Malaysian Monday 73: Kai Tan Koh (Steamed sponge cake).

Monday, May 16, 2011

Happy Monday everyone,

Here’s something sweet to start off the week. It was a busy weekend, so I was flicking through Mum’s recipe books trying to find something speedy to make. My attention was caught by the words Kai Tan Koh (translation, Kai = chicken, Tan = egg, Koh = cake, I think). This light, fluffy steamed sponge was a favourite snack when I was a kid. Mum often bought a slice or two from the markets for tea time.

The recipe also caught my eye because one of the ingredients was ice-cream soda or creaming soda. I remember enjoying this as a kid, it was a mild-flavoured, clear drink. When I went to hunt it down, I discovered that the Australian version is pink! I wasn’t sure that we’d drink the leftovers so I swapped with soda water instead, and just added a bit more sugar to the ingredients.

After reading through the recipe I realised it would make quite a lot of cake. Actually, come to think of it, a lot of the recipes in Mum’s books are for huge amounts. I wonder why? Maybe people shared food more often? So I had to reduce the quantities a little, and aside from a tiny bit of sunkenness at the top of the cake, I thought it was really close to what I remembered. Soft, sweet, moist and very easy to eat.

The top sunk a little bit, oops

But when I looked online to try and figure out how to spell the cake properly, I came across a couple of posts which mentioned that a “proper” kai tan koh had to “smile” (split at the top), like a pound cake. Or like a steamed rice cake, remember these?

Since the cakes were so speedy to whip up, and proved very popular with everyone in the family (gosh, even Mr. Kitchen Hand ate some and thought it was good), I tried making another batch to see if I could get it to split. This time I re-jigged the ratios, making it similar to a pound cake, you know, 2 eggs, 2 oz flour etc. Sadly, this second attempt sank even lower than the first, and the taste and texture was nowhere near as nice as the first one. Which just goes to show, sometimes one should leave well enough alone.

Attempt number two sunk even more!!

I have a feeling my first cake didn’t split because the cake pan was too tall and narrow, and the batter took too long to cook in the middle. Perhaps a shallower pan may have helped. The issue here was trying to find a pan that would fit into my steamer. I’m going to have to experiment again to see if I can make the cake split. If you have any ideas, please feel free to share.

In the meantime, I leave you with the recipe I tried. I have a feeling you could reduce the amount of soda water slightly and still be fine. If you would like a recipe that doesn’t use soda, you could try this one at No Frills, or this one at My Kitchen Snippets. Happy cooking.

And please keep those entries coming for our Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up #11. Suresh from 3 Hungry Tummies and I appreciate all your support. I’m your host for this month so email the information about your posts to its(dot)sharon(at) Thank you and have a great start to the week!

Number one was much better, and tastier too

Kai Tan Koh (Steamed sponge cake)
If you’ve been wanting to try your hand at an Asian dessert, this is probably the least “scary” of them all. It’s just like a very moist sponge.

3 eggs (at room temperature)
4.5 oz plain flour - sifted
1 1/2 cup sugar
150ml soda water (or cream soda or lemonade) - if you do use cream soda or lemonade, decrease the sugar by 1/4 cup
dash of vanilla extract

First of all, find a suitable mould/ cake tin that will fit inside a steamer. Prepare the steamer and start heating the water. Lightly grease the cake pan.

Beat the eggs and sugar together until very thick and light. The mix should be able to fall in a thick stream from the beaters. It took roughly 8-10 minutes when I did it using my hand held electric beaters.

Add in the soda  and vanilla extract, and beat quickly so that it is mixed in well. Don’t overbeat and try not to knock any of the air out.

Sift the flour over the egg mixture, and using a thin plastic spatula, carefully fold in the flour using figure of 8 motions. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl too, making sure to incorporate all the flour while keeping as much of the air in as possible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and steam until the cake is cooked. It took about 25-30 minutes for me. (Test with a skewer, it should come out relatively clean, one or two clinging crumbs is fine)


Anh said...

i have heard so much about this! Never tried it though :(

Barbara said...

The least scary, huh? That was funny, Shaz! This looks like it would taste wonderful with some fruit.
Odd that your mother's recipes were so mother's were family sized.

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

I like this cake but I never knew what it is called.

Jennifurla said...

I do want to try something like this, thanks for the recipe.

Vanille said...

Funny Shaz, I was just thinking of making a steam cake to use egg whites I have in the fridge.
Like this kind of cake that can be enjoyed plain or with whatever you fancy at the moment... Your cake looks so fluffy !

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Shaz I like your advice in that it is the least scary Asian dessert! It looks like it has the loveliest texture! :D

Hungry Dog said...

I like the sound of this--reminds me of a sponge cake we used to get at Chinese bakeries growing up. Although the translation of "chicken egg cake" threw me for a loop at the outset. No chicken in my cake, please. :)

Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets said...

Sorry the 2nd attempt was less successful but the texture of the 1st looks fantastic!

Heavenly Housewife said...

I'm always seeing stuff on these steamed sponge cakes. I've got to try it one of these days. They have the most amazing texture.
*kisses* HH

cikmanggis said...

hi my dear Shaz..nama kek tu sungguh menarik.mungkin suami makcik biasa makan kek seperti ini:)...sedang fikir untuk posting MMM...

Juliana said...

I love this steamed sponge cake, but have not tried to make it...and never heard of soda in it...have to try this one :-) Hope you are having a great week Shaz!

shaz said...

Anh - if you were in Sydney, I'd definitely share with you!

Barbara - I was just thinking that it would go well with some berries. And ice-cream :)

Malay-Kadazan girl - I don't now if there are other names though.

Jennifurla - no problems

Vanille - I'd love to see your version of the steamed cake

Lorraine - thank you so much.

Hungry Dog - so no trying that dessert with chicken in it then?

Xiaolu - try and try again I suppose :)

Heavenly Housewife - hope you do get a chance to try it soon.

cikmanggis - thank you! Apa-apa pun boleh, kalau CM buat, mesti sedap punya.

Juliana - thanks dear, hope you're having a good week too.

grace said...

i like how it sunk in the middle--i personally would fill the hole with lots and lots of frosting. :)

Cheah said...

Thanks for the link, Sharon. This is one of my favourite sponge cake, like it because it's light, so can eat more, ha, ha!