Monday, February 25, 2013
Kai Tan Koh/Ji Dan Gao (Steamed Egg Cake, 鸡蛋糕)
As I walked pass a shelf of Mason Cash mixing bowls at a local kitchen supplies store one evening, memories of my mother in her kitchen came flooding back. She had not procured an electric mixer and was still fiddling around with her wonky gas oven, often coming out with cakes looking and tasting slightly pear-shaped. She also didn't need anything else but a huge wok, steaming and stir frying most dishes, like my favorite Hakka salted chicken. Those days, our mothers made do, without the need for 3,278 gadgets in their kitchens to pump up good, heart-warming meals.
While we now go on about bowl-scrapping beaters for our Kitchen Aids and other things our mothers have not seen before, at that time all I had in my hands was this plastic SuperWhipper, not even a real whisk. In her heavy mixing bowl were one bowl each of sugar and eggs. I whip the batter like there was no tomorrow, pushing down and releasing the whipper, not really knowing what was going on but I knew I had to double the size of the mixture.
Then a bowl of flour was folded in with a wooden spoon, before the pale, yellow mixture was poured into a lined basket mother used to keep eggs. Half an hour later, this eggy, fluffy and slightly sweet cake would be popped out of our steaming wok and into my mouth, the bulk of it usually finished by the next morning.
I chose the same classic cane design my mother had and as I paid for my very own Mason Cash mixing bowl now, I wonder if tradition and simplicity, like this inglorious steamed egg cake, will persevere in our times of modernity and fast living.
Kai Tan Koh/Ji Dan Gao (Steamed Egg Cake, 鸡蛋糕)
Adapted barely from The Little Teochew's Steamed Egg Cake
Yields 1 7 or 8-inch round cake
Note: I find the results better when steaming using a basket than a regular baking tin. If you don't have a bamboo steamer, use any woven basket which would fit in your wok/pot/steamer. Out of curiosity, I maintained the fizzy drink ingredient in this recipe. The resulting cake is definitely fluffier than my mother's. Try both options to see which one you prefer.
Line a 7 or 8-inch bamboo steamer or woven basket with baking paper.
- 220 grams eggs excluding weight of shells (about 4 large eggs)
- 210 grams caster sugar
- 230 grams cake flour or top flour (sifted 2 or 3 times)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons cream soda/7-Up/Sprite
Using a stand or hand held mixer, whisk the eggs till frothy on medium speed. Increase speed to medium high, then start adding sugar a little by little, to ensure it is well-incorporated. Add in vanilla extract and continue whisking until the batter becomes very pale, thick and creamy, about 6-8 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring the water in a wok/pot/steamer to boil. Ensure your steaming vessel is large enough to fit the basket, has ample space for the cake to rise and the steam to circulate. With a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the flour in thirds, alternating with the soda and ending with the flour. Once there are no streaks of flour, stop mixing. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl for a smooth batter.
Pour batter into the prepared basket and steam covered on high for 30 minutes. Once done, remove the cake from the basket using the baking paper overhang and allow to cool slightly before slicing. This cake is best served slightly warm - to reheat, steam gently on medium low for 2 or 3 mins.
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15 Comments on Kai Tan Koh/Ji Dan Gao (Steamed Egg Cake, 鸡蛋糕)
I guess this is the simplest yet most delicious most of mothers had made! I remember my eldest sister used the round wire whisk too and must steam the sponge for the duration of one joss-stick!
Posted by Elaine, at Feb 25, 2013, 12:13:00 PM
I hear ya. I've been baking a lot recently, using my nifty KitchenAid mixer with its multitude of attachments, and all the while, I think about how my mom used to make the most wonderful sponge cakes, by hand.
This steamed egg cake, is it similar to ma lai gao? It looks absolutely delicious.
Posted by Linda, at Feb 28, 2013, 6:35:00 AM
Elaine: Yes, I've seen the joss stick application in dramas and movies. I suspect with all those limitations, our mothers and theirs are always better cooks.
Linda: Ma Lai Go (steamed Malay cake) uses brown sugar, I think that's the only difference, but I never warmed up to it as a child.
Posted by PickYin, at Feb 28, 2013, 9:14:00 PM
I have never eaten anything like it. I am facinated by the idea of ading soda. I must try it
Posted by afracooking, at Mar 3, 2013, 8:38:00 PM
Out of curiosity: do you taste the sprite? What are your thoughts on replacing it with sparkling water without flavour?
Posted by afracooking, at Mar 3, 2013, 8:46:00 PM
afracooking: You can skip the fizzy drink or replace with anything similar to cream soda. The small amount will not affect the taste of the cake. All the best!
Posted by PickYin, at Mar 4, 2013, 10:09:00 AM
Hi, reading through your write-up on Kai Tan Koh brings about nostalgic memory of the traditional method of making it. May I ask what is cake flour or top flour?
Posted by Anonymous, at Dec 10, 2013, 5:38:00 PM
Anon: Cake flour is great for making cakes and other baked goods because it gives you a very tender result. This is because it has such a low protein content compared to other flours (all purpose is usually around 10%) and less gluten forms when you mix it into a batter, producing a cake with a fine, soft, even crumb.
Posted by PickYin, at Dec 11, 2013, 10:22:00 AM
I tried making kai tan koh, but it failed to rise after the steaming. Could it be that the pot I was steaming in was too shallow? (the flour rose, but got squashed against the lid and couldn't rise further)
Posted by Anonymous, at Dec 15, 2013, 12:17:00 PM
Yes Anon, you answered your own question. :) It's best to steam in a wok with the traditional dome/pyramid shaped metal lid.
Posted by PickYin, at Dec 16, 2013, 10:15:00 AM
Hi nice cake. How can I make it smile?
Posted by Unknown, at Jan 10, 2014, 8:18:00 AM
Hi mine came out hard. I used all-purpose flour as I couldn't find cake flour. Is the failure due to wrong type of flour used? Pls advice.
Posted by Unknown, at Mar 18, 2015, 9:17:00 PM
Hi Jan, you will have to use cake or top flour for this. To make your own, check out this link here.
Posted by PickYin, at Mar 19, 2015, 8:10:00 AM
Which is the best way to steam the batter. In a wok or in a steamer. Do you have to wrap the cover with a piece of cloth so that the water vapour will not drop on to the kai tan koh. I tried it with a wrapped cover but my koh rises and touch the cloth as my steamer or wok is not deep enough for my kai tan koh. So I ended with wet sticky top.
Posted by Blessings, at May 22, 2016, 10:59:00 AM
Blessings: Wrapping will help to prevent dripping but I use a full size wok with a traditional domed cover so I don't have the same problem. You can perhaps use a wider basket so the height of the cake can be reduced? Hope this helps.
Posted by PickYin, at May 26, 2016, 1:53:00 PM
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