Try this Ube Cake Recipe for a rich, deep purple cake with a nutty, vanilla-like flavor of ube!
Ube is a beautiful deep purple yam famous in the Philippines.
I have been wanting to make an ube cake for ages, so here is where my story of kitchen mishap begins.
Ube extract and ube powder are much easier to find here in the U.S. than actual fresh ube, a kind of light purple yam with a hairy exterior like ginger.
Ube extract isn’t just the deep, gorgeous purple color you may be familiar with, it’s also the rich, delicious flavor of the ube yam too.
It’s not much like the flavor of the orange sweet potatoes we have here in the U.S. and I highly recommend you pick up a high-quality ube extract and experiment with it.
So my one big error is kind of a dumb one that could have been easily avoided: I eyeballed the cake for doneness instead of using a toothpick or butter knife to check that it was done.
A smarter foodie would have started over but I had a couple things go sideways on this, so I decided to share them all for posterity and maybe save you, fearless foodies, some of my pain.
So my finished Ube Cake Recipe was really, truly the most stunning purple color.
But it was utterly uncooked in the center after 30 minutes in a 10-inch silicone cake pan.
It had great height, even after it fell and cracked a bit, and even came out of the pan like a champ. But it was a 3-inch-diameter soggy disaster in the center.
So here I am, needing to get this cake to hold a simple layer of creamy icing and a decorative edge, so do you want to guess what I did?
I added a circle cut out of parchment paper and placed it into the center, basically a bandage over a wound.
But it worked. And I iced over it with my vanilla whipped cream frosting and it held up, enough for a few pictures anyway.
And, AND, it occurred to me that I’d try my hand at decorating NOW, TODAY.
So I colored about a cup of icing with more ube extract (because purple and delicious ube) and filled a simple zipper baggie and piped out a pretty unfortunate zig-zag of “decoration” around the edge and a serial-killer love-note heart in the center.
So a creepy heart and some wiggity-jiggity purple sadness around the edge, and I decided I was done messing with it.
You may even be looking at the pics and thinking to yourself, Andi, how did you cut a slice out of this monstrosity?
I used kitchen shears, that’s how—I used scissors to cut through the bandage/parchment paper then a cake knife through the cake.
Yes, I know, here I am giving away all my food styling secrets. Follow me for more comedy.
But I wasn’t giving this up. I was on a mission, I tell you.
Renee and Tabitha gave me some pretty serious looks.
This is for the blog, I said! For the readers who want to know that sometimes cooking is a process of learning and missteps, I said!
And for others who want to see me fail spectacularly at this cake-making thing, this is truly for you.
Yet, we plated that sucker, Tabitha got pictures, then I ate the done part so that I could try it.
I was the only one bold (read: desperate) enough to get a bite.
And it was so delicious, you guys. I am fully enamored with the flavor of ube, and in this case liquid ube extract.
I talk more in depth about the absolutely nutty, yammy, rich, kinda vanilla, kinda not amazing flavor below.
So let’s talk about my first (ad)venture with making an Ube Cake Recipe.
I can tell you that my next one will be baked all the way through.
Because this is my first time using ube extract in a cake, I had to draw inspiration from an authentic pinoy food blogger online, this one from Jenalyn, for the idea to use condensed milk and the amount of baking powder to use.
I used an oven, not a steamer like she did, and baked it like we are more used to here in America then iced it with my own frosting recipe.
My story here is one of krazy kitchen high-jinx, but not only do I believe you can do better than I did, I think you can learn from my mistakes.
You’ll love the flavor of this famous Filipino yam! Let’s keep going.
Ube (pronounced oo-beh) is a yam, a tuber vegetable commonly found and grown in the Philippines, but is a lot harder to find fresh in the U.S.
It’s not the same as the Okinawan sweet potato, and not the same as purple yam, either.
Real ube has a hairy, bark-like exterior with a light purple center, with a nutty, creamy, vanilla-adjacent flavor.
This is decidedly different from the purple sweet potatoes that I found at the Asian market and deftly inserted into our photo shoot because there was not a real ube root to be found anywhere.
So, don’t be fooled by our photos.
The cake uses real ube extract, but the whole dark purple yams you see in our pics are NOT ube yams.
And to be fair, they aren’t pretending to be. The purple sweet potatoes are delicious in their own right.
What does ube cake taste like?
This recipe uses high-quality liquid ube extract that I found on Amazon. (This one is highly rated and I’d buy it again for sure.)
The cake tastes like nothing I’ve ever had before, and since I’ve never eaten an actual ube yam, I can say that this is a rich, nutty, yammy, jammy, vanilla-adjacent flavor that has far more depth than any simple vanilla cake.
The texture is much like a very moist chocolate cake without having any chocolate flavor at all.
It’s not reminiscent of red velvet or spice cake or anything.
In fact, despite the deep purple, it’s closer to a French vanilla cake with a light sweet potato finish than anything else I’ve had before.
About ube extract
This one is a thick liquid ube extract in a small bottle with a dropper tip.
I was really paranoid about getting this everywhere because it is SO dark purple, but it actually cleaned up pretty well.
I put kitchen towels down and wore an apron, and I’d advise making sure that your stuff is protected.
Just don’t let droplets or spatters of this sit anywhere. Eyeball the kitchen for cleaning up any stray purple spots.
Do a purp-walk, if you will.
About the icing
While my icing for this cake contains cream cheese, it is not an overwhelming cream cheese flavor like you might find on carrot cake or banana cake.
