February 17, 2006 | | Comments 75

Chinese Sponge Cake

To the Chinese, cakes are normally steamed rather than baked. Today, I steamed a very simple Chinese sponge cake made primarily from eggs. Total time taken to prepare this cake is less than an hour with 25 minutes for steaming.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (can substitute vanilla if desired)
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk (can substitute regular milk if desired)
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

This is a Green Tea Sponge Cake with the addition of one tablespoon of green tea powder (which was shifted with the dry ingredients). The colour turned out to be brown rather than green. I wonder why. Nevertheless, I like the green tea flavour.Here are the directions:

The baking powder and flour are mixed together.
They are then sifted and set aside.
Mix the evaporated milk with the melted butter first. Then add the baking soda to it. Again, set it aside.
You will need four eggs. Crack it into a mixing bowl.
Beat the eggs.
Mix in the sugar and the almond extract. Make sure that the sugar is dissolved.
You then mix in the milk/baking soda/butter mixture to the eggs/sugar. Blend thoroughly using a whisk.
You gradually mix in the flour mixture and blend.
Whisk until smooth and completely blended.
Pour the mixture into a greased cake pan. I use a pie dish about 9-inch.
Bring the water to boil.
Place the cake into the pan with boiling water.
Cover and steam for 25-30 minutes. Use a toothpick to check when the cake is done.

Remove the cake from the pan and slice. Best served when warm. Enjoy!

If you like steamed cake recipes, check out the following:

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Categorized Under: CakesKuih

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  1. ROSA says:

    I’ve never steamed a cake before. I’m definately going to try this. Thanks!!

  2. Suanne says:

    Let me know how yours turn out, Rosa.

  3. ROSA says:

    I made it Suanne. This is soooo good!! I put it up on my blog, take a look. Thank you.

  4. Suanne says:

    Hi Rosa:Glad you like it. We enjoyed your blog, especially on the sponge cake. You know what? The next time I make Malaysian or Asian desserts, I’ll alert you. I got a few ideas that I think you will like.Suanne

  5. ROSA says:

    I can’t wait!!

  6. haripriya says:

    Hi Susane..first time in ur blog…surprised to see a steamed cake…thnx alot i was waiting for such type of recipes…got to know ur blog from priya of dailygirlblog ..by the way..i dont have oven..can i bake the cake in a cooker?

  7. Suanne says:

    Hi Haripriya,

    This Chinese Sponge Cake does not need an oven for baking. All you need is a steamer on the stove.

  8. Jenn Dolari says:

    I’ve been looking for this recipe for forever and a day. A friend of mine pointed me to this page after I was asking about ma lai gao. Sure enough, I made it, it was great, and so simple that even someone like me, who burns corn flakes, could make it. The only change I made was that I didn’t have a cake pan that would fit in a boiler, so instead, I used my vegetable steamer (2 cups of water steamed for 45 minutes). I’ve heard it’s even better with rice flour, that’s my next attempt. Thanks again for posting this, it’s good stuff!

    http://jenndolari.livejournal.com/924874.html – with picture!

  9. Zhi Wei says:

    Hi there. I just found out your site from a friend. Your recipes are simple and looks great. I will surely give them a try. But I am wondering can I use self-rising flour instead of all purpose flour and baking powder? Most recipes require all-purpose flour but I still have self-rising flour left.

  10. Suanne says:

    Hi Zhi Wei, you should be able to substitute the all-purpose flour and baking powder with self-rising flour. I have never try that though. Tell me how it turns out.

  11. Leanne says:


    I was looking for the recipe for making malaysian sponge cake and then I find this site which is really useful – thanks! One question though, you didn’t indicate which type of flour to use in your recipes – can I use self-raising flour?


  12. Suanne says:

    Hi Leanne, I use all-purpoese flour in this recipe. The recipe already consist of rising ingredients like baking powder and baking soda.

  13. Alexandra says:

    Hi Suanne,

    I love your blog! I have tried with success the steamed banana cake but unfortunately when I tried to make this sponge cake, it was a disaster!! The cake did not rise at all (I followed the recipe precisely) and the cake texture was wet, spongy and sticky although I steamed for more than 30mins!

    Maybe you can enlighten me on what went wrong???


