Monday, February 25, 2013
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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Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
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