With diverse culinary traditions and hundreds of ingredients, Indonesian cuisine has its fair share of delightful desserts. Indonesian desserts feature appealing colors, delicious flavors, and beautiful appearances.
There is a good reason why Indonesian cakes and desserts are considered one of Southeast Asia’s most exotic delicacies. While you are exploring the famous landmarks in Indonesia, don’t forget to also, try out these treats!
What’s Special About Indonesian Desserts?
Desserts in Indonesia demonstrate native flavors and Chinese, Indian, and Western cuisines. Kue is a broad term used in the country to describe a variety of desserts and snacks. One of the exciting facts about Indonesia and its cuisine is the wide range of cakes, pastries, scones, pies, and fritters available.
Indonesian kue features a range of flavors based on the ingredients. They can be steamed, baked, or fried. These traditional Indonesian desserts have a sweet, savory, and sharp flavor with diverse textures.
Common flavoring agents used in these desserts are green pandan, peanut, coconut, ginger, chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon. While visiting the country, get ready to explore a variety of Indonesian sweets.
Here are some popular Indonesian desserts and cakes to try on your next visit to Indonesia.
Most Famous Indonesian Dessert
Kue Putu (Sweet Dumplings)
Kue Putu is often considered the most popular Indonesian dessert. It is also one of the famous street foods in Indonesia.
Kue Putu includes a combination of rice flour, palm sugar, shredded coconut, and pandan paste. A bamboo up to 5-6 inches is used as a cake mold to prepare this dish. Half of the bamboo is filled with dough and the other half contains palm sugar and other ingredients.
Once the bamboo is filled, it’s then steamed for 5 minutes. That is a traditional way of preparing Kue putu adopted by generations. These sweet dumplings are then served with shredded coconut.
In Indonesia, it’s commonly sold by street vendorsKue Putu sellers made whistle-like sounds when they make their rounds, therefore it is a nostalgic childhood memory for many locals.
Traditional Indonesian Cakes
Klepon (Sweet Rice Cake)
Klepon is another popular snack and dessert in Indonesia. Traditionally, these Indonesian cakes are served wrapped in banana leaves, but you might also find some stores selling them in plastic wrapping.
The sweet rice cakes contain melted palm sugar in the middle of the cake. When palm sugar is first inserted in the dough, it’s initially solid but melts when the rice cakes are boiled. The sweet liquid is then soaked in by the rice cakes.
To make the dough of these Indonesian cakes, glutinous rice flour is mixed with tapioca and a paste of pandan leaves. The paste gives the typical green color to klepon. The rice cakes are coated with coconut flakes to give a traditional Indonesian flavor to them.
Before eating klepon, make sure they are not very hot, as hot liquid palm sugar can cause a serious burn.
Wajik (Glutinous Rice Cake)
Wajik has a long history, dating back to 2500, during the Kingdom Era of Majapahit. This traditional Indonesian dessert has a unique diamond shape.
This glutinous rice dish is prepared with palm sugar and coconut milk giving it a sticky texture and sweet flavor. Wajik can only be found in the local markets of the Central Java region. You might have to explore some sweet shops to find this Indonesian dessert, but the effort is worth trying.
If you are going to attend a local wedding, engagement, or cultural event, you might find wajik on the dessert menu. Glutinous rice dishes are a must in Javanese wedding ceremonies. It’s because glutinous rice is known for its property to stick together no matter what.
Bika Ambon (Golden Indonesian Cake)
Golden Indonesian cake, known as bika ambon, is a traditional Indonesian dessert. It’s a specialty of Medan in North Sumatra. People visiting the city often buy this Indonesia sweet as a souvenir.
Although the origin of bika ambon is still unknown, it’s believed that the dish came from Ambonese to Medan. This sweet treat is made from eggs, tapioca flour, sugar, yeast, and coconut milk. You can find many flavors of this Indonesian cake, such as pandan, banana, durian, chocolate, and cheese.
