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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chinese Bakery Cake



My Asian family, like others, tends to have a sensitive sweet tooth when it comes to desserts. "Not too sweet" is always the rule and is also the highest of compliments.

Chinese bakeries only sell one type of tiered cake that's comparable to American cake: the steamed sponge cake or chiffon cake. You will seldom find any other cake on display.  From birthdays to graduations to weddings, it is your only option.  It is an egg-y, yellow cake with white whipped cream and fruits.   I would describe it as light, fluffy, refreshing, and "not too sweet."  I never really feel guilty eating a second (or third) slice.

This is my tried, true, and tested recipe for "Chinese bakery cake" (or "gai dahn goh").   I first found one online here, tested & modified it several times, and here it is.  In the past 6 months, I've baked this 3 times for my niece's, mom's, and boyfriend's grandmother's birthdays.   Even my mom (my biggest supporter yet critic) has given this cake a thumbs up!  Although traditional Chinese cakes are steamed in a wok, this recipe calls for it to be baked in an oven.  Call this a Chinese-American cake, if you will!








CHINESE BAKERY (CHIFFON) CAKE
modified January 2014 with pictures to address questions I've received

Ingredients
5 eggs, separated at room temperature
1 1/2 c. cake flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 c. sugar, separated
1/3 c. water
1/3 c. vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Yields
2 8" round cakes

Equipment
electric mixer with paddle and whisk attachments
2 mixing bowls
2 8" round pans
sifter
spatula

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 340F deg.

2.  Separate the eggs.

3.  In the first bowl, beat on high speed the yolks and 2/3 cup of sugar until pale yellow, thick, and ribbons form (approximately 3 minutes).
pale yellow & thick

Then sift together cake flour and baking powder on top of it and mix on low speed until just combined.  Add water, oil, and vanilla and beat briefly on medium speed until creamy and well blended.

4.  In the second bowl, whip egg whites with an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until slightly foamy.  Add cream of tartar.  Increase power to high speed until stiff peaks have just formed (approximately 3 minutes).  Then gradually add in 1/3 cup of sugar while the mixer is still on.  This is meringue.
stiff peaks - the most important step!
test: turn it upside down - nothing should move!

5.  Combine the meringue into the yolk mixture and gently fold with a spatula until incorporated so that the batter is all one color.  Do not over mix or take too long on this step, or the meringue will deflate and result in a flat, dense cake.
batter is very pale yellow and airy - do not intentionally flatten the air bubbles

6.  Do line the bottoms of cake pans with parchment paper and evenly separate batter into 2 pans while smoothing out the tops with a spatula.  Do not grease or line the sides of the pans.  This will allow the batter to stick to the sides and maintain its height.

Immediately place in the oven and bake for approximately 19-22 mins or until tops of the cakes are barely golden.

7.  Remove from oven and let cool before handling.  The sides of the cake should automatically shrink away from the pans as it cools.
fresh out of the oven and slightly golden
while cooling (note the shrinkage)
natural shrinkage during cooling makes it easy to pop out
beautiful, fluffy cakes (inverted)


8.  Frost however you like.  My family prefers this cake with fresh whipped cream & fruits.


WHIPPED CREAM
http://nancybaked.blogspot.com/2010/04/whipped-cream.html

55 comments:

  1. I have been searching this for ages and went through so many versions. I can't wait to try this. Thank you!!!

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    Replies
    1. Please let me know how it turns out and if you can provide any improvements. Good luck!

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  2. Hi, could you convert these measurements to grams and mls. i'm not really sure how to work with cups. thanks heaps! i would really like to make this cake for my family. it seems so good.

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    Replies
    1. Hi there, I've never baked this recipe in other measurements, so I prefer not to post them. I found an online converter here, though: http://allrecipes.com/howto/cup-to-gram-conversions/. Please let me know how the cake turns out! Good luck!

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  3. Hi Nancy :), Thank you for posting this. I have been tried many different recipes that I found online,the cake came out okay but not moist like the one I got from Chinese bakery. I will try your recipe and will let you know the result. Thank you so much!

