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Monday, April 12, 2010

Chinese White Honeycomb Cake / Bak Tong Gou- version 1 白糖糕

Ohhh... I've seen so many people making this. I want to try it myself too.

Actually, I never liked this bak tong gou because it tasted sour, but the honeycomby texture is nice to chew on. My friend Leighanne, loved this cake. And she always like to buy this from a kuih maker that lived 400m away from my house in Kampar. His version looked like this.  But then, I think he didn't use the express method to make. His is the days and days of fermentation method, cos the texture indeed is different.

There are many many versions on the internet, and I googled using Chinese (I've got limited Chinese knowledge) to find more versions of it. And I found this, a version using wheat starch. All the english blogs that I came across with all the googling with any romanization of the cantonese name (Pak Thong Koh, Pak Tong Go, Bak Thong Koh, or whatever) never made this cake using this recipe. So, let me try this.

The result, not sour at all. It has a very nice sweet yeasty smell. When the cake has cooled, I overturned it to cut. I saw the revealed backside of the cake to be like in the pic on your right. Wow, honeycomb :) But when I cut through the cake, no, not honeycomb like,  it's like a  termite mound's interior. Not my fault, the site that I got this from also looked like this. Plus other Chinese sites that made using this recipe also looked like this and this. I thought it's due to them not stirring the final transfer of batter to steam tray that caused the termite mound effect. But no..the recipe really yields results like this even when I stirred it when I transfered the batter. But no matter how it looked, the texture is nice to eat. Soft and not hard, even after many hours after being steamed. And the amount of sugar used is very little, it's sweet enough not to be bland.

I halved the original recipe since it was an experiment. I was scared that I won't like to eat it, so dared not do a bigger portion. Experiments need to be eaten too, unless it's really awful or uncooked. But I regretted, I could finish up the whole thing myself.  The amount below is what I did, and it gave me a 7 inch diameter, 1.5cm tall square cake. Feel free to do the full amount.

50gm sugar
200ml water
25gm wheat starch
75gm rice flour
1/2 tsp yeast mix with 1 tsp water

1. Combine everything except yeast mixture.
2. Cook over low heat until mixture thickens, stirring all the time. (*note below)
3. Remove from heat and sieve mixture into a bowl that is 3 times bigger than the amount of batter. (pls refer below for intructions to achieve a nice honeycomb look. New instructions for Step 1-3)
4. Let it cool down until warm to the touch, means u can put your hand under the bowl for a long long time feeling just warm, not hot.
5. Mix in yeast mixture and let it sit and proof for one and a half hours. (I like to proof my stuff either in a covered pot or a closed oven)
6. Stir batter and pour into an oiled 7inch square pan.
7. Steam on high heat for 20 mins (25 if full amount)
8. Let cake cool down completely before cutting, if not the surface will be sticky.

*Well, I'm rather impatient. I do medium heat for 20 seconds (if full batch I'd go 30 sec) to heat it up, turn to low for 20 seconds, back to medium for another 3, then back to low for 20 and medium 3 up until u can feel the base start to thicken. Then I went low all the way until I could feel about half of it is thickened. Then I removed it from the heat and continued to stir, and let it continue to thicken with the residual heat)

I'm going to do 3 more versions...1 is another express version, the other 2 will be long winded versions. Just for comparison. I'm curious, very curious. How can I get the ultimate honeycomb structure like the hawker near my house in Kampar???? Or should I just climb and peek into his kitchen???

Update 29/4/10: I've found the solution for the termite's mound look. Don't cook the flour mixture.
Here is my revised Step 1, 2 and 3.

1. Boil 120ml water with sugar. Mix 80ml water with both flours and mix well.
2.When sugar syrup has boiled, pour into flour mixture and stir well.
3. Sieve batter and leave it to cool.
Continue with step 4 above.


  1. Wendy, you're so funny! hehe... The Kampar version you mentioned about is using the traditional method, which take at least 3 days to complete the cake. I done it before but never did any photo shoot on it. The texture is more compact compare to the instant one. And the surface wasn't sticky at all. Your version also very nice. I might give it a try later on. Thanks for sharing.
    Regards, Kristy

  2. Hi Wendy...that is already a nice looking pak thong koh ! I have never tried this out but I think I need to try it out. Thanks for sharing your experience and the recipe :))

  3. Kristy,
    Yeah, I know that bak tong goh nea rmy house should be the long winded way,and yes, indeed it is firm and bouncy, and I heard that he uses toddy to make his. I saw Aunty Yochana's version and she said that that was the best that she has ever made, so I might try that, but sigh... I need to find a day when I'm going back to Kampar (then only I make it), so that I can give and give away. I can't eat all the bak tong goh I make.