The preparation of bika ambon includes yeast that creates bubbles, giving it a spongy texture. The sponge-like holes make it noticeable among other local cakes. It also resembles Malay sponge cake but the texture and moisture of both cakes are rather different.
Nagasari (Steamed Cake)
Nagasari is another traditional Indonesian steamed cake with five-star reviews. The dessert originated from Javanese cuisine but has become popular in many Southeast Asian countries. You can find different versions of this dessert in Indonesia, characterized by their colors as white, blue, and green.
Every version has its flavor but the green one is the most popular among the locals. The green Nagasari is a steamed coconut banana cake made with rice flour, coconut milk, and sugar.
The soft white coconut cake is stuffed with banana slices and served wrapped in pandan leaves. The pandan leaves give an eye-catching visual to this cake.
Nagasari is commonly sold in marketplaces. This soft and creamy Indonesian cake is also a popular treat for communal feasts and cultural events.
Pandan Cake (Sponge Cake)
Pandan cake is a delicate Indonesian cake usually green-colored. These are not only popular desserts in Indonesia but can also be found in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, and others.
The main ingredient of this delicious confectionery is pandan leaf, which gives it a fragrant flavor and signature green color. Other common ingredients of the cake are flour, butter, margarine, sugar, and eggs. Unlike most Indonesian cakes, pandan cakes don’t contain coconut or any additional frosting or coating.
These cakes are very light and fluffy and have a sponge-like texture. They are flavored with Pandan leaf extracts. Due to their soft and fluffy texture, they are also known as pandan chiffon cakes.
Spekuk (Indonesian Layer Cake)
Spekuk is a layered Indonesian cake with a firm texture. It’s a Dutch-originated, Indonesian spice cake, called Thousand Layer Cake in English. In Dutch, it’s known as Spekkoek, while in Indonesia it is called Spekuk.
Spekuk has more than 18 layers making for a challenging and time-consuming preparation. The batter of the cake is prepared with flour, sugar, yolk, and butter or margarine. It also contains Indonesian spices like cinnamon, anise, mace, clove, and cardamom, giving it a unique flavor.
The intoxicated flavor of spices gives it a distinctive flavor from other Indonesian desserts. It’s also enriched with eggs and butter.
This layered cake is a popular holiday dessert especially served during natal, imlek, and lebaran. Sometimes, it’s also served at weddings and birthday events.
Kue Pancong (Baked Coconut Cake)
Kue Pancong or Bandros is a traditional kue and Indonesian dessert. It’s associated with the Betawi cuisine of Jakarta. Kue pancong is the coconut version of wheat-based kue pukis.
The kue is prepared with a batter made of coconut and rice flour in special molding pans. Pancong molding pans are similar to waffle molds, giving a half-moon or boat-like shape to the cake.
It has a chewy, soft, and fluffy texture. Granules of crystal sugar are sprinkled on the top of kue pukis before serving. You can easily find kue pancong in local markets and Indonesia sweet shops.
Kue Talam (Steamed Coconut Cake)
Kue talam, a traditional Indonesian dessert, is prepared in cake molds. It has many variations across different regions of Indonesia.
Kue talam mainly consists of two layers. Creamy coconut milk traditionally makes up the top layer giving it a white color. Conversely, the bottom layer can be made with a variety of colors and flavors.
The juice of pandan leaves is used for making green color cakes. Sugar is used for the brown color, purple yam for the purple color, and pumpkin or corn for the yellow color. Coconut milk and rice flour are added to the cake mold with various ingredients to give a range of colors and flavors.
Kue Lumpur (Mud Cake)
Kue Lumpur is a favorite street snack and a popular Indonesian dessert. It’s considered the most-served Indonesian sweet at religious, formal, or casual gatherings.
The original recipe of Kue Lumpur contains flour, milk, egg, and milk. However, the modern version is known for a completely different ingredient, mashed potatoes. In addition to potatoes, some variations include sweet potatoes or Indonesian cassava.
The starchy vegetables give the softness to kue lumpur. Raisins, chocolate chips, peanuts, almonds, or grated coconuts are sprinkled over the cake for the final touch.
