Kuih talam is another well-liked Nyonya or Peranakan cake in Southeast Asia. Peranakan cuisine is the fusion of Chinese and Malay cuisines due to intermarriages between the Chinese and Malay population. Nonya or Peranakan cuisines are reknown for their colourful, flavourful and delicious kuihs. These kuihs are usually made from a range of customary ingredients like coconut cream or milk, grated coconut, pandan (screwpine) leaves and palm sugar (gula Melaka). Common starches used are rice flour, glutinous rice flour, glutinous rice, tapioca flour and mung bean (green peas) flour. Wheat flour is not used in these type of kuihs, so making them naturally gluten free and a fantastic dessert for people on a gluten free diet. These kuihs can be eaten during breakfast, as an afternoon snack or as desserts.
“Talam” literally means “tray” in Malay language, meaning cake steamed in a tray. There are two layers to the cake, the bottom layer is usually sweet and the top layer slightly savoury. Typically the bottom layer is made from pandan (screwpine) leaves and top layer is made of coconut milk or cream. Rice flour and tapioca flour and sometime mung bean (green pea) flour are added to both layers for its unique soft and pudding like firm consistency. The appearance of kuih talam is usually creamy white on top and green at the bottom. Other modern variations of the bottom layer of kuih talam are made from sweet potatoes, taro (purple yam), palm sugar or tapioca (cassava), mango and even durian. For my gluten free recipe, I am using pumpkins for the bottom layer and this recipe is vegan, dairy free, soy free, nut free, corn free, egg free and refined sugar free.
Pumpkin is a cultivated squash plant, usually Cucurbita pepo family. Pumpkin has its origin in North America and ancient proof showed that pumpkin seeds dated as far back as 5500 to 7000 BC, were discovered in Mexico. They are extensively cultivated for commercial uses for consumption as food and for recreational uses. Pumpkins are a traditional food staple for Thanksgiving and for making jack-o-lanterns during Halloween for many centuries in the United States and Canada. The term pumpkin came from ancient Greek “Pepon”, meaning large melon. The French modified the word to Pompon, then the British changed the word to Pumpion and was later transformed to the modern word Pumpkin by the Americans. Pumpkins are very popular and versatile as they can be cooked in so many different ways, included into main meals, soups, salads, preserves and desserts and as a substitute for butter. They are an enormously nutrient-dense food that is high in fibre and low in calories as well.
In general, pumpkins is an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin c (ascorbic acid). They are also a good source of vitamin E, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), manganese, potassium and copper. Furthermore, they are a moderate source of vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B5 (panthothenic acid), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), folic acid (folate), phosphorus, iron and magnesium. Health benefits of pumpkins include: promote weight loss and reduce risks of obesity; may prevent diabetes; lower blood pressure; decrease risks of cardiovascular diseases, promote healthy skin and hair; maintain eye health; increase fertility; boosts the immune system and may reduce risks of certain types of cancer.
For bottom layer:
- 1 kg 2.2Ib/35.2oz pumpkin flesh, Cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces
- 135 g 4.8oz rice flour
- 50 g 1.8oz tapioca flour
- 3 tablespoons agave syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 160 ml coconut milk
For Top layer:
- 100 g 3.5oz rice flour
- 50 g 1.8oz tapioca flour
- 100 g 3.5oz desiccated coconut
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons agave syrup
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup 250ml water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 8 inch deep square cake pan
For the bottom layer:
- Heat up a large wok half filled with water, place a large plate over a steaming rack in the wok and add all the pumpkin pieces. Cover with lid and steam on medium heat for 10 minutes or until all the pumpkin pieces are soft.
- Remove plate and place all the pumpkins in a large bowl, mash well with a potato masher.
- In another large bowl, mix the rice flour and tapioca flour with a whisk. Then add in the coconut milk, agave syrup and vanilla extract, whisk and mix well.
- Follow by adding all the mashed pumpkin into the flour mixture in step 3. Whisk until all the ingredients are well combined.
- Line the bottom of an 8 inch square cake pan with baking/parchment paper. Pour the pumpkin mixture in step 4 into the cake pan.
- Heat up the wok half filled with water again, bring to a boil. Place the cake pan onto the steaming rack. Cover with lid and steam on medium heat for 25 minutes.
For the Top Layer:
- Mix all the rice flour, tapioca flour and desiccated coconut in a large bowl, whisk and mix well.
- Then add in all the coconut milk, agave syrup, vanilla extract, water and salt. Whisk all the ingredients together until well combined.
- Pour the top layer mixture onto the top of the cooked pumpkin bottom layer in the cake pan.
- Cover with lid and steam for 30 minutes. Ensure that there is enough water in the wok.
- Cool and refrigerate for few hours or overnight before slicing.
6 thoughts on “Pumpkin and Coconut Layered Cake (Kuih Talam)”
Can I use canned puree pumpkins?
Yes, you can use canned puree pumpkins. Hope you enjoy the recipe! 🙂
I’ve never had a steamed cake, sounds so delicious. I noticed you’re using tapioca flour, but I’m not sure I can get it in Slovenia. Do you think I could use tapioca pearls nd grind them?
Use Your Noodles
Tapioca pearls are made from tapioca (cassava) flour, you can use finely ground tapioca pearls since they are made from the same tapioca starch. Also try finding tapioca flour from any Asian groceries stores. 🙂
My goodness this looks utterly heavenly! I bet it tastes amazing!!!
Thanks Elizabeth! It is very delicious indeed. 🙂