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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chinese White Honeycomb Cake -Version 4 Bak Tong Goh- 36 hours

Almost similar to Aunty Yochana’s version, but minus 42 hours and the rice fermentation stage. The wine yeast is added directly into the rice flour, which was the kuih starter dough (step 2) in Yochana’s version
Still, this will take you 36 hours to complete. Even though it looks like 3 days, but it started late at night on day one and ended early on day 3, altogether is 36 hours, less than 48. And remember if ever something suddenly came up that makes you unable to do the next stage or steam it on time, just pop it into the fridge for not more than 3 days. But, one or 2 hours delay won’t make much of a difference, should you need the one or 2 hours extra.

It was the picture that seduced me to try this recipe. That was my ultimate result, and I achieved that in Aunty Yochana’s Version. And not many have tried this recipe, not even those in Chinese. I tried googling it based on the recipe, and I only found one on page 10 of google result . What more about this recipe in English…. None.. Well, as earlier said in the 1st version, I never saw any English Pak Thong Gou doing it with wheat starch, of course there will be none with this long version as well.

One weird thing about this recipe is the egg white. What is the function of the egg white? I don’t know. Anyway, when it was put into the hot sugar syrup, it’ll cook and it will be sieved away later. So, why add that? The answer might be that the egg white protein, albumin, is used here as a fining agent in wine making. After reading a few sites . about wine fining, it seems that it’s raw egg whites that is used and not cooked egg whites, so why is this added in as cooked egg white?

Actually the original recipe called for yeast, but yeast to ferment for 18 hours minimum at tropical room temperature? Gosh, I don’t want to make express rice vinegar. The recipe was in Chinese and the original source is unknown, they copy and paste it everywhere on the internet, so the “yeast” they mention, I’m not sure whether it’s the Chinese yeast or western baking yeast. If they call for ½ tsp of baking yeast to ferment that long.. I can still “maybe” accept it, but 2 tsp??? A bit too much, seriously.Maybe in cold China, it can really take that long, but not here. I can make the cake in only 2 hours if I use 2 tsp, just like any of those express versions. So, I'll use Chinese wine yeast. Nevermind, I’m the guinea pig here.

Day 1 :11pm
(A) Starter

55gm rice flour
1/2 tsp sugar
125ml boiling water (measure after boiling)
2 tsp Chinese sweet wine yeast biscuit (crushed into powder), or ½ tsp yeast (In tropical warm weather, if you follow the original amount, you will have rice vinegar by the end of it)
Put rice flour and sugar into a bowl. Pour half the boiling water into rice flour and stir. Pour the balance in and stir. Leave to cool down. Put in crushed wine biscuit and stir. Put flour mixture into a non air tight container. Leave to ferment for 24 hours in a warm place, away from direct sunlight. Open container the next morning to let it breathe for a few seconds and cover again. Do this again later in the afternoon.

Day 2: 11am
(B) Rice flour mixture

175gm rice flour
50gm wheat starch
250ml water
Mix rice flour and wheat starch with water. Let the mixture sit for a few hours (2-3). The rice flour will settle to the bottom and water will be on top. While preparing the syrup below, carefully pour away the water.

Day 2: 2pm
(C) Sugar syrup

180gm sugar (original proportion is 300gm)
250ml water
1 Tbsp egg white
Bring water and sugar to a boil. Turn off the heat. Put in egg white and stir. Sieve syrup and pour into (B).
Cover and leave until 11pm.

Day 2: 11pm
Final rice batter
Method: Mix (A) into (C). Sieve mixture and cover. Let it proof for another 12 hours.

Day 3: 11am

1 tsp oil
Prepare your steamer .Put in water and bring to a boil.
Put 1 tsp oil into batter. Mix well.
Grease one 12 inch round pan.
Place greased pan onto steamer rack.
Pour rice batter into greased pan.
Cover your steamer and steam on high heat for 20 minutes.

