Today’s a journey bespoke post is all about Traditional Cakes and Sweets of Indonesia. We’ve shopped, tasted and researched more than 20 different sweets and can confidently recommend the following to you.
To share this blogging experience (and spread the calories around), we recruited the expert help of our household staff who eagerly informed us of their favourite cakes. It really has been a fortnight of Cake! Cake! Cake! Our pictures below tell the story of this sweet adventure!
Background to this story:
Jo’s Story: In reality, the research behind today’s story began at least 3 years ago when we started sampling these treats. Upon arriving in Jakarta, it soon became my afternoon tradition to head to my local supermarket (the one pictured above) and select at least 4 different cakes. I would then chop each one into bit-sized pieces and add them to our children’s afternoon tea ‘buffet’ which they would demolish after a long day at school. The cake selection process was simple: choose ones that looked different from each other; make sure we hadn’t tried them before (as there are so many to sample, repetition was not an option until we had exhausted all varieties) and ideally, cakes should coordinate well together to maximise the chance of the children trying them. So after almost 3 years of eating these delicacies, we can confidently share our favourites with you: Onde-Onde, Kue Wajik and Kue Bika Ambon. Enak sekali!!!
Liz’ Story: Have I ever told you how much I love Martabak?
My introduction to Martabak catapulted me into the sweet, sweet world of ‘kue Indonesia’ ‘Indonesian cake’
After enjoying Martabak Telur (a savoury pancake filled with spiced meat and egg), I was keen to experience the sweet version, Martabak Manis. My opportunity came during a weekend in Bandung, West Java. The local advice that I received lead me to Jl. Sudirman, a night market hotspot. One famous martabak outlet I visited that night had a waiting list two hours long, and a stream of motor cycle couriers collecting phone orders for delivery. The martabak I tasted was soft and fluffy and dripping with butter and jam; laden with calories I know, but the perfect late night snack as I explored the fresh food stalls that lined Jalan Sudirman Bandung. Martabak Manis continues to be my favourite midnight snack!
Which will be your favourite?
Where is it from: Kue Apem or Kue Apam can be found throughout Indonesia in Jajanan Pasars (traditional markets)
Main ingredients: Rice flour, coconut milk, yeast and palm sugar. Kue Apem is usually served covered with grated coconut
Kue Bika Ambon
Where is it from: Medan, North Sumatra (not from Ambon as the name suggests)
Main ingredients: Tapoica flour, eggs, sugar, coconut milk and yeast (which gives it its unique spongy texture)
Kue Bingka Ubi
Where is it from: This cake is popular with the Banjarese people of South Kalimantan. Its popularity has extended throughout the Indonesian archipelago and different varieties of Kue Bingka are also eaten in Singapore and Malaysia.
Main ingredients: Coconut milk, flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla, sweet potato and butter.
Other variations of Kue Bingka include banana, pandan, sweet corn and cassava.
Kue Cantik Manis
Where is it from: Indonesia. Due to its pretty appearance, Kue Cantik Manis is especially popular with children.
Main ingredients: Coconut milk, flour, pandan, sugar, sago pearls (coloured)
Where is it from: Indonesia (but the most popular version of Kue Cucur is made by the Betawi people of Jakarta).
Main ingredients: Rice flour, palm sugar and coconut milk
Where is it from: Indonesia, especially popular in Java. Dada means ‘omlette’ or ‘pancake’ in Bahasa Indonesia and Gulung means ‘to roll’.
Main ingredients: Rice flour, eggs, coconut milk and pandan leaf to give the pancake its green appearance. Filling includes grated coconut and palm sugar.
Where is it from: Dodol is a sweet confection popular throughout Indonesia but especially enjoyed during times of festivals including Eid-ul Fitr and Eid-ul Adha. The Betawi people of Jakarta pride themselves in making Dodol, and the town of Garut in West Java is the main production centre of Dodol in Indonesia.
Main ingredients: Coconut milk, *jaggery and rice flour. (It generally takes 9 hours of cooking time to make Dodol, with constant stirring required).
(*jaggery is the concentrated juice of dates, sugar cane or palm sap).
