There are some treats that you can whip up any old time you feel like it and some that are reserved for special occasions. Cassava Pone is one of those special occasion desserts made during the Christmas holidays in the Caribbean.
I've wanted to try my hand making cassava pone for some time, but with so many versions and recipes out there I wasn't quite sure where to start. The obvious place? My mother. She always made an array of goodies for the holidays so I was sure she would have a recipe. She didn't, but she did manage to get one from a friend of a friend the last time she was in Trinidad.
What is Cassava Pone?
Pone is kind of a cross between a cake and a pudding. It is made all over the Caribbean and there are several variations depending on the country. It's made with a variety of root vegetables: cassava, sweet potato, yam, dried coconut, pumpkin, raisins (not in mine!), and and spices. There's no flour in cassava pone so it's a naturally gluten-free dessert.
This is the kind of dessert that you make when you have a lot of time and maybe people to help because it takes a while to prep all of the fresh ingredients - peeling, chopping and grating. The first time I made it I didn't have a food processor so every single item was grated by hand on a box grater. Nope, not doing that again.
Non-traditional recipe adjustments
Cassava Pone is often made with evaporated milk, butter and brown sugar. In my version I sub coconut milk for the evaporated milk, coconut oil in place of butter, and coconut sugar for brown sugar. Do you need to make these substitutions? No. Brown sugar will work just fine and is a more budget-friendly option. I suggest using dark brown sugar for a nice, rich flavour.
The other change I made was to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe. The root veggies all have natural sugars which add to the sweetness and I like to let those flavours shine.
Recipe Tips and Shortcuts
- I purchased a coconut from my local Caribbean store and asked them to crack it open for me. It's a small local store that I shop at regularly and they were more than willing to help. Keep in mind that you should use the cracked coconut the same day to avoid spoilage.
- If you don't want to struggle with a whole coconut then you can use unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut. I haven't tried this myself but people I know have and they say it works fine.
- When grating the ingredients it's easiest to use a food processor with a grating blade but it can be done with a box grater. For a smoother, more pudding-like texture use the finest grate.
- This recipe is quite forgiving so if your measurements are off a little bit that's okay. You'll be using whole, fresh ingredients that are come in different sizes and if I have a little bit more yam (or coconut or pumpkin) than the recipe calls for I just add it in.
- 2 lbs cassava (peeled and grated)
- 1 small yam (peeled and grated)
- ¼ lb pumpkin (peeled and grated)
- 1 whole dried coconut (grated)
- 2 + 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- ½ cup coconut sugar
- ¼ cup raisins (optional)
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 can coconut milk (400ml)
- pinch sea salt
- Peel the outer skin from the cassava, yam and pumpkin and remove the coconut from the shell.
- Grate cassava, yam, coconut and pumpkin into a bowl.
- Add melted coconut oil, coconut sugar, spices, salt, vanilla and coconut milk.
- Mix all ingredients until well incorporated. It may look a little soupy at this point - that's okay.
- Pour into a greased 11"x7" baking dish.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 ¼ hour. It will be soft when it comes out of the oven. Let cool to firm up. Slice and enjoy!