Tapioca or cassava (also called yucca, manioc and manihot) belongs to the common starchy root crops like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams and arrowroots. Tapioca is a starch made from the roots of cassava plants. It is organically gluten free, making it an excellent alternative for flour not only as a thickener but for cooking and baking as well. Cassava plant is native to South America, but it is now grown and savoured all around the world. The natives from Asia, South America and Africa have consumed it as an essential food source for many eras. Tapioca are typically manufactured into tapioca flour (tapioca starch) and tapioca pearls used mainly for desserts. Tapioca must always be consumed only after cooking and never in its raw form, as it contains very small amounts of toxin called cyanogenic glycosides, peeling and cooking will remove any traces of these composites. Tapioca or cassava are available as frozen peeled cylindrical tubers in Australia from most Asian groceries stores.
In Malaysia, there are many nonya (fusion of Chinese and Malay cuisines) desserts, tapioca or cassava cake is considered one of the many beloved nonya desserts. It is also called kuih binka ubi in Malaysian language. It is not hard to understand why it is such a favourite as tapioca has such a nutty flavour and very aromatic especially when baked into a cake. Some recipes call for eggs and butter, but for my gluten free version of this cake, I have made it vegan, dairy free, soy free, egg free, corn free and nut free.
Tapioca is a raw and natural starch food that is not only low in saturated fats and rich in protein for a vegetable, but it is an amazingly healthy and versatile food. Tapioca is an abundant source of fiber, good cholesterol and carbohydrates. It is one of the main sources of vital minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese, copper, calcium, potassium and selenium. In addition, tapioca is a reasonable source of vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and folate/folic acid (vitamin B9).
There are many health benefits of consuming tapioca or cassava, it may assist in reducing the risks of colon cancer and may decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It may also extensively reduce the bad cholesterol in our body. Recently, studies have also found that tapioca or cassava assist in supporting the central nervous system by reducing the risks of Alzheimer’s disease and migraine headaches.
- 1 kg frozen peeled tapioca cassava, defrosted and finely shredded or grated (remove any tough roots that may be present after shredding)
- 5 tablespoons tapioca flour tapioca starch
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil extra for greasing the non-stick cake pan
- 120 g caster sugar
- 270 ml gluten free coconut cream 220ml for the cake and 50ml for glazing the top of cake for browning
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 5 fresh or frozen pandan leaves washed and tied into knots
- Using a large bowl, combine the tapioca, tapioca flour, extra virgin olive oil, sugar, 220ml of coconut cream, salt, vanilla extract and pandan leave, mix and stir thoroughly. Let the mixture infuse for about 30 minutes.
- Grease a non-stick 8 inch square cake pan and line the pan with baking paper. Then remove the pandan leaves and pour the cake mixture into the pan.
- Preheat fan-forced oven to 160C or 320F.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes.
- Remove the baking pan and lightly glaze the top of the cake with 50ml of coconut cream and return to the oven and bake for additional 30 minutes or until the top of the cake browns.
- Remove from oven and let the cake cool completely before slicing with a greased knife.