Sunday, March 20, 2011

Steamed Egg Cake (Ji Dan Gao)


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Steamed Egg Cake ... or as I used to call them in Teochew - Kueh Nerng Kor - was one of my favourite snacks growing up. I remember being exceptionally happy whenever there was a festival. Festivals = larger-than-usual cakes. My grandmother would usually include - among LOTS of other food - this Steamed Egg Cake as prayer offerings. I would be busy playing with the other kids in the 'hood ... but once I got the green light to eat, I would abandon play and greedily wolf the cake down.

Sometimes I would get a cup of Ovaltine to go with it, sometimes a warm glass of freshly brewed barley water. And I would be happy. Those were simple pleasures ... along with collecting stickers and playing five stones, zeropoint and carrom. *wistful smile*

I suppose my love for cotton soft cakes was cultivated from very early on. This Steamed Egg Cake has a very fluffy texture (it is a sponge cake after all). It gets its volume from the air that has been beaten into the eggs. If you beat the eggs long enough, you will definitely get a cake that is light and soft ... and yes, without any need for leavening agents (see Christine's post).


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The eggs should be beaten till they are very thick and pale. How pale? It's like the colour of vanilla ice-cream ... a very faint off-white. The batter should be really viscous and creamy ... almost like gently whipped cream. Get these right, and divine fluffiness is yours to devour.

BUT, in keeping with tradition, I do know that people used to add some cream soda (or 7-up) to the batter, to ensure a good rise. I believe it was not easy to find baking soda at that time, so carbonated drinks was the perfect solution. Plus, cream soda has vanillin in it ... which flavours the cake and masks some of the "eggy" smell. Clever, eh?

While I am not one to buy carbonated drinks, I sometimes get free Sprite with pizza deliveries, so I get the perfect excuse to make this Steamed Egg Cake. :)


I personally adore the taste and smell of eggs. If you don't share the same fondness, vanilla extract does the trick, so just add a couple more drops.

Recipe
- 220g eggs excluding weight of shells (about 4 large eggs)
- 210g caster sugar
- 230g cake flour or top flour (sifted 2 or 3 times)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 tbsp cream soda or 7-Up or Sprite

1. Whisk the eggs till frothy, then start adding sugar a little by little, to ensure it is well-incorporated. Add vanilla extract and continue beating until the batter becomes very pale, thick and creamy. This takes time, and there is no shortcut. Meanwhile, heat up your wok, pot or steamer until you get a gentle boil. Do make sure it is large enough to fit the cake tin and has ample space for the batter to rise and the steam to circulate.

2. Fold in the flour in thirds, alternating with the soda, and ending with flour. Once there are no streaks of flour, stop.

3. To steam, either pour the mixture into a bamboo steamer lined with greaseproof paper or use a 6 or 7-inch lined baking tin. Pop it into the wok, pot or steamer - then cover - and steam on high for 30mins.

4. Once done, place the cake on a rack and allow to cool before slicing.

And here's what you should get:


To reheat on the second day, steam gently for 2 or 3 mins, and they'll become pillow soft all over again.
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So tell me, did you grow up eating this cake too?

I am submitting this post to International Incident Nostalgia Party, hosted by Penny aka Jeroxie.



76 comments:

  1. I've never heard of this but I guarantee that I would love it. Beautiful photos!

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  2. Totally bow to soft fluffy cake queen! Sprite... of course. Just like scones made with sprite...

    I am so SO SO making this and love how you treated the photos to make it more aged.... :D

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  3. Sweet Ju... your pics take my breath away!

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  4. I remember making a colourful version of this cake for a previous IIP. Yes I grew up eating this and I love it!

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  5. hi there!
    wow ur cake look good n simple. and this is the first time i see a recipe using 7-up or sprite in it..may i know what is the uses to the cake??

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  6. I grew up eating this cake too during festival or for prayers offering. My mum din follow any recipe but using her agaration method and arm power manually beat up the batter. I love this traditional cake. It shows with a few basic ingredients can metaphose into such a yummy cake. i tried adding orange zest, it's nice.
    Love the first pic. It brings back good old memory...
    Thanks Ju!

