Kalathappam is a traditional sweet snack from the Malabar region. This traditional recipe seems ridiculously simple, and tastes delicious. It is also known as “Cooker Cake” as pressure cookers are the utensil of choice to bake this cake in. Rice and jaggery makes up the body of this cake with onions, cardamom, and coconut creating the exotic flavors. The first time I tasted this I was intrigued. One of those dishes that I had to have the the recipe of, not to mention that this was the first time I had seen onions (of any kind) in a desert.
Often times I get requests for egg free versions of my bakes. For all those looking for vegan, eggless, or gluten free desert or snacks this is a must try. No guess work or substitutions, this recipe is a star on its own.
The sweetener is jaggery, the raw evaporated sugar cane juice. If you prefer, you can make make this recipe with sugar and a tablespoon of molasses, but I like the traditional dark jaggery flavors. You can make it using ghee or coconut oil , though most cooks I know use a mix of both. Ghee for its high smoking point and coconut oil for its flavors.
The recipe starts by soaking and grinding raw rice. I would recommend using the raw rice , as I have had mixed results with the rice flour. Any of the popular south Indian rices – jeera, sona Masoori, Kolam etc – can be used in this recipe. Wash well and soak the rice in plenty of water for 1 hour. Rise again and drain.
Mix the grated jaggery with about 1/4 C water and stir well to dissolve. Warm the mix a little to help dissolve fully. Place the drained rice, jaggery water , cardamom seeds, and the cooked rice in a blender bowl. Grind to a smooth paste. Once the mix is partially ground add a little more water to help the process along. Grind to a smooth paste and add enough water to make a batter of pouring consistency. The goal is to make a batter the consistency of Dosa or Crepe batter.
Add a pinch of salt and baking soda to the batter and pulse a few times to mix well. Set aside.
Heat a heavy bottomed pan (like a cast iron dutch oven) or pressure cooker and add the oil. Swirl the pan to coat the sides with oil. Slice the onions and coconut into thin pieces. When the oil is hot add the coconut pieces and stir fry for a minute. Keep the heat on medium high, enough to keep the oil hot but not smoking. Add the sliced onion to this mix and stir fry till brown. Remove half the onions and coconut pieces from the pan. Keeping the pan back on hot stove, pour batter in. The fried pieces rise up. Sprinkle the reserved pieces on top. Cover with the lid and cook on high for 2 minutes. Lower the flame and cook covered for 15 minutes .
The timing is of essence. 15 minutes work well if the batter covers the pan by about 1″ thickness. Since this is done on stove top, temperature controls can not be as fine tuned as in the oven. The time and temperature in this case is for standard kitchen stove burners. I would not recommend using the low (simmer) burners or the high heat (stir fry) burners in this case. The lower output burners do not allow the cake to rise properly resulting in a gummy , dense texture while the high output burners burns the bottom easily. When in doubt check to see if the cake is done in 10 minutes.
Insert a skewer to the center of the cake and pull it back. If the cake is done the skewer will come out clean. If possible try to do this without opening the lid. If the cake is not ready cook for an extra 3 to 5 minutes over low heat. Remove from the stove and let cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish slice and serve !!
The first time I got this recipe was from a friend’s mom. It took a few (or close to 20 !) trials and errors before I could get the texture right. But once you get the proportions right it is pretty much effortless. A perfect cake for those summer days when one does not want to heat up the whole house by turning on the oven . Here are a few tips to help you to get the texture right .
- Use a heavy bottomed pan.
- Do not skimp on oil, though you can reduce it by 25% easily.
- Use any good quality raw rice except glutenous or sticky rice.
- Use a shallow pan , about 4 to 6 ” in depth and no taller.
- Pour the batter into very hot pan with the oil just below its smoking point.
- Do not pour the batter for more than 1″ thickness.
- Burners vary in heat output. Use a standard home burner.
Here is another recipe using very similar ingredients – rice , jaggery , cardamom and coconut – Nei Payasam