It's been a while since I've cooked or baked anything sweet, so when I came across this lovely Bojo Cake from Suriname, I instantly stopped looking for another recipe to represent this interesting South American country. Granted, there are hundreds of great dishes I could have picked, but... rum-soaked golden raisins, grated coconut, coconut milk, vanilla, cinnamon, almond extract and cassava, all baked up in a cake? Fugetaboutit! The ingredient substituted for flour is cassava, also known as manioc, a starchy tuber that is available (fresh, frozen or dried) in most any tropical market. If you're not inclined to grate a fresh coconut, frozen unsweetened grated coconut is also available in most tropical markets as well, and is better (in my opinion), than dried. Finally, a quick shout out to Jackie's Primitives, a neighborhood antique store where I picked up the beautiful fork and knife (pictured above) for $5 - please visit her website if you like vintage antiques, accessories and linens that aren't an over-priced rip off!
A northern South American country, Suriname is bordered by French Guyana, Guyana, Brazil and the Atlantic Ocean. Slightly larger than the state of Georgia (U.S.), Suriname was originally sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1498 and was inhabited by the indigenous Arawak and Carribs. The Spanish and Portuguese explorers never took much interest in this country, until 1616, when the Dutch settled the area and claimed it as a Dutch colony in 1667. However, the colony did not thrive, largely due to violent up risings against the treatment of slaves and indigenous people as well as the high cost of employing enough labor to cultivate and maintain Dutch plantations. As a result, a large number of slaves fled to the interior of the country, and established a vibrant West African culture than continues to thrive today. Over time, the viability of Dutch coffee, sugar and cocoa plantations waned and was replaced with rice, banana, and citrus crops, which continue to support the country's agricultural economy today. In addition, the country's natural resources such as bauxite, gold, oil, iron, ore, minerals, forestry, hydroelectric power, fishing and shrimping also support the economy.
Suriname's tropical climate is home to rain forests, savannas, coastal swamps and hills. This beautiful country's ethnic groups include Hindustani (East Indians), Creole, Javanese, Maroon, mixed race, Amerindians and Chinese. Given this rich cultural mix, Suriname's cuisine is different from typical South American cuisine, as it incorporates Indonesian and East Indian traditions. Tropical fruit, seafood, potatoes, cassava, rice, sweet potatoes, lentils and plantains are staple foods. Pom, dhal, curries, roti, bakbana (fried plantains) and Bojo cake are all typical dishes and foods enjoyed in Suriname.
Coconut milk, golden raisins soaked in rum, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla & almond extract
Bojo Cake (Recipe Adapted from South American Food)
1/2 cup gold raisins
1/3 cup rum
1/2 pound peeled manioc root (boiled first for 30 minutes with wood center removed)
2 cups grated unsweetened coconut (fresh or dried)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2 tsp. almond extract
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. salt
Graham cracker pie crust (optional - I did not use this as it's not traditional)
- Soak the raisins in the rum over night if possible.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Butter a 9-inch round or square cake pan, and line the bottom of the pan with waxed paper or parchment.
- Finely grate boiled manioc root (easily done in a food processor). Stir the coconut and grated manioc root together with the cinnamon and sugar in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, vanilla, almond extract and salt.
- Stir the liquid ingredients into the coconut mixture. Stir in the melted butter. Stir in the raisins and the rum.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 1 hour, until brown on top.
- Run a knife around the edge of the pan while the cake is still warm, then let cool in the pan.
- Cut into small slices or squares and serve.
- The cake is delicious warm or cold, with a dollop of whipped cream.
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