Tag Archives: Gao

白糖糕 Bai Tang Gao – Steamed Rice Cake Recipe

Rice flour, sugar, and yeast are the only ingredients you need to make bai tang gao (白糖糕), or Chinese steamed rice cake.

It must have been more than a decade since I last sink my teeth into a piece of 白糖糕 bai tang gao – steamed rice cake. Since both sets of my grandparents are Cantonese, I grew up eating tons of this soft and chewy cake.

It looks so simple, but believe me, getting that just right texture can be super tricky. Case in point, no one in my family ever attempts this cake and just buy some from the neighborhood shop when the craving hits.

Of course, living halfway across the globe means I have no access to the said trusty shop. But at last, I have managed to recreate this favorite childhood cake of mine 🙂

To prepare the bai tang gao batter: (1) Mix rice flour with water and stir into clumps; (2) Add hot boiling water and sugar liquid, whisk into a smooth batter; (3) Wait until the batter cools to 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit); (4) Add instant yeast, whisk, cover the bowl and rest in 75 Celsius (170 Fahrenheit) oven for 40 minutes.

To prepare the bai tang gao batter: (1) Mix rice flour with water and stir into clumps; (2) Add hot boiling water and sugar liquid, whisk into a smooth batter; (3) Wait until the batter cools to 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit); (4) Add instant yeast, whisk, cover the bowl and rest in 75 Celsius (170 Fahrenheit) oven for 40 minutes.

What you need to prepare bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake)

Turns out, you only need three ingredients to make a bai tang gao:

  • rice flour (Note: I always use the one from Erawan brand, if you use another brand, proceed at your own risk)
  • sugar
  • instant yeast, you can use active yeast too but instant is easier
Note the many air bubbles in the batter if the yeast is properly activated at the end of the resting time.

Note the many air bubbles in the batter if the yeast is properly activated at the end of the resting time.

How to prepare the batter for bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake)

I have a detailed step-by-step photo that I hope is sufficient to show the visuals of what you can expect the bai tang gao batter should look like.

  1. First, mix 250 gram of rice flour with 150 ml room temperature water into clumps.
  2. Boil 150 gram sugar with 370 ml water in a small saucepot. Once all the sugar dissolves, pour this to the clumpy rice flour mix from step 1. Whisk into a smooth batter.
  3. Wait for the batter to cool until only warm to touch. If you want to be precise like me, you can use a thermometer and it should read 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit). Also, you want to preheat the oven to 75 Celsius (170 Fahrenheit) at this point.
  4. Add the instant yeast to the batter and whisk to mix. Cover the mixing bowl with a saran wrap, then rest in the preheated oven. Immediately turn off the oven heat, and rest the batter for 40 minutes.

At the end of the resting time, you should see that the batter has many air bubbles, which indicates that the yeast is doing its job and we should be getting the desired cake texture. If you don’t see the air bubbles, your yeast is either dead or expired, and unfortunately, there is no point to continue cooking the cake since it will 100% fail.

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake), just out from the steamer.

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake), just out from the steamer.

Can I use active dry yeast instead of instant yeast?

If all you have in your pantry is active dry yeast, you can use that too. But we will need to modify some of our steps above.

  • Step 1: no change.
  • Step 2: instead of boiling 150 gram sugar with 370 ml water, use only 150 gram water with 350 ml water.
  • Step 3: no change.
  • Step 4: mix 20 ml warm water (38 Celsius/100 Fahrenheit) with the active dry yeast and wait until foamy (usually about 5-10 minutes). Then add to the warm batter (not hot! preferably the batter is also 38 Celsius/100 Fahrenheit), and mix. The rest of the step is the same.

Same as the case with using instant yeast, your batter should have many air bubbles at the end of the resting period. From my own experience, when I use active dry yeast if at step 4 I don’t see any foam after 5-10 minutes from the time I mix the yeast with warm water, it is 100% guaranteed that my yeast has already expired and is completely useless.

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake).

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake).

Prepping the cake pan

Once your batter has finish resting and has produced many tiny air bubbles, let’s prep our cake pan. I use an 8″x2″ round cake pan.

For a successful bai tang gao, you need to pour the batter into a hot pan, so be sure to preheat the pan. It doesn’t need to be scalding hot, but definitely hot enough so it won’t be comfortable to grab it with bare hands.

Brush the hot pan with oil, give the cake batter a final stir so everything is well mixed, then pour the cake batter, and steam.

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake).

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake).

Steamer pot and tips for a successful steamed rice cake

I hope you do realize before this step that you need a steamer to complete this recipe. After all, we are making a steamed cake, and it even says so in the title.

You can use any kind of steamer as long as it can fit an 8”x2” round cake pan. I prefer a stainless steel steamer for hygiene reasons. But you can use a bamboo steamer too, and you are more likely to get a better result with a bamboo steamer.

Create a makeshift steamer

There is no need to rush out and buy a steamer if you currently don’t have one at home. Instead, you can use this guide from Food52 to create a makeshift steamer.