This is usually sold by street vendors in wet markets. As it’s equally popular among kids, you will also see it in school canteens.
This dessert is a common addition to snack box cakes. People in Indonesia send them as gifts in snack boxes with other traditional Indonesian desserts like rissoles, croquettes, and fried puffs.
Gethuk (Cassava Cake)
Gethuk is a delicate Indonesian cake usually made from cassava. Some people also make it with sweet potatoes and taro. You can try this Indonesian sweet from East Java where cassava features heavily in the regional cuisine.
In Indonesia, this dessert is available in various styles and colors. The most popular version is made with boiled and mashed cassava. It’s mixed with grated coconut, palm sugar, and salt.
Some people also add vanilla and milk powder for flavoring. Then the mixed material is cut into cubes.
The modern varieties are made with meat and are known as gethuk Lindri. It involves grinding cassava with meat butter, sugar, and salt milk. Both versions are super delicious and give an earthly taste.
Kue Cubit (Pinch Cake)
Kue cubit means pinch cake because you need to pinch the cake to eat it. Although it looks similar to a pancake, it has a smaller size and a sweet dough.
It’s a popular traditional Indonesian dessert sold by many food vendors. You can easily find kue cubit on almost all streets of big cities.
The perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors makes it an ideal snack to munch on. The burst of flavors exploding in your mouth will make you a fan of these Indonesian sweets.
These cakes come in different flavors, such as vanilla, chocolate, taro, green tea, pandan, and many more.
There is another variant of kue cubit named kue laba-laba or spider cake. This cake looks like a spider web, hence the name.
Traditional Indonesian Desserts – Pancakes And Cupcakes
Serabi (Small Indonesian Pancakes)
Serabi is a popular dessert and snack originating in Java. It’s a traditional Javanese – Balinese dessert getting popular in many other Indonesian islands. It looks and tastes very similar to pancakes.
This traditional Indonesian dessert is served as a symbol of gratitude to God in Javanese religious rituals. The traditional version of serabi only includes batter made from coconut milk, rice flour, and coconut sugar. The pancakes are cooked on a charcoal fire in a small earthenware frying pan.
To give a stronger aroma and color to this dessert, sometimes, pandan leaves are also added to it. Serabi is usually eaten with chocolate syrup, cream cheese, or a sweet syrup called kinca. Kinca is a golden brownish sugar syrup used for this Indonesian dessert.
You can select the topping of your choice. From slices of fresh fruits to grated coconut, and from chocolate chips to sugar, there are plenty of options.
Wingko Babat (Coconut Pancake)
Wingko Babat is a traditional Indonesian sweet pancake with a coconut flavor. It’s a delicious snack and dessert of Javanese cuisine, popular on the north coast of Java island. Wingko is a great choice for satisfying your sweet cravings during evening tea.
The pancake-like Indonesia dessert is made from coconuts and other ingredients. It usually has a round shape with the texture of a hard coconut cake.
Although it’s served warm, cut into small pieces, and wrapped in paper, you can find vendors selling large-sized cakes. People visiting Java often buy this dessert as a gift for their families and friends.
To get these delicious Indonesian desserts fresh, you can visit the producer’s shop. You can also find peddlers selling wingko babat at bus stations and train stations.
Dadar Gulung (Rolled Coconut Pancake)
Dadar gulung is a traditional Indonesian delicacy made with shredded coconut and palm sugar. It’s one of the popular Indonesian desserts that feature a sweet vanilla flavor. Although it usually comes in green color, you can also find other versions.
As you can imagine, the different colors of this pancake represent different flavors. The typical green-colored pancake tastes like vanilla and delivers an amazing aroma of fresh pandan leaves. The brown color had a rich chocolaty color. It tastes even better with strawberries and fresh cream.
You can easily find this delicious Indonesian pancake while roaming around the Indonesian streets and common marketplace. Every bite of this sweet dessert is a delightful treat.
