New Year Steamed Water Chestnut Cake – Recipe

It's the new year in approximately five hours! I feel woefully under-prepared for 2015. Also, why has my fancy font changed the 'N' in the title of this post to a lower case 'n'?

A Cantonese dessert often found on dim sum menus, water chestnut cake is also often eaten for the new year. Okay, technically for Chinese New Year, but since I found water chestnut flour at the Chinese supermarket recently and I didn't want to wait another two months, I figured it'd be acceptable to make it for the Western new year.

Like Malaysian kueh, this steamed cake is not like the Western sponge cakes we know and love- instead it's more of a jelly-like/ pudding-like dessert.

Soft and crunchy from the bits of water chestnut, it's subtly sweet and delicately nutty, with a hint of caramel from brown or yellow rock sugar.

I *love* yellow rock sugar- we always have it in the house, most commonly used to sweeten chrysanthemum flower tea. My mum used to tell me off for sneaking chunks out of the packet to crunch on when I was little.

How cool are these??

Although it's not traditional, I used a pandan leaf to lightly flavour this cake. You certainly don't have to: most recipes don't. I just love all things pandan.

Let's go!


-100g water chestnut flour
-550ml water
-175g yellow rock sugar (demerara sugar is also good)
-50g water chestnuts, chopped into little bits (tinned in water or fresh)
-1 pandan leaf (optional)


1) Mix the water chestnut flour with half of the water, stirring well until fully dissolved

2) Boil the remaining half of the water in a pan with the sugar and the pandan leaf- but don't turn the heat up too high as you don't want too much water to evaporate off

3) Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the pandan leaf and add the chopped water chestnuts to the pan and boil for about a minute

4) Pour half of your chestnut flour liquid into the pan while stirring continuously until translucent and thickened (this happens in moments), then immediately take off the heat

That's... attractive...

5) Stir in the rest of the chestnut flour liquid- it'll thicken with the remaining heat, but it won't turn clear at this stage

6) Pour the mixture into an oiled 8x8" square pan and steam for about 20 minutes- the cake will become translucent and shiny

7) Leave to cool completely, turn out onto a board and cut into any shape you like

Pretty crystal cake!

8) Serve with tea and enjoy!

The slightly scary-looking tea you see in the picture is flowering tea from
北京同仁堂 Beijing Tongrentang (a famous Chinese pharmaceutical company that also sells high quality tea leaves). It's very very lovely, despite looking like it grew on another planet.

You can serve water chestnut cake cold, warm, or (as I like) lightly pan-fried on both sides until crisp and caramelised on the outside and hot and chewy on the inside. All you need to do is very lightly oil a frying pan and fry the slices for a few minutes until golden on either side.

The single slice makes me look so refined... in reality I had more like four of these

So this is goodbye to 2014! It's also goodbye to my current camera, as I have invested in a slightly better one to keep up with me as I improve (hopefully) at my photography skills. I can only hope I'll improve as my baking has improved! It's a shame to make pretty things but not be able to showcase them properly, after all. In any case, this post will be the last with photos taken with my little purple Samsung PL121, which has served me very well for the last few years. Until I have to use it for emergencies when I break my new Panasonic Lumix TZ35, of course...

A very happy new year to all of you- go try new foods, experience new things and most importantly: have fun!


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