Sans Rival is a popular Filipino layer cake consisting of cashew meringue and French buttercream.
The best desserts have a variety of textures and flavors that work together to complement each other. This sans rival cake checks all the boxes!
Sans rival translates to “without rival.” And, after one bite of this sweet treat, you’ll definitely agree. No other cake stands a chance against this crunchy and creamy dessert.
Filipino Sans Rival Cake
Like most Filipino desserts, this cake is naturally gluten-free. Other gluten-free Filipino dessert options include: taho (silken sweet tofu), biko (sticky rice cake), and ginataang bilo-bilo (sweet coconut soup with tapioca).
Sans rival is a layered cake alternating between cashew meringue and French buttercream. The cake is predominately flavored with cashews and butter. As such, it is important to use high quality cashews and butter.
Cashews are native to tropical climates. As such, they are commonly used in Asian cuisines including Indian, Pakistani, Thai, and Chinese cusines.
In the Philippines, it is most popularly used for sweet applications. The most iconic being the sans rival cake. It is also often served atop suman (banana leaf steamed coconut rice).
Raw versus Roasted Cashews:
It is important to use relatively fresh cashews! Cashews are high in oil (meaning high in fat!). Therefore, they can go stale or rancid quite fast.
Once purchased, raw cashews should be used within one month of opening package (wether pre-packaged or bought in bulk).
Sample the raw cashews before starting this recipe. The cashews should taste rich and creamy. If they’re flavorless, stale, or bitter, throw them out!
What’s the biggest different between raw and roasted cashews?
FLAVOR! Roasting nuts helps to enhance flavor. I suggest toasting the cashews yourself rather than purchasing pre-roasted cashews.
Eat the raw and roasted cashews side by side, and you’ll definitely taste the difference.
Meringue is a simply a mixture of egg whites and sugar slowly baked in a low temperature oven until dry.
The meringue used for this Sans Rival Cake is special because ground toasted cashews are folded into the batter before baking.
This cashew meringue requires four simple ingredients:
- roasted cashews
- egg whites
- powdered sugar (confectioners sugar)
- granulated sugar
Use a food processor fitted with metal blade to grind the roasted cashews with powdered sugar.
Use the “pulse” setting of the food processor to grind the cashews in fast, quick intervals or short bursts.
DO NOT use the “on” setting to grind the cashews in one go. That will create too much friction and heat. As a result, you will end up with cashew butter.
In order to produce a flour-like texture photographed in the image above, you need to use the pulse setting to slowly and gently grind the nuts.
The resulting cashew powder/flour should be uniform. If the cashew pieces are too big , you will have difficulty piping the meringue in the next step.
How to make cashew meringue round layers:
- Whip room temperature egg whites to shiny, stiff firm peaks.
- Gently fold the ground cashew and powdered sugar mixture into the whipped egg whites in three additions.
- Transfer batter to a piping bag fitted with a round 11 mm tip.
- Pipe batter into an 8-inch round. Repeat with remaining batter until you have 5 cashew meringue rounds.
- Bake in a 200 degree F oven for about an hour until meringue is dry.
There are various types of buttercream: American, Swiss, German, Italian, and French. They all contain butter but differ in their incorporation of sugar and/or eggs.
French buttercream is rich and creamy. The required ingredients are:
- softened unsalted butter
- granulated sugar
- egg yolks and whole eggs
- vanilla extract
- kosher salt
To make French buttercream, heat sugar syrup (sugar and water) to soft ball stage (between 235 – 245 degrees F). Place egg yolks and whole eggs in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
While the eggs are whipping, slowly stream in hot sugar syrup. The heat from the syrup will “cook” the eggs, making them safe to eat. Continue to whip until mixture has cooled to room temperature.
Transfer to a paddle attachment and slowly add in softened butter, vanilla, and salt. After a few minutes of beating, you’ll be rewarded with a shiny, rich, and very silky French buttercream.
How to assemble Sans Rival Cake:
- Place one cashew meringue round on cake board or cake turntable. Spread French buttercream in an even layer.
- Continue to stack layers of cashew meringue and French buttercream.
- Use remaining French buttercream to coat sides and top of cake.
Decorate sides of the cake with chopped toasted cashews. If desired, decorate top with cake with cashews, as well.
Otherwise, use the tines of a fork to decorate the top of the cake with any desired pattern.
- Allow the assembled cake to chill in the fridge for a few hours before serving. Overnight is ideal.
- Before serving, let cake sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to soften buttercream. The buttercream should be soft and silky. Cold buttercream will not be as pleasant to eat.
- Sans Rival Cake tastes best at room temperature.
- Use a clean, sharp knife to slice portions. Wipe knife clean after every cut.
- This is a VERY RICH cake. Slice into 12 portions or more.
Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Use of an airtight container is vital! The buttercream will absorb the smells and flavors in your fridge.
