This was my first year hosting a holiday and probably the first time in over 10 years that I haven’t had to travel for Thanksgiving. Also, my mom is celebrating a milestone birthday at the end of the month, so I wanted to make something special for her while she was visiting us for Thanksgiving.
I know that she (and my dad) aren’t big fans of American sweets. They claim that our desserts are too sugary for their tastes. They much prefer the more subdued sweets that Chinese bakeries offer. We used to order Chinese bakery cakes all the time when we went to Philadelphia’s Chinatown for a meal. There was always a reason to celebrate some momentous occasion, and therefore, always a reason to eat these cakes.
The sponge cake layers are light and fluffy and do not taste too sugary. Two cake layers are sandwiched on top of vanilla custard and fresh fruits. The entire cake is covered in a freshly made whipped cream frosting and garnished with additional fresh fruits. I can see why my parents love this cake – it just seems healthier because the cake is lighter than their American counterparts.
I’ve had this cake bookmarked from Christine’s Kitchen Chronicles for a long, long time. And now was the perfect time for me to tackle it. Don’t be overwhelmed with the long list of ingredients and directions. The cake is actually very easy to make, and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful Chinese style cake at the end.
Mom actually helped me bake this cake and had a blast making it. My dad happily ate the remaining custard with a spoon and is already looking forward to the day that my mom recreates it for him. This cake was a huge success and was enjoyed by all.
Happy birthday, Mom!
Chinese bakery-style cake
- 0.7 cups (~170 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 0.8 cups (~200 grams) granulated sugar
- 6 eggs separated into yolks and whites, both at room temperature
- 1.4 Tablespoons (~21 grams) unsalted butter
- 1.4 Tablespoons (~21 grams) milk of choice
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk of choice
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Stabilized whipped cream frosting
- 2 Tablespoons cold water
- 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
- 2 cups chilled heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2.5 Tablespoons powdered sugar
- various fruits of different colors and shapes, sliced (mangoes, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, etc.)
Make the cake
- Preheat oven to 340 degrees F. Line two 8″ or 9″ round baking pans with parchment paper and grease the paper and sides of the pan with non-stick cooking spray or butter. (I used silicone baking pans so I skipped this)
- Separate the eggs and place the egg whites into large stand mixer bowl and the 6 egg yolks into a separate large mixing bowl. It’s imperative that there isn’t any yolk in the egg white portion!
- Mix 0.4 cups of the sugar with the egg yolks and beat until slightly thick and pale yellow. Stir in vanilla.
- In the bowl of a large stand mixer, beat egg whites until they are about halfway to forming stiff peaks. Add the remaining 0.4 cups of sugar in three separate additions while continuing to beat the egg whites. Continue whipping until stiff peaks form, creating meringue.
- Gently fold in half of the meringue into the egg yolk mixture using as few strokes as possible. Gradually add flour and baking powder and mix carefully. Add the melted butter and milk to the batter. Gently fold in the remaining half of the meringue.
- Divide the batter and pour into the two prepared pans. Bake for about 20-25 minutes in preheated oven until the cakes are a light brown and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. (Your baking time may be shorter if you use a dark, matte, or non-stick pan, and your baking time may be longer if you use a glass, aluminum, or other shiny pan).
- Note that you should bake the two cake layers immediately after the batter is done to prevent the liquid from separating from the rest of the cake.
- Remove cakes from oven and leave in pan and allow to cool to room temperature. You may also wrap the cooled cake layers in saran wrap if you are planning to assemble the cake in the same day.
For the custard filling
- In a medium saucepan, whisk the sugar, flour, and salt. Add 3/4 cup of milk and mix until smooth.
- Bring mixture to a boil at medium heat, whisking constantly. Do not scrape off any clumps that form on the sides and bottoms because they will leave clumps in your custard.
- Cook another 2 minutes and remove from heat (do not turn off the stove). The mixture should have thickened up dramatically.
- Mix the egg with remaining 1/4 cup of milk, then pour it into the mixture in the saucepan. Whisk vigorously to combine. Return the mixture to the heat and cook until it just starts to boil. There will be a lot of lumps initially but just keep whisking over the medium heat and most of the lumps should disappear.
