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Condensed milk canned, but here's cake

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I didn't know what to expect when I started mixing the ingredients for the condensed milk cake. I imagined it would be too sweet and the crumb would be dense, and perhaps fudgy.
What a surprise I got when the cake that emerged from the oven was tender and light, with a chewy crust, airy and honeycomb-like on the inside, and a level of sweetness that didn't hurt my teeth.
If I hadn't made it myself, I would have thought, just like all those people who had a slice, that this was a steamed cake.
It actually has a very traditional look and texture to it. Cakes made in the old days in Malaysia –  before there were electric ovens –  were often steamed and/or cooked in a pot over a wood fire so the outside would be crusty and the sponge would have a lot of holes in it.
I certainly was quite happy with this.
And now, a revelation (a confession?) about this cake: It doesn't actually contain condensed milk.
There was a time when sweetened condensed milk was found everywhere. It was the preferred additive in a cup of coffee, teh tarik (pulled tea) or chocolate drink Milo. When I was a child, we would even spread it on a slice of bread and top that with a sprinkling of Milo for a sweet chocolatey snack.
But a few years ago, condensed milk was taken off the shelves in Malaysia. Gazetted as a controlled item in 1972 (the government fixed the price to ensure sufficient supply in the market), it later became too expensive to produce because of the rise in the price of milk solids. It was later phased out since it was no longer profitable for manufacturers to produce it. Well, read that as it is more profitable for export – which means you can still find it in certain shops, but be prepared to pay an astronomical price for a tin.
So what we get everywhere in Malaysia now is condensed creamer, which is palm oil-based, and to a lesser extent, condensed filled milk. I have used filled milk for this cake. I don't know how different it is from creamer (although it is also produced with palm oil), but the word "milk" in it makes me feel that I am not using something completely unnatural.
* * *

Condensed Milk Cake 
Makes 1 loaf or 17cm round cake

50g all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 medium egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
200g sweetened condensed (filled) milk (not sweetened creamer)
½ tsp baking soda
1 tbsp white vinegar

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a small loaf pan or 17cm round pan. (I will try a baba tin next time.)
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a mixing bowl.
Beat the butter until creamy. Add the egg and beat together until combined (it may look curdled). Beat in the vanilla extract and condensed milk (the batter will smooth out now).
Gradually beat in the flour mixture until combined.
Place the baking soda in a small bowl. Add the vinegar and quickly swirl together. It will foam. Stir into the batter.
Transfer batter to the prepared pan. Bake until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean, and the cake is golden, 30-35 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and place on wire rack to cool.


A few other 'sponge' cakes:
Over-The-Top Coconut Cake

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