I’ve never really noticed it until Dennis cleverly pointed it out: Filipinos love purple sweets. I was actually thrilled when Dennis, a true Midwesterner who insists American desserts are far superior than any other, got a kick out of his first ube cake.  It’s very purple, he said excitedly.  He had never seen and tasted anything like it before.


Ube Cake


Ube [ooh-beh] is purple yam, which should not be confused with purple potatoes or with purple sweet potatoes.  Purple yam is not uniquely found in the Philippines but Filipinos by far use it more than anyone else to flavor and color their sweet treats and breads.  On a recent trip home, I was amazed at how ubiquitous purple sweet treats are.

When I think of ube I think of my mom making haleyang ube [ha-leh-yang ooh-beh] or purple yam jam in our tiny kitchen.  My mom buys fresh ube from the market and makes jam in her heavy, deep kawali.  When I was little, she let me stir the jam only if I promised to be very careful.  She told me to use a small towel to hold the pan’s handle with my left hand and use my right to stir the jam until it thickens.

Making ube jam and collecting twelve round fruits are my family’s New Year’s traditions.  Having twelve round fruits on the dinner table as the clock strikes twelve brings good luck and prosperity in the New Year.  Making something purple for media noche brings even more prosperity.  The more purple, the better. The color purple — the color of a one-hundred peso bill — is the color of prosperity.

The beloved ube, therefore, occupies a special spot in my heart. Ube ice cream with crispy, fragile barquillos or wafer rolls.


Ube Ice Cream


Bite-size ube puto or rice cakes topped with cheese and sprinkled with grated coconut.


Ube Rice Cakes


Crunchy and creamy ube silvanas.  A silvana is a layer of buttercream sandwiched between two cashew-meringue wafers, coated with cookie crumbs.


Ube Silvanas


Ube with macapuno or sweetened young coconut.  Ube with flan.  Ube with halo-halo.

A popular purple sweet treat traditionally served during the Christmas holidays alongside bibingka is puto bumbong.  These steamed rice cakes get its distinct purple color not from purple yam but from purple sticky rice, which is ground and steamed in bamboo tubes called bumbong.  The rice cakes are then topped with butter and sprinkled with sugar and grated coconut.


Puto bumbong


These are all uniquely Filipino purple sweet treats that I love, that Filipinos love.

  • http://moonglowgardens.wordpress.com Annapet

    Does Dennis still insist that American desserts are far superior than any other? How about homemade Sans Rival? Or make that homemade Ube Sans Rival? =)

    Your blog post made me really hungry. I want that puto bumbong now.

  • http://whisk-kid.blogspot.com Kaitlin

    Gorgeous photos! I have never had a purple yam, but I love regular yams and I’m sure my sentiments about the purple ones would be the same :)

    I remember the first time I was served a purple potato in the cafeteria at my college… I had no idea it wasn’t a normal one and thought the outside was so dark because they burned it. I was shocked when I cut into it and it was bright purple!

    Strawberry rhubarb pie makes me think of home. That an anything flavored with almond extract; Dad used to include it as a secret ingredient in his pancakes. The smell always brings back memories :)

  • Jennifer

    Mmmmm, ube! Ube lovin’ is not just for Filipinos, however, since I’m an honorary Pinay, I guess I’m not the best example. Fantastic photos :)

  • http://www.kirbiecravings.com Kirbie

    Great post! I love purple and purple desserts. My Boyfriend is filipino, so whenever we are at his family parties or eating filipino food, I always want all the ube desserts! Recently bought some frozen grated ube, going to try to make my own desserts.

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  • http://psychosomaticaddictinsane.wordpress.com iya

    shet gusto ko ng halaya with grated cheese! yummy!

  • http://www.junbelen.com Jun Belen

    Hmmm, I’ve never had haleyang ube with grated cheese. But the idea of sweet + salty makes perfect sense. I’d have to try that out one of these days!!

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  • http://lakocinera.blogspot.com Kocinera

    I can’t get over how cool all these treats look! More desserts in the world need to be purple.

  • http://www.junbelen.com Jun Belen

    Thank you, Kocinera! These purple treats are really pretty!! :-)

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  • http://nappytales.blogspot.com/ momiGail

    why did I have to browse previous post and found Ube! now I’m craving for some UbeCake ala RedRibbon. maghahanap na nga ako ng recipe would you have one?

