I was honored to have been personally invited by Ho Chie (of TaiwaneseAmerican.org) to create an “original Taiwanese American dessert” for the holidays…so here is what I came up with!
This is modeled after one of my favorite Taiwanese desserts… tzwah bing, or, shaved ice! Actually, many cultures have their own variations on shaved ice desserts, but being Taiwanese, I’m afraid I will be forever biased and partial. There are many different types of shaved ice you can get in Taiwan, and my favorites are the condensed milk with mango and condensed milk with red bean and those cute little Taiwanese puddings. See the following:
Now, some of you may not have be in Taiwan and have access to such a fine treat, or it is the middle of winter and you would rather not have an ice-based dessert…
But, that’s where this dessert comes in! It is a heavenly cupful of almond cake soaked in milk tea, layered with condensed milk custard, lots of plump red bean, and topped off with whipped cream.
Every component can be as simple as you’d like, by substituting the almond cake with storebought pound cake or angel food cake, and the whipped cream by Cool Whip. And the pudding layer is almost instant, using secret help from Jello Instant Vanilla pudding… but no one will be able to tell, since you’ll mix it with condensed milk, which I could eat plain from a spoon… After you assemble the dessert (the only “hard” part of this dessert), let it sit at least overnight in the refrigerator, as it definitely tastes better and has a better texture after doing so.
I was actually a little scared about serving this to my mom’s co-workers, half of whom are Asian and the other Americans… I wasn’t sure if it was too sweet for Asian tastes, and also the red bean too weird for American tastes. But, fortunately, everyone loved it! It’s hard to resist red bean…
In conclusion, you should make this dessert because:
1) It’s really creamy! (For some reason, I feel like holiday desserts are best when creamy…)
2) You can make it ahead! (In fact, is better when made ahead)
3) It makes a lot of servings with minimal effort!
4) Your family and friends (Taiwanese or otherwise) will be impressed and quite happy.
So, what are you waiting for? Call out your inner pastry chef and construct this delightful dessert for the holidays!
For full step-by-step photos, check my flickr set!
Makes around 12 servings (at least it did for me)
This almond cake is from Alice Medrich’s book “Pure Dessert.” I used almond meal (basically very finely ground almonds) that I got from Trader Joe’s (it’s located next to the almonds), which gives it a more uniform and smooth texture. If you can’t or don’t want to get almond meal, then use the food processor method with whole almonds.
As I said above, you can replace this with storebought pound cake or angel food cake to cut down on effort/time. However, I really liked the almond cake in the finished dessert (actually, it’s really good to eat on its own too, if you want a nice almond cake!). It’s moist, dense, and deeeelicious.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into several chunks and slightly softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4 ounces) whole almonds, or 4 ounces almond meal
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick spray.
Beat butter on medium-high speed until smooth, then add sugar and beat until creamy and lightened. Add salt and almond extract, and beat briefly to mix. Add eggs one at a time, making sure each one is mixed in thoroughly before adding the next. Add almond flour, flour, and baking powder, and mix on low speed only until everything is mixed.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake until cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick plunged into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack.
Food processor variation:
Place almonds, sugar, salt and almond extract in the bowl of a food processor and process until nuts are finely pulverized. Add eggs, butter and kirsch, if using, and pulse to blend thoroughly. Add flour and baking powder and pulse just until blended. Proceed with above baking directions.
For the Condensed Milk Custard:
1 package Jello instant vanilla pudding mix
1/2 cup milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup of whipped cream or Cool Whip (reserve the rest for topping)
Put the pudding mix into a large bowl, and combine with the milk. When smooth, stir in the condensed milk and 1 cup of Cool Whip.
Now, for the assembly! You can either make large or mini versions…and you can make it like a cake or a trifle. All up to you!
My pictures show mini cake and trifles.
You will need:
One can (18.34oz) of sweetened red beans (My brand was “Ogura An”)
You probably won’t use the entire can… I didn’t. But, you can turn the leftovers into another Taiwanese dessert, red bean soup! Simply boil it with enough water added to make it a soup consistency. Add tang yuan or tapioca pearls if you have them. Otherwise, instant dessert!
For the trifle:
Cut small cubes of the cake and put them on the bottom of your serving container, trying to make the cake press against the sides so it will make a nice visible layer.
Drizzle/brush/pour the milk tea over the cake cubes so that they’ll be nicely soaked.
Spoon on a layer of the red bean to cover the cake cubes, and again, try to make the red bean show on the sides of the glass.
Spoon a nice layer of your creamy custard on top.
Repeat as much as you’d like!
Top with whipped cream.
For the cake:
Cut out pieces of cake that will fit your glass, or, just cut the cake into little rectangles.
Slice the cake pieces in half, and soak the bottom piece with milk tea, spoon the red bean on top, add a layer of custard, and top with the other half of the cake. Again, soak in milk tea, add another custard layer, or go straight to the whipped cream!
Feel free to be creative with how you construct your dessert.
And most importantly, enjoy!!