But not as good as Aunty Yochana’s. Double decker honeycombs too. Due to the lesser water content than Aunty Yochana’s, this yields a slightly firmer cake. The higher starch content also made this chewier. But less crunchy than Aunty Yochana’s. Aunty Yochana’s version is really the best, and the most time consuming. Try this recipe if you want to do it using only 36 hours compared to Yochana’s 78 hours.
Slightly inferior only. If Aunty Yochana’s version is very good, this is good. Rice flour and yeast version to me is .. I don’t want to rate it.

I’m not sure whether it’s due to wheat starch that pak thong koh can get double decker results , as I did it here as well (although not as equal as those that I got with aunty yochana’s version, it’s thicker at the bottom this time), just like the pic in Haochi123. But mine was a bit wavy on top after being steamed, not as flat. Maybe I was using less sugar. Or maybe I was using high heat to steam rather than medium high heat. Sometimes, sugar do play a role, but I really can’t stand the amount of sugar used in the original recipe. Try out the original amount if you like things sweet, and please let me know.

And oh ya.. I’m going to try out the 1st version again. I won’t cook it this time, and if I still get double decker honeycombs, then I confirm it’s the starch, but if it’s not, I guess it’s due to the wine yeast.


  1. u very pandai take pics hor hahahha ok besides making great dishes :)

  2. Very lovely pic with contrasting colours. It's known in Chinese as pak tong kou(not sure how to spell). I used to pay 10 cents for a huge piece.

  3. wow, another lovely version! Beautiful texture as well! Going to drool over these yummy looking thing. It's been a hectic day and the day before. Now, I'm trying resting my feet and later have to help my hubby to make some delivery. Have a good weekend!
    Cheers, Kristy

  4. The texture is beautiful! I have to find that wine yeast.

  5. What can I say? You are marvelous! Given such tedious and time consuming recipe, I won't even bother to try out all the recipes on hand. I have one really simple recipe using yeast and requires 2 hours fermentation (but I leave it overnight) and I'm already happy with the texture. Not as springy as those sold commercially but it's good enough for me, in terms of preparation and the end result is ok. You rock!

  6. Nice photos as usual, I love the contrast of the flowers against the white of this kuih. Just checking, by cutting down the sugar, does the kuih have a sourish end-taste?

  7. Wa...this version also pretty leh...of course not as beautiful as the Aunty Yo.version, but nice enough. so it is really 慢工出细货,right? Will you be posting your next experiment? or you'll just add it to the 1st version's post? I wish to know the outcome.. :)

  8. Lovely pic, good colour contrast and looks good to eat! Reminds me of yesteryears! I used to pay 10 cents for a big piece. It's pak tong kou in cantonese if I'm not mistaken.

  9. You are really obsessed with this rice cake! I think on top of the Caramel Queen, I should also crown you the Rice Cake Queen!

  10. Wendy, I really admire your determination to find the best recipe for this kuih. I can see lots of comb in the kuih and it is a much firmer texture too. Hope you are able to find the ultimate recipe :)

  11. Hi Wendy. Admire your determination to experiment the various version....

  12. Manglish,
    Hahaha, me where got pandai take pics.
    I was just plain lucky.

  13. Judy,
    Yeah, I forgot to put the Cantonese romanization there.
    10sen /pc. Wow, that was really long long ago.

  14. Kristy,
    Bet you have been making loads of dumplings these 2 days, hahahah.
    I'm tired too.

  15. Pigspigscorner,
    It's easy to get, just go to any Chinese Medical Hall, or a Chinese grocer

  16. Blessed Homemaker,
    I am just too curious. Anyway, it's just waiting, and not much to do with this kuih actually.

  17. HK Choo,
    Nope, there's no sourish taste at all.
    It smelt yeastily sweet.

    I think if yours taste sourish, try changing the yeast or shorten the fermenting time, or leave it in a slightly cooler place

  18. Mel,
    Yup this version's upper layer definately looks not as nice, but still it taste good.

    I am planning to do the 1st version again, but dunno when. But I think most people are sick of this kuih on my blog oredi.. hahahahaha.. better wait for later la.