This is my favorite cake icing because it’s lightly sweet; creamy but not too light; sturdy but not too thick.
It’s got a proud vanilla-forward flavor and just a hint of the cream cheese.
It goes on as smooth as you want or as unstructured as you want. If it comes out a bit TOO loose, you can add more powdered sugar to get it to thicken up a bit.
If you want some of this off-white icing to go purple, add drops of the ube extract and mix it into a ½ c of the finished icing, adding more to get it the shade of purple you want.
My finished purple frosting took a full teaspoon of ube extract and it was honestly kind of an unpleasant dark purple when it was done. (In my opinion.)
About the sweetened condensed milk
Make sure you use the can of thick, sweet condensed milk, not evaporated milk.
This is all the sugar you will need in the cake batter, I promise.
And it adds a level of richness that complements all of the flavors.
You will use the whole 14 oz. can, so use a can opener instead of a hole punch, so you can scrape all the contents from the can.
About the vanilla bean paste
This was a shot in the dark for me.
I love the flavor of real, rich vanilla, and I have a jar of Nielsen-Massey on hand, which is sweetened, thick and very richly flavored of pure vanilla.
That said, I just checked the prices, and vanilla has gone through the roof.
I found this McCormick tube of vanilla bean paste for much cheaper, but if you have vanilla extract (imitation or pure) on hand, it’s ok to use that instead.
Ube cake recipe cheat code
If you are not a confident baker, the below boxed cake mix tip is an easy way to get the nutty, yammy, rich flavor without having to make sure your cake turns out.
Skip making this ube cake recipe from scratch and use a white box cake mix instead.
Get the same pretty purple color and ube yam flavor.
The cake just won’t be as richly textured and dense (two extra eggs may help).
Follow the directions on the box cake mix and then just add the same amount of liquid ube extract as is called for in this ube cake recipe. Bake as described on the box.
It’s not authentic at all, but it helps to get to a richer purple cake faster with a box mix ube cake recipe.
Supplies to gather
- Kitchen towel
- Can opener
- 2 Large Mixing bowls
- 1 Medium mixing bowl
- Measuring spoons
- Measuring cups
- Wooden spoon
- Scraping spatula
- Hand mixer
- Parchment paper
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 9×9 square pan or 10-in round pan
For the cake:
- Ube extract
- Can of condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
- Vanilla bean paste (regular vanilla extract is ok too)
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
For the icing:
- Cream cheese
- Heavy cream
- Powdered sugar
- Optional: Ube extract for adding purple color and ube flavor
The bottom line
I plan on making this very same recipe for my daughter this Christmas, as purple is her favorite color and I think this famous Philippines yam flavor will become a new tradition.
My cream frosting only uses half a package of cream cheese so you get just a HINT of cream cheese in the frosting.
It’s thick without being dense, just lightly sweet (I mean, for icing), and holds its shape well, as you’ll see in the pictures.
If the next one comes out “prettier” I may upload better photos just so future readers don’t have to go through this!
If you make this cake, I’d LOVE to see your photos! Please email me at email@example.com.
For the cake
- 1-½ c all-purpose flour
- 1 T baking powder
- ⅛ t salt
- 1 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk
- 4 eggs
- ½ c melted butter
- 2 t vanilla bean paste (or 2 t vanilla extract)
- 2 ¼ T ube extract
For the icing
- ½ package room temperature cream cheese
- ½ stick softened butter
- 2 c powdered sugar
- 2 T heavy cream
- 1 T vanilla
- Pinch or ⅛ t table salt
For the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Prepare the cake pan: Spray the pan with a generous coating of nonstick spray. Cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of your cake pan. It’s ok if it goes up the sides slightly. Press the cut parchment onto the sprayed pan. Set aside.
- With the sifter over your large mixing bowl, sift the flour and baking powder. Mix in the salt. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in the butter and vanilla bean paste. When fully combined, add the ube extract and gently whisk til fully combined. Set aside.
- With the spatula, scrape the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients. Using a hand-mixer on low, beat just until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl, until no dry ingredients can be seen.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and slide pan into the center of a hot oven. Set timer for 35 minutes. (The more shallow the pan, the less time it will need.)
- Test the center of the cake with a toothpick or butterknife. It should come out with no batter clinging. For a 9x9 glass pan or 10-in round pan, it will probably take 40 minutes, but since ovens may vary, keep checking. It takes as long as it takes, and the center should be done before removing from the oven to cool.
- Let cool completely before removing from pan. Then turn out onto a serving plate and right it. Ensure the cake is cool before applying any icing.
For the icing:
- Start with clean beaters on the hand mixer.
- Ensure the butter and cream cheese are at room temperature, so for best results remove from the refrigerator at least two hours before ready to use.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the room soft (but not melted) butter and cream cheese together until combined and creamy with soft peaks.
- Add the salt, vanilla, heavy cream and ½ c of the powdered sugar at a time beating on low, until all the powdered sugar has been used. If needed to get desired consistency, add a bit more powdered sugar (if too loose) or cream (if too thick).
- Using an offset spatula or butter knife, smooth the icing over the completely cooled cake.
- You can apply the icing in a loose fashion as I did, leaving the bottom of the cake un-iced for a “wintry” effect.
- For a bit of purple accent icing, before frosting the cake, transfer ½ c of icing into a bowl and add 5 or 6 drops of ube extract. Mix to evaluate the color and continue adding drops of ube extract until desired purple color is reached. (As shown was a full teaspoon of extract.)
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