I originally intended to make this as part of my mom's birthday celebration back in January but they changed the day on me so I didn't have the time to do so. My Dad's side of the family was getting together for Chinese New Year celebration dinner so I thought what a perfect opportunity to give this one a shot.
It did take some effort (lots of whipping involved...it's times like these that I am so grateful for my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer!) but the end result was delicious and beautiful. Fresh fruit right now is a bit expensive but looked so pretty on the cake. I wanted fruits with varying colors so ended up with strawberries, mangos, and green grapes. I would have used kiwi instead of grapes but my brother is allergic. Other fruits that would work well are canned peaches, canned mandarin oranges, honeydew, canteloupe, blueberries, red grapes, raspberries...let your mind get wildly creative! I used my new cake decorating tools to frost the cake and then quickly learned to put a border around the top and bottom of my cake. I took it a step further and wrote "Happy New Year" in CHINESE! Man that was a challenge given I had never decorated or written on a cake in English before let alone Chinese...not to mention I can't even really write Chinese with pen and paper, either :).
I come from a family of cooks and therefore picky eaters so this was a true taste test. My Aunt Cesena immediately recognized the Chinese text as "Happy New Year" (phew, that's a relief!). My Uncle Ben ate 3 slices and my Aunt Lai, who said she doesn't typically like cake, went for seconds! My Dad, who's a fruit fan, requested this cake for his birthday next month. My cousin Donny said that I should sell it for at least $25 a pop (in Chinese bakeries, this type of cake is AT LEAST $20). I have a feeling there's going to be many future requests for this cake and I'd say this one passed the test :).
A few notes of caution: 1) The original recipe was in metric and Lucy re-wrote it to be in US units. This resulted in some funky numbers, which you'll see below. Just estimate it the best that you can! 2) I used red buttercream frosting to write on the cake because I thought it would be easier than using the whipped cream frosting. The red seemed to bleed a bit. Also, because it has fresh fruits and other fresh ingredients, this cake is best served fresh on the same day that it is made.
So what are you waiting for? Go and make this cake!!
PS: Now taking orders :).
Chinese Bakery-Style Cake
For the Cake
- 0.7 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 0.8 cups of granulated sugar (split into 2 even portions)
- 6 large eggs, separated into yolks and whites
- 1.4 tbsp butter, melted
- 1.4 tbsp milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
For the Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting
- 2 tsp vanilla flavored instant pudding
- 2 cups (1 pint) of chilled heavy cream
- 2.5 tbsp of confectioner's sugar
- Various fruits of different colors and shapes, sliced as desired (I used mango slices, whole grapes, and halved strawberries. Honeydew, canteloupe, canned peaches, kiwi, blueberries, red grapes etc. would be great, too!)
To Make the Cake
- Preheat oven to 340 degrees F. Cut out wax paper or parchment paper to the size of the bottoms of two 8" or 9" round baking pans. Lightly grease sides of pans and parchment paper.
- Warm eggs to room temperature. Separate 6 egg whites into large stand mixer bowl and 6 egg yolks into a separate large mixing bowl. Be sure to separate carefully because any bit of yolk that gets into the egg whites will make whipping the whites much more difficult.
- Mix first sugar portion (0.4 cups) with the egg yolks and beat until slightly thick and pale yellow. Stir in vanilla to the yolk mixture.
- In large stand mixer bowl, beat egg whites until they are 60% foamy (a little more than halfway to forming stiff peaks). Add the remaining portion of sugar (0.4 cups) in three separate additions while continuing to whip egg whites. Continue until stiff peaks form when the beaters are pulled away from the foam (this is meringue).
- Gently fold in 1/2 of the meringue into the egg yolk mixture, folding in carefully to minimize volume loss. Gradually add flour and baking powder and mix gently. Add melted butter and milk to the batter. Fold in the remaining half of the meringue carefully.
