Frozen Filipino dessert recipes from Sugarcane

Embrace the chill with Arlyn Osborne’s recipes for no-churn halo halo ice cream, black sesame ice buko and fruit salad pie

Get the latest from Laura Brehaut straight to your inbox

Article content

Our cookbook of the week is Sugarcane: Sweet Recipes from My Half-Filipino Kitchen by author and recipe developer Arlyn Osborne.

Jump to the recipes: no-churn halo halo ice cream, black sesame ice buko and fruit salad pie.

Arlyn Osborne has always had a sweet tooth. Growing up in the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina, she started baking at nine or 10 years old — first, by “zhuzhing up” cinnamon rolls or decorating a cake from a box mix and, eventually, by making everything from scratch.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Now an author and recipe developer based in New York City, Osborne’s sweet tooth underpins her cookbook debut, Sugarcane (Hardie Grant, 2024), a collection of 80 Filipino-American dessert recipes.

After graduating from the French Culinary Institute in New York City, Osborne worked in professional kitchens and culinary production studios for media outlets such as the Food Network and Food & Wine magazine. She had long wanted to write a cookbook, but it wasn’t until a baking session at her mom’s house during the pandemic that she landed on a concept. Banana bread was having a moment, and adding one ingredient made all the difference.

“I opened up the fridge, and there was some ube halaya in there, and I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll just swirl some of that in.’ It turned out really well and kept me up later that night. I was thinking about the bread and what if there was something there. I always wanted to write a cookbook. I didn’t know what it would be yet, but it gave me the idea.”

Writing Sugarcane led Osborne on a path of self-discovery. As a recipe developer, she was used to working with brand strategies. For the book, she looked inwards. Since the start of her culinary career, she’d been searching for “her thing.” With Sugarcane, she found it.

Advertisement 3

Article content

“The world wasn’t asking for these types of recipes. Up until recently, I had never had anyone be like, ‘Oh, we’re looking for a Filipino-American such and such.’” At the same time, she wasn’t sure if she was the right person to pitch Filipino ideas because she has mixed heritage. Her mother grew up on a farm in Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines, and her father had moved to the United States from Devon, England.

Recognizing that her upbringing was different from that of some other people in the Filipino diaspora, Osborne found a way to express both sides of her cultural identity. Creating her ube banana bread by combining a Filipino ingredient she had growing up with a North American bake “felt really true to who I am.” Inspired by her marbled quick bread, she looked back at her life with fresh eyes.

Osborne’s parents didn’t often cook when she was growing up. “It was the absence of food that fed my obsession with it.” As a millennial growing up in the ’90s, food TV was in its prime. Watching shows on PBS and the Food Network inspired Osborne to cook.

Sugarcane: Sweet Recipes from My Half-Filipino Kitchen book cover
Sugarcane: Sweet Recipes from My Half-Filipino Kitchen is Arlyn Osborne’s cookbook debut. Photo by Hardie Grant

Since her family ate many meals from the freezer section, fast-food restaurants and cafeterias, they didn’t have cuts of meat or fresh vegetables in the house she could use to make recipes. “Also, it wasn’t really in the household budget to be experimenting with those things.” Staples such as eggs, flour, milk, oil and sugar, however, were affordable. Osborne was fascinated by how she could use these simple items to create something new.

Article content

Advertisement 4

Article content

“I think it’s a Type A personality,” says Osborne, laughing. “I know it frustrates a lot of people — the rigidness of baking. You can’t just hang out, put some music on, and bake stuff like you can with cooking. But that’s what I love about it. It gets you into a zone where you’re focused on that one thing, and there’s no room for you to be daydreaming about something else, chatting with another person, or watching a show. You have to be locked into the baking recipe.”

The meals on her family’s table were either Filipino or American — they never merged. With the book, she found a way to express both simultaneously. “Sugarcane is bringing two worlds together — being in two places at once. What does that look like? What does it taste like?”

The book’s recipes are cool and refreshing, lush and tropical, homey and comforting. They span from Osborne’s take on classics such as Maple Spam Shakoy (a salty-sweet twisted doughnut) and Buttermilk Berry Bibingka to sweets inspired by her Asian-American pantry, including Chili Crisp Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Black Sesame Ice Buko.

With chapters focused on cakes, cookies and bars, pies, tarts and crisps, puddings, custards and jellies, breads and pastries, and frozen sweets, Osborne highlights diverse ingredients, techniques and styles.

Advertisement 5

Article content

“I want everybody to recognize some of the dishes and the ingredients. It’s not just speaking to one very specific section of people — everyone can open up the book and see something they recognize that speaks to them a little bit. Some of that will lean a little bit more Filipino with the ingredients or the dish but has more of a Western approach or flavour profile. And I thought it was a really good way to bring the two halves of myself into this whole image. And it’s a great way to introduce Filipino flavours and dishes to people who might have never had them before.”

Sugarcane features several essays that offer a window into Filipino culture and ingredients. Osborne shares the cultural importance of traditions such as pasalubong, an overview of pandan (known as “vanilla of the East”), and the legend and history of the Philippines.

Some of the recipes in the book have unique historical backgrounds. Buko pie, for example, originated in the 1960s when baker Soledad Pahud attempted to recreate an American apple pie at her Laguna bakeshop, The Orient. Apples were hard to come by, but buko (young coconut) was plentiful.

Advertisement 6

Article content

A chocolate pili nut ice pop goes into the storytelling of the Philippines — the lore surrounding the formation of the country’s most active volcano, Mount Mayon, and the pili trees that thrive at its base.

