Every Guyanese knows Chinese Cakes (pronounced “Chi-ne Cake”) and its a favorite snack in every corner of Guyanese life. Its sold in markets, street vendors and now mass produced by large bakeries in Guyana.
Wherever Guyanese migrate to , the Chinese Cakes follow. In Liberty Avenue in New York, Guyanese bakeries will prep from raw ingredients of kidney beans, or black eye beans, and dough will be used to make round pastry, with a familiar red spot on top of the cake after the prepped beans were encased in the prepped dough. In Toronto, Canada, the Chinese Cakes follow and is now sold at almost all West Indian stores.
So, where did the name “Chinese cake” originate from and why is that red dot placed at the top of it? There is no easy answer for that and the author of this article could find no information on how this kind of cakes became known as “Chinese Cakes.” However, knowing how Guyanese think and act, a plausible answer can be derived from lessons based on our history.
Guyanese have a way of calling everything from what is immediately apparent. Every village will have a Tall Boy, Short Man, Fat Lady and you can continue. Some of these names are not necessarily pleasant as there are names such as “Ugly Man” or “Big Head.” What is evident here is that the most visually dominant feature of a person’s appearance could be used as a nickname. So, back to “Chinese Cake.”
Its possible that the first person who made and sold these kinds of cakes in Guyana is most likely of Chinese origin. Guyana is the land of six races and the Chinese who immigrated here hundreds of years ago have also contributed to the development of Guyanese culture.
So, imagine a vendor of Chinese origin making these special cakes with black eye beans encased in round dough and a spot of red food coloring on top of the cakes. What would Guyanese call that cake? You’ve guessed right. “Chinese Cakes.” after all, here is the Chinese baker and these are the cakes he made, it must be Chinese Cakes.
Chinese cakes are actually known internationally as “bean cakes” and its made in similar fashion. In China, these are known as “Red bean Cake” or “Mung Bean Cakes” and they all have that red coloring design at the top, most likely made from food coloring options.
So, here we have to thank our Guyanese Chinese heritage for a part of our culinary history.