  19. Shirley,
    Hahaha, back when I posted a few layer cakes recipe, some call me layer cake queen, now you call me rice cake queen. Hahahaha, I wonder how can I rule so many kingdoms!!!! I can't cope leh. Hahahahaha.

    But I wonder, if only there is a country called Rice Cake, by then only will I be queen. kekekekeke.

  20. ICook4Fun,
    Actually enough liao, 4 recipes is enough.
    I know now what I want.

    If I want quick and nice, version 1.
    If I can wait, and want the ultimate , version 3
    If I can wait a bit and can settle for slightly less than very good, Version 4.

  21. HomeKreation,
    Hahaha, I'm a cat.
    Too curious oredi.

  22. OHH this lokks beautiful n tasty! one day i must try this.

    yes the mochi gnocchi i made is actually puteri mandi. I forgot the name ...thanks for reminding going to change the title to puteri mandi now ! :)

  23. Zurin,
    OIC... I tot the real puteri mandi has some coconut fillings in them, rather than plain.

  24. OH yea ur right!!! I just checked my resipe book..i was wondering too...waa now got to change again! hahahha

  25. Wow, very awesome recipe! Something I have never heard of before. Thank you for sharing :)

  26. Anonymous,
    It's a Chinese traditional cake.
    Hope you will be able to see this one day.

  27. i made the pak tong gou last weekend and was really great!!, but the was one thing, i tast a bit of sourness what did i wrong, i try to find it out, THX,

  28. siumielee,
    Thanks for trying this out.
    There are some who told me their Pak tong gou also taste sour from their past experiences. I never had this problem.
    I suspect it's the type of wine biscuit.
    Sour means overfermented. The rice wine has turned to vinegar.
    I suggest you try to buy another brand of yeast biscuit. If you bought if from Chinese medical halls, usually they come bottled in the jar, and you can see the manufacturer's label on the jar.
    But as always, these long hours fermented stuff, might carry a tinge of sourness, as long as it doesn't overpower, it should be ok.

  29. Hi Wendy! I'm so glad to have found your site. This is one of my mother and my favorite cakes, and I've only had moderate success with the other recipes online. I've tried several, including Rose's version which was way too coarse for our tastes. I'm hoping to try this recipe but am unclear about one thing. For (B) the rice flour mixture, you say "While preparing the syrup below, carefully pour away the water." Can you give any more guidance about how much water to pour off and about how much of the mixture should be left? Thanks!

  30. Xiaolu,
    The rice flour will hydrate and sink with a thin layer of excess water above.
    Just pour away the clear layer of water and you'll be fine. It won't be a lot, maybe a few tablespoons of it only.

  31. sorry i don't understant the stage B: last lt pour away the water, do u mean omit the water just use the bottom flour??

  32. Joanne,
    Yes, discard the water and use only the sunken flour part.

  33. Hi Wendy, I'm little late to the party here, but I'm very pleased I found your post(s) on making this bak tong goh. As with many others in cyberspace, I've enjoyed this dish ever since my childhood, and have wanted to make it, but never found a good recipe for it. Many of the recipes I found use baker's yeast, which seems to yield a totally different flavor, more like bread, and a darker color. After some research, I came up with my own concoction and procedure, which utilizes chinese wine yeast. It's yielded pretty good results, but it's still a work in progress. I've got some questions, I hope you don't mind. Other than trying to make bak tong goh, I do not cook, either as a hobby or otherwise, so pardon my questions if they seem stupid. Here they are:

    1) What is the purpose of the wheat starch?
    2) For the rice flour mixture (B), why put more water than is necessary, and then discard the excess?
    3) Have you determined the purpose of the egg white? Have you tried leaving it out?
    4) What is the purpose of putting oil into the batter, if the pan is already oiled?
    5) What kind of oil do you use?
    6) What is the purpose of letting the starter breathe the next morning?