  • Ane Kirstine Nørby

    I would really like to get the recipe for a purple layered cake with some kind of green cream between the layers. I tasted it at a Philippino baptism party 10 years ago here in Denmark.

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    I still owe you an ube chiffon cake recipe.  Cherrie, a fellow food blogger has this recipe –  http://www.sweetcherriepie.com/2010/09/ube-chiffon-cake.html.  I have been wanting to try it out.  Let me know how it goes.

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you Ane for stopping by.  The cake you just described sounds delicious!  I think the green cream is pandan flavored.  I have never made ube chiffon cake before and it’s on my short-list of things to bake.  Thank you for the reminder.  In the meantime, here’s a recipe for ube chiffon cake from Cherrie, a fellow Filipino food blogger — http://www.sweetcherriepie.com/2010/09/ube-chiffon-cake.html.  Let me know how it goes.

  • http://nappytales.blogspot.com abigail

    Thank you! Let you know how it goes. 

  • http://nappytales.blogspot.com abigail

    Hi Jun! I made the cake today and it was perfect! I just have to decide on what frosting to use. 

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  • A.Taylor

    Hi Abigail!  Can you please share the Ube cake recipe?  I have been craving Ube cake!!!

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  • Basil

    Ok Jun, I desperately need your help! I have to write a 500 word paper on a veggie, bean, or grain, and I LOVE  Ube. I was introduced to it a few years back and cant get enough of it, I will def. be trying some of your recipes.  But where your help comes in, I cant find any actual info on Ube, the history of it, are there any cultural beliefs associated to it, etc. any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated!  Thanks Basil

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  • Ochoawolfpack

    My best friend is filipino and she along with others including my boo (babys father) organized a surprise baby shower.  I’ve always liked the cake and it so happens thats its my favorite color!  They asked guest to wear purple tones and the cake was the finishing touch- not only is it pretty it is light airy and tasty….I’m Mexican and I had never seen anything like it until a few years back when she introduced me….I love Southern California (and my BFF) the cultures are endless and thats part of what makes this country great!  If you havent tried it you must!  Goldy Locks Bakery makes them also Red Ribbon (I prefer Red Ribbon)

  • Zadel

    I love love anything made of ube. I grow my own ube plant and I still have some for trade. Just email me at palengke97@gmail.com if interested. Thanks

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you for writing for the offer. Where are you located?

  • leo ortua

    I’m farming an ube which i classified as Discorea Bulbifera also known as “air potato” hence it hangs on their vines. I can consider this as the true ube because of the texture of the meat , has darker color which I think is economical in concentrating and flavoring food products…im looking for the right person to trade it in..if anybody’s interested you may contact me at this number 0909-4691347 and 0906-4925131.

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  • Delza Bayla

    Sorry for the delayed response . I’m in Orlando, Florida where ube grow very well. Right now they are sprouting and ready to be transplant so any body who want this can email me at palengke97@gmail.com. Thanks and have a blessed day.

  • vinny grette

    What an amazing food! I’ve never seen it here in Canada… Will look harder!

  • http://www.MarketingBytes.biz/ Alison D. Gilbert

    I found ube powder in an Asian store where I live. I made a pudding with a few health changes. It was so good I devoured it. Is there some special nutritional value in ube?

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  • http://www.MarketingBytes.biz/ Alison D. Gilbert

    Do you know what nutritional value ube has? I made a pudding from it and devoured it. I can’t seem to find any nutritional info anywhere else.

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Happy to hear you enjoyed ube. Here’s a link that has information about its health benefits: http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/nutritional-profile-ube-yam-1006.html. I hope this helps.

  • http://www.MarketingBytes.biz/ Alison D. Gilbert

    Thank you Jun. I will check it out. By the way, I got a jar of pre-made ube spread and I thought mine was better!

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  • http://www.MarketingBytes.biz/ Alison D. Gilbert

    Thank you, Jun. It was very helpful. I am so happy about discovering ube and all the amazing things to make from it, I included it in a blog post called, Make a Joyful Noise in the World, Now. You and your dessert images are a feature of it.

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  • Smita Reddy

    Although im familiar with Ube or Purple yam as it is known in India, I was fascinated to read in your blog abt the variety of desserts that this purple tuber can be transformed into. We usually use it in curries or make deep fried savoury chips out of this. Thanks for the info. It was a very interesting & informative read.

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