Last updated on May 12th, 2023
Incredibly soft and spongy steamed cake lightly flavored with matcha is steamed in Instant Pot. This cake also has no oil or butter so it tastes light yet fluffy. Cooking method for not using Instant Pot is also included.
Chinese Steamed Sponge Cake (Ji Dan Gao) is one of my childhood memories. Mom made it so often especially when there are celebrations or important events. Traditionally, you will see this cake rise oh so high and the top will split into four sections (like a flower). My mom will then use a stamp that has Chinese writing on it to stamp on the four sections of the cake. The writing could be “happiness” or anything that has good meaning. I just love tearing on this cake because it is so soft and the bouncy texture is just incredible!
WHAT MAKES THE CAKE SO LIGHT AND SPONGY?
This cake depends on the beating to incorporate air into the batter and also the soda drink (or baking powder+baking soda if you choose to use these instead) to leaven the cake! Eggs and sugar are beaten vigorously for 10-12 minutes using a stand mixer. Mom couldn’t stress enough the importance of BEATING THE HELL OUT OF THIS THING! (no..she didn’t say it like that), but you know what I mean 🙂
WHY IS THERE SODA DRINK IN THE RECIPE?
Back in the old days, that’s what grandma used. It’s basically the baking soda/baking powder in this modern day. The soda drink gives the cake its light and airy texture too. If you don’t want to use a soda drink, I have included measurement for baking powder and baking soda in the recipe card instead.
USING SODA DRINK VS BAKING POWDER + BAKING SODA
The sponge cake made with soda drink always came out almost an inch “taller”. The ones with baking powder and baking soda has a decent height, about 2 inches on the side and 2 1/2 inch if I counted the dome. I don’t want to increase the amount of baking powder and baking soda anymore because it
They both taste the same
Both are very soft and fluffy
So my conclusion is, both ways work, but just know that the one with soda drink comes out taller if height matters to you.
IMPORTANT TIPS FOR SUCCESS
1. Make sure ingredients are at room temperature. Especially the eggs and the liquid
2. Make sure to whip the eggs and sugar for 10-12 minutes at high speed until it triples in volume
3. Don’t let the batter sits around for too long
4. Pre boiling the water in instant pot using saute mode helps to pressurize it faster as we don’t want the batter to sit in the Instant Pot for too long waiting for it to be pressurized
CAN I MAKE THIS CHINESE STEAMED SPONGE CAKE WITHOUT INSTANT POT?
Of course! My grandma didn’t have instant pot back in her days 🙂 Only steamer!
WHY THE CAKE DOESN’T HAVE “FLOWERING / SMILING” TOP?
If you want a flowering top, you need to steam the cake on the stove. I have yet to be able to do that with Instant Pot. A very high heat is necessary for that to happen. Perhaps I will experiment more with Instant Pot. If you use a regular steamer, you might have a better chance for that to happen. Just make sure your steamer has a lid that is tall enough to allow the top of the cake to expand because it will double in size. My regular steamer isn’t “big” enough and so when the top of the cake expand, it got deflated 🙁 I just recently got this 3-tier steamer with a tall lid and this is perfect to make ji dan gao with a smiling top
You won’t be disappointed with this matcha sponge cake. So soft and spongy!
*Recipe is written for 6-quart Instant Pot. Cooking time should remain the same for 8-quart size but will take longer to pressurize. For mini duo (3-quart), I recommend to half the recipe and use the same amount of time to cook*
*Recipe is last updated in July 2020 to improve the process and more info for the best result*
Instant Pot Chinese Steamed Sponge Cake (Ji Dan Gao)
If using soda drink to leaven the cake:
- 100 ml sprite or other carbonated beverage (room temperature)
- Get the eggs, milk (if using milk) or soda drink (if refrigerated) out on the counter 15-20 minutes before you plan to bake. We want them at room temperature
- Mix cake flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder (if using the latter two as leaveners instead of soda drink). Set aside
- Place the eggs, sugar, and matcha powder in a mixing bowl. Use a whisk attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute and then increase to high speed (6 on a kitchen aid), add 1 teaspoon of vinegar (only if you choose to use baking soda and baking powder instead of soda drink) and continue to beat for 10-12 minutes. It is crucial to beat it this long so the cake will be light like a sponge
- The batter will triple in volume, and turn pale (well, greenish pale in this case). Reduce the speed to low. Gradually add in flour mixture, alternating with the soda drink (if using soda drink) or milk. We don't want to overwork the flour, just want to mix it in and no more lumps. Stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to give it a few stirs in there
- Prepare a 5-6 inch stainless steel or aluminum round pan. I use 5 x 3 inch round aluminum pan. Line the pan with parchment paper. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and drop it on the countertop 4-5 times to break any bubbles. You don't need to cover the cake with an aluminum foil
Preparing the Instant Pot:
- Place the trivet in the pot. Pour 2 cups of water in the pot (using standard U.S. measuring cup). Press saute and bring the water to a boil while the eggs are beating. Be careful and gently place the container inside the pot on top of the trivet. Turn off saute mode. Close the lid. Remember to place the steam release to SEALED. Press "Pressure Cooker" and click on pressure level and choose HIGH PRESSURE. Use +/- to set the time to 30 minutes. Add 10 minutes if you use a glass dish to cook the cake. It will pressurize quickly now since we have boiled the water before
- When it's done cooking, do a natural release and the valve will collapse on its own. Then carefully turn the steam release valve to VENTING and let the steam all come out and no more hissing. Open the lid and very carefully lift the trivet by its handle to remove the container out. Lift the 2 sides of the parchment paper to lift the cake out from the container. Let cool for 10 minutes. The cake will be very soft and spongy
If you steam the cake in a regular steamer:
- You need a steamer with a tall lid like this. Make sure you have enough water in the steamer and it has comes to a rolling boil. Carefully placed the cake in there and secure the lid and let it steams on high heat for 30-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. If you double up the recipe and use 8-10 inch container, you need to increase the steaming time to 50 minutes or until the toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. It is important not to open the lid during cooking time (at least the first 30 minutes), so you need to make sure your steamer can hold enough water for at least 30 minutes. If you need to refill water, make sure to refill with hot water and continue with steaming
- Grandma's recipe calls for 120 gr of sugar, which was a bit at a sweet side for me. So, I've cut down to 70 grams. Feel free to adjust the amount. It won't affect the cake other than the taste
- Use ceremonial grade matcha powder if it fits your budget, it gives a nice bright green. I only had culinary-grade matcha powder at the time I made this and so the color of the cake is more muted and dull in color.
Check out my other INSTANT POT RECIPES (Not a whole lot yet, but it’s building 😉 )