  14. Suanne says:

    Hi Alexandra, it’s hard to diagnose what went wrong without seeing the actual process. But, I guess what could cause the cake not to rise is the freshness of the baking powder and baking soda. The wetness could be due to the condensation water dripping back onto the cake and you could overcome this by placing a kitchen towel between the cake and the cover and tide the ends of the towel up neatly on the cover for safety reason. Good luck on your next try.

  15. Kathryn says:

    your a star – great recipe. Any idea how this cake would be traditionally decorated? I understand it usually envolves fruit.

  16. daisy says:

    Hi I certainly agree that chinese sponge cakes are easier to make and are moister and delicious. the first time i tried this recipe, i came out with a very moist, eglliciously tasty cake. My dad who was chinese even recognized. thanks for posting.

  17. jeff says:

    Just wanted to say THANKS for this. I just made it and it came out GREAT!!!

    It’s yummy. You rock!

  18. Yvonne says:

    Wow, I can’t believe it, I only had the healthy stuff in the house (whole wheat flour, skim milk (not even enough, so i added water), and brown sugar) and it still really reminded me of the ones you get at dim sum! Of course, if used the ingedients you posted it would really be the real deal. I’m so glad to have found this recipe. Thanks!

  19. Yong-yong says:

    The recipe was good! I loved the texture of the sponge cake! It was totally spongy!

  20. Jaczie says:

    Hey there.

    I made this and it turned out great (for me) but my dad prefers the Ma Lai Go from our favorite Chinese restaurant :(

    I don’t bake at all, so I was hoping I can get some advice.

    This recipe’s cake is much denser than the one my dad likes. The other one is lighter, more airy. I don’t know what changes I can make to make it so… will putting more baking soda/powder make the cake rise more and be more fluffy?

  21. suanne says:

    Hi Jaczie, I found this link (http://www.xanga.com/CantoneseCooking/561070644/ma-lai-go-sweet-steamed-sponge-cake.html) of making Ma Lai Go. Give this a try and let me know how it turns out. I will try to make this for Chinese New Year.

  22. Suanne says:

    Hi Jaczie, just to let you know that I tested the recipe in the link from xanga but it did not turn out ok. I’m not sure if it’s due to my steaming utensil, the steaming water kept bubbling up and overflow into the cake batter. I suspect that initially the batter overflow into the steaming water and that cause the water to bubble up due to the baking powder effect. I tried twice and I got the same problem.

  23. Celine says:

    Hi Suanne!Thanks for the recipe. I made it today with regular milk and self raising flour and it worked out!The only problem was that it was quite dense. Should I add some baking powder to my mixture?

  24. Suanne says:

    Hi Celine, self rising flour already has leavening agent like baking powder in it. I guess you can try add 1/2 teaspoon extra. I would also recommend you beat the eggs more to incorporate more air into the batter to achieve a more spongy cake.

  25. Celine says:


  26. Julia says:

    I tried this recipe last night substituted with whole wheat flour and brown sugar (and vanilla extract and low-fat milk). It’s grainier and less sweet than the ma-lai-gao at the restaurant. A little bitter because of the “not sweet enough” factor. I like it and my baby girl loves it. That’s all it matters! Thanks for the recipe!

  27. waiem says:

    I’m glad I found this site with lots of easy to follow photos. I tried this cake last night, but it turned out more like a ‘kuih’ (Malay dessert), and there were big holes inside. The only change I made was to use brown sugar and I put in the baking powder into the margarine before adding the milk. Could this be the reason why?

  28. Nice recipe. I used ice cream soda drink to make it fluffy.

  29. [...] asked for the recipe of steamed pandan cake and I decided to try to make some adjustments to the Chinese Sponge Cake recipe to incorporate the pandan [...]

  30. Ryan's mami says:

    Can I use the icing sugar instead??

  31. Suanne says:

    Hi Ryan’s mami, you certainly can use icing sugar but you might need to add more for the same sweetness in granulated sugar. Here is a substitution formula I found from Cook’s Thesaurus:
    “powdered sugar (Substitute 1 3/4 cup packed powdered sugar for each cup of granulated sugar called for in recipe”

  32. angela says:

    Hi Suanne,

    Can u email me the recipe of ‘Po Zhai Ko’is a snack find in Hong Kong.


