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Ants' Nest Cake ~ Kek Sarang Semut

Friday, October 9, 2015

I first had a piece of this, not too long ago, maybe 5 years back? And I was smitten by the taste and texture. My SIL baked it for the 2nd time and I asked her if she put in any cocoa powder, because it felt like I was eating a bouncy chewy chocolate cake. She said no, it’s just caramel. I was totally taken by surprise.

Then 3 years ago, I had this sudden “want” to bake this cake and eat it too, I asked my SIL for the recipe. She actually got this recipe from a fellow church friend Mrs Elaine Wong. My SIL was smitten by Elaine’s cake and that got her to request for the recipe. The love bug for this spreads....

Mrs Elaine Wong  ~~  SIL  ~~~  Me  ~~~~  Annielicious (after she ate this)

Before this, I didn’t know that this is a 'hard to make' cake. After I posted some pics on Facebook right after baking, I got feedback by some regarding many having no combs with their attempts.

Now, I actually don’t know what recipe they are using. But my SIL and I were successful with our first attempts on this recipe. Recipe is similar with those out there but not the same.. Just like how butter cakes contain the same ingredients, like flour, butter, sugar and eggs but in different ratios, if not, Mrs NgSK’s butter cake won’t be so well loved. It’s the ratio that will make the textural difference.

Since I don’t know what were their problem when they told me they had no combs, I could only think of these few reasons because the recipe I used is not much different.

1. Overmixed. The batter on the whole has been overmixed
2. Caramel syrup too hot and caused premature reaction with baking soda
3. Not enough baking soda
4. Will caramel not dark enough affect it?? Err.. this I don’t know. Can someone enlighten me whether caramel is acidic depending on how caramelized it is? Then from there I will understand better to answer any future questions.

Caramel syrup. It's like soy sauce :)

I have made a few changes to the original composition of ingredients, but generally it’s still the same. Just that I prefer to cook my caramel with some water first and slowly boil it off, this way I have more control over the caramelization.

I also split the eggs and creamed the butter with the yolks because if not the butter will be floating in the egg mixture if it’s not properly emulsified. I learnt it by mistake. Some may say, it’s ok to have the butter in clumps, but I still want it properly dispersed to reduce the risk of the cake turning oily if the butter is not well emulsified.

My phone picture as shared on Facebook

I found the cake rising in 2 stages.

During the first quarter of the baking, the cake was like….no reaction. Then it started to rise and grew about 40% taller. It seemed to stop and I saw it being stagnant for about 30 minutes. The cake stayed flat and tall until the 3rd quarter. The cake then suddenly shot up again doming in the center until baking time is up. The dome lost half its height upon cooling and the cake turned out quite flat.

Cake looks dark, but its not bitter, nor is it sweeeeeet. It's just well balanced. Ask Annielicious, LOL.

Cake domed and toothpick came out clean.

Ants’ Nest Cake

Recipe source: Mrs Elaine Wong
Modified slightly by : WendyinKK

Caramel syrup
280gm sugar
100ml water
250ml water

115gm salted butter, room temp
6 egg yolks (Grade B)

6 egg whites (Grade B)
2 tsp vanilla extract
145gm all purpose flour + 2.5 tsp baking soda(10gm)
200gm sweetened condensed milk

1. Put sugar and 100ml in a heavy based saucepan and cook on medium heat. When the colour starts to turn light amber, turn heat to low. Cook until it caramelizes. (I cook until the bubbling from slow turns rapid, then I turn off the heat. Take note that there will be some slight smoke). Wait for 30 seconds then pour 250ml water in. Let it sit for 5 minutes then gently stir it until everything dissolves. Pour into a dish to quicken the cooling, if needed. Let the syrup cool down totally.
2. Meanwhile sift flour +baking soda over a fine sieve. Set aside. Grease a 7or 8 inch square pan, sides and bottom. Preheat oven to 180C (no fan).
3. Place butter and yolks into a mixing bowl. Beat the butter and yolk until combined and smooth, add in ¼ of the egg whites and beat until combined and pour in the rest of the whites and beat until combined. (won’t take long). Beat in vanilla extract.
4. Put half the sifted flour into the eggs and whisk on low speed until combined. Then the balance of flour and whisk until the batter is almost smooth.
5. Add in condensed milk and whisk on low speed until just combined.
6. Gradually pour in the cooled caramel syrup and with a spatula fold until combined.
7. Pour into prepared pan and bake on the lower 1/3 for 1 hour.

