Black Sesame Fagao (Steamed Rice Cake with Black Sesame Flavor)

黑芝麻發糕 Steamed Rice Cake with Black Sesame Flavor

Fagao is commonly seen in southern Asia including south of China, Taiwan, HK, Singapore, Thailand, or Indonesia. If you’ve never tried Fagao before, picture the texture of a cupcake. Fagao has the same fluffy, moist texture but without saturated fat and extra calories from butter used in many cupcakes. Instead, the flavor comes from freshly ground black sesame seeds (a B vitamin powerhouse plus rich in linoleic acid, unsaturated fatty acid, calcium, and E vitamin) and rice flour. To reach the spongy texture, wheat flour and yeast are also necessary as I don’t like to use chemical leavening; and some sugar for dough to rise and to sweeten the cake a little bit. Very simple ingredients yet the vegan cake is very tasty, healthy, and light.


  • 1/2 cup black Sesame
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 TS instant yeast
  • 1/2-3/4 cup brown sugar (or to your taste. I prefer less sweet cakes)
  • 1 1/2 rice flour
  • 1 cup cake flour (or wheat flour with less than 10% of protein)

*This recipe makes about 4 Fagao in muffing liners measuring 8cm x 5cm


The Cooking:

  1. Rinse black sesame with a sift, dry up, then toast sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium to low heat for around 5 minutes. Watch out for the heat because sesame seeds are easy to be scorched, then you the taste will be slightly bitter. Backing them in an oven at 150°C for about 8 minutes is also food. The reason to toast or bake sesame seeds first is to enhance its nutty flavor, you can also skip this process just start with raw seeds.
  2. Soak toasted sesame seeds in water for 10 min until you see the color of the water turns dark.
  3. Ground sesame seeds along with the water they were soaked with in food processor until the content becomes a think, smooth sesame puree. The finer the puree is, the smother the texture of Fago will become.
  4. Pour sesame puree into a big bawl then add in instant yeast. Gently stir evenly to start the leavening process, then add in rice flour and cake flour. Blend evenly. You may see this mixture becoming a bit dry after all the flour is in, no worries.
  5. When the mixture becomes a sesame dough, add in brown sugar. Sugar will increase the liquidity, making the dough a lot thinner almost like batter. This is exactly the right texture a raw Fago dough should be like.
  6. Let the dough sit in room temperature for 1-3 hours. (Depending on the weather. If your room temperature is around 25°C, 2 hours should be enough.)
  7. Prepare your steamer if you need to boil water first. Keep on HEIGH heat so raw Fago cake will be exposed in hot steam the moment you start steaming.
  8. When the dough rises up to twice of its original size, use a baking scraper to blend the dough gently until all the air is released and dough returns to it’s original size, this process is important to create a fluffy and smooth Fagao texture.
  9. Scoop the thin sesame dough into cup-shaped molds up to at least 90% full. Using a muffin liner will make it easier to demold Fagao later. Molds can be any types for baking muffing or pudding. Place cups containing raw Fagao dough into your steamer while the water is still boiling. Make sure you have protection for your hands and be careful for the hot steam since steam burn makes more damage than a boiling water!
  10. Steam for 12-15 minutes than turn off heat. Test if the Fagao is done by sticking a chopstick into the cake. If you don’t see raw dough on the chopstick when you pull it out, Fagao is good to go.
  11. Demold all Fagao right away and place them on a cake rack to allow Fagao to lose excessive moisture and to cool off. Fagao tastes best when it’s still lukewarm but enough dried after steaming. This is the stage when the texture is very fresh, moist, fluffy and a bit spongy. Humm… delicious!

Good to Know:

  • A good Fagao should not just tastes good and fluffy, the signature “split top” is also a requirement to achieve the right shape. To achieve good top splits, steaming on high heat with a fitted lid helps Fagao dough to rise quickly to achieve nice splits on top. So definitely make sure you have enough water to boil for 15 minutes or longer. A fagao may still taste good with a flat top but can never split nicely if you interrupt or open the lid in the middle of steaming.
  • About the molds. As mentioned above, high heat is very important for the success of steaming Fagao. A metal mold conduct heat better than a porcelain mold (e.g. soufflé molds). And a deeper mold with smaller diameter is better than a shallower, wider mold in terms of achieving the right split top. If you want to use porcelain bowl, steam it in your steamer or heat it up first before scooping your dough into the bowl.     
  • If somehow your dough is over proved (when there is slight smell of alcohol, or no matter how you blend to release air, the dough doesn’t reduce to its original size) try adding in small amount of wheat flour, blend evenly and continue the rest of the steps.   



Traveling around the world, I’ve seen how those Chinese take out mislead people’s perception about Chinese food. Wok fried, heavy seasoned with soy sauce and MSG, cornstarch thickened at all time is not authentic Chinese cooking. Real Chinese cuisine is mastering selections of fresh ingredients, seasonings, various cooking methods to deliver genuine taste of food that wow your taste buds. I’m no Michelin chef but someone who knows how authentic Chinese cuisine should taste like. Welcome to my dinning table and enjoy the real Chinese food. Bon appétit!