Kukus & Jam!
A CAKE FOR ALL SEASONS.
KEK ATI PAREK is originally called "Kukus 8 jam" (literally meaning "to steam for 8 hours") because the cake takes 8 hours of steaming to complete the process.
Although it is difficult to establish the origins of this cake, there are many variations from our diverse cultures. Known also as Kek Hitam, Kuih Negro or Kek Belacan (only because of the colour, thank goodness...), these variations usually have added chocolate or horlicks flavours and are "not traditional" according to Norkiah Abdul Wahab, a Maths teacher at SMK Tun Abang Haji Openg. "I started making this cake at the age of 7. But today, the pouring of boiling and bubbling syrup into the cake mixture is too difficult and stressful for me to handle it alone."
This particular recipe, originally from Norkiah's mother has been passed on first to her mother's sister and now to cousin Noranisah binti Bujang who has for the past few years taken over the responsibility to continue with this family tradition. Less popular than the Kek Lapis which has only been around for about 10 years, Kek Ati Perak is their most ordered cake during the Hari Raya and Christmas seasons.
The taste of this cake brings one to wonder if there is an influence from the English Christmas Pudding.
"I want to retain this tradition because Kek Ati Parek is less known".
NORANISAH BINTI BUJANG,Traditional Cake Maker
Pouring the bubbling hot sugar syrup into the dough mixture is the most challenging part.
"The taste is amazing. It reminds me of the English Christmas pudding"! PENELOPE D'ARCY GRAHAM, English Cake Artist and Instructor
Pour ready-made liquid browning sugar or home-made brown sugar caramel into the dough mixture.
Arcy Graham a master cake artist residing in England tasted the Kek Ati Parek and remarked on the similarity. "No English Christmas is complete without the meal finale of a steamed Christmas Pudding, however the truth is that most diners are far too full by this stage in the meal to eat it, or quite simply don't like it! This is where the "black cake" would be a perfect alternative; incredibly light and moist, it holds all the characteristics of the traditional English 'plum pudding' but better! It is so flavoursome and tasty, bursting with fruits but with none of the heaviness of the English version. A truly tasty treat that I wish these colder isles would adopt!'
Ati Parek, says Noranisah can last for one whole year without being kept in the fridge. As to keeping this recipe a secret, Norkiah remarks with a laugh "If it was kept a secret, I would not have known how to make it!"
It is of course no secret that traditons and cultures are best kept current through sharing.
Traditional Kek Ati Parek
makes one 10" x 10" cake
10 egg yolks
5 egg whites 500gmbutter
1100gm of white sugar
2 tbsp. soda bicarbonate
950gm white flour
500gm of black raisins (Traditionally, each and every raisin is cut into 3 pieces with scissors).
Chop coarsely and sprinkle some flour to separate the pieces.
6 tbsp. of liquid browning sugar*.
– Blend 700gms sugar and butter until smooth.
– Add in the 10 egg yolks and 5 whites.
– Add the flour.
– Pour the mixture into a big container.
– Add the 6 tbsp. of browning sugar and stir well.
PREPARING THE SYRUP
Melt the remaining 400 gm of sugar, stir continually until it bubbles up.
POUR INTO THE DOUGH MIXTURE
Immediately remove boiling syrup from heat and pour into the big container that holds the prepared dough mixture. Stir very quickly to avoid the sugar caramelising.
Pour into a 10 x 10 inch square alluminium cake mold. Leave for a full hour to cool down completely.
STEAM FOR 8 HOURS
Every 3 hours during the steaming process, press down the cake with a flat object to make it more compact. Traditionally, this step is not included resulting in a much thicker cake.
* Liquid browning sugar is sold in bottles at the local supermarket. Or prepare 400 gm of brown sugar to make the brown caramel.
Black in colour from the raisins and browning syrup, Ati Perak has simple ingredients and cooking directions. Although the cake has a shelf life of a year, it is most likely to be devoured within the hour.