- Divide batter into the two prepared pans. Immediately bake for about 20-25 minutes in preheated oven until tops are a light brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. (Bake shorter in a dark, matte, or non-stick pan, and bake longer in a glass, aluminum, or other shiny pan). It's important that you bake the two cake layers immediately after the batter is finished, as the meringue will tend to re-liquefy as it sits around, and you'll get a weird thick layer at the bottom of your cake if you bake it like that.
- Remove cakes from oven and leave in pan to cool to room temperature. If assembling cake later in the day, wrap cooled cake layers in saran wrap until ready to assemble.
(If using cook-to-serve vanilla pudding, skip these steps and just follow the instructions on your package)
- Mix the sugar, flour, and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in 3/4 cup of milk and mix until smooth.
- Bring mixture to a boil at medium heat, whisking constantly. Be careful not to scrape off any clumps that form on the sides and bottoms as it will leave clumps in your custard.
- Cook another 2 minutes and remove from heat. At this point the mixture should have thickened up dramatically.
- Mix together egg with remaining 1/4 cup of milk, then combine with the mixture in the saucepan, whisking vigorously to combine. Return to heat and cook until it just starts to boil. There will be a lot of lumps as you first incorporate the egg mixture, but just keep whisking as you heat it up and most of the lumps should disappear.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly touching the surface of the custard to prevent any skin from forming on the custard. If you still have any remaining clumps in the custard now would be a good time to put some more elbow grease into the whisking and if you really can't get rid of them just scoop them out :)
- Chill at least 2 hours in the fridge or overnight if desired.
- Use stand mixer to beat heavy cream in a large well-chilled stand mixer bowl. Beat cream on low speed until small bubbles form (about 30 seconds). Increase speed to medium and beat until beaters leave a trail in the cream (about 30 seconds). Increase speed to high, moving beaters around bowl. Beat until just before it becomes soft and billowy.
- Slowly add sugar and instant vanilla pudding at the sides of the bowl while continuing to whip until it is barely stiff. These ingredients will stabilize the whipped cream and prevent it from separating over time.
- Use immediately for frosting or refrigerate for later use.
- Carefully remove cakes from pans, cutting around edges if necessary. Peel or cut away the skin of the cakes (the brown parts on the surface) using hands or a long serrated knife. If needed, level the surface of cake with a knife to make surface as flat as possible.
- Prepare fresh fruits to be placed between the cake layers. I used strawberries, green grapes, and mango slices. Use whatever you have on hand, just cut it up into small bite-sized pieces and make enough to cover the entire surface between the two cake layers. You can also prep fruit to put on top of the cake as decoration at the same time.
- Make a simple syrup of 2 parts water to 1 part granulated sugar by stirring together in a saucepan and slowly warming it up just until all the sugar dissolves. Squeeze in the juice from half a lemon. Brush each cake with a thin layer of simple syrup on all surfaces. This helps keep the cake moist.
- Lay the first cake layer down onto plate. Spread about half of prepared cooled custard onto the top of the cake layer leaving about 1/2" uncovered around the edge of the cake. Add prepared fruit pieces on top of the custard, covering the entire custard area. Add remaining custard on top of the fruit.
- Place second cake layer on top of fruit filling. Gently press layers together and if needed, wipe away any excess custard that escapes from the sides.
- Frost the cake using the stabilized whipped cream topping and a wide blade or a frosting spatula.
- Be creative about how you want to decorate your cake. I piped out shells along the top and bottom edge of the cake rim. I then garnished with my prepared fruit and wrote in red buttercream frosting.
- For the finishing touch, you can make a nearly clear glaze that can be brushed on top of your fruit to give them a glass-like finish similar to the fruit on top of fruit tarts. Heat 1/4 cup of fruit preserves (any flavor - apricot is pretty popular) with an equal amount of water. Stir until boiling. Reduce by boiling off the water to alter the consistency of your glaze. If needed, press the boiled preserved through a fine sieve to separate out the fruit and seeds. While it is still warm, gently brush it over your fruit and let it dry to achieve that beautiful shiny finish.
- Finally, put your cake into the fridge and chill for a few hours to let the frosting set. It is best served in the same day it was made.