Coconut caramel sticky rice cake

Coconut caramel sticky rice cake


7000 Islands
Jana Liebenstein

Biko is a memorable dish. My mother made it once when I was a young child and I have never forgotten it. Over the years, I’d recall my former flame and beg her to make it again. Sadly, she never knew which dish I meant — kakanin (rice cakes) abound in the Philippines. I stumbled upon it during a recent trip there, but I was told it is no longer made as much as it once was. I’m not letting it out of my sight again.

Biko is sometimes scattered with latik (coconut milk solids) or sweetened mashed mung beans. This version pours coco jam over the top for an intensified caramel flavour reminiscent of bread and butter pudding doused in butterscotch sauce. The final consistency — loose and supple, or elastic — is personal; I prefer the latter.


Quantity Ingredient
1kg glutinous rice
400ml coconut cream
400ml coconut milk
770g muscovado or dark brown sugar
2cm piece ginger, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon fine salt

Coco jam (coconut caramel)

Quantity Ingredient
400ml coconut milk
165g muscovado or dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine salt


  1. Soak the rice in water in a large bowl for 3 hours to soften; the grains will plump slightly. Drain, then rinse the rice three times or until the water runs almost clear.
  2. Meanwhile, to make the coconut caramel, place the coconut milk, sugar and salt in a small saucepan over medium–high heat. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low–medium and cook for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and cool; it will thicken slightly.
  3. Place the rice and 1.25 litres fresh water in a saucepan over medium–high heat. Cover and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 25 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and stand, covered, for 10 minutes, or until dry (latent heat will continue steaming the rice).
  4. Lightly grease and line a 33 x 23 cm baking tin with plastic wrap. Place the coconut cream, coconut milk, sugar, ginger and salt in a large, deep saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium–high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low–medium and cook for 5 minutes, stirring until slightly reduced. Discard the ginger.
  5. Using a wooden spoon, gradually stir in the steamed rice until well combined, ensuring there are no clumps of white rice. Cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed and the mixture is thick and sticky. For a drier, more elastic finish, cook for a further 5–10 minutes or to your liking.
  6. Spoon the rice mixture into the prepared tin, flatten the surface, then cool for 20 minutes. Pour over the coconut caramel, then cut into 11 x 6 cm pieces and serve warm or at room temperature.

What is it?

  • To commemorate the dead, favourite foods of departed loved ones are left on windowsills or at the cemetery in a custom known as pangálay, meaning ‘offering’. The custom stems from pre-Hispanic times, when indigenes offered food to anitos (spirits). Today, in Catholic Philippines, the tradition is practiced each year on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (1 and 2 November). Rice cakes, a staple in the Philippines, are the most common offering and biko is a popular choice.
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