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Steamed Cake (Old fashioned Dim Sum)

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Steamed Cake01

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

Steamed Cake Procedures

  1. 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.
  2. Add a few drops of vanilla extract. Combine salt with flour. Sift in flour into the egg mixture little by little, fold in gently.
  3. 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.
Steamed Cake02

  • 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.


  1. yum!! I love steamed cake (just don't make them!) :D Do you know a cake made out of cream soda as well? Steam also!

  2. We have this in Malaysia too. Every year, during Chinese New Year, we buy or sometimes make this cake for prayer purpose but having said that, they taste really good eaten by itself and served with afternoon cuppa. The pores from your cake look so even and small, great job in the whisking over water bath!

  3. I love this cake! My mom used to make it for me when I was a kid and I've always loved the eggy softness of this simple cake. Now that you've reminded me of it I'm making it again tomorrow!

  4. I can't wait to try this!! Gorgeous!

  5. To Anh,
    Aw, thanks for the lead.
    Haven't tried to use cream soda in making steamed cake. It sounds great. Let me experiment if I get some cream soda or soft drinks.

  6. Am interested in learning that the name of this egg cake can be prefixed with 西施. Yours deserved the name for its fine texture.

  7. Very smooth and healthy. Used to be the dim-sum after school.

  8. Ok... this looks simple enough for me to try too!

  9. Very light and healthy cake! My mum used to steam this cake for us. After reading your post, it's time & my turn to made this for my mum to eat too. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Oh! I love this light and soft...haven't had it for ages...yours look perfect!

  11. my inlaw love this steam cake too

  12. I definitely love steamed cake! My mom makes a savoury version where she puts chopped marinated pork underneath.

  13. I did not know the Xishi-side of this cake. In Dim-Sum dictionary, I always know this as MaLa Gou? Is that the same?

  14. To tigerfish,
    This steamed cake is different from MaLa Gou (馬拉糕), called GaDan Gou (雞蛋糕).

  15. Hi Christine,

    i tried making this steamed cake last night and it turn out nice. is Ma la Gou = malay steamed sponge cake? if you have the recipe for this, would be please post. thanks heaps

  16. Beautiful cake so smoth and fine crumbed. Did you use a hand held beater because it won't be possible to use a stand mixer. What is the purpose of beating the eggs in a pan of warm water? Wil definitely try this as soon as I find out if I should use a hand beater or what. Thanks.

  17. Did you beat the eggs on fast or slow? Osme say that beatingeggs on slow speed helps to make it hold air better

  18. To Anonymous,
    I used an electric hand mixer to beat the eggs and sugar.
    The purpose of beating the eggs over a pan of warm water is to help the eggs and sugar mixture absorb more air. The final batter will be more fluffy and airy.

  19. Hi Christine, if you don't mind my asking - where do you get your recipes? I've got so many cookbooks but everytime I visit your blog it's like I find another treasure!

  20. Hi Trissa,
    I don't mind answering your question. Some recipes are from my friends shared in "bring a plate" gatherings, some are inspired by many cookbooks, then mixing them all together and come up with my own (just like the recipe of Prawns with Coconut Milk and Crab Fat that you posted on your blog), some are my experiments done by scratch, some are taught by my parents.

  21. Hi Lily

    I made this cake tonight. It turned out superb! It is light and spongey and so healthy! I love it! Thanks for sharing your recipe. I will definitely be making it again in the future!

  22. Such a beautiful history for such a beautiful cake! It looks amazing =)

    ~Kurious Kitteh

  23. Hi Christine,

    This was delicious! I made it last weekend, and it was gone within an hour!

    By chance do you know of a recipe to make seasame paste cake (steam version)? In cantonses it's called "Gee Mah Go" If you do, can you please kindly post? I have been looking for that recipe for awhile but can't seem to find it

    Thank You!


  24. Do i really need to use a bamboo steamer? can i just use a steel one?

  25. To Clover,
    If you don't have a bamboo steamer, you can replace it with a tin. That works too. You might like to put a plate on top and avoid the surface of your cake from getting wet because of the condensed steam.

  26. Thanks Christine! Can't wait to try it!!

  27. Christine
    what is cake flour? I live in UK and I don't think there is a general cake flour?

  28. @noriko - I think cake flour over here in the UK is "pastry flour", it's a more finely milled version of plain flour.

  29. can i use a sponge cake flour for the above recipe?

  30. Hi Christine! I just want to ask after you're done mixing the sugar and eggs and it's time to mix the vanilla and flour do you still mix it in the sauce pan in simmering water?

  31. Hi jenny,
    I'll remove the bowl from the simmering water once I feel it's warm enough because you don't want the eggs to be cooked at this stage. The idea is to keep the mixture warm, not too hot.

