How to Make Indonesian Honeycomb Cake: Bika Ambon

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Bika Ambon (Indonesian Honeycomb Cake) is a favorite cake from Indonesia. Its bright yellow color with bouncy texture really makes it different among other cakes. The making process is quite easy to follow, but somehow challenging.

Bika Ambon
Bika Ambon

Bika Ambon is a yellow, bouncy and fragrant cake. It is beautiful with lots of strands from the honeycomb cake texture. Sweet flavor comes with a hint of lime and lemongrass.

It is basically a honeycomb cake. Made with eggs, coconut milk and tapioca flour. The honeycomb texture comes from perfect yeast fermentation.

My first encounter with this wonderful springy cake is when I was in high school. My Mom bought it for me. I liked it right away for the pores and the bouncy texture.

The fascination grew bigger when I bought it myself when I was working in an architecture firm. Someone mentioned a quite famous bika ambon seller in North Jakarta. There was this waiting list that made me wonder.

So, I ordered this Indonesian honeycomb cake for myself. And I was so surprised that this cake could be this delightful. While eating, I kept wondering how on earth could someone create these wonderful pores in the cakes.

It was back then, when I was not interested in baking at all. Now that I entered baking and cooking world, I was intrigued to make it myself.

After several trial and error with many recipes and many baking methods, I decided on a few recipes to keep.

Origin

Bika Ambon originated in Medan, North Sumatera. It was named Bika Ambon because it was first sold on Jalan Ambon Sei Kera in Medan. Ambon is actually another province located far away from Medan.

So this Indonesian honeycomb cake is very famous with the name Bika Ambon Medan and if you go to Medan, you will notice that almost everyone will get this cake by boxes as souvenir.

Ingredients That Define The Flavor

Coconut milk mixture

The coconut milk mixture will determine the color, fragrant and texture of the cake. Keffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and pandan leaves will give an aromatic flavor. Ground turmeric will add more yellow color.

Cook the mixture until it boils. The heat will bring out the flavor even more and when you keep the coconut mixture overnight, it will even be more fragrant the next day.

If you want to use the coconut milk on the same day, please remember to leave it to cool to warm to the touch temperature before mixing it with the yeast.

The heat  will kill the yeast instantly, while the warm temperature will help ferment the whole batter perfectly. So, leave the coconut milk until warm before mixing it together with the yeast.

Eggs Or Egg Yolks?

If you research the recipe for Bika Ambon online, you will find that there are recipes that use a lot of egg yolks and some only use two or three eggs.

Egg yolks will give a beautiful yellow color to the cake, especially egg yolks from free range farm. If you use whole eggs, you can add a bit of yellow coloring with turmeric to it.

Let me tell you a sincere story. I was relucant to try making Bika Ambon because of the amount of egg yolks. I was afraid to fail baking it and having used so many eggs.

So you can try the economical version with three eggs I wrote down below. I braved myself with egg yolk version first and later tried the economical version.

Instant yeast

Dry instant yeast is the one ingredient that helps with the fermentation and gives the honeycomb structure of the cake.

Check your yeast before using it. Use warm water and stir well, leave it for 15 minutes. If it is bubbly, the yeast is still good to go.

Back in the old days, people in Medan use neera water that comes from palm’s flower. Its natural sweetness can help the fermentation in Bika Ambon Cake.

In a traditional way, neera water is used instead of instant yeast to form the honeycomb texture.

Sugar

In my baking experience, I always reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe. To me, making Bika Ambon is quite challenging. The amount of sugar in the recipe is mostly a lot.

At first, I was worried the cake would be too sweet. But later, a friend of mine told me that the sugar will be consumed by the yeast during fermentation process.

The original recipe uses regular white sugar, but you may also use palm sugar or brown sugar. The taste from palm sugar will be more caramel and nutty. But I don’t like the color of the cake.

The original Bika Ambon is bright yellow in color. It looks beautiful and more tempting or maybe I’m just used to it.

When I use palm sugar or brown sugar, the cake’s color becomes light brown. Even though the taste is unique with the caramel nutty flavor, I still like it better with the regular sugar.

Flour

The flour used for making this Indonesian honeycomb cake is mostly tapioca flour. It creates a bouncy and chewy texture.

However, there are several recipes combining tapioca flour with cake flour or with glutinous rice flour. The result is still bouncy and chewy.

You may experiment on many different recipes as long as you understand the process and follow the baking method precisely.

Baking Method

This is the crucial part of making Bika Ambon. Even though you have gone through the fermentation process successfully, this part has to be done carefully and thoroughly.

When done correctly, the honeycomb structure will shoot right from the bottom to the top of the cake. The heat must be enough to make the batter bubbly and create the pores.

Let’s go through it one by one!

Electrical Oven

When you use an electrical oven, make sure to preheat it first. Use the lower heat first at 190°C, preheat the baking pan in the oven.

Put the baking pan on the bottom rack of the oven.

After 45 – 60 minutes, turn off the low heat, and move the baking pan on the upper rack, turn on the upper heat 10°C for 5-10 minutes.