Fill a large pot with about half an inch of boiling water. Use aluminum foil to make three balls of roughly equal size. Once we are ready to steam, rest the cake pan on top of the foil balls. Cover the pot and steam the cake. Of course, you need to make sure the pot is large enough to accommodate the aluminum foil balls and the cake pan.

Make sure to prevent water droplets fall onto the cake surface

Please make sure that there are no water droplets drop onto the surface of the cake. The steam that rises during the steaming process can condense and turn into water droplets that may fall onto the cake surface. If this happens, your cake may turn sticky and pudding-like instead of light and fluffy.

If you steam with a bamboo steamer and a bamboo cover, you shouldn’t encounter this problem. If your cover is made from metal or glass, please wrap with a piece of kitchen cloth so the cloth will trap the steam and prevent any water droplets from falling onto the cake surface.

And that’s all the tips that I have to prepare a successful bai tang gao (Chinese steamed cake). Enjoy!

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Ma Lai Gao – Dim Sum Steamed Sponge Cake Recipe

Ma Lai Gao – Dim Sum Steamed Sponge Cake

A visit to a dim sum restaurant is not complete without a proper dessert to close the meal. My favorite dim sum sweet treats are egg tarts, steamed sponge cake (a.k.a. Ma Lai Gao), or a mango pudding. When I visit a dim sum restaurant with my family, we usually order multiple sweet treats at the end of the meal since we can share the food.

Today’s recipe teaches you how to make Ma Lai Gao at home. It is a simple dessert using ingredients that are familiar to most bakers. It does require a steamer to make this cake, so please make sure you have one before starting.

Ma Lai Gao ingredients: eggs, brown sugar, evaporated milk, unsalted butter, vanilla, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Ma Lai Gao ingredients: eggs, brown sugar, evaporated milk, unsalted butter, vanilla, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

What is Ma Lai Gao?

Ma Lai Gao is a Cantonese steamed sponge cake served in dim sum restaurants or traditional Chinese tea houses.

The cake comes in two colors, yellow and brown, depending on the sugar. Regular sugar produces a yellow color cake, while brown sugar produces a brown color cake. I prefer brown color, but you can use regular sugar if you prefer a yellow cake.

If you order a Ma Lai Gao in a dim sum restaurant, you will get a small basket with a small cake cut into four quarters. Tea houses usually serve the cake by the slice. Using my recipe, you will get a cake that serves eight, perfect for hosting a Chinese tea party.

(1) Beat eggs and brown sugar until thick. (2) Add evaporated milk, melted butter, and vanilla. (3) Sift in all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold until smooth. (4) Pour the batter into a cake pan.

(1) Beat eggs and brown sugar until thick. (2) Add evaporated milk, melted butter, and vanilla. (3) Sift in all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold until smooth. (4) Pour the batter into a cake pan.

Ingredients for Ma Lai Gao (dim sum steamed sponge cake)

  • Eggs. I always use large size eggs. A large size egg weighs about 50 grams per egg without the shell.
  • Brown sugar. I use light brown sugar, but you can use dark brown sugar for a darker color cake.
  • Evaporated milk. You can also use whole milk or 2% milk, but the cake will not feel as rich.
  • Unsalted butter. If you are using salted butter, please omit the salt.
  • Vanilla. I am using a teaspoon of vanilla. Most ma lai gao in dim sum restaurants have a more pronounced egg flavor, and if you prefer this, feel free to reduce the amount of vanilla.
  • all-purpose flour
  • baking powder
  • Baking soda. You can skip baking soda, but the cake will feel less airy.
  • salt
Steam Ma Lai Gao in a steamer for 30 minutes over medium heat. Gently remove the cake from the pan before serving.

Steam Ma Lai Gao in a steamer for 30 minutes over medium heat. Gently remove the cake from the pan before serving.

How to prepare Ma Lai Gao

1. Prepping

Prepare a steamer pot with about 2 inches of water over medium heat. Lightly grease an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.

2. Mix the cake batter

Beat eggs and brown sugar in a mixing bowl on a medium speed for 5 minutes until thick.

Add evaporated milk, melted butter, and vanilla, and beat for another minute.

Sift in all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold with a spatula (or use the lowest speed of the electric mixer) until the flour is just mixed.

3. Steaming the cake

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and steam the cake for 30 minutes.

TIPS: If you are not using a bamboo steamer, you may want to wrap the steamer lid with a kitchen cloth. Steam that rise up to the lid may condense into water droplets that drip on to the cake surface and make the top wet and soggy.

4. Resting and serving the cake

Remove the cake from the steamer. After 5 minutes, gently loosen the cake from the pan and remove it from the pan to cool on a wire rack.

Cut the cake into eight slices and serve with a pot of hot tea.

My Ma Lai Gao recipe serves eight. The cake pairs well with a pot of Chinese tea.

My Ma Lai Gao recipe serves eight. The cake pairs well with a pot of Chinese tea.

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