  32. hello! i was wondering is this the same type of cake that is used in birthday cakes from Chinese bakery? i always find American style cakes ones too sweet but can never find recipe that is close to the ones that chinese bakery uses

  33. To Anonymous,
    It's the one at Yum Cha Chinese restaurants, not the not from bakery shops.

  34. Can I do this by beating the eggs by hand or must I have an electric mixer?

  35. @Anonymous
    Sure, you can beat by hand.
    Since it takes longer time and would be very tired, so I used electric mixer.

  36. Hi, can I use normal flour for this cake? Will it afect the texture? What about using self-raising flour? Needing your expert advice here. Can't wait to try making this cake, it is my mom's favourite! =D

  37. @Anonymous
    Thanks for your kind words. I'm just a homecook, not an expert. :)
    Cake flour has got less protein compared to normal flour (all purpose flour) and self-raising flour, so the cake made by it would be more delicate, giving you a fine texture.

  38. lovely cake u made there. May I know whether the egg white and egg yolks are separated for this recipe? About the temperature wise, the eggs keep getting cook though. Roughly how hot it would be to stir the egg and sugar in?

  39. Hi Christine,I live in Canada & have a bit of confusion about the measurment. I prefer cups & table spoon than grams. By the time I convert to cups from grams, I will loose my interest of making the dish.

  40. @Amber
    The cake used the whole egg method, not need to separate the egg whites and egg yolks.
    While beating the egg mixture, the temperature should be luke warm, don't cook the eggs at this stage.

  41. @Amy Lee:
    Please refer to this post and convert the measurements.
    Same here. I don't like doing lots of maths before cooking.
    Would you consider to invest an electri kitchen scale?

  42. Hi Christine, I really like your recipes because of the fact that I can use my digital scale. Makes measuring of ingredients a lot easier and more accurate. I don't even bother trying recipes that used measuring cups anymore. Thanks a lot for sharing your recipes.

  43. @sweetpea:
    It's really a smart move of getting a digital scale, and don't need to limit ourselves to try as many recipes out there.

  44. @Christine@Christine's Recipes]

    Hi Chiristine, thanks for the tips. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out well. It was still too dry and tough when I streamed it.

  45. Hi Christine,
    This cake reminds me of my aunt's steam cake. It's very fine and delicious. Just wondering if plain flour and cake flour are the same. I live in Melbourne and I don't think the supermarket stock cake flour here.

  46. @Anonymous:
    Cake flour is a kind of low gluten flour, normally used for making delicate, soft cakes. The texture of the end result is finer than those made from plain flour.
    You can get cake flour from any Asian stores.

  47. Dear Christine,
    I think I need your advise asap! Twice already! It happened to me a nd I really don't know why? I tried a sponge cake both : steam and baking: the batter looks very fine but when the cooking process starts...I have problem! The upper part of my cake is soft, fluffy but the bottom part (half of the cake) is heavy! Could you tell me why ? I tried once with self raising flour & another time with AP flour! Thanks a lot@

  48. Dear Christine,
    I need your advise: I tried to make sponge cake twice: steam and baking. The batter is great but when I steam or bake - the cake comes out: upper part is super soft, but the bottom is hard and heavy! I really don't know why! Pre heat the oven? Flour ? I used self rising flour? cake flour or AP one ? Thank you very much!

  49. @Anonymous
    This cake is fluffy due to the air beaten into the egg and sugar mixture. If there's not enough air, means that the egg mixture is not beaten long enough, it doesn't have enough strenght to support the inner structure of your cake.
    It seems that the flour of your cake had sinked to the bottom without enough support while cooking.
    Or else, the air was knocked out while folding in the flour.

  50. Dear Christine,
    Thanks for your comment, I will try again! Could you pls advise how long as minimum the egg mixture should be beaten? Thanks a lot!

  51. @Anonymous
    It all depends on how well your electric mixer performs. We have to look for a light, fluffy, thickened egg and sugar mixture with volumn increased, that incorporates as much air inside as possible. In my post, I've written down a simple test of whether the egg mixture is ready or not.
    By lifting up your mixer, if the egg mixture drops after 3 seconds, that's very very slow, your egg mixture is blended well.

  52. i do not have an oven, so i was looking for steaming version and found your recipe and tried out yesterday. it turns out very aroma but a bit dry or hard but is still nice to eat consider this is my 1st try. it is a bit tiring to hold the bowl and the other hold the mixer over the simmering water! even after 5 mins, can't get the fluffy texture, thus making my cake a bit dry!
    but my cake looks very yellow than your white? wonder why

  53. Thanks for the recipe Christine. I have tried twice and both times the cake didnt rise. I have beaten the egg and sugar till it became fullfy and yet it still doesnt rise. I remains heavy instead of light. Please tell me where I went wrong.

  54. @pc
    The cake was steamed,hmmm, wonder how come it was dry.

    The egg and sugar has to be beaten over high speed, until very fluffy, the colour will turn to pale yellow, close to white. When it comes to beat the mixture of egg and sugar, don't look at the clock. We have to look for the right consistency. The time suggested in the recipe is only for reference. The performance of every electric mixer is very different.

