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Chinese steamed rice cake (bai tang gau)

January 29, 2016
bai tang gau

This Chinese steamed rice cake (or bai tang gau) has a sweet, slightly chewy addictive texture and an intriguing honeycomb pattern on the inside.

In honor of lunar new year coming up, I decided that I would share a recipe for Chinese steamed rice cake with you all because this is something that I haven’t seen very often in the blogging community. It is made of 5 ingredients (rice flour, sugar, water, yeast,oil) and it’s direct translation of “white sugar cake” is a perfect reflection of it’s simplicity.

sliced steamed rice cake

I grew up eating this Chinese steamed rice cake for breakfast and for that reason, it’s such a nostalgic treat for me to have. I actually used to have to fight brother deer for it because mother deer would only buy one slice from the bakery and expect us to share it between the two of us.

It’s funny how she thought that we would actually share…when what actually happened was brother deer would take a big ol’ bite of the rice cake and being the germaphobe I was, I wouldn’t want to have it anymore. I guess he got the better end of that deal.

Bai tang gau

I didn’t mind too much though because the main reason as to why I adored this treat so much was because of it’s intriguing, unique stringy “honeycomb” like pattern.

This pattern is created as a result of the rice flour and yeast. Yeast is more traditionally used in yeast breads where the dough becomes a cohesive lump, but the consistency of this is more batter like and is quite runny.

fermenting dough

And unlike most of the rice cakes that surface around this type of year where the base is made out of glutinous/sweet rice flour, this rice cake uses regular rice flour instead.

Confusing the two could lead to a completely different end product so it’s important to be aware of this when you’re buying rice flours. Glutinous rice flour yields a chewier, mochi like texture in your bakes while rice flour lightens and fluffs your bakes up.

bai tang gau

I hope you all found this recipe to be interesting and are able to add it to your baking books for trying out in the future!

Have a great weekend!


Try these other recipes that use rice flour!

Glutinous rice balls

Gluten free baked mochi rice cake

Gluten free mochi donuts

Baked rice cake bars

Lunar new year round up

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Chinese steamed rice cake (bai tang gau)
This Chinese steamed rice cake has a sweet, slightly chewy addictive texture and an intriguing honeycomb pattern on the inside.
: Chinese
Yield: 8" round plate
  • 2 cups rice flour (NOT glutinous)
  • 2 cups water
  • 5g yeast + 1 tablespoon warm water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon oil
  1. Combine the yeast and 1 tablespoon water in a measuring cup. Set aside to bloom for 5 minutes.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and 1½ cup of water. Bring it to a simmer on low-medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the rice flour and the remaining ½ cup of water. Stir to combine. Add in the hot sugar water, oil and yeast mixtures. Mix until incorporated.
  4. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place for 2-3 hours to proof. At the end of the proofing process, there should be a layer of bubbles on the surface of the mixture
  5. When the batter is ready, prepare a shallow dish by greasing it with oil.
  6. Prepare your steamer for steaming by boiling the water. Pour your batter in to the shallow dish and place it inside the steamer.
  7. Cover and let steam for 15 minutes on high heat. Turn the heat off and allow it to continue cooking in the steamer for 10 minutes before removing.
  8. Remove the steamed cake from the dish by turning it out onto a plate. Let cool before slicing and serving. It is best enjoyed chilled.

This post was created for Fiesta Friday, a weekly foodie link-up party. Please feel free to come join the fun, I promise you won’t regret it!

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  1. I’ve only made the glutinous kind of cake before, and assumed that was the only possibility. I have copied the recipe and will try it very soon as I have all the right ingredients. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.
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  2. I’m so happy to see this–I have some memories of it as well! My grandpa would call it “fish belly” and for the longest time I believed him and thought fish belly was sweet, haha. I’ll have to remember to try your version sometime. I’ve tried making it before, but that time the recipe started off with soaking rice for a while and then grinding it up in the blender… using rice flour is much quicker and more convenient!

    1. Wow that really is from scratch if you make the rice that way! I’ve never heard about it but it sounds interesting! Hope you try it out!

  3. Nostalgic,bought rice cakes as a child and in Mauritius, coconut grated was added to the flour,yummy.a dream,

  4. Hello,I tried making it and the top is a little sticky. However, that first mouth of taste brings so much memories of my late granny. Now, is my turn to bring this delicacy (to me, is simple yet so delicious) to my little one. Thank you !

    1. I’m so glad that it worked out for you! Mine was a little sticky on the top but no matter if it tastes yum right? 🙂

  5. Glad I found this recipe. I have searched shops in Chinatown in Philly and in asian markets there and in Phoenix to find this treat that I first had ages ago as a child in NYC. Thanks!

  6. thanks so much for this recipe. I’ve recently moved to an area without much Chinese or asian places and Ive been hunting for this forever.

    I’m not a good cook but my wife said she’ll be happy to give this recipe a go. Can’t wait to try this!!

  7. To Cynthia,

    Missed your samples last time you were here. Grandma is very interested on this dish. Your Father’s mouth is watering.

    Uncle Doug.

  8. How do you make your cake “white” like the ones in the Chinese or Vietnamese bakery shops. Tried the many steamed rice cake recipes and mine is kind of “beige-ish” in color.

    1. I just made sure to use white rice flour and white sugar. You can also buy golden brown ones at the bakery those are because brown sugar is used instead. I hope this helps

  9. Hi Cynthia! Thank you so much for this recipe! I tried it, and it taste great, except that it wasn’t very soft (like the consistency I buy from Chinatown), it was firm to the touch. Can you suggest why this may be or what I did wrong?

    1. Hi Luu, thank you for giving this a try! Sometimes bakeries MAY add in additives like emulsifiers to help with texture. It also depends on the climate it may impact the moisture in the dough. Sometimes you need to play around with it! Perhaps add less rice flour next time and see or it could be because of over-steaming. I hope this helps!

    2. It might be the yeast. It happened to me the first time I tried. Yeast need to ferment in water that is about 110 degrees F

  10. Hello Cynthia, i am glad I found your recipe. I hope it turns out to be the same I buy in chinese restaurant like Hongkong Bakery in Carson. Los Angeles. I love its taste so I will make sure to try your recipe. Thank you for your kindness and beautiful heart of sharing,

    1. Hello Cynthia! Is this recipe the product mostly sold in chinese bakery in Carson, Los Angeles. Thank you for your ipdate.

      1. Yes you can find it at Chinese bakeries, I live in Vancouver so I’m not sure about it’s availability in LA but I hope you can find it!

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