  4. Elin,
    This actually tasted rather good. I like it.
    I've got few more versions coming up. Another one coming up in a few weeks, after the queue to post have much thinned down, and 2 more in a few months time :)

  5. Love this. I remember eating a lot of this when I was back home. I think I have to make it soon. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I like white sugar cake too. Yours looks just perfect!

  7. I never thought there were so many ways of making pak tong koh. I'm looking forward to see your comparisons.
    Never thought of making them, but after I've seen you doing it I feel tempted to do so :)

  8. MaryMoh,
    Quick then, so that I can see your version.

  9. Angie,
    I once saw this on your site too:)
    It was pretty.

  10. Tracie,
    Yeah, u'd be surprised at all the versions.
    So far, I've done 2, both express versions.
    The 2nd one will be posted later.

  11. this nice... i like eat but very sweet!

  12. Hi wendy,
    came across your blog some time ago. a very nice blog you've. keep up the good work. your version of pak tong koh is very nice. i've one one using florence's recipe titled white sugar sponge, express one also. maybe you can try her version, too. her website is

  13. Voon,
    I know some people make this to be very sweet.
    Don't worry, this one is not sweet at all.
    Just enough sweetness for it not to be bland.

  14. Delia,
    Thanks for the recomendation.
    I've actually tried another express version, similiar to Florence, using all rice flour.
    I'll post that one later.

  15. I haven't had this in years. Indeed, the honey comb-like structure is very pretty - reminds me of another Indonesian cake with similar honeycomb like structure - some Ambon or something.

  16. Shirley,
    Haha, this one looked like termite's mound interior more than a bee hive's interior.

    Yup, Bingka Ambon.

  17. Hi Wendy, it looks pretty to me although the holes are not like the typical honey comb. I like this kuih which version not too sweet. I might try this recipe one day.

  18. Oh.....Fantastic !!!
    You just posted my favourite kuih.
    I always looking for it everywhere in Pasar Malam when I was in KL.
    Not all Chinese bakery stall here has good taste of 白糖糕 like the one I used to eat.
    Great...really have to find some free time and try to make it myself.
    OK....looking forward to hear from you soon about the other 3 more versions. :)

  19. Home Kreation,
    Do try this, really not very sweet.

    Foong Mun,
    Now I can see this is the favourite kuih of so many people,except me :)
    If u want the type you used to eat, then you have to wait for version 3 or 4. The ones that Kampar kuih hawkers sell are the long winded versions that needs days to make.

  20. I've not made this for a long time! I saw Kitchen Snippets version and wanted to make it for my dad again but was so busy with my eldest's ballet exam (just round the corner). My recipe came from a forum, no cooking of mixture, just mix everything, leave to proof for 8 hours (originally 2 hours) and steam. Texture wise is good enough for me as I'm not a fussy eater :P

    Waiting patiently for your experimental results.

  21. not sweet then good hehehe

    save some sugar as well!

  22. I do like this cake/kuih a lot! The texture is wonderful to munch on. Thanks for sharing your recipe, I really must try this one day. But I'm not sure if I can find wheat starch where I live...

  23. Cheryl,
    Errmmm... this is not the hawker style, very bouncy bouncy type.

    If you can't get wheat starch, try tapioca/cassava starch. Some recipes I see use that. If you still can't get that, cornstarch then.

  24. i would like to bake bak tong gou.if i buy this 7 inch square pan,can use it to bake swiss roll and butter cake,is it suitable?

  25. OiLai,
    You can use the 7 inch pan for butter cake but not for swiss roll.

  26. i made this yesterday using your no cook version and got double combs!!! =)

    i had some starter left from the honolulu newspaper version (which was a disaster), so used 1/4 c of that plus 1/4 tsp of instant yeast.

  27. adrienne,
    Thanks for the feedback, so then I think the main reason for double honeycombs is due to the wheat starch :)

  28. i like my bok tong goh chewier and tangier so tried it again yesterday without the wheat starch (used extra rice flour in place of the starch. i also let the batter ferment for 6 hours. i still got the double combs, just not as high. the goh was more to my liking. i am going to try one more variation with a little less wheat starch. i am wondering if it's the starter that is helping?

