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Red Bean Song Gao {Sponge Rice Cake}

A Traditional Huai Yang Style Hong Dou Song Gao {红豆松糕}

by Shirley
Published: Updated:
red bean sponge rice cake

Red Bean Song Gao {松糕}, a naturally gluten-free and egg-free sponge rice cake, is so naturally yummy and satisfying. It features whole adzuki beans and a blend of sweet rice flour and rice flour.

Red Bean Sponge Rice Cake is a traditional Suzhou food, boasting a perfect balance of a soft, chewy, and spongy bite. The whole red beans are no doubt the highlight of this iconic Suzhou-Style Red Bean Rice Cake, lending a substantial firm bite texture in the midst of chewiness.

You might be wondering what is the beautiful golden garnishing. They are osmanthus flowers or Gui Hua {桂花} in Chinese. These lovely tiny flowers have a sweet, pleasantly penetrating aroma. Traditional Huai Yang Style semi-sweet rice cake Dim Sum {Dian Xin 点心} frequently includes them as garnishing.

Read here for more about sweet osmanthus flowers and how to incorporate them into Red Bean Mochi Soup or Hong Dou Xiao Yuan Zi {红豆小圆子}

Red Bean Sponge Rice Cake Recipe {Suzhou Style}

Rice and Rice Flour Fun Facts

Rice is a traditional staple food in parts of southeast Asia since ancient times. There are so many varieties out there, with different colors, textures, and shapes.

However, when you solely examine the biting texture of the rice, you can categorize rice into two types, the one without chewiness and the one with chewiness.

The one without chewiness is regular rice or rice. The one with chewiness is “Sticky Rice”, “Sweet Rice”, or Nuo Mi {糯米}.

Sticky Rice is a well-liked food in China, especially in the Yangtze River Delta area, the home to the naturally delicious Huai Yang Cuisine. The yummy Sticky Rice Dumplings {Zongzi 粽子} with pork fillings and Shanghai-style Shumai {Shao Mai} are among the most popular ways of enjoying sticky rice.

Rou Zongzi {Sticky Rice Dumpling with Pork}

Of course, people also grind sweet rice into flour to make all kinds of tasty food since old times. One method of grinding is to submerge the rice in water, which usually involves grinding stone. This water-milled sweet rice flour becomes extra smooth and soft. It is the secret behind the sweet rice flour dumplings or the Red Bean Mochi Soup.

Red Bean Mochi Soup {红豆圆子汤}
Red Bean Mochi Soup {红豆圆子汤}

How to use various types of rice flour for a perfect Read Bean Rice Cake?

I incorporate both sticky rice four and regular rice flour in this classic Red Bean Sponge Rice Cake or Hong Dou Song Gao {红豆松糕}. When you adjust the ratio between the two different types of rice flour, the softness, chewiness, sponginess, and bite texture will change accordingly. The more sticky rice flour, the softer and chewier the rice cake becomes.

In this recipe, I use 3 portions of sticky rice flour for 1 portion of the rice flour to balance the softness and firm bite texture.

Red Bean Sponge Rice Cake Ingredients

What is the secrete behind the sponginess of Rice Cake?

You might be wondering if this sponge rice cake doesn’t include any egg, baking soda, or yeast, what is the secret behind the spongy fluffiness?

Well, what I can tell you is that the Sponge Rice Cake represents the ultimate cleverness of ancient Chinese people in the Yangtze River Delta area. This area is famous for producing influential scholars since old times, by the way. They discovered a very unique characteristic of rice flour. When you fully saturate the rice flour with water to a degree that they just start to form small clumps. These loose small clumps will form a super soft sponge rice cake during the steaming process.

Satured rice flour blend which is about to form clumps for spone rice cake

Song Gao {Sponge Rice Cake} and Sesame Song Gao work out the same way.

Sesame Song Gao {Chinese Sponge Rice Cake}
Sesame Song Gao {Sponge Rice Cake}

How to make Read Bean Sponge Rice Cake?

Tip No.1 is to cook adzuki beans in advance

Adzuki beans, commonly dubbed “red beans” are such yummy healthy food. Chinese adzuki beans are usually small, similar in size to mung beans. These small adzuki beans are known as Chi Xiao Dou {赤小豆} in Chinese, which literally translates as bright red little beans. For this recipe, however, the larger-sized adzuki beans work better for the appearance of appeal.

Soak the adzuki beans in plenty of water overnight and then slow-cook using a cast-iron stockpot, also known as a Dutch oven. A clay pot, r a tri-ply saucepan shall also work well. These pots have superb heat retention capabilities, which will help cook the beans evenly.

cooked whole adzuki beans layered on top of the rice flour blend

Tip No.2 is to layer the loose saturated rice flour blend with cooked adzuki beans

Generously grease the large glass dish with coconut oil and then sprinkle the loose rice flour blend one layer at a time. Use a dough cutter to gently level, but do not compact the rice flour for optimal fluffiness. One layer of rice flour, followed by a layer of cooked adzuki beans. Then sprinkle the dried osmanthus flowers on the top.

layer loose and saturated rice flour blend in a glass dish

Last but not least is to steam this Red Bean Sponge Cake twice

Because this sponge rice cake is kind of tall, the bottom rice flour won’t’ be able to get ample steam. We will need to steam the top for 20 minutes, wait for it to cool down, and then flip the rice cake upside down and steam the bottom for another 20 minutes.

