Thursday 29 January 2015


Half of me wants to detox and diet but half of me wants to celebrate the new year. I am so thankful to have another year to look forward to, a blank chapter to fill with life stories. I know that sometimes we just get dragged along by life's currents that we are only half aware that time is ticking by. While it may seem that life just goes on and on, for someone like  me who has  experienced a drastic life changing event, life can seem pretty volatile. I have now learned that life is indeed fleeting. Our courses have been charted for us and we do not know where that leads and when we'll reach our final destination.  I'd like to take the opportunity to appreciate each day and enjoy life and everything it gives.

Let's celebrate the new year with desserts that have stayed firm favourites in the Philippine food scene. Silvanas and sambos are twin desserts that are decadent yet simple to make. Silvanas are meringue wafers made of toasted ground cashews and egg whites, filled and frosted with buttercream and coated with cake crumbs. Sambos are a variation of silvanas. The frosting and cake crumbs are chocolate flavoured. Every bite is a contrast of textures and flavours. The crisp, nutty wafers, the creamy frosting and the soft cake crumbs all contribute to a different level of deliciousness.

Silvanas are a miniature version of a cake called sans rival which is basically the same but is in gateau form and has cashew nut sprinkles instead of cake crumbs. They are very similar to macarons but having toasted ground cashews instead of almond meal gives them an edge in terms of flavour. Cashews, especially when toasted, has a smoky aroma that gives a distinct flavour to this dessert.

This is a very easy recipe. I used store bought cake to make into crumbs for convenience. For the sambos, I also added coffee powder to the chocolate buttercream to give it a contrasting flavour to the cake crumbs. I must say that that worked really well and resulted to a more exciting taste. The silvanas can be given a different twist by varying the flavour of the buttercream. Although cake crumbs are used in the classic recipe, cookie crumbs may be used also for  a crisper coating. Choose flavours that would not overpower the delicate taste of the cashew wafer. Some serve this dessert frozen for the wafers to be crisp but that also means biting into cold frozen buttercream which is quite unpleasant. Baking at a low oven temperature for longer results to crisp wafers. The crispness stays on even when frosted and refrigerated. All in all, this dessert is a breeze to make, a pride to serve and a joy to eat.

Here's to wishing each of us a good year filled with blessings and love.

Recipe adapted from The Maya Kitchen Cakes and Pastries Cookbook.
Yield: 12 pieces

1 3/4 toasted ground cashew nuts
2 T. plain (all purpose flour)
1/2 c. sugar
5 medium egg whites

Pre-heat the oven to 130ยบ C/250° F. Pulse about 300 gms. of whole raw cashew nuts in a food processor to grind. Do not over process as the cashews will begin to exude oil and clump together. Pass through a sieve. Transfer the sieved ground nuts to a pan and toast until light golden brown, hot and fragrant. Transfer to a tray and leave aside to cool. Line cookie sheets with non stick baking paper. Draw circles (I used a 21/4 diameter template) or ovals on a piece of paper to make a template for the wafers. Slide the template under the baking paper and use as a guide when piping the meringue wafers. Combine the 1 3/4 c. toasted ground cashew nuts, flour and half of the sugar. Set aside.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the rest of the sugar and continue beating until stiff but not dry. Fold in the cashew nut mixture.sambossilvanasmethod4Transfer the meringue mixture into a piping bag with a plain nozzle and pipe round shapes of the mixture onto the baking paper, starting from the edge of the circle and ending at the center.sambossilvanasmethod5Bake for 1 hour or so until lightly browned and crisp. Wipe the underside of the lining paper with a wet paper towel to release the wafers. Alternatively, spray the underside of the paper lightly with water. Invert the wafers onto cooking racks and leave to cool before frosting.sambossilvanasmethod6

1 c. confectioner's (powdered) sugar 
1 c. evaporated milk, cold 
1 c. (1 250 gm. block) unsalted butter, room temperature


Combine the sugar and milk together in a jug. Cream the butter until pale and very fluffy. Add the milk and sugar mixture a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition.

sambossilvanasmethod7Use to fill and frost the meringue wafers.
You will also need a butter cake for the silvanas and chocolate cake for the sambos. Trim off the outer crust of the cakes for even coloured crumbs. Grate through a medium grater then sift through a coarse sieve.sambossilvanasmethod10Fill the underside of 1 wafer with about 1 T. of buttercream.

sambossilvanasmethod8Cover with another wafer and frost all over with buttercream. I found it less messy to poke the middle of the sandwiched wafers with a skewer and use that as a handle.

sambossilvanasmethod9Roll in the cake crumbs.

sambossilvanasmethod11Take the skewer off and very gently pat the sandwiched wafers into neater shapes. They will be soft at this stage but will firm up once refrigerated. Refrigerate before serving.
For the SAMBOS:

Add 2 T. of cocoa and 1 tsp. coffee to the rest of the buttercream (about 2 c.) 
Use to fill half of the wafers then roll in chocolate cake crumbs.

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