kaya is the asian version of dulce de leche. it’s a thick, milk-based spread with a fragrant nuttiness that comes from being cooked for a long time over low heat. comprised of coconut milk, sugar, and pandan leaves, the kaya in this cake adds a sweet layer of texture with a subtle coconut flavor.
tangy lemon cream cheese buttercream offsets the sweetness of the kaya, and strawberry preserves add brightness and piquancy. after the cake has absorbed all three fillings, it echoes tres leches in its level of moisture.
i think this would complement a dinner of shrimp stir fry, or maybe some grilled ham and pineapple skewers. feel free to omit the pandan leaves in the kaya if you can’t find them; they are sold in asian specialty stores. its flavor is similar to licorice, but less potent. the kaya could also easily be replaced with lemon curd.
you will need a 6-inch cake ring and a 6×20 inch strip of acetate.
cake (adapted from willow bird baking)
- 2 cups flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp milk, room temperature
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 6 egg whites, room temperature
- 1 tsp coconut extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp sugar
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 12 tbsp butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened but cool
lemon cream cheese buttercream
- 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
kaya (coconut jam) (recipe from i am a food blog)
- 3 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 3/4 cups + 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 (13.5) oz can coconut cream or milk
- 3 pandan leaves, knotted
- 3/4 cup strawberry preserves
- 3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- sprinkles, optional
for the cake, heat the oven to 350º. grease a quarter sheet pan and line with parchment paper (grease the paper, too). whisk milks, egg whites, and extracts in a small bowl. set aside. in a large bowl whisk the flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, and salt. add the butter and beat until the mixture resembles moist crumbs and no buttery streaks remain. add most of the milk mixture and beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. add the rest and beat for 30 seconds. spread the batter evenly in the pan and bake for about 20 minutes. do not overbake! let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.
for the buttercream, beat cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer for 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. add the powdered sugar and beat for 3 more minutes. add the extract, zest, and juice, and beat a few minutes longer, until white and light.
for the kaya, heat some water over medium heat in a saucepan (or in the bottom of a double boiler, if you have one). while it’s warming up, in a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the eggs and yolks together. gradually whisk in the sugar. pour in the coconut milk and stir to combine. add in the pandan leaves, then set the bowl over the saucepan. the water should be at a gentle boil. let the mixture cook for 45 minutes or so, stirring with a spatula every 5 minutes. the kaya is done once it has thickened (it should be able to coat the back of a spoon). strain through a fine mesh sieve into a glass jar and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
to assemble, use the cake ring to punch two circles and four half circles out of the cake. reserve scraps for snacking. wipe off the cake ring, then place it on a sheet pan. lay a 6-inch circle of cardboard (or cake board) in the bottom. line the ring with the strip of acetate. place two half circles in the bottom, adding scraps if needed to complete the circle. use the back of a spoon to spread on some buttercream. add some strawberry preserves, taking care to spread it all the way to the edges. spread on a third of the kaya. sprinkle on a generous amount of shredded coconut. repeat with the remaining half circles. repeat using a full round for the third layer. nestle the final layer on top. cover the top of the cake with buttercream, and smooth it out as much as possible. transfer the sheet pan to the freezer, and freeze for at least 12 hours (or up to 2 weeks). when ready to serve, remove the ring and acetate and pipe a border with remaining frosting, if desired (i used a french tip). add sprinkles. keep refrigerated; bring up the room temperature before serving.