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  7. I read your post title in my rss feed. And the first thing "ji dan gao" made me think of was the childish insults we used to fling at each other as kids. It was quite a popular 'swear phrase' in primary school!

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  8. It does look pillowy light and fluffy. Thank you for sharing. Being not from an Asian background, I did not know this cake, but I would love to try it. Thank you for such great instructions and your photos are gorgeous.

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  9. I cant say I grew up eating this cos there were too many too choose from. But this is definitely my late grandma's favorite and I grew up always hearing my mum say: we go buy ji Dan GAO for grandma whenever we visit her.. Really brings lots of fond memories :)

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  10. I never knew soda drinks were a leavening agent..

    Thanks!

    The cake looks delish Ju.

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  11. It's such a lovely treat for me every time I read your blog and am faced with a traditional Teochew recipe. Trying to understand more about my heritage has never been better (that is, eating and learning about the local cuisine).

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  12. I can't even remember the cake I ate while growing up! But I remember collecting stickers, playing five stones and "zero-point"!

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  13. I love reading about other people's memories .. it's fascinating to me how different so many of our backgrounds are, and yet we share this passion for the way food informs who we are. Very cool. I would love this with a cup of jasmine green tea, I think.

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  14. This is brilliant. I did not grow up eating these BUT I did grow up playing carrom!

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  15. Hi Ju, we're very the same, fond of very soft, fluffy cake from childhood. :)
    This simple steamed cake got lots of fans too. So bad that it's not easy to make a perfect one, quite hard for some beginners. I know some might like to add a bit of baking powder into the batter and help the cake rise high. But I refrain from doing so, because it seems to turn a healthy, natural goodie into a chemical product.
    Your tip on adding cream soda or 7-Up or Sprite is brilliant.

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  16. Hi Ju


    Yes I grow up eating this cake and just like Hearty Bake, my mum use her agaration method and arm power too.... she used Ice cream soda too and I always get to drink the left over :)

    How I miss those those days... I must mark this in my to do list and bring back the beautiful memories & taste of my comfort food

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  17. Ju, this blog post warms my heart.

    My grandma does this 2-3 times a year when she is around. She always add in F&N Orange juice and orange coloring to give it a pretty and yummy look.

    However, we stop doing this ever since she passed away. Your steamed egg cake remind me of her and a dish which I miss very badly :(

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  18. I grew up eating malai goh although i think i had these steamed egg cakes once or twice per year.

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  19. I've never made a cake with cream soda in it before, how unusual!

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  20. Interesting! I've never tried this cake, but I'm so intrigued!

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  21. is this the steamed cake they have available at yum cha? this looks supertasty and brings back a lot of memories. thank you.

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  22. I didn't know that they put soda in the cake - no wonder I loved it so much. Thanks for the very informative write up.

    Just a little question : how do I fold in the flour without deflating the foam ?

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  23. The Experimental Cook: Some of the foam will be compromised when you fold, there is no escaping that. So, minimise ... ie, stop the moment there are no more streaks of flour. HTH!

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  24. That recipe is amazing !! I'd love to bake it one day & if you agree i could post it on my blog with a link to yours

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  25. I definitely grew up eating this cake. I haven't yet attempted to make my own but after your post, I really want to get in the kitchen right now and make it!

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  26. I grew up eating this cake Ju, but we never made it with the fizzy drinks. Interesting but yeah, this is one of those things that brings back sweet memories.

    By the way, I attempted your JCC twice last weekend but can't get it quite right yet though both cakes were delicious. Am gonna try again soon.

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  27. I recalled eating this version with rainbow or zebra layers. We call it kue kukus pelangi or kue kukus zebra :)

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  28. that looks too airy not to have leavening.....just my kind of cake....and i loved having ovaltine when i was young...made me feel all warm and fuzzy :)

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  29. This looks so soft, fluffy and beautiful. I grew up in Singapore, and have seen this around, but I haven't tried it before. It's unbelievable isn't it. I wish I can have a taste of your cake now.

