This cake always reminds me of my late paternal grandmother. This simple steamed egg cake regularly appeared during religious festivals. She would painstakingly whisk the eggs with sugar until pale, creamy and fluffy. Back in those days, a hand whisk was used, so it was no easy task and required at least 20-30 minutes of tedious whisking, depending on the amount of eggs used.
The hand whisk used by my grandmother was not the same as the balloon whisk we use now. It was a traditional whisk with a spiral coil that looked something like this, except the handle was wooden. I helped her a few times, but after around 5 minutes of vigorous pounding, I would give up and hand the bowl back to her.
Once this cake was steamed and ready, my grandmother would smear some red food coloring on the end of a chopstick and place a dot at the center of the cake. This cake would then be offered to the gods. In the meantime, my sister, cousins and myself had to patiently wait till prayers were over before we could “attack” the cake. Those were the carefree, happy times of childhood, where nothing more important than playing and eating occupied our minds.
I made this cake twice. The first time, I followed the recipe from Little Teochew. I was reluctant to add in carbonated drinks (she used Sprite) to act as the leavening. It resulted in a cake what was somewhat denser than what we remembered. As my Dad eloquently puts it: “This is a rock cake.” Of course it was not as bad as he described. It was still edible, albeit with a lot more chewing to do. Ha!
The second time, I adapted from Christine’s Recipes. However, the 5 eggs I used were not very fresh, having sat on the counter for a week. This time, it resulted in a cake that was softer, but it could be better and would have been better if fresher eggs were used. Ah well. Though a simple enough cake, I recall my dad trying and trying and trying to make a perfect one. His attempts were either too hard or too soft.
I shall share the recipe from the 2nd attempt. For the first attempt, follow the link to Little Teochew’s website. Aside from omitting the carbonated drink, I followed her recipe exactly.
Steamed egg cake (adapted from Christine’s Recipes)
250 grams eggs (about 5 eggs)
- 150 grams cake flour, sifted
- 160 grams castor sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- a pinch of salt
- Prepare a steamer with enough water to boil for 60 minutes. Line a 25 cm bamboo basket with parchment paper.
- Over a pot of simmering water, beat eggs with sugar until thick, creamy, pale and fluffy. Mixture must be thick enough to form a ribbon that will not easily meld back to the rest of the batter. This should take around 8-10 minutes, depending on the power of your hand mixer.
- Add in vanilla extract and salt and beat until combined.
- Start boiling water in the steamer at high heat.
- Sift in flour in 3 batches and fold in gently until just combined.
- Scrape batter into prepared bamboo basket, rap a few times to get rid of large air bubbles. Steam over high heat for 30 minutes.
- Remove cake and let it cool for about 5 minutes before slicing.
The below picture is the cake from my second attempt. As you can see, the cake did not seem as fluffy as the one above, due to using older eggs.