Chinese Bakery Birthday Cake

OK so this post is slightly overdue but I do blame it on the trial and error sponge cakes I’ve had to make and there’s only so much my family and I can eat a week! But it’s necessary to perfect my cake recipes since it’s still not as fluffy and light as this sponge cake craze (hence the lengthy post!) started from the baking of the birthday cake for someone that isn’t big on sweets and prefers the lighter sponge cake, normally known to me as the “Chinese Fruit Cake”.

I actually do prefer it myself as well since it is much healthier (or well…as healthy as good sponge cakes come!) and I love an eggy cake!

Chinese Bakery-Style Sponge Cake  (Source from: NancyBaked)
Recipe makes two 8” round cakes (don’t worry if it looks thin since after you add the whipped cream and fruit inside, it will pretty much double in size!)

– 1½ cups cake flour, sifted (note: measure before you sift!)
– 1 cup of granulated sugar
– 6 large eggs, room temperature, separated into yolks and whites
– ½ tsp. cream of tartar (optional)
– ½ tsp. baking powder
– ¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
– ½ cup water
– 1 tsp. vanilla extract

– 1 tablespoon sugar + 2 tablespoons water

– 2 cups of chilled heavy cream
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 3 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
– 2 packets Dr. Oetker’s Whip It!

– Cut fruits: Strawberries, peaches, kiwis, honeydews, cantaloupes….whatever is in season!

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease pans, add parchment paper on top for the bottom to ensure it won’t stick. Grease parchment paper and flour the pan.
2. Mix ½ cup sugar with the egg yolks and beat until slightly thick and pale yellow (this can be done by hand). Then stir in the vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites (electric mixer HIGHLY recommended!) until foamy and drippy, then add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar a bit at a time (three separate additions recommended) while continuing to whip the egg whites. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form (i.e. it doesn’t drop on the beaters).
4. Combine ½ of the meringue (aka beaten egg whites mixture) to the egg yolk mixture. Fold it in carefully to minimize volume loss.
5. Gradually add sifted flour and mix gently.
6. Add oil and milk to the batter.
7. Fold in the remaining half of the meringue carefully.
8. Divide batter into the two greased pans. Tap around the pans to make sure batter is even and to release any air bubbles. Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes at 350 degrees F until tops are a light brown. Bake shorter in a dark, matte, or non-stick pan, and bake longer in a glass, aluminum, or other shiny pan.
9. Remove cakes from oven and leave in pan to cool to room temperature. The cakes will shrink so gently cut around the edge with a knife so that it’ll shrink evenly. While cakes are cooling, prepare simple syrup!

10. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. At low heat and eagle eyes, stir until sugar dissolves (allow to simmer for about 1 minute).
11. Once the cakes are cooled, remove them from pans and brush entirely with the simple syrup.

12. Take out your beaters and mixing bowl from fridge/freezer (usually only need 5 minutes or so in to be nice and chilly). Add in your heavy cream and De. Oetker’s Whip It! and vanilla + confectioner’s sugar and beat on high speed (again, electric mixer recommended!) until it is relatively stiff and has a nice coat on the beaters. Don’t overbeat- otherwise result will be butter L
13. If you are NOT going to use it immediately, cling wrap and put in fridge to keep it cool.

14. Place one cake layer onto your cake plate and spread a generous layer of the whipped cream frosting onto the top of the cake layer. You may leave a 1 ½ inch strip along edges unfrosted since once you press on second layer it will ooze out.
15. Add prepared fruit pieces on top of frosting covering the entire area. Gently add more frosting on top of the fruit layer.
16. Place the second cake layer on top. Gently press layers together. If the cake feels dry, you can brush with more simply syrup.
17. Frost the cake with more whipped cream topping by first frosting it with a thin layer to act as a crumb coat. Be sure to fill in any gaps between the two layers. Place in fridge for about 5 minutes to allow it to set. This layer doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty, it’s purpose is to keep any crumbs from sneaking out when you start to frost it pretty J
18. Use the rest of the frosting to coat the rest of the cake. You can also save some to pipe stars or flowers around the cake or to cover any “imperfections”. Top and decorate with any fruits or other decorates you desire. I really liked slicing fresh strawberries and lining them on the side (thanks mom!), since this not only looks pretty but also hides any dents in the cake!
19.Lastly, return your cake to the fridge and chill for a few hours to let the frosting set. As always, it is best served same day!