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  30. Cia ju come va dalle tue parti? Non ho mai provato questa torta, è bellissima , vorrei cimentarmi nella preparazione, ma ne ho quasi timore. complimenti per i tuoi post.Un abbraccio Daniela.

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  31. Lovely! THis is one of my favourites.. love how soft and light it is!

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  32. What a delicious looking cake. I've never made a cake with soda in it, but I will have to give it a try now!

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  33. can i add green tea powder to make as green tea cake?

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  34. yammy: I'm sure you can. I just don't know how much green tea powder to add, cos I have never made it before.

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  35. hi, i tried using 5 teaspoons of green tea powder, the cake turned out very dry!
    i wonder did i add too much...

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  36. This reminds me SO much of "huat kueh"! I don't think I've had this before strangely enough. Am a huge fan of steamed cakes though so am sure this is a winner. :)

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  37. Hi, your kueh neng goh looks really good!! i am wondering if I don't have top flour, what are the flour can I substitute? I never heard of top flour before, is there another name for it? I am in Australia here, not sure if i can find top flour here.

    Thank you.

    Chloe

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  38. Hello! I've tried your recipe and it came out so yummy!! Only 1 thing is it was not soft enough..Wonder where was the mistake I made?

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  39. Thanks for the wonderful recipe. I, too grow up eating this cake...it sure brings back memory...

    I hope you dont mind I backlink you. This recipe is a sure keeper. Thanks again.

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  40. hi, i've just tried it this afternoon and my parents say its nice! but i find it abit too hard. is there any way that can make the cake turn out abit softer? :D thanks for the great recipe still! cheers!

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  41. absolutely! it's my childhood steam cake.
    in hokkien we called it as kueh Nen Ko meaning egg cake.
    i remembered once my mom make a milo marble kueh nen ko for me to bring to school for children's day... aaaa it has been a loooong loooong time...

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  42. Hello! May i know, other than cake flour or top flour, can i use any other flour like plain flour? Whats the different?

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  43. Kakoii: Yes, you can use plain flour but cake flour/top flour will give a softer texture.

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  44. Hi! I stumbled upon your blog yesterday and I tried this recipe today! Sprite/7up was sold out at my estate's vending machine (I saw someone commenting her grandma used f&n orange) so i bought sparkling apple juice instead. The cake turned out yummy still! However, my cake doesn't look as soft as yours from the insides. Could it be because of how I folded in the flour? I realized there were many lumps in my mixture but did not dare over mix. Ended up w pockets of flour when I cut the cake.

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  45. hi ju, will overbeating the egg and sugar cause the cake to be dry? cause i didn't stop even when the mixture turned fluffy, and my cake turned out dry:( thank you

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  46. Anon: You need to fold in the flour in big, bold strokes. That will ensure you do not get pockets of flour. As for softness, a possible factor is the size of the eggs you used - make sure you use large eggs. If you did, then I am really not sure why. :(

    Anon: No, I don't think overbeating the eggs & sugar will cause dryness. Like my reply above, it could be the size of the eggs you used. Actually, this cake is slightly dry-ish. Those really soft ones sold commercially are usually made with ovalette (sponge cake stabiliser), which I refuse to add to my cakes! ;)

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  47. Hello Ju,
    I just made by adding 6 tbsp of Sprite, then flour the last. The end product did smile but look spongy. However, when the crumbs drop when slicing to pieces. Not sre where it went wrong?

    Can i used the mixer to blend in the flour instead of folding (by hand?)

    JJ

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    1. Hi JJ, did you wait for it to cool before slicing? Cakes that are not completely cool will crumble when you slice. If you did wait, then it could probably be because there is not enough liquid content. Perhaps it could be due to differences in the size of eggs? I am not sure but if you make this again, you could add 1 more tbsp of sprite? Do note that this cake is not exactly pillow soft. It is a little bit on the dry side (but it should not crumble when you slice). Finally, you CANNOT use a mixer to blend in the flour! All the air that you whipped into the eggs will be gone!

