Chinese Style Birthday Cake

For my birthday last month, Will made me a Chinese style birthday cake. What’s so special about a Chinese cake? The key characteristic is that it’s steamed instead of baked. Steaming makes it lighter and keeps the cake more moist.

Home Baked Birthday CakeHome Baked Birthday CakeHome Baked Birthday CakeHome Baked Birthday CakeHome Baked Birthday CakeHome Baked Birthday CakeHome Baked Birthday CakeHome Baked Birthday CakeHome Baked Birthday CakeHome Baked Birthday CakeHome Baked Birthday CakeHome Baked Birthday Cake

It was delicious and dairy-free. The filling was a rich, creamy custard and the frosting was light and coco-nutty. I didn’t even realize it was possible to whip coconut cream into a whip-cream like consistency!

Home Baked Birthday Cake

Thanks Will, it was tasty!

Recipe after the jump

Based on these two recipes, notes from Will.


* 1 C sifted cake flour (note: not 1 cup cake flour, sifted)
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 5 eggs, room temperature, separated
* 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
* scant 3/4 C sugar [split into scant 1/2 C and scant 1/4 C]
* 1 (very scant) tsp almond extract – could probably go to 3/4 tsp or

Place the flour in a medium bowl. Stir in the baking powder and salt and
set aside.

Separate the egg yolks and the egg whites (room temperature).

Separately, beat together egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar.  Beat for
about 2 more minutes. Stir in the almond extract.

Beat the egg whites until foamy (this is easier in a stand mixer). Add
the cream of tartar and beat briefly. Add 1/4 cup of sugar and beat
until stiff.  Mix 1/3 of egg whites with yolk mixture. Gradually add
flour mixture to the egg-yolk mixture, then fold in the rest of the egg
whites gently.

Pour the batter into the cake pan. Bring the water in the wok to a high
boil, then turn down to medium. Steam the cake, covered, for 20 – 25
minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool the cake on a rack.
Invert onto a plate and remove the parchment paper.

Slice cake in half lengthwise. Optionally slice top off of cake. Use the
light syrup (w/ lemon — recipe below) to coat the surfaces. Put a layer
of custard filling on the bottom half of the cake, leaving ~ 1 cm
margin, top with fruit, and then top off with more custard. Put the top
of the cake on, and frost with coconut whipped cream or some other kind
of frosting; cover with more fruit. Glaze fruit with a boiled preserves
/ water mixture or with the syrup.

light syrup:
2 C water
1 C sugar
1/2 lemon


1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup of all purpose or cake flour
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup of almond or coconut milk (may need to thin out the latter)
1/4 C water
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla

1. Mix the sugar, flour, and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in 3/4 cup
of milk and mix until smooth.

2. Bring mixture to a boil at medium heat, whisking constantly. Be
careful not to scrape off any clumps that form on the sides and bottoms
as it will leave clumps in your custard. If it is cooked onto the sides,
you probably don’t want it anyway.

3. Cook another 2 minutes and remove from heat. At this point the
mixture should have thickened up dramatically.

4. Mix together egg with remaining 1/4 cup of milk, then combine with
the mixture in the saucepan, whisking vigorously to combine. Return to
heat and cook until it just starts to boil. There will be a lot of lumps
as you first incorporate the egg mixture, but just keep whisking as you
heat it up and most of the lumps should disappear.

5. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Transfer to a bowl and cover
with plastic wrap directly touching the surface of the custard to
prevent any skin from forming on the custard. If you still have any
remaining clumps in the custard now would be a good time to put some
more elbow grease into the whisking and if you really can’t get rid of
them just scoop them out 🙂

6. Chill at least 2 hours in the fridge or overnight if desired.

coconut cream:

Separate out the fatty part of some coconut cream. Whip with small
amount of sugar and 1 tsp vanilla, until it gets a whipped cream
consistency. Maybe try stabilizing with agar next time.

fruit glaze:
mix 1 part jam with 1 part water (optionally add a little lemon juice),
bring to a boil, strain, and brush over fruit while still warm.

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