Kue Mangkok (Cup Cake)
Kue mangkok is a type of steamed cupcake that is very similar to another traditional Indonesian dessert bolus kukus. They both are almost identical with the same appearance but the rough texture of kue mangkok differentiates from the soft and fluffy bolus kukus.
Another difference between these two snacks is in their recipe. Kue mangkok is prepared by using a variety of ingredients. The mixture of egg, yeast, coconut milk, rice flour, flour, sugar, salt, and tapioca is used for making the dough of Kue mangkok.
The dough is placed into a small bowl or a stainless steel cupcake container. The top of the dough then rises and cracked into 4 petal-like structures, giving it a flower look.
The texture of Kue mangkok is moist and tough, unlike regular cupcakes. Palm sugar is added for sweetness in traditional kue mangkok, giving it a brownish color.
Indonesian Desserts – Street Food
Pisang Goreng (Banana Fritters)
Pisang goreng or banana fritters are popular snacks and desserts in Indonesia. In Indonesia, it’s considered a tea or coffee snack. The most popular forms of bananas used for pisang goreng are pisang raja, pisang kepok, and pisang tanduk.
These different types of bananas have a slightly acidic and sweet taste. Their hard texture helps them not crumble after being fried, but Pisang raja has an aromatic fragrance with a softer texture.
The bananas are mashed and coated with a mixture of wheat, rice flour, and bread crumbs. The coated bananas are deep-fried in palm oil. Sometimes, vanilla essence and coconut milk are also added to the mixture for a better aroma.
Pisang goreng has different names in different regions of Indonesia. In West Java, it’s famous as cay goreng, and in Bali, it’s called godoh biu.
These banana fritters can be bought from street vendors. They are sold with other gorengan fritters, like tempeh and fried tofu. Many cafes or coffee shops serve pisang goreng with toppings of cinnamon, powdered sugar, cheese, ice cream, condensed milk, or jam.
Ongol-Ongol (Indonesian Mochi)
Ongol-Ongol is a very famous and cherished Indonesia sweet dish. It is commonly found in the capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta.
The soft cake-like snack has a chewy and soft texture. On the first bite, it feels somewhat similar to Japanese mochi.
This Indonesian dessert is prepared from cassava, glutinous rice flour or sago flour, and mung bean flour. The recipe also includes palm sugar which gives an unusual sweet taste.
Ongol-Ongol is garnished with fresh coconut, just like many other Indonesian desserts. The grated coconut gives it a balanced sweetness and a crunchy texture.
Lupis (Glutinous Rice Dumplings)
Lupis is another delicious addition to the list of traditional Indonesian desserts. It’s more popular in Middle and Eastern Java. Lupis is a sweet cake made of glutinous rice and coconut.
This glutinous rice dessert usually comes cylindrical, similar to lontong. It’s packed in banana leaves in bite-sized portions, dipped in brown sugar sauce, and topped with shredded coconut. You can enjoy this sweet Indonesian cake with thick palm sugar syrup.
The dessert is eaten at breakfast in Indonesia and also enjoyed as a side dish for the evening meal. It’s also a favorite pick-up street food of Indonesian natives. Lupis is commonly sold at traditional marketplaces everywhere in the country.
Indonesian Desserts – Puddings And Pie
Pie Susu (Milk Pie)
Pie susu, famous for the name milk pie, is an Indonesian custard tart pastry. These pastries originated from the islands of Bali, and are an attraction for locals and tourists. This Balinese dessert is an adaptation of Hong Kong’s egg tarts.
The Bali dessert contains condensed milk and egg custard. The shortcrust pastries are crunchy, buttery, and slightly sweet. It comprises a very thin layer of custard filling made with condensed milk.
The vegan version uses vegan condensed milk and coconut cream to make a delicious filling with the same texture as custard.
Kue Lapis (Rice Flour Pudding)
Kue Lapis is a layered soft pudding and a very famous Indonesian traditional dessert. The layers of pudding give it its name, lapis, meaning layers.
This kue is a colorful steamed pudding made of rice flour. Other ingredients are sago, sugar, salt, food coloring, and coconut milk of course.
