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Yema balls


on yemaballs

When I met with girl friends from law school for our annual Christmas get-together one night last week, we exchanged gifts and each of them got a container of yema balls from me. The photo above was taken by one of my friends while we were having coffee that night. She posted it on Facebook and I’m using it (thank you, Laly!) because I’ve made huge batches of yema balls twice over the past week already but I’ve never gotten the chance to take photos to replace the old one in this post as it was originally published in 2005.

Yes, this is an old post. I am republishing it because I have a new recipe for yema balls — not much different from the old one but I added a few other ingredients, the measurements are now more accurate and I bothered to count how many yema balls I could make for every batch.

Yema is a sweet concoction made with thickened milk. Some recipes, like mine, include egg yolk; other recipes contain milk and only milk. The first time I posted my yema balls recipe, Alex was 11 years old and had been asking for the longest time if we could make pastillas. Well, the thought of rolling each tiny pastillas and wrapping it in paper just seemed too much work. Yema balls would be easier. Same taste, same texture but no wrapping necessary. So, on a sweltering summer day in May of 2005, we made yema balls from a can of condensed milk, powdered milk, an egg yolk, a little butter, powdered coconut cream and white sugar. Traditional recipes don’t include coconut cream but I wanted something unique, so I decided to add some.

They were so good that Alex was “tasting” the cooked mixture before she could roll it into balls.

Recipe: Yema balls


  • 500 ml. of sweetened condensed milk
  • 300 g. of powdered full cream milk (I always use Birch Tree)
  • 1 50-g. pack of coconut cream powder
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp. of butter, softened
  • a generous pinch of salt
  • finely grated zest of two limes
  • a cup of white sugar


  1. Pour the condensed milk into a small saucepan. Set the stove to medium and heat gently to simmering. Do not boil.
  2. Beat the egg yolk, salt and lime zest in a bowl. Pour in the half of the heated condensed milk into the bowl, stirring as you pour. You are tempering the egg yolk so that it doesn’t curdle during cooking. Add the coconut cream and stir until smooth. Pour the egg-milk-coconut cream mixture into the saucepan and continue cooking over medium heat. Stir, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan to prevent scorching. When the mixture thickens a bit, about seven to ten minutes depending on how well your pan conducts heat, turn off the heat and cool for about 5 minutes.
  3. Place the powdered milk in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the egg-milk-coconut cream mixture. Add the softened butter. Stir until smooth. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and cool to room temperature. After cooling, the mixture will be firm enough to shape into balls.
  4. Place the white sugar in a wide shallow bowl.
  5. Using two teaspoons, form the yema mixture into balls about an inch and a half in diameter. They won’t look like perfect balls at this point. You will shape them later with your hands. Drop each ball onto the white sugar. Using you hands, roll it gently on the sugar then shape them into balls. Drop gently into a paper cup (or whatever container you prefer). Repeat with the remaining mixture.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 65 yema balls