  29. I have 2 questions : wheat starch = bread flour? and may i use active dry yeast? Thank you

  30. Anonymous (Pls leave a name),
    No, wheat starch is not bread flour. It's the starch of the wheat.
    Yeah, you may use active dry yeast.

  31. Call me Petitelien, please. Thanks for your answer.

  32. @Wendy, Thanks for sharing your recipe. It is really my dream to learn making Pak Thong Koh the right way since 30 years ago. I tried this version using dry active yeast instead of Chinese wine yeast and it gave me a double layer honeycomb cake like the one in version 3. I also tried to proof it for 2 hours, thou it gave me the same look but I do not like the taste, maybe because of over-proofing. I will try the next 4 versions in the weeks to come.

  33. rita chua,
    Wow, all 4 versions, I hope you have enough mouths to help eat, heheheeh.

  34. Hi Wendy! I love the longest version of this cake that you've posted starting with the rice, but I want to try a quicker version. This looks like a great place to start especially since I trust your judgment when it comes to this cake. Can I use the Chinese wine yeast for this? If so, how much should I use and how long should I let it ferment for? Thanks!

  35. Xiaolu,
    If you want to try a quicker version with chinese wine yeast, try version 4.
    Wine yeast doesn't work as quick as instant yeast

  36. Thanks! I'll just use instant yeast since I only have 1 day to make this. In terms of flavor/texture, how would you rate this compared to version 3? If version 3 is a 10, what ranking would this be?

  37. Xiaolu,
    You will need to jack up the recipe as this makes a very small portion, enough for 1 person :)
    This is probably a 8, not as fragrant, softer than version3, but generally good. Maybe just don't cook the flour like what I did here, if not you won't get upright combs

  38. Hi Wendy. Just found your blog and love it. You are simply amazing. I am a beginner and would like to try this first version to see how I fare. Questions: for full recipie what pan size should I use. Also to leave to proof is the 1 1/2 hours just a general guide or is this duration good enough or do we need to see the batter rise or become foamy. After this stage do we need to stir the batter before putting into pan to steam on high heat. Hope to hear from you before I try. Thanks so much for your sharing and detailed explanation in your recipes. Chloe

  39. Hi Wendy. Just stumbled upon your fantastic blog. I am a beginner and would like to try this recipie. For the proofing is it about 1 1/2 hours would suffice or do I need to watch out on the texture of the proven batter. Thanks for your help. Chloe

  40. Hi Wendy. Like your amazing blog a lot. For this version 1 the proofing of 1 1/2 hours is only an estimation or should the batter be all puffed up before i steam it. Sorry i am just starting out. Thank you. Chloe.

  41. Chloe,
    It won't be puffy like bread, maybe all bubbly only..

  42. Hi Wendy. I tried this recipie. I managed to get the honeycombs. I proofed it for 2 1.2 hours and I use wheat starch. However., the top cracked especially the middle part. I use high heat and steam for 20 mins. Can you please tell me why the top cracked as I want to try this again. Thanks. Chloe

  43. Hi Wendy. Sorry I forgot to add that some parts have the honeycomb texture and some parts just look like kueh with no honeycomb. Any idea?. Thanks .Chloe

  44. Hi Wendy. I tried and like it. But my kueh cracked ontop and some parts have the honeycomb only. Some parts are just dense and smooth texture. Do you have any idea why. Thanks for your help. Chloe

  45. Chloe,
    I will publish your comments if I have logged on and seen it. They are in my inbox queuing up :)
    I have no idea why some parts do not have the combs. The only possibility is that, the yeast mixture wasn't properly mixed around, leaving some parts without yeast activity, hence, no holes :)

  46. Hi Wendy. I love how your cakes turned out. I was wondering if you knew why my cakes never have the honey comb.they always end up with the termite holes instead. I've tried so many recipes and it happens everytime and I was wondering how you steam your cakes since I think it may be that. Thanx

  47. Grace,
    The reason for my termite mound in this recipe is due to me cooking the batter (Read the red lines after the last picture), I followed a recipe from China and it didn't work for me. I do not know which recipe you followed. If you see version 2,3 and 4, I never cooked the batter before fermenting, hence the combs were all nice and long.


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