To make the flip easier, I usually just store it in the refrigerator and flip and steam it the following day. This rectangular glass dish comes with an air-tight lid, which is perfect for storage.

Enjoy a naturally yummy red bean sponge rice cake!

red bean sponge rice cake recipe
red bean sponge rice cake

Red Bean Rice Cake Recipe {Huai Yang Style}

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Red Bean Rice Cake, a gluten-free and egg-free sponge cake is so naturally yummy, satisfying, and easy to make. It features whole adzuki beans and a blend of sweet rice flour, water-milled sweet rice flour, and rice flour.


  • 400 g combination of sweet rice flour and rice flour, adjust the ratio to accomplish different texture and flavor:
  • Option 1 - 250 g (60%) sweet rice flour, 150 g (40%) rice flour for a semi-chewy texture and flavor
  • Option 2 - 200 g (50%) sweet rice flour, 200 g (50%) rice flour for less chewy texture and flavor
  • Option 3 - 150 g (40%) sweet rice flour, 250 g (60%) rice flour for a clear firm bite texture and flavor
  • 1.5 cups adzuki beans
  • 1/2 cup sweet rice flour, just enough to coat cooked adzuki beans for filling
  • 70 g cane sugar, organic unrefined preferred
  • 160 g - 200 g water, room temperature, see notes
  • 2 tbsp dried osmanthus flowers
  • 2 tsp coconut oil, for greasing the glass dish


Cook Adzuki Beans In Advance:

  • Soak adzuki beans in plenty of water in a large bowl overnight.
  • Rinse the beans and add to a Dutch oven or tri-ply saucepan. Add about 6 cups of water, bring it to a boil first and then turn it to a simmer and slow cook for 1 hour.
  • Remove the cooked beans using a spider strainer immediately and let them cool down on a plate. Save the juice left behind, add a bit of sugar and enjoy it as a tasty snack soup.

Prepare Cake Mix:

  • Add the cooked adzuki beans and 1/2 cup sweet rice flour to a mixing bowl, use a pair of bamboo spatulas to toss and turn, until the red beans are fully coated with the sweet rice flour.
  • Use a kitchen scale to measure out sweet rice flour, rice flour, and sugar respectively, and add to a large mixing bowl. Add 1 tbsp dried osmanthus flowers to a small bowl. Add 200 g water to a 2-cup measuring cup.
  • Use a pair of bamboo spatulas to toss and mix everything in the large mixing bowl, while gradually adding water. Add a little bit of water at a time and then mix and toss, until the clumps are about to form which indicates the flour is fully saturated. You may or may not need the entire 200 g of water.
    Satured rice flour blend which is about to form clumps for spone rice cake
  • Grease the large rectangular glass dish with coconut oil generously. Use a large spoon to scoop out the rice flour mix and sprinkle in the glass dish to form a layer. Then add a layer of adzuki beans & sweet rice flour mixture, followed by another layer of the rice flour mix, and then repeat.
  • This recipe should be able to have 2 layers of red beans sandwiched by three layers of the rice flour mix. Use a dough cutter to gently level the top. Do not compact the rice flour mix during the process for optimal fluffiness.
    layer loose and saturated rice flour blend in a glass dish
  • Sprinkle the dried osmanthus flowers on the top evenly.

Steaming Red Bean Rice Cake:

  • Add 6 cups of water to a 14-inch wok and bring it to a boil. Add the glass dish to the wok. The glass dish should sit nicely inside the wok wall without needing a steaming rack.
  • Cover the wok with a dome-shaped lid and steam for 20 minutes and then remove the dish from the wok. Let it completely cool down to room temperature. We are done with half of the steaming and will need to flip the rice cake and steam the bottom part. I found it easier to remove the rice cake from the glassware when storing it overnight in the fridge and do it the following day. Remember to cover the glassware with a lid when storing it in the fridge.
  • Use a butter knife to slide alongside the glass dish sides to separate the rice cake and then remove the rice cake from the glass dish, flip it upside down, and set it aside. If there is any semi-dry rice flour mix in the bottom and then collect them in a small bowl using a silicon spatula and add to the top of the Song Gao.
    red bean sponge rice cake after 1st steaming
  • Grease the glass dish again with 1 tsp coconut oil and kitchen brush generously, and put the rice cake back into the glass dish. Sprinkle the top with the dried osmanthus flowers.
  • If you are steaming the following day, add 6 cups of water to the wok and bring it to a boil, and then add the glass dish into the wok and steam for 20 minutes.
  • All done! Wait for it to cool down before cutting it into serving size and enjoy!
    Red Bean Sponge Rice Cake
Nutrition Information
Yield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 101Total Fat 5gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 3gCholesterol 0mgSodium 2mgCarbohydrates 14gFiber 0gSugar 9gProtein 0g

Nutrition calculation is provided by Nutritionix to the best knowledge per ingredients description and isn't always accurate.

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