Monday, 11 May 2009


My mother took an interest in this cake simply because it is steamed, not baked. Mom doesn’t do baked goods. The oven scares her. During her time, Asian kitchens were rarely equipped with ovens. All the cooking were done over a stove. Even till today, traditional cakes and kueh-kueh are either steamed or painstakingly grilled over a bed of charcoal.

To my mother our built-in oven is a white elephant taking up precious space in her tiny kitchen. So when not in use, she stores Chinese dried mushrooms inside it. No kidding!

Anyway, mom happily took part in the prep work for this cake. She filled a wok partially with water and it soon came to a merry bubble.

Beating the eggs took a lot of hard work. Mom suggested the electric mixer but there were "only 4 eggs!", I scoffed. One should always listen to her mother. It doesn't matter if the mixer in question is sitting in a dark dark corner of a dark dark shelf in a dark dark room. Trust me, it pays to relief it from its solitude.

The original recipe calls for self-raising flour. Since I didn't have any, I used all-purpose + baking powder. Maybe I didn't use enough BP because the cake turned out rather dense. I had expected something a little fluffier.

Still, this eggy delight does bring me back in time - when there were no French pâtisserie or Pierre Hermé; and terms like ganache and creme fraiche were practically unheard off - a cake like this was the most pleasurable thing in the world!

Times have changed. Back then we were happy with our roti, kopi or kopi-O. Now we can also enjoy baguette, cappuccino and espresso! It is a good change, izit not?

Traditional Steamed Sponge Cake
Adapted from Delightful Snacks & Dim Sum by Agnes Chang

4 large eggs
160 grams caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
180 grams all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
50 ml 7-Up

Line a 18-cm square pan with parchment paper. Bring a wok of water to the boil.

Sift flour and baking powder together.

Whisk eggs until frothy, then add the sugar slowly. Continue to whisk fervently until mixture becomes thick and creamy. Stir in the vanilla.

Fold in sifted flour, stirring gently in one direction, until all are used up. Add the 7-Up.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Steam the cake, covered, for 30 minutes on high heat. Cool on a wire rack.

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