  33. Ed says:

    Hi Suanne,

    First time I tried cooking somethings like this.
    I followed the recipe exactly (except I used lactose free milk) but after 2 attempts, I couldn’t get it to rise properly. The cake rises a lot in the steamer, but falls right back down when taken out.
    The end result is just a large blobby mass. It tastes good, but the texture is not like that of a sponge cake.

    Do you have any idea what I may be doing wrong?

    Thank you for your time.

    • Suanne says:

      Hi Ed, you can try this method I learned from steaming bun. Do not remove the cake immediately after the steaming. Let the cake sit for 5 minutes in the steamer after the heat is turned off. Then open the lid of the steamer slightly to allow the hot air to gradually release. Sudden change of temperature may cause the cake to collapse. Good luck.

      • Amy says:

        Hi Suanne,
        After steaming the cake for 25 minutes, you recommend to let the cake sit for 5 minutes in the steamer after the heat is turned off. May I clarify, do you have let the cake sit in the same position on the oven after turning off the stove for 5 minutes or move it to a location on the stove to let it cool down?


        • Suanne says:

          Hi Amy, the method of turning off the stove and let the buns sit in the steamer for 5 minutes before removing them is more for steaming Chinese buns. That is to Leave the buns in the steamer on the stove to cool down gradually. As for this cake, I do not use this method as the cake does not deflate much.

          • Amy says:

            Hi Suanne,

            Thanks for replying! Ok, I will make this sponge cake again. When the water boils on high heat, I put in the sponge cake plate and then turn it down to medium heat for 25 minutes. Afterwards, I will turn off the stove and take out the sponge cake plate to cool down on the rack. Is the procedures correct now?

            I was wondering why my sponge cake was harder on the bottom last time and I think that it was overcooked after leaving in the steamer for an extra 5 minutes after the heat was turned off.

            Thanks for your help!


  34. wanjing says:

    Hi Suanne,

    Is it alright to just add green tea powder to modify this into a green tea cake? What’s the serving size for this recipe?


    Wan Jing

    • Suanne says:

      Hi Wanjing, I think making this into a green tea cake is a good idea. In fact, I’m not so fond of the strong egg flavour of this cake I would say that this cake serves 8. Thanks for the green tea idea.

  35. Kalexia says:

    Hi, I enjoyed trying the recipe out but I found that after cooking it, there was a pocket in the centre that hadn’t cooked and was till raw… i followed the recipe exactly but I used a a bowl rather than a cake/pie dish. Would the cake need to be steamed longer than 30mins?

    • Suanne says:

      Hi Kalexia, if the container is deep and narrow, you have to increase the steaming time, just like baking a cake in a loaf pan needs more time than baking a cake in a shallower and wider pan. Just do the tooth pick test to ensure the cake is cooked thoroughly.

  36. janei says:

    Hi Suanne,
    I’ve tried this recipe, turn out very nice, thanks for sharing!

  37. LCS says:

    Thank you for the recipe. I tried it today. From the picture, as well as my attempt, it does not look like my grandmother’s cake. I’m sure it is something similar, but I remember that my grandmother’s cake was a very pale yellow. Thank you.

  38. LCS says:

    Hello, I’m back again. Sorry, earlier on, I was in a rush. And I doubt I made any sense, if any.

    Anyway, I wanted to thank you for the recipe of Chinese sponge cake. It was exactly like the Chinese dim sim dessert cake that my friends and I usually get during dim sum hour and the weekends.

    I am looking for something that is similar, but a pale/light yellow sponge cake that my grandmother used to make when I was a kid. The cake also involved separating the egg yolks from the whites. Unfortunately, that is all I remember to the recipe, and I doubt it is very helpful.

    However, if you do know what I’m talking about, that would be great!

    • Ben says:

      Hi LCS, I think I know what you are looking for. I just saw a similar cake at New Town Bakery two days ago. Unforturnately, I do not have the recipe for it. As you said, you may have to beat the egg white and egg yolk separately and fold in the rest of the ingredients. When you beat the egg yolk enough, you will get a pale yellow colour batter. You can find similar method of cake making at this link http://chowtimes.com/2006/12/23/fresh-fruit-cake/. You can adopt the method with the Chinese Sponge Cake recipe and it might works.

  39. elle says:

    Hi i would like to know instead of steaming it can i baked it instead?

  40. alyson says:

    Just wondering since you did not post how many servings does this cake make? I am hoping to try it soon! Does it taste like a J J Bakery cake (sorry if you do not know what that is)? thanx for the great recipe! please reply!

