Soft & Bouncy Chinese Water Chestnut Cake (Ma Tai Gou)

One of the most popular dim sum must-tries is Chinese water chestnut cake. It is a soft and jiggly cake with a hint of crunch of diced water chestnuts.

To make this homemade Chinese dessert, you need diced water chestnuts, water chestnut flour, and a brown sugar slab.

Water Chestnut Cake

What To Love About Chinese Water Chestnut Cake

Water chestnut cake is a Chinese dessert that is also known as 馬蹄糕, ma tai gou, ma ti gao or mǎtí gāo. It is made from water chestnuts, a crunchy root vegetable that is fruity, nutty, and sweet. The cake is slightly sweetened with a brown sugar slab that is dissolved in water.

This cake is popularly eaten on Chinese New Year and is commonly served in Chinese restaurants and stores in Chinatown. It is also the perfect dessert when chilled on hot summer days. The cake is like jelly because of its soft and bouncy consistency.

You may typically see this as square-shaped cakes in dim sum restaurants. Moreover, it is usually translucent and light brown because of the brown sugar. Although this dessert is steamed, it can also be pan-fried after steaming for a crispy coating.

Water Chestnut Cake2

Key Ingredients For Chinese Water Chestnut Cake

To make this delicious recipe, all you need are water chestnut flour, water chestnut, and brown sugar slab. There isn’t really an alternative to the water chestnut ingredients. After all, it is called water chestnut cake as these are the key ingredients. So, here’s everything you need to know about each ingredient.

Water Chestnut Flour

Water chestnut flour is simply made by grinding water chestnuts. We use this type of flour as a thickening agent. Its consistency is coarse and not as smooth and fine as regular flour.

It is usually dissolved in water first before mixing with other ingredients. With water chestnut flour, it gives you that translucent and bouncy cake. You can find this in Asian grocery stores and it is more available during the Chinese New Year season.

Water Chestnut

If you want to add some bits of texture, you can mix diced water chestnuts into the mold. You can use fresh or canned water chestnuts, whichever is more accessible to you. If you prefer fresh water chestnuts, make sure to get the best ones without molds and are firm to hold.

Brown Sugar Slab

Chinese desserts usually use a slab of brown sugar. It is brown unrefined sugar packed together to form a sweet block of sugar. It gives you that delicious smell and a rich taste.

Water Chestnut Cake3

Tips To Know For Chinese Water Chestnut Cake

There are a few things you can do to make this cake your own version. I listed some fun suggestions that can improve the taste, texture, and appearance. Read them first and try them out yourself as you make the recipe.

  • Water chestnut cake can be enjoyed fresh from the mold. You can store leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days and simply reheat them by pan-frying. I don’t recommend eating this cake chilled straight from the refrigerator since it will not be as soft and bouncy. Thus, I recommend reheating it to bring back its soft and translucent quality.
  • If you want to change the color, you can use white sugar instead of brown sugar slab.
  • If you want a firmer texture, you can add some cornflour.
  • Use any mold you have. You can use a square or rectangular container to make square slices. In my recipe, I added a bit of fun by using fish and flower molds.

Water Chestnut Cake4

What You Need For Chinese Water Chestnut Cake

Prepare your regular kitchen tools such as a pan and mixing bowl. You may need special equipment for steaming such as a metal steamer. If you don’t have a steamer, you can still steam without a steamer in 5 easy ways:

  • Pan with a steamer rack
  • Microwave
  • Pan with sieve
  • Rice cooker
  • Instant pot

I used a cute flower and fish mold for my recipe. You can use any type of mold you have or a simple square, round, or rectangular container will do. Here’s a list of everything you need to make the recipe:

Kitchen Tools

  • 6 equal cups
  • Knife
  • Mixing bowl
  • Stirrer
  • Strainer
  • Cooking pan
  • Cake mold
  • Steamer

Ingredients

  • 1 cup resh water chestnuts

Water chestnut mixture

  • 1 cup water chestnut flour
  • 2 cups water

Brown sugar mixture

  • 1 cup of brown sugar slab
  • 2 cups water

Instructions On How To Make Chinese Water Chestnut Cake

The recipe calls for preparing two mixtures: water chestnut flour mixture and brown sugar mixture. The two mixtures are then combined and mixed with finely diced water chestnuts. Afterward, you are going to pour this mixture into your chosen mold. That’s it!

Watch how I created this recipe in my Instagram and Tiktok accounts where I post my tutorial videos.

Prepare The Mixture

If using fresh water chestnuts, peel off the skin and dice them finely. I like to make them into tiny bits to make it easier to chew and fit into the small molds.

peel off the skin of water chestnuts and dice them finely

Take your 6 equal cups and divide them into 2 parts:

3 cups for water chestnut micture

  • 1 cup water chestnut flour
  • 2 cups water

3 cups for brown sugar mixture

  • 1 cup of brown sugar slab
  • 2 cups water

This will give you 4 cups of water, 1 cup of water chestnut flour, and 1 cup of brown sugar slab. This ratio makes the perfect Water Chestnut Cake!

