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Sesame Song Gao {Sponge Rice Cake}

Zhi Ma Song Gao, A Traditional Chinese Rice Sponge Cake with Sesame Filling

by Shirley
Sesame Song Gao {Chinese Sponge Rice Cake}

Song Gao {松糕} is a traditional Chinese sponge rice cake made of sweet rice flour and rice flour combination. Sesame or Zhi Ma 芝麻 in Chinese makes a popular filling, which adds a satisfying aroma and flavor to the refreshingly yummy Song Gao. Sesame Song Gao is naturally vegan and gluten-free. Dried osmanthus flowers, or Gui Hua {桂花} in Chinese, are an optional but highly recommended garnishing item.

Chinese Sponge rice cake is an ancient rice flour treat in China’s Yangtze River Delta area, a place I proudly call my hometown. It is also home to the naturally delicious Huai Yang Cuisine

Sesame Song Gao {Chinese Sponge Rice Cake}

What is Chinese Song Gao {松糕}?

Song {松} means fluffy and Gao {糕} means pastry or cake. They are traditional steamed Chinese sponge cakes made of sweet rice flour and rice flour combination.

Sweet rice flour is well-known for its soft and chewy texture. They are behind the iconic Brown Sugar Rice Cake. Rice flour, on the other side, lends a refreshing firm bite texture.

A 40% sweet rice flour and 60% rice flour combination gives you this perfect refreshing, soft and fluffy rice flour cake that also boasts a firm bite texture.

For Song Gao, both plain Song Gao and Song Gao with filling such as sesame seeds are popular.

Sesame Song Gao {Chinese Sponge Rice Cake}

How to make a Zhi Ma Song Gao {芝麻松糕} easy, tasty, and healthy?

Tip No.1 is to find the balanced ratio between sweet rice flour, rice flour, and water

To start with, the ratio between sweet rice flour and rice flour is the key. The more sweet rice flour, the chewier it gets. I like a 40% sweet rice flour and 60% rice flour formula which has a balanced spongy chewy texture.

Chinese Sponge Rice Cake uses extremely simple ingredients and does not use any egg, baking soda, or oil. So what makes this rice cake so spongy?

What I can tell you is that Song Gao represents the ultimate cleverness of ancient Chinese people. They figured out a very unique characteristic of rice flour. When you fully saturate the sweet rice flour and rice flour with water to a degree that they start to form particles. These loose particles of rice flour will form a super soft and spongy rice cake upon ample steaming.

Chinese Song Gao {traditional sponge rice cake}
Plain Song Gao {Chinese Sponge Rice Cake}

Tip No.2 is to roast and grind sesame at home

Sesame seeds are tiny seeds that are packed with essential nutrients. The organic unhulled sesame seeds are especially healthy and nutritious. They are super-rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, and zinc. Sesame seeds are also high in antioxidants.

Black sesame seeds are popularly used for Chinese pastry filling to contrast the white rice flour. White sesame seeds are commonly seen in dressing or toppings such as Garlic Sesame Dressing.

Nowadays you can get organic unhulled sesame seeds relatively easily. Use a wok or deep dry pan to roast sesame seeds at home is quick and easy, and takes about 5 minutes.

A spice grinder is a handy kitchen gadget I use almost every day. It helps me grind roasted sesame seeds into powder and other wholesome spices into powder. Read here for a detailed tutorial on how to roast sesame seeds, and here on how to grind roasted sesame seeds.

Grind Roasted Sesame Seeds into Powder
Grind Roasted Sesame Seeds into Powder

Tip No.3 is to use a bamboo steamer for steaming the Chinese Sponge Rice Cake

It is very important that you use a bamboo steamer layered with double-layer organic cheesecloth for steaming. This way, the steam can reach the rice flour both from the top and bottom to cook the rice flour properly.

This 12-inch bamboo steamer set pairs perfectly with a regular-sized Wok (14-inch), without needing a steaming rack. Simply place the bamboo steamers on top of the wok and they sit nicely inside the wall of the wok.

The bamboo steamers come with 2 bamboo baskets, layered on top of each other to form a tower. When steaming Song Gao, place the basket filled with water-saturated rice flour on the top tier.

This is to prevent boiling water from splashing onto the bottom of the rice flour. It also provides more room for the steam to circulate, hence facilitating the cooking process wonderfully.

Osmanthus Flower Fun Facts

Called Gui Hua {桂花} in Chinese, the osmanthus flower is from the evergreen shrub or tree with the same name, which is native to southeast Asia. People sometimes call them sweet olive or fragrant olive trees for the resemblances of the leaves. The olive tree, however, has much narrower leaves.

Gui Hua trees in my hometown Yangtze River Delta area can grow as tall as 12 meters (about 40 ft). The tiny flowers form clusters between leaves and bear an unstoppable sweet and pleasant aroma. Golden and silver are the two primary colors of the flowers. The golden osmanthus flower called Jin Gui Hua {金桂花} in Chinese is more common and popular.

dried sweet osmanthus flowers
Dried Golden Osmanthus Flowers {Jin Gui Hua 金桂花}

Since ancient times, Chinese people, especially from the Yangze River Delta area have been cultivating osmanthus and using osmanthus flowers for making all kinds of food and drinks. Liquor, candy, pastries, cakes, you name it. Osmanthus is also a well-liked flower tea.

