Sunday, January 13, 2013

Water Chestnut Cake (馬蹄糕)

Chinese New Year is a season for savoring cakes. Not those typical type of baked cakes like butter cakes. It's like sticky rice cakes (年糕), the most common one. Because the word "cake" (糕) and "high" (高) are both pronounces as 'gou' in cantonese. It is somehow regarded as a simbolic food for bringing 'rising' goodwill.

Water Chestnut Cake is commonly eaten in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year. But not a 'must-have' cake in Malaysia and Singapore on this festive season. Some family does this, some don't. But I'd like to have this at my home during Chinese New Year :)

Since it is not so possible for me to make the super-time-consuming sticky rice cakes at home, I decided to make water chestnut cake instead. It is a cake that is much more easier for you to replicate it at home. It's not time consuming. You can plan to do it ahead and keep it in the fridge for upto a week. Spread the schedule! And you will be able to handle the Chinese New Year feast for your family :)

 These are all you need. It's easy, and not complicated.

  • 220g Water Chestnut Flour (马蹄粉)
  • 1.2L Water (水)
  • 3.5 slabs of Sugar Piece (冰片糖) About 308g (Mine is about 88g per piece)
  • 160g Water Chestnut (马蹄) About 8 pcs (or more if you want)

This cake is easy to make. With all the ingredients ready, I get this done in less than an hour. 

  1. Water Chestnut - cleaned, peeled, chopped into pieces or diced. Up to you. If you are slow, soak the peeled chestnut into the water to avoid turning rusty. Chop it only when you are ready to cook.
  2. Grease a 7 x 7 inch cake tin or a dish that is big enough for your cake.
  3. In a bowl, add in water chestnut powder with 600ml water (cold tap water). Stir until smooth and dissolved. 
  4. In a pot or a cooking wok, boil 600ml water with sugar. Once it's boiled, add in chopped chestnut, boil for another 30second or so.
  5. Take 1/3 portion of dissolved chestnut powder mixture and pour it into the boiling sugar water. Do not stop stirring while you pour them in. Continue to stir it until it thickened. 
  6. Once it is lightly boiled, turn off heat. Immediately, stir in the remaining 2/3 portion dissolved chestnut powder mixture. 
  7. Continue to stir them. This takes some effort here. I stirred mine for about 7 to 10 minutes. This is to achieve lump-free smooth paste.  
  8. Pour the mixture into the greased cake tin or the dish. Use a spatula to flatten the surface. 
  9. Steam it for about 20 minutes. 
  10. Leave it at room temperature environment until it's completely cooled. Cling wrap it and you could keep em' in the fridge for upto a week.

To Serve
  1. Remove the whole cake from the cake tin or dish. Cut them into pieces.
  2. In a non-stick pan, add some cooking oil.
  3. Prepare a bowl of sugar, pat some sugar (a few pinch) on each piece of water chestnut cake, and put them on the pan to lightly fry it under medium heat.
  4. When the cake turns light golden brown, then, it is ready. Dish up and serve. 
  1. Dissolved chestnut powder mixture is like corn starch mixed with water. The powder will settle to the bottom. Do give it a good stir before mixing them into the hot water. This will ensure the dissolved chestnut powder mixture are evenly mixed. 
  2. Other water chestnut recipe won't tell you to pat some sugar on the water chestnut cake before pan-frying. But mine, yes. The sugar gives good caramelized color on each piece of cake. This also explains why the sugar level that I used to cook the water chestnut cake is is lower than other recipe. Because I split up the usage of sugar. 
  3. You could get water chestnut flour at Phoon Huat and other neighbourhood chinese medicinal hall. You could also get sugar slabs from these two place too.
  4. You could substitute sugar slabs with rock sugar. But rock sugar won't gives you the light brown color. If you couldn't find sugar slabs, try to get brown rock sugar instead. This lovely light brown color indeed gives more festive feel :) 
  5. If you are pan-frying the chestnut cake pieces for the first time, do it with a small portion to get the feel of it, and see how it works out in your pan. For the first time, it might cause easy sticking. But if your pan is decently heated, it shouldn't be any problem. 

Take a bite on this warm caramelized, sweet and gooey cake. Chewing on it, the bits of juicy water chestnut add a nice crunch and gives you another level of refreshing sweetness. Wooh!

There are so many Chinese New Year goodies that I wanna make. But I have very limited time. So, I'd probably settle with some basic Chinese New Year food instead of fanciful cooks and bakes this year. Maybe next year, I will make more varieties :)

I hope you like it! 


  1. Hi Annie
    Thanks for the post.

    Did you mention when to put in the chopped water chestnuts ? Can this ingredient be omitted ?


    1. Hi Wendy, I wouldn't recommend to omit the chopped water chestnuts. It really does taste better with it's existence. Since it is so good, why would you wanna omit it? Right?

    2. Hi Annie

      I re-read Steps 1-10 under "Method" but you did not mention when to add the chopped chestnuts, sometime during Steps 5 to 7 ?

      Thanks again!

    3. Oh! Thanks for the highlight! I've amended my post. You should add chopped chestnuts in step 4. Haha.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Annie, from afar they look like roasted pork har! har! From your second last photo it looks translucent and gooey. I like this type of cake. I wonder if I can find water chestnut flour.

    1. Phong Hong, try chinese medicine shop. Or some neighbourhood grocery shop. They should have :D

  4. If you are slow, soak the peeled chestnut into the survival warehouse location water to avoid turning rusty. Chop it only when you are ready to cook.

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  6. Hallo Annie i cant find any water chestnut nor canned water chestnut for the cake. Can i replace with chopped apples or pear ? Pls advice.thank you