Recipe: Yasmin Newman's Filipino purple yam and coconut cake

Ube makapuno cake (purple yam and sweet coconut cake)

Children typically take to colourful food, but I stuck my nose up at ube (purple yam) for the longest time. It must have been the vegetable thing. I lost years, as my current favourites of ube ice cream, ube haleya (jam) and ube puto were relegated to the wayside. It was ube makapuno cake that finally converted me; its layers in lavender and jasmine shades were too pretty to resist.

This cake combines two of the Philippines’ most loved dessert ingredients, ube and makapuno (sweetened preserved coconut). Frozen grated ube, ube flavouring and bottled makapuno are available from Filipino grocery stores.

Serves 8–10


225 g plain (all-purpose) flour

295 g caster (superfine) sugar

21⁄2 teaspoons baking powder

1⁄4 teaspoon fine salt

6 eggs, separated

120 g frozen grated ube (purple yam), thawed

125 ml canola oil

125 ml full-cream milk

1⁄2 teaspoon ube flavouring

1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF/Gas 4). Lightly grease and flour two 20 cm (8 inch) round cake tins and line both bases with baking paper.

To make the ube cakes, sift the flour into a large bowl with 150 g of the sugar, the baking powder and the salt. In a separate bowl, place the egg yolks, ube, canola oil, milk, ube flavouring and vanilla. Whisk to combine well, then add to the flour mixture and stir to combine.

Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Whisking continuously, gradually add the remaining 150 g sugar, then whisk until stiff and glossy. Fold one-third of the egg white mixture into the ube mixture to lighten, then fold in the remaining egg white mixture until just combined. Divide between the cake tins and bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean (cover the tops with baking paper if over-browning). Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.


1 titanium-strength gelatine

leaf (5 g strength)

105 g condensed milk

130 g sweetened preserved makapuno

250 ml thickened (whipping) cream

To make the makapuno cream, soften the gelatine in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the condensed milk and makapuno in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat. Remove from the heat. Squeeze the excess water from the gelatine, add to the makapuno mixture, then stir until it dissolves. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until cool. Using an electric mixer, whisk the cream to soft peaks. Using a spatula, fold one-third into the makapuno mixture, then fold in the remainder until just combined.


165 g caster (superfine) sugar

3 egg whites

1⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1⁄2 teaspoon ube flavouring

To make the Italian meringue icing, place the  sugar and 60 ml water in a small saucepan and  stir over medium–high heat until the sugar dissolves. Brush down the side of the pan with a wet pastry brush to remove any sugar crystals, then bring to the boil. Cook for a further 7 minutes, or until the syrup reaches 115ºC (230ºF) on a sugar thermometer (soft-ball stage). Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Meanwhile, continue cooking the syrup to 121ºC (250ºF) (hard-ball stage). Whisking continuously, gradually pour the hot syrup down the side of the bowl with the egg whites until combined, then whisk on high speed until thick, glossy and cool, about 15 minutes. Fold in the ube flavouring.


Place the cakes on a work surface and trim the tops so they are level. Cut each cake in half horizontally, reserving one cake top to make crumbs. Place a cake base on a serving plate, spread over half the makapuno cream, then top with the cake top. Spread over the remaining makapuno cream. Flip the remaining cake base over, then place on top so the flatest side is facing upwards. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until firm.

To make the cake crumbs, trim the browned side of the reserved cake, if necessary, then process the cake in a food processor to fine crumbs. Spread the Italian meringue icing over the top and side of the cake, press the crumbs around the side (there may be some crumbs left over), and cut into slices to serve. 

What is it?

Ube, or purple yam, is a tuberous root. The distinctive purple-fleshed crop has a subtle flavour and is a favourite ingredient in Filipino desserts. Makapuno is a bit more complicated. It is often described as a ‘mutant’ coconut; essentially, it is a regular coconut with more meat, often a whole full shell. The term makapuno also refers to the candied strips of makapuno meat, which are similarly popular in desserts.

This recipe is an extract from Yasmin Newman's new book, 7000 Islands.