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Song Gao 松糕 {Chinese Sponge Rice Cake}

Naturally vegan and gluten-free Traditional Chinese Sponge Rice Cake

by Shirley
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Chinese Song Gao {traditional sponge rice cake}

Song Gao {松糕} is a traditional Chinese sponge rice cake made of a combination of sweet rice flour and rice flour. They are so refreshing, spongy, light, and yummy, also naturally vegan and gluten-free. It uses extremely simple ingredients too. Besides the two types of rice flour, all you need is cane sugar and water. 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. You bet Song Gao is absolutely one of my all-time favorite hometown food.

Plain Smooth Song Gao {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.

Chinese Song Gao {traditional sponge rice cake}

What makes Song Gao so spongy?

You might be wondering by now: if Chinese sponge rice cake is only made of sweet rice flour, rice flour, sugar, and water, and contains no egg, baking soda, or oil whatsoever, what is the secrete behind the spongy fluffiness?

Well, 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 they start to form particles. These loose particles of rice flour will form a super soft and spongy rice cake upon ample steaming.

How to make Chinese Song Gao {Sponge Rice Cake}?

You whisk the rice flour with a tiny bit of water at a time. When you keep doing so until you reach a point when the rice flour is fully saturated with water and start to form particles, yet not wet enough to form a dough.

Whisk tiny water with rice flour at a time until they are satured

If you prefer a super smooth version of Song Gao, then sift the satured rice flour via a colander with coarse or large holes. By the way, the sifted saturated rice flour looks like finely shredded coconut. However, this is purely optional, you can still have a tasty original Song Gao even if you skip this step.

Sifted Satured Rice Flour for making Song Gao {Traditional Chinese Sponge Rice Cake}

Gently layer the saturated rice flour into a steamer and steam for 30 minutes. Do not disturb the fluffy rice flour and do not compact them.

For a single-layer Song Gao, it is OK to use a glass steaming pan. Although it works, you will still notice the bottom of the Sponge Rice Cake is kind of dry. This is because the rice flour in the bottom didn’t get a chance to absorb sufficient water during the steaming process.

Layer sifted satured rice flour in the steamer for making Song Gao {Traditional Chinese Sponge Rice Cake}

As a matter of fact, for steaming Song Gao, I highly recommend using a bamboo steamer layered with organic cheesecloth. This way, the steam can get into the rice flour from both the top and bottom, which will cook the Song Gao perfectly.

This 12-inch bamboo steamer is good for a double-layered Song Gao, which you can accomplish by doubling this recipe. The bamboo steamer set comes with 2 tiered baskets, place the rice flour on the top tier so that water doesn’t touch rice flour during the steaming process.

layer water saturated sweet rice flour and rice flour combination in the bamboo steamer lined with cheesecloth

The saturated rice flour continues to absorb water during the steaming, just enough to form the binding for a fluffy rice cake. Isn’t it like a miracle?!

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

Song Gao 松糕 {Chinese Sponge Rice Cake} Recipe

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Song Gao {松糕} featuring sweet rice flour and rice flour is a traditional Chinese Sponge Rice Cake, refreshingly yummy and naturally vegan and gluten-free.


  • 100 g sweet rice flour
  • 200 g rice flour
  • 100 - 150 g water, room temperature, see notes
  • 50 g cane sugar, organic unrefined preferred
  • 1 tbsp dried osmanthus flowers, optional but recommended
  • 1/2 tsp coconut oil, for greasing the steaming pan if you choose to use a steaming pan


  • Gather ingredients. Measure out the water in a 2-cup glass measuring cup.
    Song Gao {traditional Chinese Sponge Rice Cake} ingredients
  • Add sweet rice flour, rice flour, and sugar to a large mixing bowl and mix/whisk well.
    mix sweet rice flour, rice flour and cane sugar in the bowl
  • Pour a little bit of water, about 2 tbsp at a time, and then whisk vigorously to let the rice flour absorb the water, but the rice flour remains separated particles and does not form tiny balls of dough.
    Whisk tiny water with rice flour at a time until they are satured
  • Keep doing that until the rice flour is fully saturated with water, but not yet completely soaking wet to form a dough. However, when you tightly squeeze it can form a dough. See notes for additional information.
    sweet rice flour and rice flour saturated with water
  • If you prefer a smoother Song Gao, then sift the saturated rice flour using a stainless steel colander with larger holes. Use either a whisk, bamboo spatula or hand to help push the saturated rice flour through the holes if needed. This is an optional step. The original version of Song Gao still tastes incredible even if you skip this step.
    Sift the saturated rice flour using a stainless steel colander with larger holes
  • Coat the steaming glassware generously with coconut oil.
    Coat the glass steaming pan with coconut oil
  • Use a large flat spoon to carefully scoop out the saturated rice flour and sprinkle it into the steaming pan. After each thin layer, then sprinkle some dried osmanthus flowers.
    Sprinkle sifted saturated rice flour into steaming pan
  • Use a dough cutter with a long handle to gently level the top. Sprinkle the remaining dried osmanthus flowers on the top.
    loose sifted & saturated sweet rice flour and rice flour in the steaming pan
    level loose sifted & satured rice flour in the steamer for making Song Gao {Traditional Chinese Sponge Rice Cake}
  • Add 6 cups of water to the Wok, cover it with a dome-shaped lid, turn the heat to medium-high, and bring it to a boil.
  • Then place the glass steaming pan into the wok and steam for 35 minutes. For a glass pan of about 10-inch length, it can sit nicely on the slope of the wok's wall without needing a steaming rack.
  • Wait for about 1 minute or so once it is done before removing the lid and the steaming pan. Be careful and wear insulated gloves, the glassware is super hot.
    freshly steamed Song Gao {Sponge Rice Cake}
  • Let it cool on a wired rack before cutting it into serving size. Chill the sponge rice flour cake making it easier to slice or cut into serving sizes.
  • Enjoy a super refreshing and yummy Song Gao!
    Plain Smooth Song Gao {Sponge Rice Cake}


  • Add water slowly while whisking. You may or may not need the entirety of the water.
  • You know the rice flour is fully saturated when tiny balls of dough start to form. Another sign is that you can press the rice flour into a mass using your hands, but they can be separated easily.
  • Feel free to adjust the ratio between the sweet rice (also known as sticky rice) flour and rice flour for your preferred chewiness and firm bite texture, as long as the total weight is around 320 grams. The more sweet rice flour, the softer and chewier the Song Gao becomes. For this recipe, I used more rice flour therefore the texture is leaning more toward firm bite texture.
  • The right flour-sifting gadget is the key. Do not use a fine-meshed flour sifter, as it will take forever to sift. Plus you want the rice flour texture which can only be achieved by forming large particles of rice flour. This stainless steel colander with coarse holes is a must-have if you prefer to sift the flour. I also use it to make homemade tomato puree so that I can keep all the tomato pulps but only filter out the skins and seeds.
  • This recipe produces a single-layered Song Gao. If you prefer a taller Song Gao, you can double the recipe, but need to steam the Song Gao twice, one for the top and then flip the Song Gao and steam for the bottom. Check out Red Bean Song Gao for more.

Nutrition Information
Yield 4 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 356Total Fat 2gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 0mgSodium 2mgCarbohydrates 79gFiber 2gSugar 15gProtein 5g

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

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