4 cups of water, 1 cup of water chestnut flour, and 1 cup of brown sugar slab

Next, dissolve 1 cup of water chestnut flour in 2 cups of water.

    1. dissolve 1 cup of water chestnut flour in 2 cups of water

Mix well and strain the mixture to make it smoother. This separates large granule particles and leaves you with a smoother mixture. If you have large granules, the translucent appearance will be affected.

    1. strain the mixture to make it smoother

Then, place the brown sugar slab in a pan and dissolve it with 2 cups of water on medium heat.

    1. place the brown sugar slab in a pan and dissolve it with 2 cups of water on medium heat

Stir continuously and let the brown sugar melt completely. Once the sugar is completely melted, turn off the heat. Afterward, give the flour water mixture a good mix and add a spoonful of flour water to the brown sugar water.

    1. add a spoonful of flour water to the brown sugar water

As you add the flour water mixture, make sure to stir immediately. The brown sugar mixture should become sticky and syrupy.

Stir well and let it cool to around 80 degrees (176°F). Then, combine the brown sugar water with the flour water mixture.

    1. combine the brown sugar water with the flour water mixture

Add the chopped water chestnuts and stir thoroughly.

Add the chopped water chestnuts

Make The Cake Shape

Pour the mixture into your chosen mold.

Pour the mixture into your chosen mold

Next, prepare a steamer with water and let it boil. Steam for 5 minutes once the water boils.

Steam for 5 minutes once the water boils

Water Chestnut Cake after steaming

For the second batch, steam another plate of your chosen mold. In my video, I used fish mold for the second batch.

Allow them to cool before unmolding.

Once it is cooled, it should pop out easily with chopsticks. If you are in a rush, you can unmold it faster by freezing the mold for half an hour.A cooled cake should be jiggly and firm, not wet.

pop out easily with chopsticks

If you used a larger square or rectangular mold, you can then cut the mold into smaller sizes according to your desired shape and size.

Enjoy a smooth and crunchy cake of water chestnuts with the family!

Water Chestnut Cake after steaming2

Water Chestnut Cake

Soft & Bouncy Chinese Water Chestnut Cake

One of the most popular dim sum must-tries is Chinese water chestnut cake. It is a soft and jiggly cake with a hint of crunch of diced water chestnuts.
To make this homemade Chinese dessert, you need diced water chestnuts, water chestnut flour, and a brown sugar slab.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 4

Equipment

  • 6 equal cups
  • Knife
  • Mixing bowl
  • Stirrer
  • Strainer
  • Cooking pan
  • Cake mold
  • Steamer

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup fresh water chestnuts

Water chestnut mixture

  • 1 cup water chestnut flour
  • 2 cups water

Brown sugar mixture

  • 1 cup of brown sugar slab
  • 2 cups water

Instructions
 

Prepare The Mixture

  • If using fresh water chestnuts, peel off the skin and dice them finely. I like to make them into tiny bits to make it easier to chew and fit into the small molds.
  • Take your 6 equal cups and divide them into 2 parts:
  • 3 cups for water chestnut micture, 1 cup water chestnut flour, 2 cups water
  • 3 cups for brown sugar mixture, 1 cup of brown sugar slab, 2 cups water
  • Next, dissolve 1 cup of water chestnut flour in 2 cups of water.
  • Mix well and strain the mixture to make it smoother. This separates large granule particles and leaves you with a smoother mixture. If you have large granules, the translucent appearance will be affected.
  • Then, place the brown sugar slab in a pan and dissolve it with 2 cups of water on medium heat.
  • Stir continuously and let the brown sugar melt completely.
  • Once the sugar is completely melted, turn off the heat.
  • Afterward, give the flour water mixture a good mix and add a spoonful of flour water to the brown sugar water.
  • As you add the flour water mixture, make sure to stir immediately. The brown sugar mixture should become sticky and syrupy.
  • Stir well and let it cool to around 80 degrees (176°F).
  • Then, combine the brown sugar water with the flour water mixture.
  • Add the chopped water chestnuts and stir thoroughly.

Make The Cake Shape

  • Pour the mixture into your chosen mold.
  • Next, prepare a steamer with water and let it boil.
  • Steam for 5 minutes once the water boils.
  • For the second batch, steam another plate of your chosen mold. In my video, I used fish mold for the second batch.
  • Allow them to cool before unmolding.
  • Once it is cooled, it should pop out easily with chopsticks. If you are in a rush, you can unmold it faster by freezing the mold for half an hour.A cooled cake should be jiggly and firm, not wet.
  • If you used a larger square or rectangular mold, you can then cut the mold into smaller sizes according to your desired shape and size.
  • Enjoy a smooth and crunchy cake of water chestnuts with the family!

Video

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

2 thoughts on “Soft & Bouncy Chinese Water Chestnut Cake (Ma Tai Gou)”

  1. is it possible to substitute water chestnut flour with a mixture of other flours? obviously the taste will never be the same, but I wonder how close it may be

    Reply
    • Hi Mauro,
      I’ve come across instances where people used tapioca flour as a substitute for water chestnut flour. The method might vary a bit, but unfortunately, I haven’t personally tried it.

      Reply

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