Monday, February 16, 2009

Chinese-style Sponge Cake

Chinese-style Sponge Cake
Home Cooking

EDITED TO ADD: I originally only put up MY version of this recipe which makes 1/3 of the intended quantity. I've now added the ORIGINAL recipe ingredients list in case you want to make a full-sized cake. Scroll to the end of this post to see.

So far, of all the cooking I've done, the recipe I used for THIS sponge was the most difficult for me to track down. I wanted to make something like those basic sponges in Asian bakeries that are the foundation for birthday cakes or are made small and sandwiched with... red bean paste, taro paste or custard (etc etc).

I got a bit sneaky (or clever, depending on how you want to look at it) and looked at the back of the wrappers for these desserts and noticed that the general composition included egg, flour and oil. Thus it follows that when I was recipe-searching, I kept my eye out for the ones that contained those ingredients.

The main challenge was finding a sponge recipe that used oil instead of butter and also, a Chinese-style recipe that was baked rather than steamed. In the end, I got a good one and I promise it's a winner.

I've used this recipe twice. I mix up a certain volume and basically portion the batter into whatever muffin pans or small loaf/cake tins I have handy. It seems to work in any shape but smaller trays = lower baking temperature.

The second time I used this recipe I stuffed up a bit and poured too much into the loaf tin. DON'T FILL YOUR TINS because this batter has so much air that you need to give it room to rise. This explains why my photos show batter in the mini loaf tin but the result is muffin-shaped sponges.

I divided the original recipe by 3 since it used 9 eggs. Plus, there isn't much occasion where I need to make 2 full-sized round cakes. The quantity of batter that my recipe adaptation produces is enough to play around with.

Chinese-style Sponge Cake
Makes 1 mini loaf tins and approx 3 sponge muffins

  • 1/2 cup cake flour (if you don't have cake flour, put 1 tbsp cornstarch in a 1/2 cup container and then fill to the top with plain flour)
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/6 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/6 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/6 cup of water (I used half of a 1/3 cup)
  • 1/12 cup of oil (I used a third of a 1/4 cup - approximately. Also, I used vegetable oil. Use a mild flavored oil i.e. not olive oil)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees (180 if making a full-sized cake).
2. Beat egg whites until slightly foamy. Add the cream of tartar and then beat with electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and sugar. Add the egg yolks, water, oil and vanilla extract. Beat until creamy.
4. Pour the yolk mix over the egg whites very gently, 1/3 at a time and fold together until just combined.5. Pour batter into your tins (if your tins aren't non-stick, you may want to grease and lightly flour to prevent sticking. Don't over grease because you want the sponge to have 'some' hold onto the sides of the tin when rising in order to rise properly).
THIS TIN IS TOO FULL - cake rose crazily and the inside was uncooked. DON'T do this...

6. Bake for about 25min until the sponges are risen and golden on the surface. An inserted skewer should come out clean.7. Cool the sponges in their tins completely before removing from tin (prevents shrinking).
Mmmmm... texture shot (although it seems I didn't mix my yolk/white evenly enough... bit of patchiness)

I think the sponges taste WONDERFUL sandwiched with a very thin layer of thickened cream + honey. They smell delightful when they're baking and it's worth making them for that reason alone. Although they are a bit fussy to make right (I got it perfect on first attempt but my 2nd attempt was rushed and blotched), the result mimics professional bakery cakes so much that you'll be very proud of yourself.

Edited to add:

Now that I've come back to re-read my recipe, I realize it's a bit hard to follow my quantities because I go down to 1/6 of a tsp (which is impossible to be precise about) and all that. For this reason, here's the ORIGINAL ingredients list. You can use this to make a full sized sponge cake - the procedure remains the same.
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of cake flour
  • 9 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. The cakes look absolutely wonderful! I want to make some myself now.. but how many eggs do u need for the batter? Theres no mention in the ingredients list..


  2. Hi there! The original recipe used 9 eggs but when I made my sponge cake muffins, I divided the original recipe by 3 to use only 3 eggs. I've now added that onto the ingredients list (can't believe I left it out) and have also added the original quantities at the end of my post so you can chose which one you want to use.

  3. Can I buy cake flour from Yuens in Market Square? Or where can I buy it? Thanks! :)

  4. I have been searching for this recipe forEVER. Thank you so much!

  5. 170 degrees in celsius or fahrenheit?

  6. Hi Anonymous...

    That would be Celsius.

  7. hi, I am new to baking, I try this, but failed, don't know how it happen, I did everything on the list, but the cake turn hard, is yellow, but hard, what did I do wrong ?

  8. Hi newbiebakes...

    That sounds a bit like you overmixed it and all the air got knocked out? It's a very delicate batter so you have to be careful to keep it aerated before baking.