Huat Kueh- Chinese Steamed Rice Flour Cake–A Cake That Brings You Luck And Prosperity







For other Pandan Huat kuih prepared using self raising flour, please refer to: An Auspicious Steamed Cake To Celebrate My Blog Anniversary–Pandan Huat Kuih (香兰发糕)



For Gula Melaka Huat Kuih prepared using self raising flour, please refer to: Palm Sugar or Gula Melaka or Gula Apong Huat Kuih (椰糖发糕)


Original Post


I am writing this post with due respect to my late mom and Chinese traditions. The name of this steamed is Chinese steamed rice flour cake (hereinafter to refer to as Huat Kueh) or in Mandarin Fagao (发糕). There are two types of Huat Kueh, one type is using wheat flour and another type is using rice flour. This post is the rice flour version of Huat Kueh. It is a very simple cake basically using only 4 ingredients – flour, water, sugar and leavener (either natural yeast or baking powder or baking soda). Since this cake is pure vegetarian (and in fact gluten free), it was usually used as an offering in both the Buddhist and Taoist temples. In addition, it is a common offering item to the ancestors. Practically, the steamed rice flour cake was offered because the cake can be kept longer and not turning bad due to its simple ingredients used.


As similar with the Chinese steamed sponge cake (kuey neng ko), Chinese hoped that the cake will crack or smile beautifully. Cracking signifies joy, prosperity, resembling a flower that are full of hopes and looking forward for a brighter tomorrow. Therefore, in the olden days, there are lots of taboos associated with the preparation of this cake, including no quarrelling in the kitchen, no unlucky words said, no peeping into the steamers etc.… etc.Even until today, I still have this pressure when I am preparing the cake, fearing that the cake may turn out “bald headed” which to me, is a sign of unluckiness. Well, may be I am overly superstitious.


After I steamed the cake, I feel rather sentimental and I wrote down in my Facebook personal timeline as follows:


It was written in a rush and I do not wish to amend it today, so there are a number of grammatical mistakes above. Basically, I am recalling how my mom prepared this cake. In the 1960’s-1970’s, my mom usually prepared these cakes for offering to the ancestors or Gods. She soaked the rice, ground them using a big stone mortar assisted by my brothers. She then proofed the batter using the leavener (natural yeast) obtained from the bakery shop. There were no written recipe and she learned the preparation from words of mouth.  She prepared based on her observations and experiences.  I still remember that she used the traditional weighing scales or balance to weigh the sugar and used bowls to measure the water. My brothers and I will help her to put white papers onto the bamboo basket and throughout the steaming process, we were not allowed to talk non-sense and the best were out of the kitchen. Therefore, preparing this cake really bring fond memories and have a significant meaning to me.


Unlike my mom’s version, this is a super easy version. I reached home at 6:45pm and I have my cakes ready by 7:30pm. I was happy to find this recipe from a Chinese blog: 粘米粉发糕 and I have to thank her for her sharing. If you know Mandarin, you may want to support her by clicking the link above. The wonderful ingredient in this recipe is Eno, a type of fruit salt to relieve stomach gases and indigestions. Though most readers may know what is Eno, however, it is still fun to understand what Wikipedia had written about this famous household item:

“Eno is the most global of GlaxoSmithKline‘s (GSK) gastrointestinal products. The fast-acting effervescent fruit salts, used as an antacid and reliever of bloatedness, was invented in the 1850s by James Crossley Eno (1827-1915). It has sales of nearly £30 million; its major markets are Spain, India, Brazil, South Africa, Malaysia and Thailand. It is frequently used as a substitute for baking powder.”


Yes, this quick version of Huat Kueh is using Eno (baking powder) as the rising agent as contrasted to what my mom had used – Natural yeast that have higher chances of failure.  If you examined the ingredient composition of Eno, it was written that Eno was made up of citric acid, sodium bicarbonate (in fact it is baking soda), sodium carbonate and some permitted colouring and flavouring.. Therefore, logically speaking, if Eno was not used, baking powder and/or baking soda will definitely be able to provide a happy smiling face for this cake.


Just like what my mom had done, I have used the traditional bamboo basket to steam the cake. There is a reason of doing so. It is easier for the heat to penetrate and cook the cake. Personal experiences of steaming Chinese cakes shows that the use of bamboo basket had a better chances of getting a smiling cake then using the aluminium baking tin due to stronger heat absorbed.

It is getting rather long winded and do try this recipe if you need to prepare this cake in a hurry. I would think, chances of failure are rather low.