It usually consists of two layers of different colors. The most famous food colors used for kue lapis are green, red, and rainbow colors. The cake is steamed after every layer is added so that different colors don’t mix.
The technique creates moist layered rice flour pudding cakes. It has a bouncy gelatin texture and is very sticky and chewy.
Bubur Ketan Hitam (Black Glutinous Rice Pudding)
Bubur Ketan Hitam is a popular Indonesian dessert. It’s also known as black glutinous rice pudding because the main ingredient is black glutinous rice.
The pudding is made from rice, cane or palm sugar, and coconut milk. Coconut milk, salt, and pandan leaves are added only for aroma. But it’s mainly composed of black glutinous rice and palm sugar.
This delicious porridge is the perfect breakfast for sweet lovers. It can also be served as a dessert or a snack for tea time.
It’s not only a famous Indonesian sweet dish but is also popular in Singapore and Malaysia with the name bubur pulut hitam. In Indonesia, bubur ketan hitam is mostly served with bread and mung beans. Some fine-dining restaurants also add banana or cinnamon powder toppings to them.
Kolak (Banana And Coconut Milk Dessert Soup)
Kolak is a traditional Indonesian dessert and a popular street food. The dish is like a stew or soup. It’s especially served during iftar time, in the Holy month of Ramadan.
Kolak is prepared from coconut sugar, pandan leaves, and coconut milk. It has a creamy and rich texture and a sweet flavor. This Indonesian dessert is served warm at room temperature, but some people prefer it cold.
Kolak prepared with banana is called kolak pisang or banana kolak. Other variations include ingredients like plantains, cassava, pumpkins, rice balls, tapioca pearls, sweet potatoes, and jackfruit. All of the ingredients are boiled in water and then sweetened before serving.
Indonesian Desserts – Stuffed Rolls And Pastries
Bakpia Pathok (Indonesian Stuffed Roll)
Bakpia pathok is a Balinese dessert usually found in Javanese and Balinese cuisine. It’s a small sweet roll influenced by Chinese cuisine. Bakpia pathok is similar to Indonesian pia with a difference in size, being very small.
This Indonesian flaky dessert is named after the Pathok suburb, where they originated. The rolls are known for their sweet and savory taste, round shape, and small size.
The dough used for making these stuffed rolls is prepared from rice or wheat flour, coconut oil, and salt. It’s stuffed with sugar and mung beans. The modern versions of Bakpia Pathok might contain cheese, durian fruit, taro, or chocolate instead of mung beans.
You must try these small pastries from local food shops in Yogyakarta. These Indonesian sweet rolls are also easily found in restaurants serving Javanese and Chinese Indonesian cuisine.
Pisang Molen (Banana Puff Pastry)
Pisang Molen is one of the most favorite and popular desserts in Indonesia. It originated from Bandung, the capital city of West Java.
This is a perfect dessert in Indonesia for people who love bananas. The bananas are covered in dough and fried to make this delicious Indonesian snack. Essentially, the recipe includes bananas, chocolate, and cheese, wrapped in flaky puff pastry.
The addition of chocolate gives this dessert a heavenly taste. You can imagine the sweet and soft bananas make a contrasting yet perfect pair with a savory and crispy fried coating.
The soft bananas and crispy batter will give a burst of flavor in your mouth when you bite into it. This traditional Indonesian dessert can be found at snack stalls in Indonesia.
Discovering Traditional Indonesian Desserts And Cakes
Indonesian desserts are known as one of the most iconic and eye-catching sweets. Besides having delicious flavors and aromas, Indonesian sweets are true works of art. These are just some of the things Indonesia is famous for!
People in Indonesia prepare their desserts with lots of dedication and passion. You’ll feel all the joy and love while delving into the colorful and mind-blowing desserts in Indonesia.
Desserts served at Indonesian roadside stalls and family-owned restaurants have traditional flavors of Indonesian cuisine. Be sure to try the most magical flavors of Indonesia and Bali desserts on your next trip.