Sapin-Sapin is as tasty as it is pretty! Soft, chewy, and topped with golden latik, this Filipino steamed glutinous rice cake is a delicious midday snack or after-dinner dessert.

I’ve wanted to make sapin-sapin for the longest, but I was intimidated by what I thought to be a very complicated process. So when I went home to the Philippines a few years ago, I asked our suking magkakanin to teach me, along with other kalamay recipes.

As it turned out, I didn’t need a 7,185-mile trip to learn how to make this Filipino steamed cake. The whole process is easy; it’s almost child’s play!

Sapin-sapin, which means layers, is one of the easiest Filipino desserts you can make. All it takes is mixing glutinous rice flour, coconut milk, condensed milk, and sugar into a smooth batter which you then divide into three portions, color, and steam one on the top of the other.

I had so much fun making it again this afternoon; adding in the extracts and watching everything come together into one colorful sweet treat!

Half of the work in the recipe is making the latik. Although you can skip this step and use toasted coconut shreds instead, I urge you to take the extra effort. These golden curds taste so much better than dried coconut, and their rendered oil can be brushed on the sapin-sapin to add aroma and flavor.

To speed up the process, use coconut cream or kakang gata (first extraction) as it’s more concentrated and will reduce quicker.

Cooking tips

  • The rice batter is about 6 cups which fits perfectly in an 8 x 2 round baking pan. You can also use an 8 x 8 square pan which has an 8-cup capacity.
  • Liberally grease the inner sides and bottom of the baking pan to be able to remove the sticky rice cake easily after steaming. You can also use wilted banana leaves to line the pan or parchment paper if you like
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  • To make the sapin-sapin extra special and more traditional, stir in about ½ cup of mashed cooked ube to the purple-colored mixture and ¼ cup finely chopped jackfruit (langka) to the yellow-colored mixture.
  • I use about 3 to 4 drops of each extract to achieve the color I like. Note that the colors of the tinted batters will be light but will deepen when steamed and cooked.
  • Do not cover the kalamay until sufficiently cooled as the steam will cause water puddles on the cake.
  • Give this sticky rice cake a try. You’ll be amazed at how something so gorgeous and delicious can be put together in less than an hour. It will be the perfect centerpiece for your next party!

    For more kakanin using glutinous rice flour, check out my Palitaw, Kapit, Royal Bibingka, and Kalamay Hati recipes. Enjoy!

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