In this phase, you really have to pay attention. Do not leave it unattended.

Griddle On Stove

Another way to bake this Indonesian honeycomb cake is to use a griddle skillet made of iron. Put the griddle on top of a stove with medium heat. Preheat the griddle and the baking pan.

When using this method, you can also use a non-stick sauce pan and the lid. Other than that, you can also use a fried egg pan.

Pour the batter only when the baking pan is hot enough it sizzles.

Put on a glass lid or the sauce pan lid if you are using a sauce pan.

Sand On Stove

There is another method. You need a special iron cast pan to fill it with medium grind sand. Then you put the baking pan on top of the sand surface. The sand acts as a heat redeemer just like the skillet.

The process is the same with using a skillet on stove. You need to preheat the sand and the baking pan first with medium heat.

I myself prefer to use the skillet for the practical reason. It is easier to keep the skillet when not in use, rather than keeping the sand and the special iron cast pan.

Greasing The Pan

Most recipes will tell you to grease the pan with oil to prevent sticking. You can brush the oil thinly as the batter itself contains coconut milk.

Line the bottom of the baking pan with parchment paper to prevent sticking.

If you use a non-stick pan, you do not have to grease the pan.

Variations

Even though the original Bika Ambon is the most favorite for almost everyone who has ever tasted it, there are many variations created.

Bika Ambon Pandan is the second favorite. It is green and for many pandan lovers, this is also an irresistible option because it is so fragrant.

Jackfruit, durian, chocolate, and cheese are also variations made from this wonderful cake. Nowadays, you can also experiment with matcha green tea and earl grey.

Make sure to eliminate lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves if you want to try strong flavors like earl grey, matcha green tea, chocolate, jackfruit, or durian.

Palm sugar is also another thing to try. Unfortunately, you will lose the golden yellow color, but the palm sugar color will replace it. Anyway, it also has its own unique flavor.

Storage

A good Bika Ambon cake will be fine even if you keep it in room temperature for 2 – 3 days. I would not recommend keeping it in room temperature if it is too hot coconut milk tends to go bad fast in hot weather.

Bika Ambon will stay fresh in the chiller for up to 7 days. If you keep it in the freezer, it can stay up to one month.

This is the recipe that I have tried many times. The results have my friends and family’s approval. I am also quite satisfied with the strands of honeycomb in the cake.

Bika Ambon Original Recipe

Pan: 16x16x7 cm

Yeast mixture

  • 65 gr low protein flour
  • 100 ml warm water
  • 5 gr instant yeast

Egg yolk mixture

  • 175 gr sugar
  • 20 gr condensed milk
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 egg yolk
  • 130 gr tapioca flour

Coconut milk mixture

  • 130 gr coconut milk
  • 105 gr milk
  • 65 gr water
  • 1 lemongrass stalk
  • 4 pcs kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 pcs pandan leaves

15 gr unsalted butter (melted)

How To

  1. Put coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass stalks, pandan leaves, and salt in a sauce pan. Bring to boil on a medium heat. Keep stirring with a spatula.
put the herbs in a sauce pan indonesian honeycomb cake
  1. Turn off the stove and let it cool completely. You can also keep this overnight in the fridge to enhance the herbs flavor.
put the sauce pan on stove indonesian honeycomb cake
sieve the coconut milk indonesian honeycomb cake
  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Put in the warm coconut milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well. Cover with a cloth or a lid, let it ferment for 15-20 minutes.
mix dry ingredients indonesian honeycomb cake
stir well until incorporated indonesian honeycomb cake
  1. After 20 minutes, the yeast will already be bubbly.
yeast mixture indonesian honeycomb cake
  1. Mix eggs, sugar, and condensed milk with a whisk or hand mixer until the sugar dissolves or a little bit pale. Sieve flour into the batter.
mix egg yolk and sugar indonesian honeycomb cake
beat with medium speed indonesian honeycomb cake
beat until pale indonesian honeycomb cake
put in flour
  1. Pour in the yeast mixture. Stir well with the whisk. Cover with cloth and let it ferment for at least 60 minutes.
transfer yeast mixture into the batter indonesian honeycomb cake
add coconut milk mixture
cling wrap and ferment
  1. Preheat the oven or skillet and also the baking pan. After 60 minutes, the batter should be bubbly and rise up. Stir and pat with a spatula until the bubble subsides. Pour in the melted butter. Mix evenly.
after 60 minutes of fermentation bika ambon
  1. Pour into a hot baking pan. Be careful, always put on your baking gloves. Spray some water to test if the baking pan is hot enough.
spray some water into the baking pan to check the heat bika ambon
pour into the hot baking pan bika ambon
  1. Put the pan on the lower rack in the electrical oven. Put a wet cloth at the bottom of the baking pan. Bake with lower heat 190°C for 45-60 minutes. Check with a skewer if the cake is done or not. If the skewer comes out clean, it is done and you can move it to the upper rack.
put at the lower rack with a wet cloth at the base bika ambon
test with a skewer bika ambon
  1. Afterwards, turn off the lower heat and turn on the upper heat 180°C for 5-10 minutes to let the surface dry a little bit.
turn on the upper heat and move to the upper rack bika ambon
  1. Please watch over it if you are baking this cake for the first time, do not leave it unattended. For me, 6-7 minutes is enough to make the surface a little brownish.
let the surface change color to brownish bika ambon
  1. Take out of the oven and let it cool completely.
  2. Enjoy your honeycomb cake!

