Corner Café

January 11, 2012

Kuih Bahulu / Nyonya Mini Sponge Cakes (cornflour version)

Filed under: Cakes & Cupcakes,Kuih-Muih — SeaDragon @ 12:00 pm
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Just an update about the returning dates for this year’s cooking shows (My Kitchen Rules series 3 & MasterChef Australia series 4) and other TV shows on the commercial networks, here’s a good guide for references. As for the eagerly anticipated SBS’s Luke Nguyen’s Greater Mekong, it begins Thursday, February 23, on SBS ONE.


Chinese New Year Mashup Songs for 2012. Happy Year of the Dragon!

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One of the very popular little snacks during Chinese New Year and other festive open-house seasons in Malaysia is the dainty little sponge cakes called Kuih Bahulu (also spelled Kuih Baulu or Kuih Bolu). The origin of this little cake most probably emanated from the Portuguese rule in South East Asia. However you spell it, bahulu, baulu or bolu are all very likely the corruptions of the Portuguese word for cake, bolo, or maybe even in confused conjunction with another term, pão de ló, Portuguese for sponge cake.
It is also not too surprising that this little morsel is also very similar to the French madeleines, from the country neighbouring Portugal. Hmm, I wonder if the Portuguese had their version of the madeleines as well… Anyway, both of these little sponge cakes are baked in little fluted moulds – the flatter, larger scallop shapes for the madeleines, and slightly smaller, deeper, daintier ‘flower’ shapes for the Kuih Bahulu.

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The traditional copper moulds for making Kuih Bahulu (lid is not shown). Photo from Kota Lama.

I have not eaten Kuih Bahulu for years. The main reason is because nobody I know has the special traditional moulds for baking these tiny cakes. The other reason is probably because there are always madeleines, since madeleines moulds are easily available here. Therefore wanting to make Kuih Bahulu has not really been on my to-bake list. Having said that, I have seen a type of mould very similar to the Kuih Bahulu moulds in Asian shops for the past couple of years, it is in the style of the mini-muffin tray mould but with the fluted ‘flower’ shapes and also heart shapes.

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The moulds I bought for making Kuih Bahulu. Each hole has a capacity of 15ml.

During the holidays, I was browsing in one of the shops and noticed they had stocked up and there were a few stacks of those moulds on their shelves. For some reasons which I was not even sure why, I decided then and there to grab one of each of the 12-hole moulds and bought them, maybe the upcoming Chinese New Year made me nostalgic… and thinking these moulds would be perfect for making Kuih Bahulu.

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Having bought them, I finally got to work and made Kuih Bahulu for the very first time. Well not really since I have made madeleines before, and both recipes are very comparable except the madeleines contain an extra ingredient clarified butter. They are both versions of the basic Génoise sponge, or the sponge fingers, with the Kuih Bahulu only needing just 3 basic ingredients, flour, eggs and sugar, plus a little vanilla flavour. For a twist, I used wheatened cornflour to substitute the plain flour, and they turned out quite well, very soft and spongy with a cottony texture and not as holey as the traditional Kuih Bahulu.

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The texture inside is cottony.

One tip I found after baking these little sponges was that the moulds need to be seasoned to prevent the cakes from sticking to the moulds. The first lot I baked all stuck to the moulds, but the second lot I baked in the same moulds (without washing the moulds, but just brushed off the stuck bits and greased again) all turned out beautifully and not stuck to the moulds. The traditional method of seasoning the moulds is to cook a little beaten egg in each of the little holes of the moulds before using them to bake the Kuih Bahulu (if using the traditional moulds, you can do that on top of the stove). The moulds also need to be greased with oil or melted butter (traditionally coconut oil is used) and heat up until very hot before putting in the batter.

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The ones at the back were from the first bake (most of them stuck and some with no crust), the ones in front were from the second bake and they all turned out beautifully.

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Just baked.

