Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Naturally Gluten-Free: Coconut Cassava Bars

Hello world! These are my baby steps back into the food blogging/photography world. A little scared...a lot clumsy (I swear I've somehow forgotten even the basics of how light works! =X)...and learning things again bit by bit (I hope) with each attempt!

Coconut Cassava Bars
For today's shoot, I chose coconut cassava bars inspired by one of my favorite nutrition blogs, Nutrition to Kitchen. Similar versions of this cake can be found in Vietnamese and Filipino cuisine. These bars are mildly sweet and just a little bit salty (partly due to the addition of cheddar cheese!); soft and chewy in a way that's reminiscent of mochi cake (not surprising once you learn cassava is used to make tapioca); rich with coconut flavor (from the milk as well as sweetened coconut strings known as macapuno); naturally gluten-free; and ab-so-lute-ly addicting to nibble on. Please do give it a go, and let me know what you think!

Coconut Cassava Bars [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from Nutrition to Kitchen and Ang Sarap
Makes a 8-inch square pan (about 16 bars)

XIAOLU'S NOTES: Don't forget to let the frozen grated cassava thaw in the refrigerator for 1 day before making this recipe! Macapuno is usually sold as coconut strips in syrup inside of a glass jar. You can find macapuno at most Asian grocery stores. After taking the 2nd egg white for the batter, RESERVE the yolk for use in the topping.

Cake base

Nonstick cooking spray, vegetable oil, or parchment paper
1 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp (1 oz.) water
16 oz. (1 lb.) frozen grated cassava, thawed in fridge for 1 day (DO NOT DRAIN)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped macapuno (sweetened coconut strings)
1/4 cup (1 oz.) grated cheddar cheese
3/4 cup (6 oz.) sweetened condensed milk [low-fat or fat-free is fine]
3/4 cup (6 oz.) coconut milk [use full-fat]
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg PLUS 1 large white, room temperature and lightly beaten
1/2 tsp unsulphured molasses
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Scant 1/4 tsp salt


1 Tbsp cornstarch, sifted
6 Tbsp coconut milk
3 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg yolk, room temperature and beaten
1/4 cup coarsely chopped macapuno (sweetened coconut strings) PLUS more to serve

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat/line a 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray, a thin layer of oil, or parchment paper.

Dissolve cornstarch in water, then add all remaining cake base ingredients in a large bowl, whisking until evenly combined. Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake for 35 minutes.

Begin preparing the topping as soon as the bars go into the oven. Dissolve cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of coconut milk, then add the rest of the topping ingredients EXCEPT macapuno and mix until evenly combined. Transfer this mixture into a small saucepan, and cook on the stove over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat right away, stir macapuno into the thickened topping mixture, and set aside.

Remove cassava bars from the oven after 35 minutes of baking, immediately pour the topping mixture over top of the bars, and spread topping evenly with a spoon or spatula. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees F, then return pan to the oven for 15 to 20 more minutes, or until top turns golden brown. Transfer pan to a cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing into bars with a serrated knife. Serve with more macapuno as an optional topping.


  1. Wonderful! This cake must taste divine.



  2. So glad you're back!! The photo is gorgeous, as per usual. And cassava is the best.

  3. wo! A post from you. I don't know what you are talking about since the light in the photo looks great to me :)

    1. Thanks, Kulsum!! It means a lot from you <3. How are you? I'm trying to get back into blogging but WOW is grad school busy. I appreciate your support re: the's mostly that the bi-directional light (the room I photograph in for the new apt has windows on 2 sides that I hadn't learned to control for yet) is causing shadows in different directions. Mostly it's the shadow for the top right bar that's driving me nuts. Since you expect its shadows to be like all the others, I think the difference gives the photo a weird artificial feel.

  4. It's so great to see you here again! These look delicious and CONGRATULATIONS on all the life changes!!


I love hearing from you all! Please leave me a message if you have questions, advice, or just to let me know you stopped by. Your feedback is always very much appreciated. Thanks! <3 Xiaolu