– Prepare metal bowl for beating the egg whites. Ensure that it is immaculately clean, and ensure your beaters are also.  Make sure when you separate the eggs to not get any yolk into the egg white mixture as this will affect the stiffness of the peaks. Also, take the eggs out of the fridge a day in advance as room temperature eggs separate better and the whites whip better as well. P.S. a touch of lemon juice/ cream of tartar helps stabilize them!
– Before you start, find a bowl (I prefer metal) and put it in the fridge/freezer to cool. Put your beaters in as well to chill to ensure maximum results when you start the whipping process. Another tip would be to make it the day before and fridge overnight to make it stiffer.
– Make sure you heat the water and sugar mixture on low heat so it won’t burn and KEEP YOUR EYE ON IT! I cannot tell you how many times I put on the stove and forget about it only to go back and discover burnt sugar. Trust me, it’s NOT fun to clean! But in the case that happens, chill out, add water back into the saucepan, put on low heat, watch it like a hawk and once the sugar starts dissolving again, just rinse under water. Viola!

1. ELECTRIC MIXER: I seriously HIGHLY recommend purchasing an electric mixer for beating those egg whites. Saves a lot of muscle pain and those hand electric mixers can be purchased at a pretty good price. That being said. During this intense trial-n-error phase, I did it, I splurged on my KitchenAid mixer!! I LOVE IT. MUAHAHAHA. BOOM.
2. CREAM OF TARTAR: I’ve always hesitated to purchase this since I felt like it was a relatively more expensive product that probably isn’t that necessary. But when my whites were a deflated mess and my trials were costing me several dozens of eggs a week, I finally succumbed to it. IT IS AMAZING. Shortcut. Done. Enuf Said. Boom.
3. MOUSSE FILLING + WHIPPED FROSTING: MOST recipes online generally calls for a mousse filling for the middle (recipe: 1 box of Dr. Oetker’s vanilla mousse mix + 1 cup milk, mix, done) BUT I love the lightness and texture already of the whipped frosting, so I just opted to save myself the time and use the same for the filling. TASTES AMAZING ALREADY!

– Milk vs. Water: Milk acts as a tenderizer in baking and makes for a creamier cake. BUT water makes the cake last longer, so feel free to substitute the both!
Baking Powder: I’ve seen varied recipes online and some use baking powder and others don’t. I tried a recipe without and it just didn’t give me the rise I was looking for (although I did grease the side of the pans so that could be another contributing factor!!). I just decided to add it, a bigger cake won’t hurt right?
– Butter vs Oil: Ahhh…seems this will be a battle always, but The Half Baked article which pretty much did all the research for me! Seems with butter, you end up with a beautifully fine-textured cake with smaller crumb size but this results in a shorter in height cake. Whereas oil makes  moister cake and was tall in height and light, albeit the cake was slightly coarser in texture. Also, when using oil as the fat for baking, you require less than butter. Note to self: Next is to try using coconut oil for baking- I’ve heard it’s a wonder oil when it comes to baking and skin care regimen alike!


12 thoughts on “Chinese Bakery Birthday Cake

    1. Hi Siew,

      Different flours have different protein (gluten) contents (i.e. all purpose flour has about 11% and cake flour 6-8%) so the result would be various textures depending on the recipe. Some recipes can be easily substituted without much difference whereas more delicate recipes such as angel food cake will require a light texture which would be best achieved using cake flour. Bread flour on the other hand has the highest protein level (around 14-16%) which creates a denser and chewier texture. A great site for you to get additional information can be found here:! The general rule of substitution is 1 cup of all purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons (1c – 2tbsp) is equivalent to 1 cup of cake flour. If you want to substitute cake flour for all purpose, use 2 cups of cake flour plus 2 tablespoons (2 cups + 2 tbsp).

    1. Hi Momie,

      I actually had to try this recipe a couple times before I got it right! My first one was a bit hard and after the trial attempts I boiled it down to 1) make sure that you measure 1 1/2 cups flour before you sift and not the other way around since that will result in too much flour than required and hence a dense cake texture; 2) it helps to have an electronic mixer when you beat the egg whites as you need to ensure that you’ve beaten them to stiff peaks (i.e. if you turn the mixer upside-down the peaks will not be drooping); 3) when you combine the meringue to the egg yolk mixture fold it minimally – just enough to have it combined but don’t over mix as this could also result in a flatter cake with a dense texture.

      Hope this helps!


  1. I just made this recipe, and it turned out great! It reminds me of my favorite cake from the Chinese bakery. Thank you so much for researching and posting this recipe!

  2. Hi, I was just wondering what flour you use? Is it plain flour or self raising? Or is it just called ‘cake flour’?

    1. Hi Fiona! I used all purpose flour for this recipe. I have tried it with cake flour which makes for a lighter and more airy cake. To sub cake flour for all purpose flour use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour for every 1 cup all purpose flour.
      Happy baking and thanks for stopping by!

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