    Thank you

  34. Anonymous,

    1. If you use all rice flour with no starch, the BTG will be grainy. Any starch will do, tapioca, corn or wheat starch. But it's wheat starch that will give you the double decker effect

    2. The purpose of more water is just to soak the rice flour, properly hydrate it. It's just like soaking your beans before you cook it. The batter only needs as much water that the flour can absorb. Take in mind that not all rice flours have same water absorption rate. I guess this step is to counter that.

    3. I do not know the reason for the egg white. Nor have I figured it out as per the post

    4. You put oil in the batter so that the surface of the steamed cake will be oiled. If not the cake will be sticky

    5. Any flavourless oil, grapeseed, cornoil, soy, sunflower, canola. As long as it's not olive oil or palm oil.

    6. Yeasts are living organisms. They need oxygen too. Giving them some fresh air reduces anaerobic activity which may produce unwanted types of alchohol like methanol. And just to release some pressure from the container that may be produced from the yeast's activity when it digests the starch.

  35. Wendy, I think I know (or have an idea) what the egg white is for. My mom and granny used to put an egg white into things like sugar syrup they're boiling. They were taught and believed that as the egg white cooks and floats to the surface of the boiling liquid, it catches the impurities and the foam. So then one would scoop out that mass of impurity and toss away, leaving a cleaner liquid. :)


  36. Chau,
    Finally! Mystery solved!
    Thank you so much for the information.
    Greatly appreciated!

  37. Hi Wendy,

    These look great. I've been trying to make these for a while and I'm having difficulty in getting the honeycomb texture. I'm following your recipe quite precisely, I believe. The only thing I can think of is the steaming process. I'm using an aluminum steamer, those big ones with 2-3 tiers. Wondering if it's getting hot enough. Also, what kind of pan is it steamed in, is the material important, I'm using an anondized aluminum(dark). I think I'm doing everything correct, just not getting the large honeycombs, just really small ones may 1/4 high and a texture of regular baking powder type batter for the rest. HELP!

  38. Rake Donkey,
    Where are u from? If you're from somewhere cold, the process may take longer.
    If the batter is not preperly proofed, you will have less bubbles.
    I am only using a wok to steam, with regular aluminium pans, I think it has nothing to do with ur utensils.

  39. Wendy,

    Do you have some tips for determining when the batter is fermented enough? I live in Hawaii, so it's warm and humid. Also, I notice the texture after cooking is a little grainy. Could it be the flour? I'm using a Thai brand of flour, Red print clear package. Or, do I need a really fine sieve? I'm using a strainer.

  40. Rake Donkey,
    There should be some visible bubbles in the batter, like a Coke left around for 30 minutes, not too much, but some.

    The texture isn't grainy, provided you use enough starch as said in the recipe. Nothing to do with the sieve. U can see the strainer that I am using in Version 3.

    Is there a decorated elephant on the packaging?
    If there is, and the brand is Erawan. The brand that I am also using.

    In my 2nd experiment with this cake (version 2), there wasn't any starch added and the result was urrgh! Grainy, gritty whatever you may call it.

  41. Wendy,

    Looked at version 2, pic 1 is definitely more fermented than mine was. The flour is Erawan, there's so much writing on that package. Wondering if it's the yeast. I'm using this one from Hong Fat? Either that or maybe it will take an additional day or two. Climate difference perhaps. Maybe even hardness of our water? Ours here is softer, less mineral content. I will try playing with the starch, adding more, that grittiness is pretty consistent in whichever recipe I try.

  42. Rake Donkey,
    Malaysia's water is soft water.
    Maybe you try and use more yeast.
    I'm fermenting it at around 29-31Celsius. That is my room temperature here.
    Are u weighing or using cups?