NOTE: This recipe is measured by weight for accuracy and consistency. Use a kitchen scale (affiliate link) to measure out ingredients.
Sans Rival Cake
- 340 grams raw cashews
- 230 grams confectioners sugar
- 235 grams egg whites, room temperature
- 230 grams granulated sugar
- 100 grams eggs
- 120 grams egg yolks
- 255 grams granulated sugar
- 60 mL water
- 340 grams unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, softened
- 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 150 grams toasted cashews, roughly chopped
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
- Spread cashews in an even layer in prepared baking sheet. Bake for 5 minute intervals until cashews are toasted. Stir cashews after each interval to ensure even cooking. Set aside and cool completely.NOTE: To speed up cooling time, transfer hot cashews to a clean, cold baking sheet in an even layer. Cashews can be roasted up to three days in advance. Store cooled cashews in an airtight container.
- Place cooled toasted cashews and about 1/3 of confectioners sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with blade attachment. Pulse mixture in quick short bursts. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed to ensure even grinding. Continue to pulse until mixture resembles even, coarse sand. Whisk remaining confections sugar with cashew mixture. Set aside.NOTE: Be careful not to overheat the cashew mixture. Too much friction will cause the cashews to turn into "cashew butter" instead of a powder/flour mixture.
- Reduce oven temperature to 200°F. Trace five 8-inch rounds on parchment paper. Flip paper over so ink is on underside. Set aside. NOTE: If using half size (13x18-inch) baking sheet trays, you can fit two 8-inch rounds per tray.
- Place room temperature egg whites in a clean mixing bowl. Use a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment or electric hand mixer to beat egg whites at low speed until foamy. Once foamy, slowly add granulated sugar one tablespoon at a time while beating at medium speed. Continue to beat at medium speed until all the sugar has been added. Then, increase to high speed and beat egg white mixture to shiny, stiff peaks.
- Use a large sturdy spatula to gently fold ground cashew mixture into egg whites in three additions. NOTE: Do not overmix. Overmixing will cause the egg white mixture to separate.
- Transfer batter to a piping bag fitted with an 11mm round piping tip. Follow the traced circles on prepared parchment lined baking sheets to pipe five 8-inch rounds.
- Bake in preheated 200°F oven for 60-90 minutes until meringue is dry. Rotate sheet trays midway through baking. Keep meringues on sheet tray and cool to room temperature.*NOTE: Baking time will vary depending on the humidity of your environment and amount of moisture in meringue mixture.
- Place eggs and egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until pale in color.
- Meanwhile, in a heavy bottomed sauce pot combine sugar and water. Set over medium heat. DO NOT STIR. Heat mixture to soft ball stage, between 235-245°F.
- With the mixer running on medium speed, carefully pour hot sugar syrup into whipping egg mixture in a slow steady stream. Once all the sugar has been added, increase to medium-high speed. Continue to whip until mixture has cooled to about 75°F, about 5 minutes.
- Remove whisk attachment and replace with paddle attachment. With the mixer running on medium speed, add softened butter one to two tablespoons at a time. Once all the butter has been added, mix in vanilla and salt. Continue to beat until buttercream is silky and smooth.NOTE: The butter will melt if the egg-sugar mixture is too hot. If you notice the butter separating, cool down the sides of the mixing bowl with bags of frozen vegetables or ice. Alternatively, you can put the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes to cool contents down before adding in more butter. Eventually, the buttercream should come together.
- Place one cashew meringue round on cake board or serving plate on cake turntable. Spread about 7 tablespoons of buttercream in an even layer over meringue round. Repeat stacking cashew meringue round and buttercream.
- Use remaining buttercream to coat sides and top of cake. Place assembled cake in the fridge for 15-30 minutes to allow buttercream to set up.
- Coat sides of cake with chopped toasted cashews. Decorate the top of cake with tines of fork in desired pattern. Return to fridge and keep chilled until ready to serve.NOTE: Let cake chill for at least one hour. Ideally, let cake rest overnight.
- Let cake sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to soften buttercream before serving. See notes in blog post regarding serving suggestions.
- Follow cashew toasting instructions listed in cashew meringue for garnishing cashews.
- It is important to use a kitchen thermometer to measure temperature of sugar syrup for French buttercream. Syrup needs to be hot enough to "cook" and pasteurize the egg yolks to make them safe to eat.
Preparing Components In Advance:
- Cashews can be roasted up to three days in advance. Store cooled cashews in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.
- Cashew meringue can be baked two days in advance. Cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap. Store at room temperature.
- Fully assembled and decorated cake can be stored whole in the fridge for up to two days before serving. Keep in an airtight container to prevent buttercream from absorbing any unwanted smells or flavors from the fridge.
- Once cake has been sliced, leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to three additional days.