The Chinese palate is a particular thing. It likes slimy sea cucumbers and crunchy cartilage . It likes plums salted and fish candied. But for all its bravado, the Chinese palate dances around dessert. China is not known for its bread or pastry. For one, China is a stove, not an oven culture. Most Asian "cakes" are not baked, but steamed or even grilled.
Second, Chinese people have lower thresholds for sugar and cream. Everything Western -- cakes, pies, cookies -- are typically "ho dim," too sweet. One time Julian brought a Momofuku Milk Bar cake to Thanksgiving and my grandma wailed in pain.
For my cousin's bridal bbq celebration, I took inspiration from two rare oven-made Chinese desserts: Chinese walnut cookies and sponge cakes. The inside is airy and clean, and the crust takes on a nutty crunch. Clementines add an unexpectedly juicy sweet and sour pulp. More people should bake citrus into their desserts! They're a burst of flavor and are also good luck. At least, according to the Chinese.
RECIPE: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan. In a stand mixer, whisk 4 room-temperature egg whites on high. Gradually add 1 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Add 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, dash of salt, and zest of 1 clementine. Peel and segment 3 clementines and put pieces in cake pan. Pour batter on top and bake in oven for 40 minutes, or until top is a golden brown.