It isn’t Christmas if we don’t have an Ube dessert at our holiday table. My family loves purple yam. Its sweet, almond-like flavor in ube halaya (the jam) is enjoyed during the summer in halo-halo, the Filipino icy layered dessert. All year round, we enjoy ube jam or ‘halaya’, ube pastillas (sweet milk candies), homemade ube ice cream, ube pan de sal, ube-blueberry tarts and even ube short bread cookies.
Ube or purple yam is a tuber that grows on a vine, above ground. In the Philippines, it is a major vegetable crop and an important source of food. It is more abundant in the last months of the year. And this is why during the Christmas holidays, a lot of desserts and snacks in the Philippines are made of ube (purple yam). Purple yam also grows in other Asian countries, South America and Africa. In the USA, it grows in Hawaii.
If you see a purple yam in the Asian markets, you’re likely to walk past it. It looks nondescript. The ube or purple yam looks like another large potato, with a dark brown, rough outer skin. When sliced, the insides reveal a light pink flesh, so light you wonder where the dark purple color comes from when cooked.
What makes ube special is its sweet floral flavor and fruity aroma. There is nothing quite like it in any other tuber. When cooked with milk or coconut cream, it gains a rich, dairy-like flavor that enhances desserts. Once you taste ube, you’ll want it again and again.
This year, I turned to a reliable source to try a new recipe for an ube pound cake. Nancie MacDermott’s eighth cookbook “Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations” had an amazing Sweet Potato Pound Cake Recipe. Her readers and friends shared their sweet potato cake results on Nancie’s Facebook page. I was intrigued. I told Nancie about the wonders of ube (purple yam) and since it had nearly the same texture as sweet potato when boiled, I wanted to try baking it into a pound cake, with her original recipe which used sweet potato.
Well, here is my Ube Pound Cake with an Ube Glaze drizzling downward the rich, moist slice. I could not believe I never tried this before. Filipinos are more familiar with the classic ube chiffon cake, a lighter version of this ube cake. But it is the pound cake texture of this one that got me all excited. I finally found use for the boiled, frozen ube always available in Asian markets year round. In addition to the jam and pies I have made, there’s a special place for this ube pound cake at our holiday table this year.
Celebrations start out like this, with recipes shared among friends, then passed around the family, like we do at holiday dinners. May your holiday table be as festive and plentiful as ours. Have a wonderful holiday season, dear friends and readers of my blog!
This Ube Pound Cake with an Ube Glaze was a new addition to our holiday feasting this year. Instead of the usual ube chiffon cake we, Filipinos are used to, I decided to bake a pound cake using boiled ube (purple yam). This ube pound cake had a heavy, rich texture. Every slice was plump and magnificent, made more magical by the ube glaze cascading down all sides. This recipe was adapted from the “Sweet Potato Cake” of Nancie MacDermott in her cookbook “Southern Cakes”. This ube pound cake serves 6 to 8.
- all-purpose flour - 3 and 1/2 cups
- baking powder - 2 teaspoons
- salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- milk - 1/2 cup
- ube flavoring (McCormick's brand) - 2 teaspoons
- unsalted butter - 8 oz. (2 sticks) at room temperature
- granulated sugar - 1 cup
- light brown sugar - 1 cup
- eggs - 4 large
- mashed boiled ube - 2 cups (from frozen packs, in Asian markets)
- confectioners' or powdered sugar - 2 and 1/2 cups, for glaze
- milk - 1/8 cup, for glaze
- ube flavoring (McCormick brand) - 1 teaspoon, for glaze (optional)
- almond extract - 1/2 teaspoon, for glaze
- Thaw the frozen ube or purple yam at room temperature. The boiled yam must be mushy and not frozen. Place the frozen ube in a colander, some liquid may melt as it is thawed. Note: do not microwave to defrost. Allow the frozen ube to thaw out naturally.
- Preheat oven at 350 F. Prepare and grease a 10-inch tube or Bundt pan.
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well with a wire whisk. Set aside.
- Separately, in a small bowl, mix together the milk and ube flavoring (bottled). Set this aside for use later.
- In a large bowl, using a stand mixer, mix the butter and sugars on high speed till combined well.
- Add the eggs, one at a time. Beat well after each egg is added.
- To the egg and butter mixture, add the mashed ube. Mix this on low speed for 1 to 2 minutes. Make sure the batter is mixed well and the ube is distributed evenly.
- Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk-ube flavor mixture into the batter. Begin and end with the flour mixture. Beat for about 5 minutes till the batter has a thick, smooth texture and is colored light lavender.
- If cake pan has a removable bottom, place heavy duty aluminum foil underneath the removable bottom so the batter will not spill out while baking.
- Pour the cake batter into the round tube cake or Bundt pan. Bale at 350 F for 60 to 75 minutes. Test the cake for doneness by inserting the tip of a sharp knife in the center of the baked cake. If knife comes out clean, cake is done.
- When the cake is done, remove from the oven. Cool on counter for about 20 minutes by covering the cake with a cloth towel. When cake has cooled, invert on a cake rack and allow to cool thoroughly.
- How to make the ube icing glaze: using a hand mixer, mix on high the confectioners’ or powdered sugar with the milk. Add the ube flavoring and almond extract. Continue beating for 3 minutes more or till ube icing is smooth. Let this icing cool in the refrigerator while the ube cake is on the cake rack.
- How to place the ube icing glaze : using a clean, sharp knife, carefully run slice a thin layer off the top of the cake to trim and scrape off any dark green cake parts. (Ube cake tends to come out dark green on the top and sides after it is baked). Smoothen the ube icing glaze with a spatula on the top of the cake. Slice and serve. Store this cake in the refrigerator.
- Cook’s comments: Nancie MacDermott, prolific author, is a friend I trust for her foolproof recipes and amazing cookbooks. I previously baked an Egg Custard Pie from another cookbook she wrote and it’s in a past blog post here. Ms. MacDermott’s stories, recipes and cookbooks are on her site or on Amazon. For my readers’ convenience, I have a “Shop For It” tab which brings you directly to my Amazon page with one click. Click here.
- Recipe notes: for this recipe I used frozen boiled ube (in the photo above) which can be found in Asian markets. Regular ube is seasonal and not always found in the markets here in the USA.
- Ingredient notes: I use the McCormick Ube flavoring for this recipe's ube glaze. It adds a light purple color and mild ube flavor. It can be found in Asian markets or online sources like Amazon. For my readers' convenience, find my Amazon tab "Shop for It". Here's what the flavoring looks like:
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