Mushipan: steamed bread/cake

steamed cake

For Japanese kids, oyatsu is a big part of the day. It means snack time, and is usually in mid-afternoon. It's sort of like afternoon tea or elevenses in England. My mother usually was working when we were growing up so she didn't have much time to make us homemade oyatsu, but when she did one of the things she'd make was mushipan.

Mushipan literally means steamed bread, but it is more cakelike than bread-like. It's closely related to English steamed puddings. Sweet steamed bread/cakes are sold in Chinatown bakeries, next to the char siu bao, steamed roast pork buns. (I'm also a big fan of steamed buns, and I'll blog my recipe for that sometime.) Since it is quite filling, I wouldn't really recommend it for dessert - it's better on its own, as an afternoon snack. You could even have it for breakfast.

This mushipan has brandy-soaked raisins in it, making it look quite a lot like an English spotted dick. It's rather neutral in taste since it's not that sweet, making it a wonderful vehicle for all kinds of sweet things you can put on it. The slice in the picture above has some maple syrup that Max brought back from Ottawa a few months ago. It's also delicious with honey or preserves. My favorite way to eat this is to sprinkle it quite thickly with sugar while it's still steaming hot, then to squeeze some lemon juice over it. This forms a sort of lemony syrup and is quite addictive. You can keep this for a day; heat it up in the microwave covered in plastic wrap for a minute or two.

Since the original recipe is Japanese, the measurements are in grams rather than cups. I think you can safely round up the ounce measurements (7 ounces instead of 6 1/2, etc.). The batter is steamed in a sieve or colander, that's lined with a clean kitchen cloth (linen or cotton) or cheesecloth. The resulting bread/cake is round and quite adorable.

Mushipan, steamed bread/cake

Special equipment: a metal sieve or colander, about 20cm / 8 inches in diameter; a clean linen or cotton kitchen towel or cheesecloth, big enough to line the sieve or colander and to wrap around the top.

  • 180g / 6 1/2 oz. white cake flour or all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 160g / 5 1/2 oz. sugar
  • 100g / 3 1/2 oz. butter
  • 4 Tbs. raisins
  • 2 Tbs brandy
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Soak the raisins in the brandy for about an hour before you start making the cake.

mushipan2.jpgSift together the flour and baking powder. Cream together the butter and half the sugar with a whisk, until fluffy. Slowly add the egg yolks, one by one to form a fairly smooth mixture. Add the brandy that the raisins were soaking in, and the vanilla.

In a separate, clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy. Add the rest of the sugar and whisk until soft peaks form.

Mix half of the egg white mixture into the yolk-butter mixture, then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites. Sift in the flour-baking powder mixture, folding in but not mixing vigorously (you don't want the batter to become completely flat) just until incorporated. Fold in the raisins.

Moisten the kitchen cloth or cheesecloth in hot water, and wring out well. Line the sieve or colander with the cloth and pour in the batter. Fold the cloth loosely over the batter. Steam in a steamer for about 25 minutes, until it springs back when you press the middle with your finger.

Serve steaming hot with honey, maple syrup, sugar and lemon, preserves, or whatever strikes your fancy.

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Mushipan: steamed bread/cake

This looks really excellent, and I love the cute name : it's also very suited when you listen with an English ear ("mushy-pan")!

clotilde | 5 March, 2004 - 16:14

Mushipan: steamed bread/cake

Yes, it does sound very cute - and looks cute too. Sort of like a cake from a children's book, that talks to you or something. :)

maki | 6 March, 2004 - 00:08

Mushipan: steamed bread/cake

I have to thank you for your recipe. I was recently living in Japan for 5 months, and steamed cake was one of my favorite things to eat. I could buy it everywhere; train stations, super markets and convient stores. I was very sad that I could not find it anywhere when I came back to the states. So thank you soooooo much for the recipe.

Droscha | 6 July, 2004 - 14:53

Mushipan: steamed bread/cake

I have tried your steamed roast pork buns, and I must say, they are very good, and I think I'll have to try other fillings if you have any to suggest.
But my question is (not to insult in anyway) what else than rasins can one put in this cake?

[Himitsu] | 25 August, 2004 - 20:24

Mushipan: steamed bread/cake

I'm glad you liked the roast pork buns! For the mushipan, you can also try small pieces of precooked sweet potato, or even chestnuts. Any other dried fruit, cut into small pieces, should work too. (Dried apricot should be delicious.)

maki | 26 August, 2004 - 13:22

Mushipan: steamed bread/cake

I would just like to say, that I used white wine and dried apricots for the cake, and it turned out quite delicous:) I'll be making it alot more:)

[Himitsu] | 2 September, 2004 - 14:11

Mushipan: steamed bread/cake

Do you have a recipe for gluten free steamed bread? Have you ever tried to develop one?

Natasha Sleight | 12 February, 2006 - 20:45


If this is supposed to be served hot, how should I treat leftovers? Can it be steamed again to warm it up? Thank you!

Aurora | 26 April, 2007 - 04:06


Mushipan can be served hot, or at room temperature, though with the sauce it’s best piping hot. Yes you can reheat it by steaming it again. (also freezes very well.)

maki | 26 April, 2007 - 08:35

Re: Mushipan: steamed bread/cake

token's recent forum topic led me to this recipe
Despite the fact that steamed puddings are part of my food heritage I'd never attempted to make one before (my English grandmother's dessert forte were these sensational fruit pies).
I felt encouraged to try mushi-pan because of the short steaming time (compared to the hours needed for Christmas pudding) and because my rice cooker has a very non-intimidating steamer setting. I also halved the ingredients.
However, I made a foolish mistake and that was to choose the larger version of the muslin cloths new mums acquire as my smaller ones were a little too small. It's the size of a large tea towel and I had to fold it several times before pouring in the mushi-pan mixture.
I think these layers were too much of a barrier for the steam so that the result wasn't light and moist like I would expect from a 'Maki Recipe' (it was still very good though, just rather heavy and stodgy).
Today I wrapped the remainder of yesterday's mushipan in a single layer and re-steamed it. Much better! So I'm quite certain that the extra layers were the problem.
My husband has admitted that he prefers steamed cakes to baked ones so I'm delighted that 3pm oyatsu time will often be mushipan time at our house - it's great to have a tea-time treat that isn't overladen with sugar.
Many thanks Maki! (And token!) You've opened a whole new pudding door for me.

Loretta | 2 February, 2010 - 11:37

Re: Mushipan: steamed bread/cake

I made this tonight in my rice cooker on the 'cake' setting. I have a small 3-cupper, so I halved the recipe. I also substituted the brandy-soaked raisins with rum-soaked dried cranberries, since I didn't have brandy and I don't like raisins. I'm no great hand at cake making - I've failed an embarrassingly high number of times - but this one turned out well. I used the sugar & lemon topping that Maki suggested, and it was delicious and tangy. The thing I really like about this recipe, though, is that I don't have to go out to get any of the ingredients, they're all the sort of things I already have at home.

Feather Qwill | 13 January, 2011 - 06:08

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