  43. Rake donkey
    oh yes, did you eat the cake fridge cold or at room temp? I mean, when you felt it was gritty

  44. Wendy,

    I converted the grams to cups, but I do have a scale, so I'll try everything in grams and ml. Oh, and I tried sampling the cake at room temperature, it's gritty and/or has a more cakelike texture, very little, if any, honeycombs. Very, very tiny honeycombs if at all.

  45. Rake Donkey,
    then I think the problem is the yeast.
    these wine biscuits yeasts are quite temperamental. Sometimes the same pack I bought, works well when I just opened it. and after some time, it seems to be less active, or half dead.

  46. Wendy,

    Hopefully once I get it to the fermentation stage I can save off some and use it as a starter for the next batch. Like in this article . The guy in the story lives here in Hawaii too and he ferments for 4 days, though there is no mention of the wine biscuit yeast. So, perhaps he found what works in Hawaii and we might need an extra day or two of fermentation.

  47. Wendy,

    With these rice cake batters, are they all about the same consistency? Also, about what consistency are they? Some recipes I've seen where it's a cooked batter say it is pancake batter consistency. The current batch I have is like a thin light tempura batter. Does that sound about right?

  48. Rake Donkey,
    Version 1 is a cooked batter and you won't get upright honeycombs, instead, they will become like a termite's nest.
    I've never made tempura before, but the final batter of this cake should be rather watery, thinner than pouring cream. If you've weighed everything, the consistency should be correct.

  49. Wendy,

    Thanks for your help. I got double decker honeycombs as well. It was the flour measurements, I was using too much. The online conversions from grams to cups weren't accurate, my batter was too thick. Once I weighed everything the batter was a very thin consistency. Which kinda blows my mind that it would turn out like it does once cooked. Can you say Rice Jello? ;P Thanks Again!

  50. Rake Donkey,
    Which is why I hate baking with cups.
    There's so much room for inaccuracy when it comes to cups. Different people will pack the flour in their own way and it's never the same.
    I'm glad it finally worked for you.

  51. Wendy,

    I've made this several times now. To be sure it wasn't a fluke and to tweak it to what they serve here in Hawaii. I kept a portion as a starter for the next batch and I do this every time so I no longer need to buy yeast. I believe you were right and the yeast I used initially wasn't as fresh as could be. When using my starter now, I have bubbles in the final batter after 12 hours, it was pretty flat with my early batches using the yeast each time. I just add Part B and Part C of your recipe to my starter and wait 12-24 hours. I've also been adding the Kansui right before steaming and it seems to give the batter a bit of a boost(foaming) and it's supposed to mellow the sourness, if there is any.

  52. This is the first time in my life i read a recipe not just due to gluttony but also from an academic point of view.

    It looks amazing. I won't try it as i am not a huge fan of it in the first place so the effort is a bit much for me.

    However, it was a very interesting read and i was very impressed with the detective work going on. It was like recipe CSI. lol

  53. Kenny,
    I was just curious with all those methods.
    I wasn't a big fan too, keke.

  54. Hi Wendy, I have looked through all the versions that you have made and i would like to know if the taste are all the same. If they are different, which do you prefer most? I am a big big fan of 白糖糕, hope to receive your reply soon ! (:

  55. I'm just curious, which version had more wine flavor? This one or aunt yochana version? I tried Aunty yochana version with success.. But still can't achieve the strong wine flavor like I can get in Chinatown bakeries

  56. Mike,
    I'm not sure why you are looking for one with wine taste, it feels overfermented to me.
    Non of the versions I did has obvious wine flavour as the wine would've evaporated during steaming.

  57. I guess I'm just used to it. Here in the U.S. In major Chinatowns the cake has a rice wine flavour and the cake smells like alcohol, it's a pleasant taste actually. But I will try this one anyway, thank you.


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