Where is it from: Kue Dongkal is a traditional snack of the Betawi people, the original inhabitants of the present day area of Jakarta
Main ingredients: Rice powder, sago, palm sugar, salt and water
Where is it from: A traditional snack common throughout Indonesia
Main ingredients: Flour, rice flour, palm sugar, pandan paste, pandan leaf, grated coconut
Kue Lapis (steamed) and Kue Lapis Legit (baked)
Where is it from: Kue Lapis Legit is found traditionally in Java. It developed during colonial times in the Dutch East Indies and may have been based on Dutch cake recipes using local ingredients. Lapis means ‘layers’ in Bahasa Indonesia.
Main ingredients: Kue Lapis Legit ingredients include: Butter, eggs, flour, milk powder, icing sugar and mixed spice or spekkeok powder. Kue Lapis Legit is a puffy layered cake, made from wheat flour and is baked, one layer at a time. In contrast Kue Lapis is a moist layered pudding, made of rice flour and sago, and is steamed.
Where is it from: Lemper is extremely popular throughout most parts of Indonesia
Main ingredients: Glutinous rice (cooked in coconut milk) which flattened into a layer and filled with shredded chicken, fish or ‘abon’ (meat floss). This is then wrapped in a banana leaf, ready for serving.
Where is it from: Found in traditional markets and made by home cooks throughout Indonesia, but particularly Java. It has a special place in the homes of the Betawi people living in Jakarta and is often referred to as ‘Kue Nenek’ or ‘Grandma Cake’
Main ingredients: Glutinous rice, shredded coconut, palm sugar syrup
Where is it from: A traditional cake common throughout most parts of Indonesia
Main ingredients: Flour, coconut milk, mashed potato (or occasionally pumpkin), butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla
Kue Mangkok (cake bowl)
Where is it from: Kue Mangkok is found throughout Indonesia, and is a traditional snack. The cake dough is placed inside a tin or cupcake container and then steamed until the top part of the cake rises, expands and blossoms like a flower.
Main ingredients: Flour, rice flour, tapioca, yeast, egg, coconut milk, sugar and salt
Where is it from: Found throughout Indonesia but particularly enjoyed in Jakarta and West Java
Main ingredients: Traditional Martabak Manis toppings include: roasted ground peanuts, chocolate sprinkles such as Ceres, condensed milk,cheese and chocolate
Where is it from: Originally a sweet from China known as Jian Dui, Onde-Onde can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty of the 7th Century. Onde-Onde are fried pastry balls which are a popular snack throughout most of Indonesia. Their chewy and crispy texture is unusual and quite ingriguing, luring you back for another bite!
Main ingredients: Glutinous rice, mung bean (or lotus) paste, sugar, sesame seeds
Kue Putu Ayu
Where is it from: Kue Putu Ayu is a round cake with a hole in the middle found in traditional pasars and roadside stalls throughout Indonesia. In Jakarta, freshly steamed Kue Putu Ayu can be found at roadside stalls beginning at sunset and continuing to be sold throughout the night
Main ingredients: Fresh coconut, flour, sugar, eggs, pandan leaf, salt
Where is it from: Popular throughout most parts of Indonesia, in particular Java
Main ingredients: Flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs, coconut milk, syrup of palm sugar
Where is it from: All information found referring to Kue Talam was written in Bahasa Indonesia. And after scanning multiple articles, we were unable to confirm from where this cake originates. Needless to say, Kue Talam is sold widely throughout the pasars and local supermarkets of Jakarta.
Main ingredients: Rice flour, steamed sweet potato, palm sugar, tapioca, coconut milk
Where is it from: Java, Sumatra and Borneo (Malaysia). Kue Wajik has a cultural significance within the Javanese culture, especially during the Selematan ceremony (a communal feast in Java which symbolises social unity).
Main ingredients: Glutinous rice, palm sugar, pandan leaf (for flavour), coconut milk
Unlike shops back home that sell mostly whole cakes, it is more typical to find local cakes and sweets for sale in snack-sized portions here in Indonesia. Local pasars as well as supermarkets have sections dedicated purely to these pretty treats. Each individual snack has been delicately wrapped in either banana leaf, plastic film or placed in plastic containers, ready for purchase. As you have seen, most are made from traditional ingredients and each is a work of art in its own right.
We love to hear from you! Have you tried any or all of the sweets featured above? Which are your favourites?
Let us know any cakes that we have missed and the ones that you recommend we try! Chat to us in the Comments section below.
Interested in other Traditional Foods of Indonesia? Check out these posts:
Words: Jo & Liz Photography: a journey bespoke