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Why Christmas in the Philippines Isn’t Complete Without Bibingka


You’ve probably heard how Filipinos couldn’t imagine Christmas without Simbang Gabi (dawn mass). But actually, Simbang Gabi is incomplete without the sweet aroma of the native Filipino rice cake “bibingka” dominating the cool dawn air of December.


Write the author.




If Americans have pancakes, Filipinos have bibingka. It is actually more than being merely like pancake because of the special way it is prepared and cooked. No less than Filipino baking ingenuity, artistry and patience are required to come up with the perfect finished product–a soft rice cake with spongy texture and sweet, creamy flavor. The sweet, enchanting aroma of hot, freshly cooked bibingka hovering in the air–fresh out of the native earthen pot oven (and made more aromatic with the banana leaves it is wrapped with during baking)–lures you to commit waking up early to attend the dawn mass.


That’s actually how you complete the 9-day Simbang Gabi ritual that starts on the 16th and ends on the 24th of December–by dreaming of putting warm bibingka slices in your mouth while the butter on top melts. You wash that down with a cup of hot, thick sweet chocolate drink made from pure cacao or cocoa. Just imagine enjoying such delights each early morning after dawn mass until Christmas Day.  And to many Filipinos, competing the 9-day dawn masses is critical if they want to end their year pleasantly and start the new year prosperously. It is even said that you can wish something after having completed the 9-day consecutive masses and it would be granted. The nine mornings of attending Christmas mass serves as a novena prayer in Catholic doctrine.


Thus, missing your bibingka at dawn means missing the dawn mass as well, and that doesn’t augur well for your Christmas Season. One dawn mass missed and you ruin the whole thing. Everything is made easy and exciting with the delicious, mouth-watering visions of bibingka cakes that linger in the mind as an incentive.


And mind you, the incentive becomes even more tempting when bibingka is eaten together with puto-bungbong, which is another flavorful sweet delicacy made of glutinous rice like bibingka.


Now you know why Christmas isn’t complete without bibingka for Filipinos.



Like many native Filipino delicacies, bibingka was derived from the Chinese word “Bi” which means “unripe grain.” The name bibingka sounds so much like the name of a Goan dessert called “Bebinca” and is somewhat cooked in the same manner. But the ingredients are basically different–the Goan cake is made using ordinary flour while the Filipino delicacy uses glutinous rice (rice flour) or “galapong” in its recipe.


How to Cook


  • Rice flour

  • Baking powder

  • Butter

  • Sugar

  • Coconut milk

  • Fresh milk

  • Slices of salted duck egg

  • Grated cheese

  • Eggs

  • A piece of banana leaf

  • Grated coconut

  • Salt to taste


The amount of the ingredients depends on how big the bibingka is going to be. The possible sizes vary from being as big as a plate or small as a saucer (some make them even smaller). In cooking, the traditional manner is placing the tray (where the batter mixture is poured on) in an earthen pot which is sandwiched between burning coals to bake.


However, in this recipe, an electrical oven is considered.




  1. Preheat the oven to about 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Thoroughly mix the rice flour, baking powder and salt.

  3. Cream the butter while slowly putting in sugar. Add the eggs and mix well to a thick consistency.

  4. Slowly mix in the pre-mixed rice flour and baking soda. Keep stirring.

  5. Add the coconut and fresh milk. Mix well.

  6. Place the banana leaf on the tray or pan where mixture is to be poured.

  7. Pour mixture into the pan or tray.

  8. Bake for some 15 minutes.

  9. Take the pan out of the oven and top the bibingka with sliced salted egg and grated cheese.

  10. Place the pan back to the oven to bake some 15 minutes more or until the crust is light brown.

  11. Take out from the oven and brush surface with butter while hot. Sprinkle some sugar.

  12. Top with grated coconut.

  13. Always serve hot.


Next time, I shall feature another traditional Filipino Christmas food called the “puto-bungbong” which is the partner of the bibingka.


★☆♔ Happy Christmas and enjoy your bibingka with a hot cup of cocoa. ★☆♔



Author: Expatch Editorial Team


Photo source:

Top left photo –

All other photos – by Expatch



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Bibingka Recipe






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