“Those little bits enrich everybody’s awareness and knowledge of the Philippines as a whole and give everybody a much broader understanding,” says Osborne. “There’s always a story there if you look hard enough.”

Recommended from Editorial


No-churn halo halo ice cream
Arlyn Osborne transformed the classic Filipino shaved ice sundae halo halo into a no-churn ice cream. Photo by Linda Xiao

Makes: About 5 cups

1/4 cup (72 g) green sugar palm fruit, cut into quarters
1/4 cup (70 g) jarred macapuno
1/4 cup (68 g) maraschino cherries, cut into quarters
1/4 cup (66 g) jarred red mung beans in syrup
1/4 cup (62 g) nata de coco, cut into quarters
1/4 cup (56 g) canned or jarred jackfruit, sliced
2 cups (480 g) whipping cream, cold
1/4 tsp ube paste
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup (80 g) sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup (62 g) ube halaya

Step 1

Line a sheet pan with paper towels. In a colander, add the sugar palm fruit, macapuno, cherries, red mung beans, nata de coco and jackfruit. Rinse and drain well. Scatter the mix-ins over the lined pan. Pat dry with more paper towels.

Advertisement 7

Article content

Step 2

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the whipping cream, ube paste and salt on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.

Step 3

In another large bowl, using the mixer, beat together the sweetened condensed milk and ube halaya until smooth and combined. Fold in the whipped cream in three additions. Fold in the mix-ins.

Step 4

Scrape the ice cream mixture into a 9×5-inch (23×13-cm) metal loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours.


Black sesame ice buko
Arlyn Osborne flavours her ice buko (coconut ice pops) with black sesame paste. Photo by Linda Xiao

Makes: 10 pops

1 tbsp (15 g) black sesame paste
3/4 cup (113 g) coarsely chopped young coconut meat (see Note)
1 1/2 cups (360 g) coconut water
3/4 cup (180 g) whipping cream
1/2 cup (160 g) sweetened condensed milk

Special equipment:
Ten 3 to 4 oz (90 mL to 120 mL) ice pop moulds

Step 1

Dip the tip of a wooden skewer into the sesame paste and use it to paint swoops and stripes onto the insides of ten 3 to 4 oz (90 mL to 120 mL) ice pop moulds. Freeze until solid, about 30 minutes.

Step 2

In a blender, add the coconut meat, coconut water, whipping cream and sweetened condensed milk. Puree until smooth.

Advertisement 8

Article content

Step 3

Divide the mixture evenly among the moulds, making sure to leave a bit of space at the top. Cover with the lid and insert wooden sticks. Freeze until solid, at least 6 hours.

Note: You’ll need two young coconuts (I prefer the ivory ones with the pointed tops that have already been shaved), 2 to 2 1/2 pounds (910 g to 1.1 kg) each. You can also use frozen young coconut meat, which is sold in Asian supermarkets, but I really do think fresh is a million times better. To make this with dried unsweetened shredded coconut, use 2 cups (100 g).


Fruit salad pie
Arlyn Osborne prefers to use a mix of canned and fresh fruit for her chilled fruit salad pie. Photo by Linda Xiao

Makes: One 9-inch (23 cm) pie

1 3/4 cups (175 g) finely ground graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1 stick (113 g) unsalted butter, melted
One 15 oz (425 g) can fruit cocktail
1/4 cup (60 g) water
One 1/4 oz (7 g) envelope unflavoured gelatin powder
1 cup (240 g) plus 2 tsp (10 g) whipping cream, cold, divided
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp (147 g) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups (8 oz/225 g) diced fresh fruit (such as strawberries, blackberries, peaches or cherries)

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Lightly grease a 9-inch (23-cm) pie plate with cooking spray.

Advertisement 9

Article content

Step 2

In a large bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt. Add the melted butter and stir with a fork, mashing the butter into the mixture, until well combined. It should be wet, sandy, and hold together when squished by hand.

Step 3

Press firmly into the bottom and sides of the prepared pie plate. (The bottom of a small dry measuring cup helps with this).

Step 4

Bake until set and light golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pie plate to a wire rack and immediately press gently again with the bottom of a measuring cup. Let cool completely.

Step 5

Drain the canned fruit and spread out on a paper towel-lined plate. Pat dry with more paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible. Do a good job of this.

Step 6

Pour the water into a small microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over top. Whisk together and let absorb for 5 minutes. Microwave until melted, about 10 seconds. Whisk in 2 teaspoons (10 g) of the whipping cream.

Step 7

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the remaining 1 cup (240 g) of the whipping cream on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly drizzle in the gelatin mixture and beat until combined and stiff peaks form, about 30 seconds.

Advertisement 10

Article content

Step 8

Add the sweetened condensed milk all at once and beat on low speed until fluffy and combined, about 30 seconds. Fold in the canned and fresh fruit.

Step 9

Transfer the filling to the cooled crust and spread it out, swooping and swirling to create a pretty textured surface. Refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours, but overnight is best.

Recipes and images excerpted with permission from Sugarcane by Arlyn Osborne published by ‎Hardie Grant Publishing, March 2024, RRP $35 Hardcover.

Our website is the place for the latest breaking news, exclusive scoops, longreads and provocative commentary. Please bookmark and sign up for our cookbook and recipe newsletter, Cook This, here.

Article content

Get the latest from Laura Brehaut straight to your inbox