Okara sponge cake

Here’s another way to use the leftover lees from making soya bean milk, as well as a way to work with alternatives to wheat flour. This recipe from Shurtleff’s Book of Tofu doesn’t do away with wheat flour entirely, though, so it’s more for those who are interested in some degree of food rotation rather than those with a true wheat intolerance problem.



1/2 cup wholewheat flour
1tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup fresh okara [if using dried okara, add about 3/4 cup of soya bean milk to reconstitute to consistency of fresh okara]
3 eggs, separate yolks and white
4 tablespoons honey [replaced with light agave syrup]
1/2 tsp vanilla


1) Sift together dry ingredients.
2) Beat egg yolks, then combine with okara, honey and vanilla.
3) Stir dry ingredients into egg-okara mixture.
4) Whisk egg whites till stiff peaks form. Fold gently into the rest of the mixture.
5) Spoon into lightly oiled pan and bake at 200°C. If making cupcakes, they will take at least 20mins or until toothpick comes out clean. The high temperature gives a strong browning effect to the cake.

You can see I made this into cupcakes, which is what I normally do with cake recipes. It’s easy to freeze the batch and take out one or two for a snack bento. I usually wrap them individually in paper towels which soak up any moisture from defrosting cakes, and also help to keep them from drying out should I decide to microwave them before eating. Most of the time though, cupcakes and muffins which defrost on their own inside my snackbox taste great without any microwaving at the time of eating.

Next time, I won’t use paper casings. As there’s no fats in this cake, it sticks like crazy to the paper :P.


The texture is distinctive, more bouncy than normal cakes and also light and airy. It reminds me of some Chinese New Year mini sponge cake. Perhaps this is the kind of texture that’s created when no fats are used. It’s also flavourful without being sweet. A good change from same old muffins in my snack bento.

Rolled oats, okara & almond bars

Rolled oats & okara bars

With okara left over from making soya bean milk, I had to find a recipe to use it in, and my stock of on-the-go snacks had also run out, so these rolled oats bars seemed a good thing to make.

I started with the recipe for rolled oats bars in Sue Dengate’s Failsafe Cookbook and replaced some of the flour and oats with okara and chopped almonds, halved the sugar and used plain wholemeal flour+baking powder instead of self-raising flour.

3/4 cup wholemeal flour [if self-raising flour, omit baking powder]
1/4 cup okara [original recipe is total 2 cups flour, no okara]
1 tsp baking powder (I guessed the amount, seemed OK)
2 cups random mix of rolled oats, okara and chopped almonds
150g butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs golden syrup

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.

Melt butter, add golden syrup and mix into dry ingredients.

Press into slice tray and bake for 15-20 mins at 160ºC until brown.

Cut into bars while still hot and leave to cool before removing from tray.

Makes 20.

The result was very crumbly. I knew from my previous experience making okara oatmeal cookies that when cool, the mixture hardens and sticks together better, and when I bought a commercial organic flapjack (basically an oat bar), it was also very loosely held together. However, I’m not too keen on an overly loose texture and it makes this very messy to eat. I might try increasing the proportion of flour next time to see if that helps the ingredients to hold together better. Taste-wise, it turned out great though.

Mock poh piah

A long while back, I was brainstorming ideas for dishes that would meet the requirements of a Failsafe diet, i.e. free of additives, low in salicylates, amines and flavour enhancers, and yet have an Asian flavour. At that point, my only guide were the recipes in books by Sue Dengate, founder of the Food Intolerance Network, and because they were entirely geared towards an Australian diet, I really wanted to find some flavours closer to home.

During the brainstorming, poh piah was one of the traditional dishes I thought could be adapted. Of course, by leaving out the sweet flour sauce, bee cheo, and chilli, key components of the taste of poh piah are gone, but at least the shape and form of the dish provides variety in what could easily become a very limited diet.

Poh piah pretend

The photograph in the title header of this blog shows the surprisingly successful result of a ‘quick and dirty’ mock poh piah. Forget the time complicated and time-consuming methods of cooking the filling and making the egg skin, this is actually a simple stir-fry of bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, carrots, spring onion topped with hard-boiled egg and wrapped in an eggy crepe (no recipe, sorry, simply made by approximating the batter consistency and using a higher proportion of egg than usual) ^_^.

To imitate poh piah more closely, cut the vegetables for the filling into strips, and use the same basic ingredients for the filling: bamboo shoot and bangkuang/jicama, streaky pork, prawns and taukwa/firm tofu. Fry chopped garlic, add organic miso as a replacement for Chinese fermented bean paste, taucheo, before adding the other ingredients to simmer as per these instructions.