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    Replies
    1. Glad I can be of some help. Please let me know how it turns out!

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  4. Hi Nancy! I randomly googled a recipe for Chinese birthday cakes and this is one of the only recipes I found! It was linked in a forum asking about the light sponge cake every Chinese person has had sometime in their life. :)

    I wanted to try my hand at making one from scratch for my dad's birthday this weekend. I did a test run on your cake recipe yesterday and my brother devoured half the thing already- that's without fruit and whipped cream. A good sign! I can't wait to make and decorate this cake this weekend! Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! The ultimate test will be if your dad approves too. :) Please let me know if he enjoyed it as much as your brother did. Also, could you tell me on which forum you find this recipe?

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    2. Hi Nancy, Sorry for the delayed response. I tried googling again and couldn't find the forum. Sorry! My dad LOVED it! Absolutely delicious with the whipped cream and fruit. I can't wait to try making your coffee cake.

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    3. Thanks for the feedback!!

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  5. Hello Nancy, I love this recipe. I was only confused with the cream you used , I used to use the heavy cream but it melt right away. Which cream did you use ?

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    Replies
    1. Hi there, I'm sorry the whipped cream didn't work out for you. I use heavy whipping cream. I always freeze my metal mixing bowl and whisk 15-30 minutes prior to whipping, take them out of the freezer, take the cream out of the refrigerator, pour into the bowl, and start whisking right away. If your kitchen is too warm, it's possible the cream will not whip up properly. Powdered sugar also works as a stabilizer, and so do Whip-It (powder that comes in little packets) and gelatin.

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    2. By using Whip It does it change the flavor of the cream ? How long did your cream lasted?

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    3. I don't remember the results I had with Whip-it because I've only used it once. Freshly whipped cream stored in a good container in the refrigerator will last 5-7 days. At a cool room temperature (like on a cake), try not to leave it out for longer than 2 hours.

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  6. Hi Nancy, so I tried this and it came out dry and hard. And I don't know why. But the flavor and taste was the same as the ones I got from Chinese bakeries!

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    Replies
    1. Hi there! I'm sorry your cake turned out dry. Perhaps it was over baked? If you try it again, use a cake tester during the last 5 mins to test it.

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    2. Try watching some videos on Youtube in terms of how much to whip the egg white and whatnot. I found that super helpful.

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  7. Hi Nancy, for the flour do I just measure 1.5 cup of flour then sift or do I have to sift the flour then measure 1.5cup, because my cake came out dry and it was stick on the pan I wasnt able to remove it from the pan. Why is this ?

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    Replies
    1. I usually measure 1.5 cups, then sift it. I usually line my pans with parchment paper, so I've never had an issue with it sticking.

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  8. Hi Nancy, which type of sugar did you use? Is it just normal white granulated sugar and what is the size of the cup you mentioned above please? Many thanks! I am really looking forward to trying this cake!

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  9. Hi Nancy , so I tried this but my cake didn't come out as puffy as the picture shown, it was only puffy like one layer of your cake from your picture. And the cake came out with so much egg smells, is there anything I can add to get rid of the egg smell and create something that smells more like creamy and milky?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You may not have beaten the egg whites until stiff (google "stiff peaks egg whites" for pictures of what it should look like). Or when you were mixing the whites into the batter in Step #5, perhaps were not delicate enough or folded too much and let all the air out.

      I'm not sure how to minimize the egg smell" because it does have eggs in it! If you experiment with putting fewer eggs in it, I think the cake will turn out dry.

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  10. Is this the temperature in measures of Fahrenheit?

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  11. I made the cake and it came out dense is it because there were too many eggs? Also when i and beating the egg whites can i do it in a plastic bowl?
    By the way this recipe was great overall. Thanks for posting it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You may not have beaten the egg whites until stiff (google "stiff peaks egg whites" for pictures of what it should look like). Or when you were mixing the whites into the batter in Step #5, perhaps were not delicate enough or folded too much and let all the air out. Yes, you can beat the egg whites in a plastic bowl.

