Sunday, November 2, 2008

Steamed Milk Cake

This recipe was posted by Aunty Yochana, whose blog is widely followed by both local and overseas readers.

I was first attracted to the title, Milk Cake, Umm, spurs healthy connotations. Moreover, steamed cake are usually moist and yummy...

Shortly after she posted the recipe there were many comments from other bakers that their cake turned out to be "huat kueh"-like, a term describing the flourishing dome. Some also mentioned the texture were dense-like...

Since I am have sometime to kill on the long Deepavali weekend (but just had time to do the writing...), I did some trials on the cake to check the effect of heat. I first posted the observation in Aunty Yochana's comments and she seemed to concur... it's time I put some action to the words.

On all occasions, I do not have cake flour on hand, so I use 90g plain flour + 10g corn flour.


Trial 1 - Everything as per the recipe, steam with medium fire:

Pretty little dome. A strong taste of milk, little surpise given this is the key ingredients.

Trial 2 - added 1 tsp of pandan taste. Juice from fresh pandan would have better but I made do with what is available in my kitchen. This also mask the milk taste if you do not like it. I also reduced the sugar to 65g.

Trial 3 - added 1 tsp of pandan essence (colourless type) cos I like the aromatic pandan smell vs. milk smell. This blue colouring comes in cos I was baking with Bevis, and to add some interest, I allow him to choose the colour that he wanted.

Actually I was using the same medium fire, only difference is this time round, the water was high boiling just as I put in the muffin tray. You see that even the initial heat was intense enough to create the splitting dome on the cake.

But apart from the appearance, there's NO difference in the texture.


  • The heat will determine how the dome is look like when done. Even the initial intense heat will suffice to cook the top, and push up the batter in the middle to split the dome. If you want the rounded dome like Aunty's, watch the heat. This is how my medium heat look like.

  • The heat will not alter the texture of the cake. It could NOT be dense becos of the heat. If yours are dense, it could be due to some other reasons.

  • Unlike other baking methods like creaming etc, there's no way to incorporate air into the cake. To ensure you do not end up with flat and dense cake, double action baking powder is a MUST. To explain this further - the normal baking powder release carbon dioxide, which provides the leavening power, as soon as it gets wet. In most cakes where there are eggs or butter, the "wall" are able to hold the gas within the cake fairly well. However, in this recipe where there's almost zero fat, all gas will be gone by the time we are done mixing the flour into the liquid. A double acting baking powder contains materials which do not release all the carbon dioxide until the product is heated. So if you lose the first carbon dioxide release because you take too long to bake the product, all is not lost. More carbon dioxide leaving is released as the product heats. Using an excess of baking powder will sometimes leave a bitter taste in the product, so I would not double the amount to remedise the dense texture. You can read up more about leaven from

  • Check that you have the correct flour - if you had used plain flour instead of cake flour, check the label on the package to confirm the %age of the protein. The Red Man Plain Flour has a protein contain of 13.1%! Though they indicated plain flour, I used it as bread flour instead.

  • Why protein content matters? It matters cos protein increases the water absorption, leaving the cake dry. Also, higher protein encourages gluten-forming, which is responsible for toughness in cakes.


Steamed Milk Cake
Recipe Source:
Makes about 7 cupcakes.

170 gm. Fresh Milk, preferably room temp
75 gm. sugar
100 gm. cake flour
20 gm. rice flour
2 tsp. double-action baking powder

Use a hand whisk to whisk fresh milk with sugar until the sugar has dissolved.
Add in remaining ingredients and stir well.
Spoon into small cups lined with paper cups.
Steam at high heat for 15 mins. or until cooked.
Remove and cool on wire rack.

My Bake Notes:

  • If you are using milk powder (adult/baby): heat up the water enough to dissolve the sugar before adding milk powder. Save the trouble of whisking.

  • I find it easier to get a smooth batter by adding liquid to flour, rather than flour to liquid.

  • It only rise in the middle, so I actually fill up higher, and yield only 6 cupcakes.

  • I would reduce the amount of sugar to 50g. At 75g, it works out to be over 10g per cupcake. There is no RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for sugar but since the sugar is for taste only, so go to minimum that you need.

  • If using non-stick muffin tray, no need to grease them. It comes off clean.

  • Next time I will add variation like:
    1. divide batter into 2-3 colours and let Bevis mix them up to make rainbow cake.
    2. sprinkles the rainbow rice or 100s and 1000s for a colourful treat.


Aunty Yochana said...

Hi cookie,

Good write up there....lots of hard work too. Thumbs up and I'm sure many will learn from you too, just like me.

rgds..aunty Yochana

Cookie said...

Thanks Aunty for your encouraging words. You are too humble... You are my role model baker!