look at the honeycomb texture bika ambon

Note

  • Always heat up the baking pan before pouring the batter. Be careful. Use baking gloves.
  • For this recipe, if you want to make the bika ambon pandan version, take out the lemongrass, lime leaves and substitute with pandan extract. The rest of the steps are the same.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: What gives Bika Ambon its honeycomb texture?

A: The honeycomb texture in Bika Ambon is the result of yeast fermentation. The yeast produces carbon dioxide, creating bubbles. With the proper fermentation and baking technique, the excellent honeycomb texture will come out.

Q: Can I use a different type of flour instead of tapioca flour?

A: Tapioca flour is the most important ingredient in this cake. It gives Bika Ambon its chewy texture. There are recipes that combine tapioca flour with wheat flour, rice flour, or glutinous rice flour. However, tapioca is still needed as the main ingredient.

Q: How long can Bika Ambon be stored and how should I store it?

A: Bika Ambon is best consumed right after baking. If you keep it in airtight container in room temperature, it can stay up to 3 days. If you want to keep it longer, you can keep it in the fridge for up to a week. Keeping it frozen can be up to one month.

Q: Why does my Bika Ambon not rise to the top?

A: There are several factors that need to be checked. Check the yeast, it might be expired or the fermentation time might not be enough or the baking temperature is not high enough.

Q: Can Bika Ambon be vegan or dairy free?

A: Coconut milk is already dairy-free. You may substitute milk in the recipe with water or coconut milk. Substitute the eggs with flaxseed meal or chia seeds if you want it for your vegan friends.

Q: How to know if the batter is fermented properly?

A: The batter will have bubble appearance on the surface. If you are not sure, you can extend the fermentation process a bit longer.

Conclusion

Baking this Indonesian honeycomb cake takes some practice, so give yourself some time. If you are not successful in the first attempt, do not get discouraged. Try again, make sure you understand the steps and correct the wrong steps on the second trial.

It is possible to bake this cake at home by yourself. Choose the most convenient method for yourself.

With patience and practice, you can master this delightful cake. Happy baking!

If you like this Indonesian honeycomb cake recipe, you might want to check Malaysian Honeycomb cake and Mini Bika Ambon Pandan, which also has many holes created by fermentation. They are really worth trying!

Check out Pukis recipe and other Traditional Desserts!

Please tag me on my Instagram if you decide to try making this Indonesian honeycomb cake. I would certainly give a thumbs up and comment.

bika ambon

BIKA AMBON

Yield: 16x16 cm pan
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes

Bika Ambon is a unique honeycomb cake from Medan, Indonesia. Here is the simple recipe and tips to bake it successfully!

Ingredients

Yeast Mixture

  • 65 gr high protein flour
  • 100 gr warm water
  • 5 gr instant yeast

Egg Mixture

  • 8 egg yolk
  • 195 gr sugar (175 gr sugar+20 gr)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 130 gr tapioca flour
  • 130 gr coconut milk
  • 65 gr water
  • 105 gr milk
  • 15 gr melted butter

Instructions

    1. Put coconut milk and milk with lemongrass stalk, lime leaves, and pandan leaves in a saucepan. Bring to simmer while keep stirring with a spatula.
    2. Turn off the stove. Sieve the coconut milk, set aside, and let it cool completely.
    3. Put 65 gr flour, 100 ml warm water and 5 gr instant yeast in a bowl. Mix with a spatula until well blended. Cover with cling wrap, let the yeast work for 15 minutes.
    4. After 15 minutes, the yeast mixture should be bubbly. If not, you need to redo again, the yeast is probably expired.
    5. In another bowl, put in egg yolks, sugar, salt, and vanilla powder or extract. Mix until the sugar dissolves or the batter is quite pale.
    6. Put in the tapioca flour into the egg yolk mixture. Blend well. Transfer the bubbly yeast mixture into it. Mix well.
    7. Pour in coconut milk mixture in parts. Mix with low speed.
    8. Cover with cling wrap, let it ferment for at least 2 hours.
    9. After 2 hours, stir the batter until the bubbles are gone.
    10. Preheat the oven and put the baking pan to preheat it too.
    11. Pour the batter into the hot baking pan. Bake at the lower rack of the oven with only lower heat 190°C for 40-50 minutes.
    12. Check with a bamboo stick to see if it is done.
    13. After that, move the pan to the middle rack, turn on the upper heat 180°C for 5-10 minutes.
    14. Please always check the top to prevent it overly done. When it is a little brownish, it is enough.
    15. Let it out and let it cool completely before cutting it.
    16. Enjoy!



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