On my global hunt this month for local holiday food traditions, I surfaced one of the most humble treats in the world. Called Bibingka (“bee-bing-ka”), it’s a Filipino coconut cake made with locally available rice flour, eggs, milk and cane sugar. Often made in December when the tropical weather cools, it’s one of the reasons it has earned a reputation as the most traditional Christmas treat, carried along by each generation.
In rural areas where modern appliances aren’t available. the cake is baked in banana leaves in a clay oven with hot coals under and on top of the dish, giving it a caramelized top crust.  Making this dish can be time consuming, so many holiday-goers will usually buy their bibingka from street vendors or substitute well-greased muffin or cake pans if they’re baking their own.
If you’re going to dive in and make this for the holidays, be sure to sprinkle with sugar or salt, and shredded coconut as soon as it comes out of the oven.  Watch this video for a quick lesson that you can easily replicate to bring the local flavor of the Philippines to your holiday table.
If you’d like to give this a try in your own kitchen sans banana leaves, try this recipe, from Zestuous.com. For a gluten-free option, try Bob’s Red Mill Rice Flour. Located in Portland, Oregon, they produce a silky flour…that is stoneground and organic!

Image by Chotda.