Not only does it smell amazing, but the osmanthus flowers also provide impressive health benefits. Gui Hua is notably rich in polyphenol compounds, a type of antioxidant that help reduces the risk of chronic diseases, especially heart-related ones. By the way, red wine is also rich in polyphenol compounds.

I am absolutely a huge fan of Gui Hua, and incorporate them for sweet rice flour based treats, such as Red Bean Mochi Soup, Brown Sugar Rice Flour, Song Gao {Chinse Sponge Rice Cake}.

Sesame Song Gao {Chinese Sponge Rice Cake}

Sesame Song Gao {Chinese Sponge Rice Cake with Sesame Filling} Recipe

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Song Gao {松糕} is a traditional Chinese sponge rice cake made of sweet rice flour and rice flour combination. Sesame or Zhi Ma 芝麻 in Chinese makes a popular filling for an even more satisfying flavor and taste.

Ingredients

For the Sponge Rice Cake Mix:

  • 240 g sweet rice flour
  • 400 g rice flour
  • 100 g cane sugar, organic unrefined preferred
  • 330 g water, room temperature, previously boiled preferred

For the Sesame Filling:

  • 80 g roasted black sesame seeds, unhulled home-roasted preferred
  • 40 g water, room temperature, previously boiled preferred
  • 40 g cane sugar, organic unrefined preferred

For Garnishing:

  • 1 tbsp dried osmanthus flowers, optional but recommended

Instructions

Prepare Sesame Seeds Powder In Advance:

  • Roast black unhulled organic sesame seeds in a wok. Wait for the roasted sesame seeds to cool down and then store them in an airtight glass jar. Read here for a more detailed tutorial.
    Rosted Black Sesame Seeds
  • Use a spice grinder to grind roasted sesame seeds into powder. Read here for a more detailed tutorial.
    grind roasted sesame seeds

Prepare the Sponge Rice Cake Mix:

  • Measure out the 330 g of water in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Add the remaining ingredients "For the Sponge Rice Cake Mix" to a large mixing bowl. Mix well.
  • Gradually and slowly add water into the mixing bowl, 2 tablespoons at a time, and then vigorously blend and mix using a strong stainless steel whisk. Repeat until all the water is in and the flour is fully saturated with water and starts to form tiny particles.
    Blend sweet rice flour and rice flour with tiny water at a time for Chinese Song Gao making
  • Measure out 240 g of water-saturated sweet rice and rice flour mixture from the above step and add to the mixing bowl, along with 80 g sesame powder, 40 g sugar, and 40 g water.
    Mixing sesame filling for Chinese Song Gao
  • Blend and mix vigorously using the whisk.
    Sesame Filling for Chinese Song Gao {sponge rice cake}
  • Place double-layer organic cheesecloth into the 12-inch bamboo steamer.
    layer bamboo steamer with double layered cheesecloth
  • Use a large flat spoon to scoop out the water-saturated rice flour mix and sprinkle it evenly into the bamboo steamer, till half of the mix is in. Use a dough cutter to gently level the top.
    Layer water-saturated sweet rice and rice flour mix into bamboo steamer for making Chinese Song Gao
  • Use the large flat spoon to scoop out the sesame filling mix and sprinkle it evenly on top of the rice flour mix, till all is in. Use the dough cutter to gently level the top.
    Layer sesame filling mix for Chinese Song Gao {Sponge Rice Cake}
  • Sprinkle the other half of the water-saturated rice flour mixture evenly on top of the sesame filling. Use the dough cutter to gently level the top. Sprinkle the dried osmanthus flowers on the top evenly.
    Sesame Song Gao mix in the bamboo steamer

Steam Sesame Song Gao:

  • Add 6 cups of water into the wok, add the empty bamboo steamer basket first, and then the basket filled with the Sesame Song Gao Mix. Fold the overflow cheesecloth over and secure the bamboo lid.
  • Turn the heat to medium-high and steam for 35 minutes.
  • Wait for about 1 minute before removing the bamboo lid and the steamers.
  • Let it cool down before slicing and serving. Enjoy a super yummy Sesame Song Gao!
    Sesame Song Gao {Chinese Sponge Rice Cake}

Notes

  • This 12-inch bamboo steamer set pairs great with a regular-sized Wok (14-inch), without needing a steaming rack. It comes with 2 tiered baskets. Place the basket with rice cake flour mix on the top tier for steaming. This will prevent boiling water from splashing onto the bottom of the rice flour. It also provides more room for the steam to circulate, hence facilitating the cooking process wonderfully.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 417Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 3mgCarbohydrates: 84gFiber: 3gSugar: 18gProtein: 6g

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

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