International Women’s Day : Virtues of Strength, Sacrifice and Separation.

This post is dedicated specially to Gina, my Filipino domestic helper.  It is also meant for all the single mothers (married or divorced alike), for the sacrifice, strength and resilience in overcoming the odds for the sake of your families that is so magnanimous.

The chance to work abroad was a glimmer of hope for her. It’s a means to survive. It would mean food on the table for her siblings, school fees for her daughter. A way to fix the house instead of praying in earnest that the next typhoon will not blow it away.

People back home view life abroad through the beautiful pictures their loved ones have sent to them. By the enormous packages they received and by the remittances, they drew from a hole in the wall or delivered to their doors. Sadly, all of these comes with a price to pay for the provider.

Working as a domestic helper, you often have to forget who you are.  An extra pair of hand to do what your employer wants, done. You cannot be sick, you cannot be sad. You have to switch off your feelings and mind because you are being paid to do as told and emotions, especially homesickness have no place. You have to learn to hide it and learn to put a smile on your face no matter how much your heart aches. Your world evolves within the four walls of the flat/house of your employer.

You must have the strength, the courage, the selflessness to weather it all and enduring love that would help keep them going when giving up and going home would have been easier.

For Gina, the battle with her ex-husband over the custody of her daughter left her with no choice but to leave her family behind and find work overseas in order to provide sufficient financial support and gain custody of her daughter.

That’s exactly what we need to applaud them for on this International Woman’s Day. And to show my appreciation for Gina’s fervent efforts to take good care of the family and our three dogs, I decided to make her an Ube or purple yam dessert, a much loved favourite of most Filipinos.

What is Ube?

Ube or purple yam its called. Its dark brown rugged skin and a purple flesh transforms into an even deeper purplish colour when cooked. Purple sweet potatoes taste and texture is just a tad sweeter and denser that their Filipino counterparts.  Gina went on home leave two weeks ago and brought back an ube for me. I am going to challenge myself using this ingredient to bake a special ube coconut chiffon cake flan.  As I have not worked with this root before, I had to do some research to find ways to cook this ingredient. Ube is somewhat like a cousin of the purple sweet potato and yam.

Grated Ube
Grated Ube

As fresh ube is not readily available in our local markets, you may replace ube with purple sweet potatoes.

Happy International Women’s Week, yáll!  I hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as Gina did!

Ube Chiffon Flan Bundt Cake (adapted from Caroline Adobo’s)


Make the caramel
1 cup sugar
¼ cup pandan water

In a small saucepan, prepare the caramel by blending the sugar and water in medium heat.  Keep stirring it until it thickens and the syrup turns deep amber in colour.  Turn off heat.  Then pour into bundt pan. Swirl caramel around until it covers the bottom and sides of pan. Set aside to cool.

Make the coconut flan
7 egg yolks
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup coconut milk
1.5 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 170degC. Bring a pot full of water to boil needed for bain marie.
In a clean saucepan, add in milk and the sugar.  As soon as the sugar dissolves, turn off the heat.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until blended, and add the warm milk slowly.  Add the vanilla extract and do a quick whisk.  Pour custard mixture through a strainer and set aside while you prepare the chiffon cake.

For 25cm bundt pan
7 egg yolks
163g Cake flour, sifted
4 1/2 tablespoons corn flour, sifted
50g brown sugar
140ml milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tbsp baking powder
¾ cup ube, mashed
½ cup ube, cubed
117ml canola oil
7 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
50g castor sugar

Baking Time: 65 minutes in 170degC, in a bain marie.

1. Peel and cut the ube into chunks, then steamed until they are soft.
2. Add the milk to the mashed ube and blend until smooth. Set this aside.
3. In a mixing bowl. beat together egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns light and fluffy.
4. Add the oil and continue mixing.
5. Add the ube and milk mixture, as well as lemon juice, and mix until blended.
6. Finally add the dry ingredients (cake flour, corn flour and baking powder) and mix until just combined.
7. In a clean mixing bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking.
8. Gradually add the sugar while whisking until firm peaks form.
9. Add 1/3 of the meringue to the egg yolk mixture. Mix it in.
10.Gently fold the remaining meringue into the egg yolk mixture in 2 batches until no white streaks remain.
11. Pour 1/3 of the batter into a tube pan. Scatter half of the cubed ube on the batter.
12. Pour the second 1/3 of the batter into the tube pan. Repeat with the remaining cubed sweet potato.
13. Finally pour the remaining batter to cover the sweet potato. Lift the pan about 10cm off the tabletop and drop it to remove the larger air bubbles. Repeat this twice more.
14. Pour about 2 cups of coconut flan mixture into the caramel-lined bundt pan.
15. Spoon the chiffon cake batter into the bundt pan. DON’T WORRY, THE CHIFFON CAKE BATTER WILL STAY FLOATING ON TOP OF COCONUT FLAN. Fill only up to 2 inches from top of pan.
16. Bake at 170°C for the time stated for the size of tube pan you are using.
17. Pour boiling water into a bigger pan that would fit the bundt. This is your bain marie, place the cake pan in and bake for about 60-65 minutes. If the top of the cake gets too brown, place a piece of aluminium foil over the cake and continue baking.
18. Check doneness of cake by inserting toothpick; Check doneness by using toothpick. Take out of oven and let cool completely.
19. Cover top with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to chill at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.  To serve, invert onto a plate and enjoy!

1. I use 65g eggs for all my bakes, unless otherwise stated
2. Baking times may vary, depending on your oven.

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