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, chewy, fluffy 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 attempt this cake and just buy some from the neighborhood shop when the craving hits. Of course, living half way across the globe means I have no access to said trusty shop. But at last, I have manage to recreate this favorite childhood cake of mine 🙂
Steamer pot (or it’s work around)
First of all, this is a steamed cake, so you need a steamer. In fact, you need a steamer that is large enough to fit an 8″ round cake pan. I have a steamer, but it’s not that large. So most of the time I end up using my soup pot for steaming. I crumple 3 pieces of aluminum foil to make balls and arrange these in my soup pot. Next, I pour about 1″ of boiling water, which usually is enough for steaming purpose (meaning, my aluminum balls are rather large, bigger than 1″ in diameter). Then, I simple balance my pan (or plate/bowl) on top of the 3 balls, close the pot with lid, and steam away.
Rice flour, sugar, and active dry yeast
Those are the only three ingredients you need to make this cake. Unless you want to count water, in which case, you need 4 ingredients. You definitely want to stick with Asian style rice flour, and the easiest to procure is usually Erawan brand rice flour. Make sure you grab the right version, which is the package with red label, and not the one with green label. The green one is for glutinous rice flour, which is not what we want for this recipe.
Make your own proof box
Since proofing time depends largely on the temperature of your kitchen, it varies from time to time. The engineer in me simply hates this variation, and I have been turning my oven into make-shift proof box. A proof box takes the guessing out of the picture, and pretty much guarantee a consistent result in every single batch. Here is how I do it. The lowest setting for my oven is 170 Fahrenheit, so I preheat the oven until it reaches that temperature, and quickly turn it off. Then, I stick the batter for proofing.
It bubbles like a white molten lava
If you follow my proofing method, your batter will be ready for steaming in 40 minutes. How can you tell? It will almost double in volume, and more importantly, it bubbles, almost like a white molten lava. That’s when you know it should be smooth sailing from that point on. The next trick to ensure a successful 白糖糕 bai tang gao is to pour the batter into a hot pan, so you better preheat that pan first. 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, then pour the cake batter, and steam. Enjoy!
- 250 gram rice flour
- 150 ml water
- 150 gram sugar
- 350 ml water
- 20 ml warm water (38 Celsius / 100 Fahrenheit)
- 5 gram active dry yeast
- In a large mixing bowl, mix 250 gram rice flour with 150 ml water. It won't be smooth at this point, so don't worry.
- In a small sauce pot, boil together 150 gram sugar with 350 ml water. Once all the sugar has dissolved and the water is boiling, pour this into the mixing bowl. Whisk until the rice flour mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 75 Celsius (170 Fahrenheit). Then, mix together 20 ml warm water with 5 gram active dry yeast, and set aside for 5 minutes.
- Once the rice flour mixture reaches 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit), add in the yeast solution, and whisk well to combine. Cover the mixing bowl with saran wrap.
- Hopefully, your oven have reached 75 Celsius (170 Fahrenheit) at this time. Turn off the oven, and place the covered mixing bowl in the warm oven and let the batter proof until volume is roughly doubled, and you notice small bubbles on the batter surface, almost like a white molten lava. This should take about 40 minutes.
- Prepare a steamer. Heat an 8" round cake pan until hot to touch. Brush the heated pan with oil, then pour the rice flour batter into the pan.
- Steam for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, and let the cake sit in the hot steamer for another 10 minutes.
- Remove the cake from steamer, and let it cool slightly in the pan over a wire rack for about 15 minutes.
- Once it is cool enough to handle, gently run a knife along the edges to loosen the cake from pan. Cover the pan with a plate, and flip the cake on to the plate. Then, flip again onto wire rack to cool completely. Cut into 8 wedges, and serve at room temperature with some hot tea.