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  48. If I cannot find cake flour or top flour.. is it ok if i use self raising flour?

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    1. Self-raising flour already has raising agents in it, so I'd rather you don't use it. Do you have corn flour and plain flour? Make your own cake flour: http://frugalliving.about.com/od/makeyourowningredients/r/Cake_Flour_Sub.htm

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    2. Hi Ju
      I have just visited the above website on the substitute for cake flour. Just wondering will there be a difference in the end result between cakes using the cake flour and the cakes using the above substitution?

      A friend just introduced me to your blog and I must say I really love it. Have been going through so many of your recipes and I can foresee myself busy baking in my kitchen for the next few weeks..... trying out different recipes for my girls' recesses and tea breaks. Many thanks

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    3. There could be, but the difference is very minor. Cake flour is really plain flour+corn flour. In fact, even if you bought your cake flour, one brand is going to be different from the next. Brand A may be finer, Brand B may absorb more liquid, etc etc. So, go ahead and use substitution. I do it all the time!

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  49. Hi Ju,just make the cake this evening, the texture is nice, light, notice that some part of it seem to be heavy, is it due to flour not mixed properly. My cake did not "huat" too, is it because i did not beat the egg long enough, it did reach the stage of pale, creamy and voluminous...appreciate your advise.
    Thanks!
    Emily

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  50. Hi Ju

    Is steaming in a wok better or a steamer is better? I've quite a big steamer which can accommodate the steaming of a sizeable fish

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    Replies
    1. Hi Tulip, I think both are fine. Just make sure there is enough room for the steam to circulate. :)

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  51. Hi Ju! I love your site :) I am going to try a steam cake for the first time this weekend and am wondering if it'd be ok to throw in some blueberries? (I know, now very "traditional," but it's blueberry season here, and I want to put them in EVERYTHING!!)
    Thanks!

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  52. I love this cake very much. But normally those that people are selling doesn't taste right

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  53. Hi, I love to make this for my 10mths old boy to try.. Is it possible to substitute the sugar with something else like fruits and the cream soda with sparkling water?

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  54. Ok o worries.. Mayb I will go try and see if it's turn out good. Thanks anyway!

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  55. Hi Ju

    Thank you for your receipt. I have tried making this cake yesterday and it turn out to be awesome! I have reduce the flour to 200g instead and it works, it is very soft but the cake did not 'smile'. How to make the cake 'smile'?

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  56. I made thus today, easy and delicious. Thanks!

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  57. Hi, Thanks for the recipe. Was looking for this and stumble on your blog. Yea, my mom makes these but only on occasions like CNY and Birthdays. Had to do this myself as buying them off the shelves are just getting way too expensive !

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  58. Tried this today following your recipe.. The taste was very nice, but the texture was unlike those that we buy from the market.. It was more like the "huat kueh" kind of texture... Any ideas how I can make it more like the "egg kueh" that we always buy??

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  59. Thanks for the lovely recipe. I can't find large eggs. Can I use 5 medium eggs instead? How can I make the cake even softer like those commercial ones? How much ovalette must I use? Thanks.
    Michelle

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    1. Yes, 5 medium eggs should be OK. If you want to use ovalette, probably 1 tsp?

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  60. Can u advise how to reduce the holes that appear on top after steaming? Can wiping the cover of steamer helps?

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    1. You can wrap a thin cotton cloth over the lid (tie a knot at the top) so that it absorbs the moisture from steaming. It's not good to open the steamer every now and then to wipe as it affects the rising process.

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  61. Hi, which brand cake flour are you using for your recipe? :)

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  62. Hi Ju, thanks for sharing the recipe. I tried it twice but the cakes were not fluffy. Instead they were rubbery. Don't know what I am missing.

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  63. I remember seeing my aunt steaming the cakes using planks and woods that great-grandmother collected from the demolished houses. Did the cakes taste better? I can't remember. I only remember that we loved to "look after" the fire. It was real fire, real big, and real fun to "watch fire" to ensure it burned at a consistent rate.

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