Water Chestnut Cake

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Original Recipe from Appetite for China.

08/06/2012 For this recipe, we halved the recipe and ended up using conventional organic brown sugar instead of Chinese Rock Sugar or Chinese Brown Sugar. We ended up getting a sweeter, darker and stickier blend than we've encountered at Dim Sum, but quite like the darkness portrayed in the original recipe. Also, recipes say that the pudding/cake should just pop right out of the cooking pan (after it's cooled). This is true, but not accurate. There's some coaxing involved, but once it starts letting go, it all lets go at once (within 2 or 3 seconds), so hold onto your hats! We still need to fry some pudding up and see how it handles that end of things.

For our half recipe we used: Ingredients:

  • 125 g water chestnut flour
  • 500 mL water, room temperature
  • 500 g dark brown sugar (Wholesome Sweeteners)
  • 3 or 4 whole water chestnuts, cut into slices, against the grain
  • A dash of extra water for the ginger we didn't add


  1. In a large bowl, mix 150 mL of water into chestnut flower, whisking in a little at a time. Make sure all the flour at the bottom of the bowl dissolves into water. Notes: You use up about 2/3 to 3/4 of the water before you get a paste. Before that, the starch clumps around the water and it's hard to stir. Use a whisk and then your fingers to really make sure there's a good mix.
  2. In a large pot, bring the remaining 350 mL water to a boil. Pour in the brown sugar and mix until dissolved. Remove from heat. Whisk in about 1/4 of the water chestnut flour liquid. Don't add all the flour liquid in at once. Too much heat will cook the flour without mixing. Set the pot in a basin or dish of cold water to cool. Remove and mix in the rest of the chestnut flour liquid (this is where you'd add the ginger we didn't have). Upon mixing in the first 1/4 of the water chestnut flour, the mixture will get very thick and gelatinous.
  3. Pour the whole mixture into a 10-inch round cake pan. You don't need to grease the pan. Steam the pan in a large steamer or wok. The recipe says 20 - 25 minutes but we felt like 40 minutes was better.
  4. Check for doneness by sticking a toothpick into the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. Place pan on a cooling rack or in a basin of cold water to allow the cake to set. Cool for 15 - 20 minutes. Slice and serve.
  5. Cake can keep at room temperature, in the fridge or in the freezer.
  6. To reheat either pan-fry (as with turnip cake) or steam for 5 - 10 minutes to restore jelly texture.

Note: Malcolm and Ning tried this recipe 15-20 years ago and it was disastrous and clumpy. Further work with this recipe suggests that we didn't use enough water.