Chinatown Cake for Chinese New Year

Today is my birthday!

Birthday brunch

I hosted brunch for my dad’s family this morning and decided I needed a cake for the event. I wanted something extra rich and chocolatey, but I’ve been pretty good about not indulging too much and didn’t want to totally derail myself. So, I thought I’d try my hand at a steamed-ish Chinese style cake like the ones my family gets at the Chinatown bakeries for big events. Typically these are made in steamer baskets, but I don’t have one so this is a simpler version of this light and yummy cake.

This is a perfect cake to make for Chinese New Year next week. The trick to this one is not to over-mix it because the batter needs to be really light (downright foamy) so that it bakes up to this soft and spongy eggy goodness.

Chinese sponge cake

Chinatown Cake for Chinese New Year

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 eggs
  • 10 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup cold whipping cream
  • Powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk the cake flour, cornstarch, and baking powder together and sift.

In a large bowl, whisk together the 6 egg yolks and 5 tablespoons of the sugar. Whisk in the oil and the milk and then fold in the dry ingredients you sifted.

Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites and the other 5 tablespoons of sugar until you get stiff peaks. Fold the whipped egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture gently. Mix until thoroughly combined but don’t mix too much because you want it to be kind of a foamy batter.

Chinese cake batter

Butter two cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Pour the mixture in the pans and tap them on the counter to bring the bubbles to the surface. Baking them one at a time, put a cake pan in the center of a cookie sheet and place in the oven. Add 2 cups of water to the cookie sheet so the cake pan is sitting in the water and bake for 20 minutes. When that cake is ready, pull it out of the oven and bake the other for 20 minutes.

Let the cakes cool completely in the pans and then flip them out gently, removing the parchment paper. Using your mixer, whip the cold cream and powdered sugar (to taste, I like about 1/4 cup) until stiff. Use a spatula to add half of the whipped cream to the top of one cake, put the other cake on top, and finish with the rest of the whipped cream. Top with strawberries or fresh fruit of your choice and dust with powdered sugar.

Chinese new year cake

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