Chinese Steamed Sugar Sponge Cake 白糖糕
By Ellen L.Published: 2015-05-22
Eating the deliciously bouncy Chinese Steamed Sugar Cake 白糖糕 always reminds me of being a kid. Holding a squishy wobbly piece of cake in one hand whilst lazing on the sofa watching endless Road Runner cartoons. Fighting over the last bits with my sisters. Wondering why my cake had so many holes. Thinking it was pretty cool that it had so many holes. Trying to see through those many holes all the way to the other side. And then eating some more. Remembering all these things that made me happy when I was a kid, I decided to make some wonderfully wobbly Steamed Sugar Sponge Cake 白糖糕 for my little girl today and, no surprise, she loved it!
This chinese sponge cake is made from rice flour and thus has a lovely sweet ricey flavor. You must use rice flour 粘米粉 as distinguished from glutinous rice flour 糯米粉 which is used to make the sticky chewy rice treats like tong yuan. (Check out our Black Sesame Tong Yuan recipe here!) Be sure to double check when purchasing as these two flours are often sold in similar looking packages.
I bought this lovely fresh pandan leaf, or 香蘭葉, at the Thai grocery stall at our local wet market. Thai groceries often have fresh, cheap and plentiful supplies of the herbs and veggies that they use the most like basil, lemon grass, galangal, and of course, the pandan leaf. The pandan leaf, if used whole, infuses whatever your cooking with a vanilla-y, coconut-y fragrance and taste. Subtle but quite distinct. A comforting taste you remember with longing. If chopped up and boiled to extract the essence you can create more intense pandan flavor as well as a natural green food coloring which is often used in Asian desserts. Or you may see the pandan leaf wrapped about bits of meat before baking or barbecuing. Yummilicious!
Adding the pandan leaf to this Steamed Sugar Sponge Cake gives it an dimension of flavor. However, if you can't source the leaf you can just omit from the recipe and it should taste just fine as well.
|The flour mix after rise, note the many small bubbles|
The trick to this little wobbly holey Chinese Steamed Sugar Sponge Cake of course is getting it to be wobbly and holey. This is where the rise of the flour mix is all important. (I tried another recipe before this one and got a half risen cake that went in the trash bin.) You want to have the cake honeycombed and wonderfully wobbly and squeezable all the way through. That's why kids love this cake, it's so much fun to jiggle and play with it while you're eating sweet mouthfuls!
You may be wondering why our cake is a light golden color instead of white as most commercial versions of this cake are. The cake is white when white sugar is used. We don't use white sugar anymore in our house, using mostly raw sugar instead. Raw sugar or any less processed sugar will give you the same sweetness required but with many more layers of flavor. And we believe that using less processed food stuffs is better for you.
What kind of sugar do you use?
Chinese Steamed Sugar Sponge Cake Recipe 白糖糕
(adapted from recipe at Rose's Kitchenette here)
1 cup minus 1.5 tbsp rice flour 粘米粉, 140g
1/2 cup sugar, 140g
1 1/3 cup water, 300 ml
2 pandan leaves 香蘭葉
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp water
1 tsp oil
Stir flour and half the water until throughly mixed with no lumps. In a small pot add the rest of the water, all the sugar, salt and the pandan leaves. You can knot the pandan leaves so that they fit in the pot. Cook over low heat, stirring, until all the sugar melts and you can smell the pandan leaves aroma, about 1-2 mins. Pick out the pandan leaves. Pour the hot syrup into the rice flour mix, stirring constantly. Let cool to room temperature.
When the mixture is cooled, dissolve the yeast in 1 tbsp lukewarm water. Add into the rice flour mixture and stir well. Cover and leave in a warm area for 2 hours or until the surface is covered with tiny bubbles.
Use some oil to lightly grease a 6" diameter dish with sides at least 1.5" tall. Preheat your dish inside the steamer. Add 1 tsp oil into your now risen rice flour mixture and stir it in. Pour the mixture into the now heated dish inside the steamer. Cover the steamer and steam over medium heat for 20 mins. When done remove from heat and let cool completely. To remove your cake from tray use your fingers to tug the cake edges away from the tray side. It should come away easily.
Cut into slices or the traditional pie wedges before serving. Wrap tight in plastic wrap and keep in fridge if you need to store a couple of days.
More Aromatic Asian Desserts at The Hong Kong Cookery:
Almond Bean Curd - An Easy and Elegant Chinese Dessert
Chinese Candied Ginger 薑糖
Tong Yuan Rice Dumpling 黑芝麻湯圓