Recipe: Mama’s Kue Wajik, an Indonesian Cake

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Let me tell you about Mama, a dear Indonesian woman I fell in love with while we were living on Bali. Mama isn’t her name, of course. Her friends call her Margaret. To her family, she’s Poh (Grandmother), the family matriarch. Others might call her bu, “missus,” but not me. I call her Mama.

Dan and Linda posing for a photo with Mama and Papa
With Mama and Papa moments before we left Bali.

I began calling her Mama when I first met her, newly arrived in America. She and her husband (“Papa”) had come to the U.S. on an extended visa to visit their daughter, a new immigrant who had become my friend. They barely spoke a word of English and I barely knew how to say thank you in Indonesian, so I welcomed them with Mama and Papa, two universal words for You are as family to me.

Mama and Papa may be Indonesian by birth, but they are Chinese by heritage. As the eldest in the clan, Papa is the well respected patriarch. Their 50th anniversary celebration after they returned to their homeland was an epic family event: Hundreds of beloved family members flew in—from as far away as China and Australia—to celebrate the occasion. And Mama invited us to participate.

Standing with Mama and Papa at their 50th anniversary party
Everyone poses for a photo with the honored couple.

After our friends became parents, they moved to Indonesia and immediately moved Mama and Papa into their home. Mama and Papa enjoyed being full-time Kung and Poh (Grandfather and Grandmother in their dialect) to their newest grandchild.

As full as the house already was, when we arrived in Bali there was no question but that we would share a place with the five of them. Daily I watched Mama, a woman of few words, tirelessly care for her husband and family. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—I saw them all in Mama. She is one of those rare women who gives Christians a good name.

The day we left Bali to move back to the Western Hemisphere, Mama cried. She told me she felt as though she were losing a daughter. It still brings tears to my eyes when I remember that moment. That is the kind of heart Mama has.

Mama’s Chinese-Indonesian table

There were no lunchtime sandwiches in Mama’s home when she was in charge. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were always fully cooked, sit down meals—especially for Papa, whom she clearly adored.

And she should. Back in the day, Papa somehow managed to stretch his $38 a month salary enough to care for his sister, brother and parents, and later care for his wife and three children. He also cared for nieces and nephews on that salary. This is a man with a true sacrificial character.

Mama makes the most amazing food—all with a Chinese flair—and nothing like the Americanized Chinese swill I eschew the U.S. Hers is the only cooked eggplant dish that I have ever liked … and coming from me, that is the ultimate compliment.

Mama and Papa, laughing after an unusually public kiss.

Mama always made sure there was plenty of hot rice on the table “to cover the stomach.” She poured her love into her food, spending hours every afternoon finely mincing herbs and vegetables and pulverizing spices with her mortar and pestle for the night’s dinner.

Dan considers cooking his therapy. When he took over the kitchen to give her a break, she would sit at the counter and watch him with a hint of smile on her face. She got such a kick out of that. In her world, men never cook.

This brings me to today’s post about kue wajik

Kue Wajik closeup

We first tasted the cake on a road trip through Timor, an island that lies at the far east of the Indonesian archipelago. Our friends had stopped at a bakery on our way out of Kupang so they could buy snacks.

When they returned with their purchases, they handed us a brownie-sized packet of something chocolate brown and wrapped in cellophane. It looked like a Little Debbie’s brownie.

Well, it might have had a chocolate color but that’s where the similarity ended. Our treat was soft, moist, and a bit sticky—definitely nothing like a brownie.

Still, it only took one bite of this delicious, slightly sweet cake to understand why kue wajik is such a favorite treat in Indonesia. Tasting of brown sugar and coconut, Dan and I immediately craved seconds.

What is kue wajik?

Translated to English, kue wajik means diamond cake. It earned its moniker because wajik means “diamond” and the cake is cut into diamond shapes before serving. As one of Indonesia’s most popular cakes, it’s developed multiple personalities. It can be casually eaten as an afternoon snack, yet at the other extreme, it is also one of those things that are expected whenever there’s a wedding celebration.

In Indonesia, bridegrooms feed some kue wajik to their bride as a part of the wedding ceremony. Because it’s made of sticky rice, kue wajik symbolizes hope that the marriage relationship will continue sticky and lasting. I’m guessing that its diamond shape has some symbolism as well….

But I digress.

Food makes travel memorable.

I’m telling you, nothing enhances travel like trying local foods. Sometimes the memory lingers long after the journey, which is why I wrote about kue wajik in our Timor road trip story.

I regretted that neither Dan nor I ever took a photo of the cake while we were there, so I texted our friends in Bali.