- Remove from heat and immediately stir in vanilla. Transfer the custard to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. If there are still lumps in the custard, you can 1) keep whisking until they disappear, 2) strain the custard using a fine mesh sieve to get rid of the lumps, or 3) scoop them out with a fork or spoon.
- Chill at least 2 hours in the fridge or overnight.
For the Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting
- Sprinkle the gelatin powder over the cold water and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Dissolve the gelatin by placing it in a bowl over a small pot of simmering water and stirring until the mixture turns clear. Let the mixture cool but do allow it to get cold.
- Beat the heavy cream using an electric stand mixer (or a hand-held mixer) on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until small bubbles form.
- Increase the speed to medium and continue beating for an additional 30 seconds.
- Increase speed to high and beat until just before the cream becomes soft and poofy.
- At this point, slowly add the sugar and vanilla while continuing to beat the cream until it is almost at stuff peaks.
- Finally, add the melted gelatin mixture and keep beating until the cream becomes super thick.
- Use frosting immediately or refrigerate for later use.
To Assemble the Finished Cake
- Carefully remove cakes from pans. If desired, you can peel or cut away the browned top parts of the cakes using hands or a knife. Level the surface of cake with a knife to make the cakes as flat as possible.
- Prepare the fresh fruits to be placed between the cake layers. You’ll need enough fruit to cover the entire surface between the two cake layers and any additional fruits that you’ll want to garnish for the top of the cake.
- Make a simple syrup of 2 parts water to 1 part granulated sugar: Mix the two ingredients together in a saucepan and heat it up just until all the sugar dissolves. Squeeze in the juice from half a lemon. Brush each cake with a thin layer of simple syrup on all surfaces.
- Lay the first cake layer down onto plate. Spread half of the cooled custard onto the top of the cake layer leaving about 1/2″ margin around the edge of the cake. Add the fruit on top of the custard, and be sure to cover the entire custard area. Add remaining custard on top of the fruit.
- Place the second cake layer on top of the fruit filling. Gently push down on the layers and wipe away any excess custard that escapes out of the sides of the cake.
- Frost the sides and top of the cake using the whipped cream frosting. Use a wide blade or a offset spatula for best results.
- If you want to give your cake an extra special professional-looking touch, you can make a glaze to top the fruits on the top of the cake. In a saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of fruit preserves (any flavor) with an equal amount of water. Stir until boiling. Let the mixture reduce by continuing to boil off the water until you reach a glaze consistency (it should be runnier than honey). If desired, you can strain the glaze through a fine sieve to get rid of the fruit and/or seeds. While the glaze is still warm, gently brush over your fruit and let it dry to achieve a shiny finish.
- Finally, chill the cake in the fridge and for a few hours to let the frosting set. The cake is best served the same day it is made.
Your cake turned out beautiful! It look so pretty with the colorful fruit and white frosting, you can host a holiday for me anytime 🙂
It looks great! Thanks for the shout out and glad the entire family could partake :).
Hi Eva! I super want to make this cake, especially because I absolutely love the cakes from Chinese bakeries. Just wondering, does the stabilized whip cream taste like the cream from Chinese bakeries? That's always my favorite part of the cake, and I'd love to replicate it.Thanks!Monica
Hi Monica! Both my parents said that this tasted just like the bakery style cakes. I did think that the whipped cream frosting was a bit thicker and slightly lumpier than the ones that the Chinese bakeries use though. But, the taste was totally there and on par with the professionals. Hope that helps!
That's good to know! Thanks, Eva! I'll let you know how it goes when I make the cake for the family (:-Monica
How many people does this cake serve?
It serves about 12-16. If you cut your slices smaller, you could probably get closer to 20.
just to clarify, the 0.7 cups mean 7/10th of a cup of flour? it doesnt seem like a whole lot.
Yes, that is 7/10 of a cup of flour.
I would love to make this cake but I don’t understand you’re measuring. What is .7 and .8 cups equal to? Is it 3/4 cups? I measure with cups so I to need to know how many cups. Please help
If you have a food scale, it will be about 175 grams (for 0.7 cups). 0.8 cups of sugar is about 200 grams. If you don’t have a scale, 0.7 cups is slightly less than 3/4 cup, and 0.8 cups is slightly more than 3/4 cup.