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  12. Will i need to add salt in the batter? And my cake ended up dense is there too many eggs? Thanks for posting it. Overall it tasted great. Great job!

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    1. I have never added salt to the batter.

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  13. Hello i just tried this recipe and the cake is way too thin. Could it have been the flour? I used Swans Down cake flour. PLEASE HELP

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    Replies
    1. Hi there, I use Swans Down too. Please note my modifications above. Same ingredients & measurements, different order.

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  14. hi Nancy, thank you so much for sharing this recipe! Do u have a chocolate version for this recipe too? thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Hi there, use 3/4 cup cake flour and 2/3 cup cocoa powder. Sift them together as the directions say for the cake flour part. Please let me know how it turns out!

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  15. Nice photos! I have used this recipe several times for my grandmothers birthday with much success. Please add measurements for 2 layer 9-inch cake.

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  16. I made this cake twice for my daughter's birthday, and both times I received TONS of compliments from my (somewhat intimidating) in-laws, friends, and family. I am not especially skilled at baking, so I really appreciate all the detail. Thanks Nancy!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for the feedback! Sorry for the late reply, but happy belated birthday to your daughter!

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  17. do you have to add the cream of tartar?
    is there any subsituitions??

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    Replies
    1. It's not a requirement but adds stability and volume to the egg whites. I've never made this cake without it. I've read online that vinegar is a close substitution, but I've never tried it.

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  18. hi nancy, can I steam the cakes with this recipe or do I have to bake it?

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    Replies
    1. This recipe is only for baking.

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  19. Hi Nancy, my mom's friend works in a bakery and she uses 9 eggs for one cake. I'm not sure what to try...9 eggs seems like way too much. Do you know what happens when you add more eggs to the recipe?

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    Replies
    1. Hi David,
      I've never made this recipe with 9 eggs since I've had great results with 5 (even 6). I'm not totally sure what 3-4 extra eggs would do except create more volume (due to more batter). If you decide to try it, please let me know your results!

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  20. Do you have to use cake flour or can you just use all purpose flour?

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    1. Please use cake flour. I can't guarantee the same results with AP flour.

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  21. Hi Nancy, my cake unfortunately came out very flat and dense but the taste was delicious :D Also, the edges of the cake did not shrink so I had to use a knife to scrape them out :c Do you know how I can fix this next time? Thank you for the recipe !

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    Replies
    1. By any chance, did you leak any egg yolks into your egg whites? Even a trace amount of fat (yolks) will cause the egg whites to not foam up and get stiff. Were the egg whites stiff enough to pass the test (pictured in Step #4)? And perhaps you overmixed the two batters together in Step #5. Please let me know if you try again!

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  22. Hi Nancy-did I not see the # of eggs in the recipe for Chinese Bakery Cake?

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  23. Can I make this in 2 9 inch round springform cake pans? Do I need to change the measurements or bakin g time?

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    Replies
    1. Sorry for the late reply! 9" cake pans will result in slightly thinner cakes. You do not need to change the measurements or baking time.

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  24. Thank you nancy. I just made cupcakes with the recipe today. About 12-15 min in the oven. Turned out just like the chinese bakery cake! Love the texture.

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    Replies
    1. Very happy you enjoyed this recipe. I've never tried this recipe as cupcakes. Thanks for the feedback!

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  25. Hi Nancy, my family are enjoying the cakes I've made following this recipe very much, thank you! I had a question though, my cakes seem to sink in the middle after a few minutes of being out of the oven. Any idea what I might be doing wrong?

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Chris! Thanks for your comment!

      This only happened to me once, and I think it's because I left the cake cooling in the same baking pan for too long (hours, because I had left the house). I don't know how to explain it, but it happened.

      I'm sure you didn't do that as well. I googled it, and this site has some good explanations:
      http://www.alwaysorderdessert.com/2010/11/kitchen-tip-5-ways-to-keep-your-cakes.html

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    2. Hi Nancy, I'll keep at it till I get it right. Thanks very much! =)

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