Sugee cake is a nutty, semolina-rich dessert that’s not unlike an all-American butter cake, only it originates from the Malay Peninsula during colonial times. Today, they’re baked by Eurasian families in the region, a culinary constant throughout the ups and downs of life, baked for celebrations big and small, joyous or otherwise, eaten through laughter and tears.
- Toast the semolina in an oven heated to 320°F for 15-20 minutes, until it turns a light shade of brown, making sure not to let it smoke and burn. When done, remove the semolina from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, cream the butter and the first ¼ cup of sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix it on medium-high for 2-3 minutes, until it becomes pale and fluffy. Then mix in the semolina flour until well combined, and transfer this mixture in a bowl and let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the semolina to hydrate.
- While waiting, grease and line a loaf cake tin with baking paper. (You can double the recipe if you’re using a larger cake tin.)
- Separate the egg whites and yolks, and whip up the egg whites in the mixer (with the whisk attachment this time) until it reaches soft peaks. Then add in the salt and the second portion of sugar, and continue whipping it until it reaches medium peaks. For the best results, make sure the stand mixer bowl is cleaned out with soap after step 1, as any butter will inhibit the egg whites’ ability to fluff up. Transfer the meringue to a separate bowl.
- In the same mixer, pour in the egg yolks, brandy, and the last ¼ cup of sugar. Let it mix briefly for 30 seconds to 1 minute until the mixture doubles in volume and turns slightly pale. Add in the semolina butter mixture and beat for 10-20 seconds until well incorporated.
- Combine the ground almonds, all-purpose flour, and baking powder together. Now, fold in the dry ingredients and the meringue into the egg yolk and semolina mixture, incorporating it in 3-4 batches, alternating between the dry ingredients and meringue, and ending with meringue.
- Transfer the cake batter into the lined loaf cake tin, and bake for 35-45 minutes, until a cake tester or skewer poked into the cake comes out clean. When done, remove it from the oven and leave the cake to cool down in the tin for 20-30 minutes before taking it out. Then slice it into 1-inch-thick pieces and serve!
Yi Jun Loh is a freelance writer and cook. An engineer by training, he immersed himself into the food industry right after graduating from Cambridge, learning to cook in Paris and then at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York. He is now based in Malaysia, obsessing over food culture and science through his blog Jun & Tonic.