In the end, I guess it’s not really much of a poh piah at all (though closer to the real thing than ‘mock duck‘ is anything like real duck, I’d say!), perhaps more similar to the various types of rolls pictured in Japanese bento cookbooks. However the familiar poh piah-like textures of the vegetable strips and springy egg skin really broke the monotony of my daily rice & stir-fry meals.

[17/1/08 Update: Lunch in a Box often does ‘leftover remakes‘, so check out what happened when leftover mock poh piah went into a bento.]

Steamed sponge cake 水蒸蛋糕

Before I started experimenting with Asian snacks, I used to bake tea time snacks several times a week – as you can see from the earlier entries on this blog. So my weekly supermarketing would inevitably include dairy staples of butter and eggs. Recently, I noticed that my stock of eggs and butter has been sitting in the fridge for a long time and realised that it’s because of my concentration on Chinese and Japanese snacks, which are mostly steamed. At that point it also struck me that these Asian snacks are wonderful vegan or dairy-free recipes (just make sure you substitute vegetable oil in any recipes that call for lard!).

However, I had to find a way to start using up all those eggs so I chose a recipe for a steamed cake that uses eggs. In Chinese, dan gao 蛋糕 is used to refer to western-style cakes; the first character meaning ‘egg’ and the second ‘cake’. The character gao 糕 is also used to refer to all those steamed snacks, which don’t have eggs. So the Chinese name for this cake, with the word dan 蛋 immediately alerted me to the presence of eggs :). The recipe comes from the book 《糕&炒年糕》.

Steamed Sponge Cake


250g eggs [1 large egg = 60-65g]
150g low-protein flour/cake flour
50g wheat starch
1g baking powder (optional) [how to weigh 1g?? even digital kitchen scales aren’t accurate with such small amounts! so I ‘agak-agaki.e. guessed :P]
75g white sugar [reduced from original amount of 250g in recipe and it was just the right amount of sweetness]
raisins to taste (optional)

Actually, apart from creaming and muffin mix method, I have very little experience with cake-making techniques. So working with eggs and whisking them was a bit of a challenge.

I didn’t know why the step-by-step photos showed first a yellow whisked mixture of whole eggs and white sugar, which had become white in the following photo so I thought I would try out the method used in this pandan chiffon cupcake recipe where the egg whites and sugar are whisked first, and then the egg yolks blended in. It gave me a chance to practise separating eggs ^_^ (had one casualty, which I used for French toast later).

Once the egg & sugar mixture was done, I folded in the sifted mixture of cake flour, wheat starch and baking powder.

The cake mixture then went into a oiled square baking tin. In the recipe book, cling film is used to line the containers but I thought oiling the tin might be less wasteful.

If so desired, you can sprinkle raisins to taste on the surface of the cake mixture. I used the same organic sultanas as I did in this oatmeal cake.

Steam for 20 minutes. After my problem with the overly-dense texture of these brown sugar steamed buns, I made sure the water was really vigorously boiling before I put the cake in to steam.

In terms of texture, the result was similar to the photo in the recipe book, but it still seemed rather too dense to me. In retrospect, I think I didn’t whisk the egg whites enough (tired! and the volume didn’t seem to increase anymore…), and only got to the ‘soft peak’ stage, when I really should have continued till the ‘hard peak’ stage.

Another problem was that there were large air holes in certain parts of the cake. Possibly I didn’t mix the dry ingredients properly. Alternatively, I should have banged the cake tin to release any air bubbles to the top of the mixture.

The texture was also sort of bouncy, just like the brown sugar steamed buns, so I guess this could be a characteristic of steamed cakes.

As for the taste, it was uh, rather egg-y. It smelled and tasted sort of like hard-boiled eggs!?! I wonder if more sugar would have masked the egg smell (after all, I used about 1/3 of the suggested amount)? Perhaps pandan leaf juice or vanilla essence would also have done the job.

[21/1/0 update: I found a solution to the strong egg taste! It goes away when the steamed sponge cake cools down. Discovered this after having included the steamed cake in several bento recently. This is similar to the advice Ann Mah gave me regarding making Spinach Chocolate Brownies from Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious: the spinach taste is evident when the brownies are warm so they have to be served at room temperature/cold.]

Verdict: love the straightforward recipe and simple list of ingredients, but will need to try again to get a better result in taste in texture.

**Check out these other spongy steamed cakes I’ve tried:
Brown sugar steamed buns 黑糖饅頭
Steamed cupcakes: fatt gou/ huat kueh 發糕