  55. @Anonymous:
    The texture of this steamed cake is solely rely on the support of the air beaten inside.
    There are two main parts that would make this cake won't rise. First, the mixture of eggs and sugar has to be beaten to the right consistency, very thick and slow to fall a drop. If not, the cake can't rise properly.
    Second, when fold-in the flour, beware not to knock out the air from the egg and sugar mixture.
    Otherwise, the cake won't rise high and not soft.

  56. can you post a ma lai go recipe please!(:

  57. hi christine,
    can i use granulated sugar, instead of custard sugar?

  58. Hi Christine

    Thanks for the recipies but alas to say I am one of the failures. Tried 3 times and yet it does not rise. Taste is good just that the cake is not light in fluffy like shown in the picture. Any chance that you will demonstrate on you tube? That will be just great indeed. :)

  59. @Anonymous
    oh, sorry to hear that. This method of beating whole eggs with sugar is quite challenging, I know.
    Might consider to take video if any chance.

  60. Dear Christine,

    I do not have an electric mixer - sad I know been meaning to get one but up to now not yet.
    I love to try this cake - but is it possible to do with the balloon whisk? Is the method the same?

    Thank you for the advice,

  61. hi christine, is it possible to overbeat the egg and sugar mixture once it is light and fluffy? and is the end result of the cake supposed to be moist? thank you

  62. @Anonymous:
    We hardly over beat the egg and sugar actually, instead, we need more patience to beat the mixture until very fluffy.
    That's crucial step to make this cake successfully.

  63. hi, I tried this recipe with maccha powder and its incredibly delicious dipped into treacle. I also sprinkle kinako powder over to make it more Japanese alike! I have a blog and uploaded the photo of steamed cake I made... Thanks!

  64. Thank you for the tips! Made it for the first time. My parents said it was excellent..Fluffy and moist. I used 6 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup cake flour.

  65. Thank you for the wonderful recipe. I make the cake today and it is puffy and soft and chewy. Please let me know whether the texture of the cake is chewy or I did something wrong. Thank you very much for your help.

  66. Thank for the share of your recipe. Is very successful. Texture is good too. Very nice.

  67. Hi Christine, the cake didn't rise .. I guess the air was knocking out while folding in the flour. How to avoid it? The egg and sugar mixture was increased its volume (rise) but when I added the flour (little by little), the mixtures dropped ..

  68. @onncheng:
    The first step of beating eggs with sugar is very crucial.
    If the eggs and sugar beat to very fluffy and have enough air inside, the mixture would be more stable. Even when flour is added, the volume won't decrease.

  69. I've been looking for the perfect recipe for so long! I tried this yesterday and it came out great. Thanks for sharing. This is going to be a recipe that I will be making a lot.

  70. Hi Christine,

    I have always loved your recipe and I finally tried your steamed cake today. I'm quite sure my egg mixture passed the 3 seconds test and I didn't over fold the flour. However, for some reason, my cake was very 'hole-ly' and tough. it also sank in the middle. I cant figure out what went wrong though I did leave the bowl over the simmering water throughout the whole time that I was beating the egg mixture & I beat the egg mixture on high speed for about 10mins or so. Could that be the problem?

  71. @Lynn:
    If everything was done correctly, I really don't know what's the problem. Sorry. :(

  72. Hi Christine,
    I tried makin this and it was a total failure. The cake was dry and tough, and pores were very big. It did not really raise and became very yellow.
    I beat the eggs until very pale and I was sure it dropped after 3sec.
    Could it be because the mixture was deflated when mixing in the flOur since I used only a small bowl to mix? Found some flour sunk below when I poured the mixture into the pan for steaming.

    Thanks for ur help!

  73. @sue
    Oh, the air inside could be knocked out. :( Sorry for hearing that.

  74. Hi Christine :)

    Thank you very much for your recipe!

    When folding in the flour, should i use an electric mixer as well or just a wooden spatula?

    My steamed egg cake turn out a bit wet on the surface which is about 1.5cm... do you mind to give me some advices?

    But the center and bottom portion turn out very fluffy and nice! And, this recipe is not that sweet, I like it well!

    Lastly, is it advisable to store the flour in the fridge when it is not in use?

    Hear from you soon!

    Thanks & regards,

  75. @Elim:

    You might like to use a spatula or balloon whisk to fold in the flour in the egg mixture lightly, trying not to knock out too much air inside.

    As for the problem of wet surface, wonder if the steam condensed on the cake. It's a very common problem while steaming. You might try wrapping your wok lid with a cloth to prevent any water drops on your cake surface. Or use a bamboo steamer with a lid on.

    The batter has to be cooked right away. It can't wait too long as the air inside might escape, then your cake won't be fluffy.

    Hope this info helps.

  76. Hi Christine,

    Thank you very much for your advise.

    Finally, I managed to do it right!
    I have tried again last night, and the cake turned out soft and the creamy colour of the cake is so nice!

    Thank you very much to you!

    Actually, my folding technique is not that good. I have found some video on Youtube on how to do the folding, and I will keep trying!