Hi Eva,Thank you for sharing this recipe. My kids love the asian bakery cakes n their icing. I am from canada and I can't seem to find heavy cream at the grocery store. Can I use whipping cream instead? Or can u tell me what brand of heavy cream did u use.Thanks again
Hi EvaCan I use whipping cream instead of heavy cream? I can't seem to find it at my local grocery store.Or can u tell me which brand of heavy cream did u use?Love to try this out for my kids.Thanks!
Hi Isabelle! Heavy cream and whipping cream are the same thing. So you can definitely use whipping cream for the recipe. Let me know how it turns out!
Excellent I will try to make it this Friday. Will let u know! So excited!!!! Can't wait!!! Lol
Excellent I will try to make it this Friday. Will let u know! So excited!!!! Can't wait!!! Lol
Awesome looking very tasty and delicious Yumm!Restaurant In Satya Niketan
Will the frosting be stable enough to be out for couple hours in room temperature?
I haven't tried it myself but it might. Since there is a bit of stabilizer in the whipped cream, it could hold up ok. If you try it, please let me know.
Always been searching for a Chinese style bakery cake. Can you please tell me how many grams is your flour & sugar .
Hi Mama Mia! It looks like the link to the original recipe where this was modified from is gone. But I believe these are the conversions:
Cake Ingredients (metric):
-160 grams all-purpose flour
-180 grams granulated sugar, divided into 2 equal portions
-6 eggs, separated
-20 grams unsalted butter
-20 grams milk
-0.5 grams vanilla extract
-2 round baking pans (21 cm in diameter)
Many thanks for the conversion
I wondered how you measured 0.7 or 0.8 of a cup. Thanks for the conversion
I used an online volume converter to get the amounts, then I guesstimated about 3/4 of a cup.
Hello Eva, when i converted the measurements i got 175 grams for flour and 200 grams for sugar please reply I am making this for my mom today!
Yes – that looks to be correct. Hope your mom enjoys the cake!
I baked your sponge cake recipe today following your conversions. The cake turned out light & soft. I used 2 x 23 cm (9 inch) pans , the cake was about 4 cm tall, perfect height to layer with fruits & cream.
Thank you for sharing your recipe
I’m so happy it turned out well for you! Thank you for sharing your cake pan measurements too – I’m sure it will help someone else.
Can food coloring be mixed into the stabilized whip? Will fondant decorations adhere to the stabilized whip?
Hi Amelia – I haven’t tried food coloring but I imagine it could work with small amounts of food coloring (gel type). What kind of fondant decorations are you trying to use? Is it on the top or the sides of the cake? If it’s on top, it shouldn’t affect the cake since it’s balancing on the top. If you’re referring to decorations for the side of the cake, I’m not sure if it will hold. The frosting is kind of like a whipped cream, so fondant will likely slide right off.
hi i really want to try this but i’m confused on the measurements
If you click on the link in my Sources, it takes you Christine’s Kitchen Chronicles. I think she might have measurements listed by weight there. Hope that helps!
Hey Eva! I’m planning on making this next week 🙂 I was wondering how much 1.4 tablespoons is? Would it be 1 tablespoon and then another 4/10?
Hi Lina! Yes, I’d just do a heaping Tablespoon full. Just slightly less than 1.5 Tablespoons. 😄
Your cake looks amazing!
If I don’t have two 9″ cake pans, do you know if I can bake the entire batter in 1 cake pan and just double the baking time (ie. 40 to 50 min)?
Thanks, Iris! Yes, you should be able to bake it in one pan and increase the baking time. The other option is to bake in two batches (bake one cake, let it cool and then take it out of the pan. Then bake the other half of the batter in the same pan). Hope that helps!
