Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Almond Sugee Cake

Today is the first day of school for my grand children.  Renee is in Grade 4 and Alexander is in Grade 1.  Seeing the both of them going to school this morning brought me back to when i started school a long long time ago.  It was early January, 1952 when my grandma, Ah Poh, took me to the Convent School.  My Ah Poh was very persistent that i should be in an all girl school and had to bribe the nuns to take me in cos we were non-catholic nor rich enough.  On the first day of school, i remembered i was made to carry a rattan basket but i did not have any school books cos i have not been accepted as a student yet.  But, i do have several contents in there which were very interesting.  My Ah Poh had her rituals and all meant for the wellness of my future.  The contents in my rattan basket (which was  a very fashionable school bag of my era) were a chinese almanac, a stalk of chinese celery, a sprig of green onions and a small mirror. 

The chinese almanac in cantonese is called "Tung Shu".   ‘Tung’ means ‘pass thru’ but in this case. a more accurate meaning would be ‘everything become clear’. ‘Shu’ means book. Therefore ‘Tung Shu’ is a book about everything or a book about myriad of things. In Hong Kong which is predominately Cantonese, the book is known as ‘Tong Sing’. You see, ‘Shu’ sounds like losing while ‘Sing’ sounds like victory which is vastly more auspicious and more accepted by the Cantonese. So, this almanac is for me to see everything clearly through my learning in school.

Chinese celery in cantonese is 'Kan Choy' and this will be Ah Poh's hope that i will be 'Kan Lek' - Assiduous in work or study and  diligent.

Spring/Green onion has hollow green leaves and in cantonese, it is 'thoong sum'.  The thoong sum spring/green onion is supposed to allow me to see things through with ease - 'thai tak thoong'

The pencil sharpener with a mirror on the otherside was what i had in my rattan basket, perhaps this was the best buy, dual function, a mirror was needed and i could sharpen my pencil..  A mirror can stand for either truth or vanity and it provides readily available images of a viewer that match what others see. So, the presence of that small mirror was to create self-awareness and allow me to lead to fruitful introspection and attempts to get to the “truth.”

Did my Ah Poh's ritual make me a better person?  For all you readers who know me, tell me if i should thank my Ah Poh and that i did not let her down?  Bless her kind soul.

I know that there is no relation whatsoever with what i shared and the recipe that i will be sharing.  The only thing i know that this recipe cannot be as old as the story above cos it has 1 tbsp of cake stabilizer.


8 ozs butter - room temp.
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 ozs sugee /semolina
1/2 cup ground almonds
4 large eggs
1 tsp baking powder
4 ozs fine granulated sugar
3 tbsp water(3 tbsp if the eggs are smaller)
1 tbsp cake stabilizer/ovalette
4 ozs all-purpose flour


Preheat oven to 350 f.

Grease and line the bottom of a 8 inch cake pan.

Beat butter until fluffy, add vanilla extract, sugee/semolina and ground almonds.  Mix thoroughly.

Whisk together the eggs, baking powder, sugar, water, cake stabilizer and flour at top speed for 6 minutes until stiff. 

Combine sugee mixture with egg mixture.

Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for 50 minutes until cooked.  A toothpick test in the middle of cake should come out clean.


ping said...

Very educational indeed ... for me. I may be Chinese, but I'm the worst when it comes to traditions and customs. I love sugee cake, esp the sides bits of the cake and after that I get a sore throat. Now, I can truly say, the only Chinese thing I know and believe here is .... it's "heaty". LOL I'm still going to make this :D

Heather G said...

I love the story and the cake sounds yummy too! Can you tell me what the cake stabilizer/ovalette is?

lilyng said...


here is a picture of the Ovalett

Heather G said...

Thank you. It sounds like it would be good in all kinds of recipes. We only have one or two Asian markets in my area. Is there a common substitute that you know of to use if I can't find Ovalette?

lilyng said...


the ovalette is there to stabilize the whisked eggs and sugar. If not available, you can omit and whisk the eggs yolks and whites separately. Half the sugar for the yolks and make sure that this is beatened until ribbon stage Whisk the egg whites until foamy, then add in the sugar a little at a time and whisk until soft peak/ Fold the egg yolk mixture into the sugee mixture gently, then fold in a third of the egg white, fold until well mixed, then fold in the rest of the whites/

NikRek said...

Aunty Lily
My Grandma did the same to me, except her version included a roti-prata, which is supposed to help the child stick his bum to the chair, so that he can pay attention to the teacher. : )

Anonymous said...

Hi Lily

I love your story and interpretation on the school bag items. Really enlightening.

Ovalette is not easily available in Singapore. I read somewhere that you can use condensed milk as a substitute for Ovalette in sponge cake. Just wonder if condensed milk works for sugee cake as well.

lilyng said...


if no ovalette, try and beat the eggs and sugar until ribbon stage like you would for sponge cake but when you fold in the dry ingredients, fold in very gently so as not to deflate the eggs too much.

Fong's Kitchen Journal said...

Hi, It's very heart-warming to read your stories and i love the recipes that you had. I'm a Cantonese too. When i was young, my mum always ask me to eat more spring onion if I want to be more clever "choong meng".

As for ovalette, it's readily available in most supermarkets in Singapore. Under baking supplies section, it's a yellow paste stored in small plastic tubs. Baking supplies store, Phoon Huat has it too.

lilyng said...

fong's kitchen journal

thanks for the valuable tip. Anonymous from singapore, hope you will read this and go to Phoon Huat.

Anonymous said...

Hi...i would like to try put the sugee cake..however,im a bit confused when i went to buy the ingredients in the baking supplies shop.Theres tepung sugee n no sugee available..I would tepung sugee is it ..flour mixed with sugee or i should only use sugee..tqvm

lilyng said...


‘Sugee’ or ‘sooji’ is an Indian word for semolina flour. If you see the word sugee then you will be buying the correct flour/tepung

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