Fifty years ago, kue balok—literally meaning block cake due to its shape—was not only everybody’s favorite but also a commonplace treat found on plenty of Bandung’s street corners.
But now this comfort food is fading away without even having a chance to introduce itself to the younger generation.
“Kids now know and have got so used to eating Western food like French fries and pizza that their palate has changed too. I don’t think the original taste of kue balok will suit this generation,” Mang Udju aka Mr. Fahmi Adam, the owner of Kue Balok Cihapit said over the phone.
His kue balok business has so far been successful in staging a well-deserved comeback for the cake. Years ago, when he was still studying in Garut, West Java, there was a kue balok he liked so much that he got the idea that one day he would sell the cakes in Bandung, and so he did.
The main ingredients of Mang Udju’s kue balok are eggs, flour, white sugar, and milk. According to him, these are different to the ingredients used in the original kue balok recipe.
“The old kue balok recipe will only appeal to people over 40 years old for nostalgic reasons,” Mang Udju added.
He then recounted the cake's history according to what he has read. During the Colonial times, there was a Priangan (Sundanese) chef working in a Dutch family from whom he obtained the recipe, thus explaining the reason why kue balok is exclusively known only in Priangan or West Java.
Another interesting historical fact is the cake was quite popular among colonial soldiers due to its lasting quality (kue balok can last for 2-3 days and a week in the fridge).
In the 60s-70s, kue balok was known too as robur cake because its shape was very much like a type of bus at that time of the same name. “The main difference between our kue balok recipe compared to others is we don’t use Dutch yeast in the original recipe,” Mang Udju said.
As a result , his product has a softer texture.
Watching the making of the cake is quite an interesting sight because apparently they still use the concept of vintage ovens powered by charcoal.
Even though Kue Balok Cihapit is still loyal to the old method of cooking, Mang Udju improvises his by adding selections of toppings to reach the younger market.
Now, Kue Balok Cihapit has five flavors to satisfy its customers: original, cheese, chocolate, raisin and almond.
Kue Balok Cihapit can sell an average of 500-600 pieces in a day and Mang Udju employee Nana says they now have customers from the neighboring provinces of Central Java and even foreigners, buying dozens or more to bring home.
At only Rp 1.500 (16 US cents),- a piece, kue balok is a very affordable little drop of comfort. Ask for half-baked kue balok to taste the unique sensation of the mixture melting in your mouth.
The cake is best gobbled up hot accompanied by a hot cup of tea or coffee.