Hi Eva! I made your stabilized whipped cream to top a boxed cake, and it turned out sooo delicious (just like bakery quality!) even if a bit grainy (though I probably over mixed it in the kitchenaid!) I want to try your spongecake recipe soon, but I was wondering if I could use cake flour instead of AP flour? A lot of recipes seem to use cake flour for sponge cakes, so I wanted to see if it would make any difference in the measurements to use cake flour? Or if you think AP flour is better than cake flour in your recipe? PS. Thanks in advance for a powerhouse whipped cream recipe!
Hi Ro – while i haven’t personally tried cake flour, I think it should work. Cake flour generally yields a lighter and fluffier product. It’s worth a try, right?
Sure thing, thanks for the quick reply Eva!
Do you have any suggestions on how to change the proportions if I’d like to make a smaller cake and use two 6 inch pans instead of 8 or 9 inch pans? Thanks!
I’m sure that there are converters on the internet somewhere that you could leverage. The other option is to make the recipe as-is, and bake in your 6 inch pans. Keep an eye on the pans since the baking time will differ. If there is too much batter to fit into your pan, you can simply fill the leftover batter into some cupcake liners! Let me know how it goes!
Any suggestions on how to turn this into a chocolate sponge cake whilst keeping the cake light and fluffy?
Great question, Vivien. I haven’t tried it myself so I don’t have any tried and true methods. However, when I googled “Chinese chocolate bakery cake,” a few recipes and videos popped up. You could try that route and look for something that works for your preferences. Please let me know which recipe you tried and if it worked out!
I got scared to use the parchment paper because i thought it was hard to line my pans with it and the paper kind of curled inwards and i thought that it was going to curl and bake into the batter so I took it out and just greased the pans with shortening and floured them lightly. They cooked well and came out well and then I used a bread cutting knife and cut both cakes in halves to make the layers thinner and and I could layer them with four layers instead of two. I just hope that I have enough custard now hee hee!! But I wanted to say Thankyou so very much for the recipe! Its Dad’s 80th Birthday tomorrow and he has never had a Chinese style cake before! I know he will love it!!I also don’t have to worry about his having too much sweets and think that these are so much more healthier too!!
My parchment usually curls up too, so I flip it over. Then the weight of the batter keeps it flat. Glad the grease and flour trick worked for you. Happy birthday to your dad! I hope he enjoys your beautiful cake!
When adding the flour and baking powder, melted butter and milk to the batter are you using a hand or stand mixer?
Going to try this shortly.
I used a stand mixer but you can certainly use a hand mixer if that’s what you have on hand.
Hi eva!! love the recipe and i’ll definitely be trying it out tomorrow. Just needed to ask though, is adding gelatin to the whipped cream necessary? Are there any alternatives to gelatin or will the icing be fine without it?
No, but it does help stabilize the whipped cream. You can leave it out if you’re not a fan. Just make sure you don’t keep the cake out at room temperature too long or else the whipped cream may deflate and get runny.
Hi!!! I’m baking a cake for the first time and decided to try your recipe. I’m trying to make the custard, but the milk mixture won’t boil. It clumped up into a giant, doughy ball. I tried it twice, once on low heat, and once on medium heat, and the same thing happened. Do you have any tips on making the custard and getting the milk + sugar + flour + salt mixture to boil?
Hi Emily – if your custard is turning out into a clump, it sounds like you may have too much flour in there. Try decreasing the flour by 1-2 teaspoons to see if that helps. Did you also divide up your milk? We only need 3/4 cup for the initial part that you boil. Then you add the remaining 1/4 cup (with the egg) back in towards the end.
Hi! I have given your recipe a go this afternoon and although the sponge came out very bouncy, it does seem to be a little stodgy rather than light/airy. I used these conversions:
-160 g all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
-180 g sugar, divided into 2 equal portions
-6 eggs, separated into yolks and whites
-20 g butter
-20 g of milk
-1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
So I’m not sure where I’ve gone wrong? 🙁 Do these look right to you? If so, then what else could have cause this? Maybe I need to cook for less time?
Thanks so much!! x
Hi Amber! Yes – your measurements look pretty close. I think the sugar is closer to 200 grams and the flour is closer to 170 grams. But, it’s possible that your oven runs hotter than mine and needs less time to bake. Did you deflate the egg whites by accident? If the batter is mixed too long, it could cause the cake to get denser than normal.