If you find me long winded and seems to make everything sound hard, here’s almost the version I got from my SIL via text.

1. Prepare caramel syrup.
2. Sift flour, grease pan, preheat oven to 180C.
3. Beat butter with eggs. Then vanilla.
4. Mix in flour, then milk, lastly caramel syrup.
5. Bake for 45min -1 hour.

Annie, I finally posted hoh.......... don't hate me hoh!

19 lovely notes:

delia October 9, 2015 at 10:09 AM  

Any substitution for condensed milk?

WendyinKK October 9, 2015 at 11:30 AM  

Maybe 90gm sugar, 60g milk powder 50gm water?
Just a guess, not too sure

Unknown October 9, 2015 at 7:27 PM  

Wahhhh! I suddenly wanna hug u! Hahaha... this sarang semut is so so so so so yumms!!!! I'm gonna make this! I'm soooo gonna make this!

H October 9, 2015 at 10:15 PM  

Thanks a lots for sharing. Just like to grab the piece in the picture and eat it, lol How much a egg (grade B) weight without the shell? Here, in Canada, the egg size is totally different. Way much smaller!

thanks again Wendy


WendyinKK October 10, 2015 at 11:31 AM  

It's around 63g with shell. Without shell, maybe around 60g?

Mdm Zhang,  October 11, 2015 at 9:32 AM  

He'll Wendy can I buy the cake from you ? I am in Singapore Jurong west. I don't have oven. Only microwave so I can't bake using your recipe. Love your blog !

WendyinKK October 11, 2015 at 5:44 PM  

Mdm Zhang,
Yes you may, if you're willing to collect it yourself 600km away :)

Anonymous,  October 18, 2015 at 8:02 PM  

Hi Wendy,

I tried the recipe and the cake turned out great. Thanks for sharing.


Rae January 4, 2016 at 4:01 PM  

OH. MY. GOD. One of my favourite cakes in the world.
It's so rare in KL, that each time I balik kampung in Perak, I will ask my mom to buy it before I reach and most of time, it's sold out or the auntie was not making it at that time (WTF right). I tried google but had no idea what's it called in English until now... thank you very much. Now i can bake it myself and eat to my heart's content.*cries in bliss*

Unknown September 5, 2016 at 7:52 PM  

Hi Windy, any chance I can reduce the condensed milk amount or sugar as I would much prefer a sweeter version. Have you try reducing the sugar ;-)

WendyinKK September 6, 2016 at 8:56 AM  

Sy Kc,
I know the amount of sugar in this cake sounds super sweet, but take into account that a dark caramel is very bitter.
To me, this cake is not overly sweet, it's just mildly sweet after offsetting the bitter caramel. But if you prefer to reduce the sugar, then you will need to make a lighter caramel, of which in the end, the cake will not look as good and taste as good.

Unknown April 14, 2017 at 4:13 PM  

Hi WENDY, is this cake meant to taste bitter sweet?

WendyinKK April 20, 2017 at 9:11 AM  

Felicia Seow,
Nope, this cake when made correctly doesn't taste bitter at all.

Fifi Leong April 25, 2017 at 2:01 PM  

My caramel is lighter in colour if compare with yours, but dont worry, the outcome after baking is still as dark as yours. But i found out that in your recipe there's no resting time stated in the text (i refer to rest the batter before baking).

WendyinKK April 25, 2017 at 2:36 PM  

Glad it turned out well.
Yes, you can rest it like other recipes do.

WendyinKK July 21, 2018 at 4:09 PM  

I have never tried, I am not sure.

shannon,  August 27, 2018 at 1:23 PM  

hi,u bake use top or bottom fire?

WendyinKK August 30, 2018 at 12:49 PM  

Both. As it is not specified.

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