I love my friends and knew they would do what they could to help. They’re like that. After all, they’re part of Mama’s family.

Hey, bro! Mind if I ask for a favor? No rush. The next time you guys are out near a bakery… Could you please try to snap a few shots of kue wajik for me? I would like to mention it in a post but I need some decent photos. On a plate… behind the glass… in a box or on paper… closeup, doesn’t matter. As long as they are clear and there’s no glare from the glass, I can use them. I’m sure your cell phones can do an adequate job. Thanks much!

Sure, we’ll send you a few. And oh—by the way—do you want the kue wajik recipe, too? We’ll ask Poh for hers; she just made it last week.

Enter Mama

When Mama found out that I needed a kue wajik photo for a blog post, she immediately wanted to help. Rather than have me wait for them to find the time to visit a bakery. Mama decided to make a batch for me right away so that I could get my photos and the recipe as soon as possible.

Within a day, both were in my inbox.

And Mama had decorated her plates of kue wajik with flowers to make them extra pretty.


A plate of homemade kue wajik, decorated with purple flowers
A plate of homemade kue wajik, decorated with yellow flowers

Making kue wajik

Five simple ingredients. Just five. They said it was simple to make — but then I actually read the recipe.

Oh. My. Goodness. Are you kidding me? This is not your typical American recipe that’s ready in 20 minutes. Oh, no. This recipe takes planning and patience.

Not only does the rice take half a day to soak and prepare, it requires constant stirring as it cooks.

And yet Mama offered to make it for no other reason than because I had asked for a photo from the bakery “when you have time.” She immediately devoted half a day of her precious time to help me out. Me, half a world away, a person she hasn’t seen for years.

That’s the kind of woman Mama is.

That’s why I call her Mama.

Mama’s Kue Wajik

This is a traditional kue wajik, a sweet sticky rice cake commonly found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Kue wajik means diamond cake. It earned its moniker because the cake is cut into diamond shapes before serving.
Prep Time12 hours
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time12 hours 50 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Indonesian
Keyword: vegetarian
Servings: 24 pieces


  • 1 13×9 baking dish If you prefer thicker pieces, you can use a 9×9 baking dish instead.
  • 1 rice cooker or large pot for cooking the rice
  • 1 2-quart pot


  • 1 kg glutinous rice beras ketan
  • 200 grams granulated sugar 1 cup
  • 200 grams brown sugar gula lempeng; comes as a sugar block
  • 100 ml of water 3.5 oz
  • 325 ml coconut milk 11 oz
  • 2 pandan leaves, knotted optional


  • Wash glutinous rice, soak overnight (about 12 hours), drain and wash until clean. Drain and discard water.
  • Add pandan leaves if desired, then steam or cook the rice for approximately 45-50 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes with a spoon until it is cooked.
  • Remove the pandan leaves (if used) and transfer the rice to a big wok pan.
  • While the rice is cooking, place granulated sugar, brown sugar, and water into a pot. Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved and everything is evenly mixed.
  • Add coconut milk, bring to a boil and stir until slightly thickened. Adjust sugar to taste.
  • Add mixture to glutinous rice and stir until everything is evenly mixed.
  • Pour mixture into the pan. Cover with plastic and hand-press gently to keep things uniform and dense in the pan.
  • Cut into diamond-shaped pieces. Cake is ready to be served.


You can steam rice without using a rice cooker by using a vegetable steamer pot.
The pandan leaves are optional. We usually make it plain and it is just as delicious.
We don’t grease the pan and so far it’s not sticky.
We use regular plastic, not plastic wrap. I think plastic wrap is very easy to wrinkle so it’s easy with regular plastic.
If it dries out, you can heat it up in a steamer pot for about 2-3 minutes before eating.
Kudos and mega-thanks to Vonce (my friend and her daughter), who typed up Mama’s recipe after she translated the entire thing from Indonesian. I’m sure that was a challenge.

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages inspired her to create As We Saw It, where she documents her trips, shares practical itineraries, and offers insider tips. She’s passionate about helping fellow travelers save time, money, and hassle, and loves to discover new places to explore.

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4 thoughts on “Recipe: Mama’s Kue Wajik, an Indonesian Cake”

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story about Mama and her contribution to sharing the picture and recipe for kue wajik.

  2. What a lovely story! I absolutely adored Indonesia, especially the food and people. I love your quote “Food makes travel memorable”, it rings so true for me as well. Nasi campur was one of my favorite dishes! I loved all the variety. I am definitely going to give this a shot at home!!

    • Thank you! We loved the Indonesians as well and nasi campur was one of our favorites too.

      Please, Katie, would you let us know how your kue wajik comes out? Mama said she wants to know.

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