This post took a long time coming. I started writing this last Christmas, encountered some technical issues 😉 and it was put on the back burner. So the other day when a friend asked to write an Indian recipe for Christmas, this got dusted up. It was all the excuse I needed to make this cake again. For those who are not familiar with it Baath or Bathika cake is a traditional cake from Goa, India. It is made with fine semolina (sooji), coconut and sometimes flavored with aromatic spices. Traditionally this cake was baked at homes in a stove top clay oven with hot coals placed on the lid .
Semolina is used often in the Goan/Maharashtian cuisine. It is the preferred coating for fried fish, the main ingredient for quick breakfast or snack like upma, and let’s not forget the popular quick desert – kesari or Sooji ka halva (sheera). Is it any wonder that with the Portuguese influence the people of Goa created this wonderful cake made out of semolina and the other local ingredients ?
This is not a cake that I grew up with. In Kerala X’mas was characterized by the traditional rich fruit cake with a glass of home made wine to add to the festivities. From a baker’s view point this is an interesting recipe as the main ingredients were coarse – fine semolina, and grated coconut. In order to get a moist cake that does not fall apart, the batter needs to absorb all the moisture and flavors before hand. Hence the long resting time before baking. The flavors meld and mature creating a delicious cake that crumbles in your mouth. A true Baath cake needs at least 6 hours of resting time.
The traditional recipes call for over night resting on the counter top, risking the wrath of food safety experts. Before you reach for the pitchforks consider this, in the days before commercialized agriculture the eggs came from one’s own backyard, making salmonella poisoning virtually unheard of… And my guess is that decades back the December temperatures in Goa would have been considerably cooler. But in an abundance of caution I would say rest the batter in the refrigerator. The added advantage is that it gives you the flexibility to bake according to your schedule, as you can leave the batter in the fridge for up to 24 hours .
Mix the cake batter and pour it into the baking tray, already greased and floured or lined with parchment paper. I like to line mine with parchment paper with a little bit of overhang. This is entirely for utility purposes – pull up the parchment on opposite sides and the cakes comes out easily. Cover the pan with an airtight lid or plastic wrap ( or aluminium foil) and keep in the fridge until you are ready to bake. When ready to bake take it out of the fridge and rest on the counter while the oven is preheating.
I like the texture of these cakes. It is not overly soft and smooth, but more rustic. If you prefer a smooth top you could add a few table spoons of water/coconut milk to thin the batter. But that is a decision you make when you make the batter, as the moisture content of the fresh ingredients missed the memo on the acceptable water content. Kidding aside when you see the picture of the batter above you know that the top is not going to be smooth . Even at that point you could use a pastry brush (or a small spoon) dipped in water to add more moisture to make the top smooth and even.
Baath recipes call for a little AP flour (maida) as a binder. A little milk is added to the batter as well. There are some recipes that add extra milk and proceed to bake without resting. I am sure all these recipes will yield delicious cakes, but the extra milk makes a dense cake rather than one with light airy crumb. I have cut down a little on the sugar, a little, as I want the textures and flavors to be be prominent and not masked by the sweetness.
Yum , now if only I had any home made wine left over !!
Notes : Fresh shredded coconut imparts the beast flavors. If using dry coconut use lightly packed 1 C coconut and add 1 C coconut milk or water to the recipe.
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