I often went to some old-styled Chinese restaurants with my father. There was a simple steamed cake served as dim sum, with delicate, light and soft texture. The fragrance of the eggs inside was wonderful. The ingredients of the cake are only eggs, flour and sugar. How could the chefs make this cake so soft and light? On the menu, the restaurants used to put 西施（Xishi in Mandarin）before the words of “steamed cake”. Xishi was one of the four renowned beautiful ladies in ancient China. Her beauty was described extremely in an imagery way that while she leaned over a balcony to look at the fish in the pond, the fish would be so dazzled that they forgot to swim and gradually sunk away from the surface. If you’re interested in knowing more about Xishi, here’s her story on Wikipedia.
So people used the name of Xishi to describe the delicate beauty of this steamed cake offered at some old-styled Chinese restaurants to attract their customers. If you have tried this old-styled dim sum, you might have been amazed by its simplicity and delicious taste.
Steamed Cake (Printable recipe)
Prepare a 10inch-sized bamboo steamer (or an 8inch greased tin)
- 5 eggs
- 150 gm caster sugar
- 150 gm cake flour
- Few drops vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp salt
- Place a large deep mixing bowl on a sauce pan with simmering water and don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. The temperature should be just warm because you don’t want to cook the eggs at this stage. Break one egg at a time. Add into the bowl together with small amount of sugar. Use an electric mixer to beat until completely combined before adding another egg with sugar. Continue to beat the eggs and sugar over high speed for about 5 minutes until the volume of the mixture increases, becomes soft and bubbling. Test by lifting up the mixer, if the egg mixture drops after 3 seconds, it’s done successfully.
- Add a few drops of vanilla extract. Combine salt with flour. Sift in flour into the egg mixture little by little, fold in gently.
- Line baking paper in the bamboo steamer. Pour the batter into the steamer. Place in a wok (or a steamer), covered, and steam over high heat for 30 minutes. Test by an inserted bamboo stick or needle that comes out clean. Serve hot.
- When it comes to cooking this steamed cake, all you need are eggs, flour and sugar. No baking powder or baking soda needed. Why is the cake so fluffy and soft? The secret is simple. Just beat the eggs with sugar enough to increase its volume by incorporating as much as air into the mixture.
- You have to add an egg at a time, then beat with a small amount of sugar. Once all of the eggs and sugar are well combined, continue to beat until you lift up the mixer, the mixture will only drop after 3 seconds.
- This steamed cake is best served hot. You can reheat it in a wok before serving, if it cools down.
- Adding a pinch of salt is to elevate the taste of the cake.