Recipe adapted from: 粘米粉发糕

Servings: 2  9cm diameter Huat Kueh


  • 200 grams of rice flour
  • 100 grams of icing sugar
  • 175 ml of water
  • 1 packet of Eno fruit salt (about 4.3 grams as per packaging)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • Some permitted food colouring (optional)


  • A steamer
  • Two 9 cm diameter bamboo basket – or one 12 cm diameter bamboo basket
  • Some cellophane sheets (for cooking purposes, not in picture). Waterproof baking paper can be used.



  • Get ready a steamer, put water and bring to boil under high heat.


  • For the bamboo basket, put a piece of cellophane sheet on top. Push down the cellophane sheet into the bamboo basket as deeply and as close to the sides as possible. Use a rubber band to tighten the side.


  • Sift the rice flour, baking powder and icing sugar into a big mixing bowl. Add water and permitted food colouring, stir well . Scrape the sides of the bowl.


  • Meanwhile, steamed the bamboo basket in the steamer for at least 3-5 minutes.  Just before transferring the rice flour batter to the bamboo basket, add Eno fruit salt. Use the balloon whisk to stir until well mixed. Transfer the batter to the bamboo basket. Steam in the steamer (using high heat) for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. When out of the steamer, take the rice cake out of the bamboo basket and let it cool completely.


  • For serving, cut into slices either eating it plain or with any of the breakfast spread. It can also be coated with eggs and pan fry with butter. Steamed the cake on the next day if it becomes dry and hard.




Preparing this recipe brings fond memories. I am happy with the outcome that it smile though I have hoped that they had “laugh happily with their mouth wide open” (refer to the image of original recipe above). Lastly, I am going to end my post with this unusual sentence :”Don’t throw away food, this cake is edible be it for gods, ancestors or human beings”. I have said this because a lot of people throw away offering item as it is considered as tasteless or other reasons… But as this cake is only made up of rice flour, it will taste like rice, how you make it tasty will depend on your creativeness, may be pan fried with butter or spread with coconut jam… Hope you like the post today. Cheers and have a nice day.



Updated on 17-June 2014



As some of the readers residing overseas are telling me that they do not have assess to Eno or fruit salt, what can they substitute with. I told them since Eno is made up of critic acid and sodium bicarbonate, I believe baking soda can be used to substitute. However, that had never been confirmed. Today, I have prepared some rice flour Huat Kuih without the use of Eno.


I am very happy with the outcome and the recipes for rice flour Huat Kuih without Eno are as follow:


Servings: about 6 cupcake size of Huat Kuih


  • 200 grams of rice flour (粘米粉)
  • 100 grams of icing sugar (糖粉)
  • 160 ml of water (清水)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda (苏打粉)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder (发粉)
  • Some permitted food colouring (optional) (可食用色素)


  • All procedures shall be the same as the above. It is advisable that pre-heat of cupcake mould is necessary. In addition, add the baking soda and baking powder at the last stage just minutes before you pour to the pre-heated cupcake mould.


  • For more recipes, you can refer to my RECIPE INDEX (updated as at 8 June 2014)  here and you can follow me at PINTEREST or visit the blog’s FACEBOOK PAGE to keep abreast of my future posts.  




31 thoughts on “Huat Kueh- Chinese Steamed Rice Flour Cake–A Cake That Brings You Luck And Prosperity

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  5. I have never liked eating huat kueh but I’m going to try preparing it, for my in laws who pray to Kuan Yin on 1st and 15th day of month. Hope my huat kueh will smile happily and bless our family.🙂

  6. Pretty kuehs!!🙂 Many thanks for sharing!
    Could I pls check with you what is the consistency of the mixture (both with eno and without eno) like after mixing in the water – e.g. gluey/watery; and is it normal for the end product to feel slightly heavy at the bottom? Thanks in advance🙂

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  8. Love your blog. It’s so detailed and informative. I have always want to try making huat kueh but can’t find eno salt in the Philippines. When I found your recipe without eno, i tried to make this but the huat keuh didn’t smile as much and there’s a bitter taste to it. Wonder what went wrong? Hope you can help me with this as this is one of my husband favorite food to eat.

    • Very frankly speaking, this recipe is more for religious praying. The one that taste nice is those that uses overnight yeast to proof for 1-2 days. Possibly you should try other huat kuih recipe that uses plain flour. I am sorry to hear that

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  11. Hi Kenneth, I like to follow your recipe. I tried this huat kueh using without ENO but i dont know why the top part where flowers is soft and fluffy while the inner part inside the mold is hard and dense. I wonder anything wrong with it. Im using silicone cupcake mold here and steam on a wok.

  12. Hi Kenneth,
    I would like to request the Huat Kueh with toddy that sell in the market for prayer. I have try many times but come out flower. That mean no Huat.. Thanks you.

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