With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I thought I would bring you a sweet recipe (pun intended). Also, I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for 2 years now! So happy blogiversary to my blog!
I didn’t make an extravagant cake like last year, but I think this recipe will be just as great.
If you haven’t heard of “Wife Cakes” (in Cantonese: “lo por beng,”) also known as “Sweetheart Cakes,” then you’ll have to read on.
A STORY OF HOW WIFE CAKES CAME TO BE
There are a couple of different versions of how this cake came to be, but most commonly, the story goes like this: there was a couple in China who were very much in love, but lived in a very poor village.
The girl’s husband’s father (father-in-law) was suddenly very sick, so they used all of their money to buy medicine to help the father, but he was still sick. So the girl sold herself as a slave in order to get money to help buy medicine for her father-in-law.
When her husband heard what she had done, he created a cake with sweetened wintermelon and almond and sold it on the street. Eventually he made enough money that he was able to buy his wife back.
Now isn’t that such a sweet story?
ONE OF MY FAVOURITE PASTRIES
One of my ultimate favourite pastries are these Wife Cakes. A quintessential Chinese bakery classic, I would always find at least two of these tucked inside the of a Chinese bakery box, usually filled with egg tarts and BBQ pork buns.
WHAT ARE IN WIFE CAKES?
Wife Cakes consist of a exterior flaky pastry and a chewy sweet filling.
The flaky pastry consists of a oil and water dough. They are layered together to produce flakiness in the dough.
The chewy texture of the filling comes from koh fun, which is cooked glutinous rice flour, and can be very difficult to find, even in Asian grocery stores.
But, I will let you know how to make it:
Just use regular glutinous rice flour, toast it over a dry hot pan for 10-12 minutes, stirring consistently (as to not burn), and it should turn slightly tan in colour.
There’s another ingredient in Wife Cakes that make them simply irresistible.
It is wintermelon, also known as wax gourd, usually chopped into small pieces and preserved with sugar. It is usually eaten at New Year’s and commonly found as a filling in Wife Cakes and in mooncakes.
WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?
The candied wintermelon has a neutral, slightly melony sweet flavour.
What accentuates the flavour of the Wife Cakes is the ground up sesame seeds and coconut flakes, which together with the wintermelon, give the filling a chewy, nuttier taste.
HOW TO ENJOY THESE PASTRIES
I love the lightly sweet, chewy filling and the texture from the candied wintermelon. And as you bite in, flakes of buttery pastry fall off and you grin as you pick up the fallen pasty and stuff it back into your mouth.
Pair them with a cup of tea, or an HK Milk Tea Bubble Tea and you’ve got the perfect afternoon snack.
If you’re looking to bring a Chinese bakery classic that will be sure to impress your sweetheart, try this recipe out! And if chocolates are more your thing, you might like my Earl Grey Nama Chocolates from last year.
Let me know if you try my recipe — I’d love to see your creations. Tag me on Instagram @siftandsimmer or leave a comment below.
Wife Cakes (老婆餅)
- 120 g candied wintermelon diced up finely
- 1 Tbsp roasted white sesame seeds blitz into a powder
- 1 Tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
- 40 g cooked glutinous rice flour (koh fun)
- 1 tsp coconut oil or neutral oil
- 50 g water
- 100 g cake flour or low-protein flour
- 40 g unsalted butter
- 50 g water
- 80 g cake flour
- 60 g coconut oil room temperature, or neutral oil
- 1 egg yolk beaten + 1 tsp water
- white or black sesame seeds for sprinkling
- Combine all the filling ingredients together in a bowl. Mix together.
- Divide into 8 balls, about 28g each.
- Mix together the Water Dough ingredients in a small bowl.
- Divide into 8 portions about 23g each. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Mix together the Oil Dough ingredients in another bowl. Divide into 8 portions about 16g each. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Roll out the Water Dough into an round disc. Press in 1 ball of Oil Dough over top of the water dough and wrap into a round ball. Flatten into an oval shape with a rolling pin. Roll the combined dough up into a coil (like a swiss roll).
- Turn the dough 90 degrees, flatten and roll it up again into another swiss roll.
- Flatten it into a circular shape with the palm of your hand. Place the wintermelon filling in the center of the dough and wrap it, ensuring it is enclosed.
- Gently flatten the sphere into a disc, using a small wooden rolling pin. Careful not to push too hard or the filling will explode.
- Make 2 slits on the top of the disc.
- Brush with egg yolk wash and sprinkle some sesame seeds. Repeat with the remaining.
- Preheat oven to 400°F and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and flaky.
Recipe adapted from Siu Kitchen.