The Third Honeycomb Structure Asian Cake– White Sugar Sponge Cake or Pak Thong Ko (白糖糕)



Regarding Asian cake of beehive or honeycomb structure, I have recipes for Malaysian Beehive Cake – Kek Sarang Semut..and


And also Indonesia’s famous Honeycomb Cake  – Bingka Ambon.


And today is the third cake in this category called Chinese Yeasted White Sugar Sponge Cake..(白糖糕)。It is a rather common breakfast item in Singapore and Malaysia.


In my humble opinion, all these three cakes are interrelated though the type of flour (tapioca flour vs. plain flour vs. rice flour), method of preparation (steaming vs. oven baked vs. stove baked)  and leavening agent (yeast vs. baking soda vs. baking powder) differ rather significantly but the result of the cake are all airy and spongy. 


There is a big possibility that they are interrelated resulted from localization of ingredients availability.  I have quite a detail comparison in this post – My Childhood Cake–Bee Hive Cake/Malaysian Honey Comb Cake or Kueh Sarang Semut (蜂巢蛋糕) and you may want to take a look to see the similarities and differences between these 3 cakes.


This must be one of the simplest and fastest  recipes that I have came across that required only about 2 hours to get ready the steamed cake. There are many recipes available and some required fermentation over days or proofing of at least 8 hours etc.… Because of its short period of preparation, I have decided to select this recipe and give it a try.


The batter of the cake is very watery and that shocked me . I am very doubtful about the success of this preparation until the cake was out of the steamer. It is such a relief to see the cake is springy with airy holes. The recipe worked rather wonderfully. It provide a very springy cake like those sold outside. However, I am unsure why the airy holes in between the cakes are rather small as compared to the commercially sold or  the picture as posted  in the original recipe. I am equally puzzled. Taste wise, it is acceptable though I have hope that it have a stronger yeast flavour.


Looking at the ingredients, one will know that this is a rather healthy cake for breakfast. There is no oil (except greasing of baking tin)  in the cake. The sugar content can be adjusted downward to suit your taste buds though I do not think that the cake is sweet as compared to store bought.


Per Wikipedia:

“White sugar cake sponge (also called white cake sugar and white pastry sugar) is a type of Chinese pastry. It is one of the most common pastries in Hong Kong.  It is made from rice flour, white sugar, water, and a leavening agent.While it is called a “cake”, it is not served as a circular round cake. It is usually purchased as an individual square piece or a mini triangle. The cake is white in color. The consistency is spongy and soft. The taste is sweet, and sometimes has a slightly sour taste due to fermentation of the batter prior to cooking. Like most Chinese cakes, it is steamed, giving it a moist, soft, and fluffy texture, as opposed to a dry and firm one. If left exposed to the air, it hardens quickly. It is usually kept under some cover to preserve moistness. It is typically served hot, because when it is cold it is not as soft and moist. The batter is either poured over a bowl in a steamer, a Chinese steamer cloth or aluminium foil. If made from brown rice flour and brown sugar it is called a brown sugar sponge cake.”



Recipe adapted from: Pak Tong Kueh – Page 14 娘惹糕 by Ricky Ng Published by Seashore Publishing  Sdn. Bhd. 2012

Servings: Prepare three 9 inches diameter round baking tray of white sugar cake (about 2 cm thickness)


Yeast Starter

  • 100 grams of plain flour
  • 100 grams of lukewarm water
  • 10 grams of instant yeast


Syrup portion

  • 400 grams of castor sugar
  • 600 grams of water
  • Pinches of salt

Rice flour batter

  • 400 grams of rice flour
  • 400 grams of water


  • A teaspoon of alkaline water (optional)



  • Grease a 9 inches diameter baking tray and get ready a steamer with adequate water capable of at least steam 30 minutes per session.


  • For yeast starter, in a bowl, stir instant yeast, plain flour and lukewarm water until well mixed. Set aside for 15- 20 minutes.

  • For syrup preparation, in a pot, put sugar, water and salt. Heat over low heat until the castor sugar dissolves.

PicMonkey Collage1

  • In a bowl, put the rice flour and water (the rice flour batter portion), stir until it form a thick batter. Add the syrup to the thick batter, stir until well mix and set aside and cool until it warm to touch. Add the yeast starter, stir until well mix and let it proof for at least 1.5 hours. 

  • After 1.5 hours, add the alkaline water, stir until well mixed. Transfer 1/3 of  the batter to the greased baking tin and steam in the steamer at high heat for at least 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Take out the steamed cake and perform the same for the remaining 2/3 of the batter in 2 sessions.  (Note that the original recipe called for single steaming and I am not confident it will work at every kitchen since it will become very thick and difficult to get cooked unless the heat of the steamer are very powerful. If you are confident, you can follow the original recipe of steaming once only).



This is considered as a successful cake as it is spongy and with airy holes. The only thing that is lacking possibly is the flavour of wine yeast that were used by commercial stores. If you like the palm sugar version, you can try substituting the white castor sugar with palm sugar.


Hope you like the post today. Cheers and have a nice day.


  • For more recipes, you can refer to my RECIPE INDEX (updated as at 28 July 2014)  here and you can follow me at PINTEREST or visit the blog’s FACEBOOK PAGE to keep abreast of my future posts.  


5 thoughts on “The Third Honeycomb Structure Asian Cake– White Sugar Sponge Cake or Pak Thong Ko (白糖糕)

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  3. Pingback: Special Compilation Of 40 Chinese Steamed Cakes And Kuihs (40种华人蒸糕特备汇编) | GUAI SHU SHU

    • Any recipe that called for rice flour is implicit that is plain rice flour. If glutinous rice flour is used, it will be mentioned in full. I am unaware that there is such a term called plain rice flour.

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