Makes approx. 48 pieces

[Ingredients]
2 eggs, separated
1/8 teaspoon salt
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
70g wheaten cornflour (wheat starch)

coconut oil, or melted butter/ghee for greasing moulds
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[Preparation]
1. Preheat over to 200°C. Sift cornflour twice. Grease the moulds with coconut oil and place into the preheating oven to heat up. Season the moulds if desired as stated above.
2. Beat egg whites and salt with an electric mixer until soft peaks formed. Then gradually beat in sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks formed. Add vanilla then beat in egg yolks, one at a time. Finally fold in sifted cornflour gently but thoroughly, do it in two or three batches.
3. Remove the hot moulds from the oven and spoon mixture into the greased holes, filling each hole 3/4 full. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
4. Remove from oven and cool for about a minute, then use a skewer to prise the sponges from the moulds. Re-grease the hot moulds (do not wash moulds; if crust of sponge sticks to the moulds, use a piece of kitchen paper to clean, but be careful of the hot moulds) and repeat the baking process until all batter is used up.

Taste: Fluffy, light soft sponge
Consume: Best within 2-3 days
Storage: Store in airtight container; maybe frozen for longer keeping
Recipe Reference(s):

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15 Comments »

  1. u make me hungry!! …

    Comment by Clara — January 11, 2012 @ 9:04 pm | Reply

  2. Hi, would you be sharing the recipe? Thanks n have a brilliant year of the Dragon!

    Comment by Sue — January 12, 2012 @ 3:33 am | Reply

    • Happy New Year! I was not going to because one, it is based on the basic recipe of Genoise sponge and two, I substituted cornflour for plain flour (so not a typical recipe anymore), and three, it is very SWEET (I know many of you out there don’t like very sweet recipe), but I will be happy to add the recipe if you still want it.

      Comment by SeaDragon — January 14, 2012 @ 7:06 pm | Reply

  3. SD, very nice kuih bahulu you have. Would you be sharing d recipe? I made them a few times but each time it will turn soft n chewy d following day.

    Comment by delia — January 13, 2012 @ 9:50 pm | Reply

    • Hi Delia,
      My recipe is not the crispy one, because I used only cornflour to make it (please also see my reply to the last comment above).

      Maybe you can crisp up the cake next day by heating it again in the oven, the humidity would have soften the cakes, I expect.

      Comment by SeaDragon — January 14, 2012 @ 7:10 pm | Reply

  4. is anyone has the recipe for the crispy type of kuih bahulu to share pls

    Comment by jenny — January 20, 2012 @ 11:58 am | Reply

  5. Gong Xi Fa Cai Sea Dragon! Long time no speak!

    Comment by Tina — January 24, 2012 @ 10:50 pm | Reply

  6. Anyone knows whats the shelf life?

    Comment by Christinaodm — January 31, 2012 @ 10:41 pm | Reply

    • Two or three days the most. But you can freeze them and then can keep longer, and can eat straight out of the freezer.

      Comment by SeaDragon — February 1, 2012 @ 6:25 pm | Reply

  7. oh yesss. pls.. i would like to have the recipe.. if you don’t mind.. thank you many many… ! :))

    Comment by hani — July 11, 2012 @ 4:34 pm | Reply

    • Oh dear, it has been a while now since I made them, I will see if I can still find the scrap of paper I roughly jotted the recipe.

      Comment by SeaDragon — July 13, 2012 @ 8:31 am | Reply

  8. May I know where to buy the bahulu moulds? Thanks.

    Comment by Ho — October 17, 2012 @ 10:37 am | Reply

    • Are you referring to the proper moulds or the one I used as a substitute? I got my improvised moulds from one of the Asian shops at Footscray, I can never remember the name of the shop, but it is the one on the same side of the street between the new IGA supermarket and ANZ. Just look for the shop with a row of stuff outside on the footpath.

      Comment by SeaDragon — October 18, 2012 @ 8:55 pm | Reply


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