An old-fashioned cake

MY earliest memory of this steamed egg sponge cake is of the one my late Taoist grandmother used to place on the altar during festivals as an offering to the gods.
It was quite a large cake, distinctly yellow with its white paper lining still stuck to it.

Usually, it would be decorated with a red dot of food colouring or a red piece of Chinese paper cutting of somewhat intricate and symmetrical design.

We would later get to eat the fluffy and fragrant cake for breakfast or as a snack.

Recently, the memory of my grandmother and this cake prompted me to look for its recipe.

I discovered that there are several versions, but all of them were simple enough for this column. Some called for the use of cake flour and baking powder, corn oil and even the bubbly ice-cream soda.

Always the one for a shortcut, I decided to experiment with the simplest recipe using cake flour and baking powder, modifying it further to use only self-raising flour.

With self-raising flour, the cake, after steaming, did rise, but maybe not as high as one would imagine with other recipes. It was also soft, airy and fluffy, with even texture and plenty of fine 'holes'.

If you do not have self-raising flour, you may substitute it with one cup of cake flour and half a teaspoon of baking powder.

The original recipe which I used as a guide recommended that if you do not have cake flour, you could also use all-purpose flour reduced by two tablespoons in quantity.

Give this recipe a try if you're looking to make a quick and simple butterless cake.

Chinese Steamed Egg Sponge Cake

1 cup self-raising flour
A pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 large eggs at room temperature
¾ cup castor sugar

1. Line an 8in cake pan with baking paper.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs in a bowl. Slowly add the sugar bit by bit and continue beating for at least five minutes until the mixture thickens.
3. Add in vanilla extract.
4. Sift the flour and salt into the mixture gradually. Using a whisk, mix the flour with the egg mixture until combined.
5. Pour the batter into the cake pan.
6. Boil water in a steamer. Place the cake pan in the steamer and steam for 25-30 minutes.
7. If using a wok to steam, place the cake pan on a trivet with the water level below the trivet.
8. Remove the cover of the steamer gently to prevent condensation from falling onto cake surface.
9. Alternatively, when steaming, place a clean dishcloth between the cake pan and cover to absorb the condensation.
10.The cake is done when a skewer poked into its centre comes out clean.
11. Leave the cake to cool before removing from the pan and cutting into desired slices.