Sugee cake is a semolina buttery cake infused with rosewater (or rose essence) , brandy and almonds which originates from another sub-ethnic group in Malaysia – the Eurasians – a mix of Indian, local, Portuguese or Dutch blood, some may trace their ancestries to Spain (and the mixed bloodline with the Moors). The word ‘sugee’ is in fact in Hindi for semolina.
This cake is so popular, it has been adopted by many Malaysians especially the peranakan (nyonya) households adapting it to their own taste – you will see the addition of candied kumquats and melons – your typical sweetener for the chinese ‘tong sooi’ – sweet soups.
This cake is unique as it has rosewater (or rose essence included) besides sugee, no doubt there is a strong influence from the Middle Eastern /South Mediterranean region. This cake is rather popular with the locals hence you can find these exotic ingredients available easily in most stores in Malaysia or Singapore.
As this cake is quite heavy so a small piece each is sufficient for most people, normally made for very very vspecial occasion or festivities.
For more on Eurasian ethnic group please see my post on Pineapple Tarts or on Eurasians in Malacca (specifically the Cristang people ) please read Celine Marbeck’s website on their culture and food heritage.
The flipside with a multicultural society is , sometimes the blending has been so well intergrated – the origins get blurred. Each subculture starts adopting one another’s cuisine heritage, sort of like cherry picking the best from one another and incorporating into their own repertoire. And the result is the younger generation have no idea of its history. That is why you see sometimes local folks themselves get confused thinking sugee cake is a nyonya delicacy which may not be entirely wrong, but it definitely does not originate from them.
I find the traditional fusion of food cultures in South East Asia, parts of Africa, Mediterranean and the Middle East, to the United States – particularly California, New Orleans very fascinating. I have not travelled to South America or the Caribbean but I am quite convinced you will find a colourful blend of fusiony foods there too.
Anyways here is a home recipe of a sugee cake. You can ice it with marzipan, buttercream (but being in Singapore due to the humidty and heat, this frosting sweats too much) or in this case simply dust icing sugar over the cake and sprinkle some organic dried rose bud petals. They are very popular as wedding cakes in Singapore and Malaysia.
- 4 oz of Self Raising Flour
- 4 oz of sugee (fine semolina)
- 2 oz of tang kua teow (candied melon pieces)+ 2 oz of candied tangerines or kumquats chopped (pulsed it through the food processor) into small pieces but not fine.
- 2 oz finely chopped almonds but not ground.
- 1 tsp rose essence or 1 tbp of rose water
- 1 tbp of brandy
- 6-8oz sugar castor depending how sweet you like the cake to be
- 8oz salted regular butter soften
- 5 eggs + 1 egg yolk – beat the eggs till fluffy and pale yellow.
Cream the butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture and blend well. Add the brandy, rose essence after. Fold in the flour + sugee into the butter/egg mixture carefully , followed by the candied melon + kumquats and almonds. Mix until well incorporated.
Pour the batter into an 8inch square baking tin lined with greased parchment paper.
Bake in 150 degrees preheated oven for 50mins-1hr or cake skewer comes out clean.