  41. [...] I prefer Suanne’s version over this anytime. Check out Suanne’s recipe for Chinese Sponge Cake here. [...]

  42. I really like the idea of a Green Tea sponge cake. I bet that would be delicious. Maybe even add some green colored, green tea or mint icing! YUM!

  43. deepa says:


    what substitute can be used for eggs

    warm regards

  44. MIN says:

    After i saw your green tea chinese sponge cake, i got very excited and was inspired to do a green tea one too. You may want to try this. It is really much faster and is green.

    3/4 tsp green tea powder
    4 tbsp sugar
    1 cup (about 100g) flour
    1 egg – beaten
    Approx 20ml of milk
    1.5 tsp baking powder
    1 tbsp oil

    + Optional = crushed almonds

    Sift baking powder,green tea powder and flour
    (I did this 2 times as i was afraid that the end product would turn heavy)
    Add the sugar
    Mix the egg,milk and oil
    Make a depression in the mixture of dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture
    Stir in until well combined
    Add the almonds
    Fill into a cake tin
    Prepare the steamer and when the water boils, put the tin in
    Steam for about 13min

    ~ Note: this makes a rather small cake
    I hope you will try this.I am rather delighted with the result and this is my first cake that is satisfactory.
    – The really really clueless beginner

  45. njay says:

    I just want to say that you made my night a bit longer. I didn’t want to sleep yet and I’m feeling a little lonely (fiancé is abroad), so I decided to bake.

    I substituted the almond extract with Li Hing powder (a souvenir from a Hawaiian friend and the only flavouring I had).

    I also discovered I don’t really have a suitable pan to do this in, so I divided the dough in two batches and microwaved them in a greased up Pyrex bowl for 5½ minutes on 450 Watt. Worked out wonderfully!

  46. Ann says:


    I tried to make it, but my cake turns soggy, dense in the middle. Why is it? The only thing I change in the recipe is sugar (I use 1/3 cup instead), and salted margarine. will those affect my final products? Thanks.

  47. Alex8 says:

    After successfully trying the simple steamed banana cake, I tried this recipe and my god it looks soooooooo good and rised hugely :).

    My only question is that can I used vegetable oil instead of melted butter/margarine?

  48. Sophie says:

    I tried to make my first sponge cake today, but it turned out to be steamed egg –’
    Why? T_T

    • Suanne says:

      Hi Sophie, I made this cake quite often and every time it turns out OK. It’s kind of hard to diagnose your problem unless I know exactly what ingredients you used and your steps. I can only guess that you could have left out the flour at this point.

  49. Eduardo says:

    Hi Suanne,
    Excellent recipe, thanks a lot! My oven is broken and I was looking for a good stove top cake recipe for my girlfriend birthday; this one worked perfectly. I have used it three times so far and all of them was a success, twice using 1/2 cup of cocoa powder and last one using vanilla and a little of nutmeg.
    It is so easy too, congrats!

  50. Amy says:

    Hi there,
    A great website that you have here for steaming sponge cake! It is healthier than baking. May I ask, did you use salted butter in your recipe? From my baking knowledge, when you combine baking powder and salt with all-purpose flour, it helps the cake to rise. I noticed that salt was not added in your recipe so that was why I asked if you used salted butter. Thanks!

  51. Amy says:

    Hi Suanne,

    I was wondering if I could use honey to replace sugar for making this sponge cake? If so, how much of honey should I use?

    Also, would using honey have any consequences in the outcome of the cake, such as affecting how the cake rises?

    I have tried making your cakes twice (once using vanilla and other using almond extract) and both turned out great so far – just that I overcook my cakes by letting it rest too long in the pan for more than 25 mins, causing a harder texture on the bottom of my sponge cakes. Now that I know to take it out promptly, I can correct my mistake and make a perfect sponge cake!

    Much appreciated,

  52. Emily says:


    I was just wondering does this taste like the chinese walnut pound cake? I think it looks like this http://lh5.ggpht.com/christinehoau/SMUdEEIHIPI/AAAAAAAACB0/AuiB6liBW_Y/%E6%A0%B8%E6%A1%83%E7%89%9B%E6%B2%B9%E8%9B%8B%E7%B3%95%20Walnut%20Butter%20Pound%20Cake.jpg I just want to make sure it taste similar.

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