique slice! So I happily brought it to my SO’s place as I mentioned earlier coz his brother loves this cake. It so happened that he also tried this cake with his mom’s recipe and his version looked so much more visually appealing than mine! His was too GORGEOUS where mine paled in comparison but when it came to the taste test, many said your recipe was tastier as it had more chocolate flavour and tasted like ice-cream (must be from the FIVE eggs!). Thanks so much for sharing your recipe! :)

    Reply
  10. ovenhaven Post author

    Awww, I’m glad it worked out well for you, dearie! About the speckled consistency, sounds like you might have ‘cooked’ the eggs, which suggests that your initial heat was a tad too high, so you might wanna watch out for that the next time :) Thanks for the review! And do update your blog when you can; miss your entries.

    Reply
  11. Wirinna

    Selamat Hari Raya!

    Guess what, I had my first try doing this Kek Batik juz before Ramadhan.
    Though the recipe I had was wif Nescafe powder instead of Milo.
    My question is, how does yours taste like? Mine was a little overpowered by the Nescafe but still yummy.

    Will definitely try your recipe soon.

    Reply
  12. ovenhaven Post author

    Nescafe powder sounds like a good twist to the recipe! Kek Batik’s typically made with purely Milo, and add that to the condensed milk, I reckon it’d be a literal sugar shot to the head. With the cocoa powder added, it takes the sweetness down a notch (plus I’ve reduced the amt of sugar from the original recipe source), but I find that it’s still sufficiently sweet and really fudgey. I’m not sure if one can actually pick out the Milo flavour, but it’s definitely chocolatey, though not cloyingly sweet (which was my main trepidation actually).

    Hope you’ll try this recipe out, and that you’ll enjoy it :)

    Oh, and Selamat Hari Raya to you too!

    Reply
  13. Pingback: :: Snappy Treats :: Baking is a snap! :: Thankful Thursdays* - Batik Cake (Kek Batik) :: October :: 2009 Baking and Cake Decorating with Fondant (Singapore)

  14. Sarah

    Hi, I only just saw your post but had to let you know that this is identical to one of my favourite things whilst living in Turkey – Mozaik Pasta! It’s sometimes made using a packet of chocolate pudding to hold the biscuits together, and is delicious. Thanks for bringing back the memories!

    Reply
  15. ovenhaven Post author

    Hi Sarah, I just googled Mozaik Pasta and it looks similar! Looks like there are variations of this all over;– hedgehog slice in Australia, and now I’ve learnt that there’s mozaik pasta in Turkey. Given its fudgey deliciousness, it’s only right to have it all over the world!

    Reply
  16. royalhighness789

    Hi! I just wanted to say that I used your recipe and it came out beautifully. It is absolutely delicious. It took me a really long time to get the custard to thicken, but I think it was because I had the heat on too low. After 25 min. of not thickening, I turned the heat up slightly and it worked. So thank you so much for the recipe! I think I will probably be making it again.

    Reply
  17. Pingback: Batik Cake « Serendipity

  18. emiliaduka

    hell0! it’s been a while since i last visited ur webbie or any others for tat matter!! anyways, i’m definitely trying this recipe for hari raya haji!… i tot u’d have to steam the cake layer by layer and tat put me off.. seems like this sounds easy enuff except for that stirring constantly bit!.. hahhaha… wish me luck! ;) and thanks f0r the recipe!

    Reply
  19. ovenhaven Post author

    Best of luck, sweetz! I’m sure you’ll do a great job. The stirring bit, you don’t have to put it on too low a heat, just moderate will do. Asalkan tak terhangus :P Hope you’ll like it!

    Reply
  20. Sarah@buttered-up

    THIS is so so so awesome. I wish it wasn’t almost 11 p.m. and I wish I had Marie biscuits at home. We tend to use marie biscuits as well in Egypt btw. I’m definitely bookmarking this for later. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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