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Sweetheart cake

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Title: Sweetheart cake  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Hong Kong cuisine, List of Chinese bakery products, Chinese desserts, Paper wrapped cake, List of Chinese desserts
Collection: Chinese Desserts, Hong Kong Cuisine, Melon Dishes, Pastries, Yuen Long
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Sweetheart cake

Sweetheart cake
Alternative names Wife cake, Laopo bing
Course snack, dessert
Place of origin Guangdong, China
Region or state Cantonese-speaking areas
Main ingredients winter melon, almond paste, sesame, five spice powder
Cookbook: Sweetheart cake 
Sweetheart cake
Traditional Chinese 老婆餅
Simplified Chinese 老婆饼
Literal meaning wife ("sweetheart") cake
Wife cake

A sweetheart cake or wife cake is a traditional Cantonese pastry with a thin crust of flaky pastry, and made with a filling of winter melon, almond paste, and sesame, and spiced with five spice powder).[1] "Wife cake" is the translation of lou po beng from Cantonese, and although the meaning is "wife," the literal translation is "old lady cake," paralleling the colloquial usage of "old lady" for "wife" in American English.

The cake is still popular among many in Hong Kong and Mainland China. Many people in Hong Kong, as well as professional chefs, also bake "modern" varieties of this cake.


  • Versions 1
  • Legendary origin 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4


The orthodox version is from the Guangdong-Hong Kong region, where filling consists of wintermelon made by the process of candying.[2] The candied mash is then combined with white sesame seeds and glutinous rice flour.[3] Coconut in the form of mash or desiccated shreds and almond paste as well as vanilla is also sometimes added.[4] The authentic flavour and flaky texture of the pastry is produced by the usage of pork lard shortening [5] then by glazing with egg wash.[6] Due to its rising popularity in Western countries brought about by immigration, butter is sometimes substituted in place of lard, however the taste is altered.[7] The level of sweetness is mild, compared to Western sweet pastries.

South-east Asian variations can include spices such as Chinese five spice. However, although this spice is of Chinese origin, it is never used in authentic Sweetheart cake. This may be confused with the Husband cake, which uses star anise in its filling.[8]

Legendary origin

There are many legends that attempt to explain the origins of the Sweetheart cake. One tells the tale of a couple that lived a very poor life, in imperial China. They loved each other and lived in a small village. Suddenly, a mysterious disease spread. The husband's father became very sick. The couple spent all of their money in order to treat the man's father, but he was still sick. The wife sold herself as a slave in exchange for money to buy medicine for her father-in-law. Once the husband learned about what his wife did, he made a cake filled with sweetened wintermelon and almond. He dedicated this pastry to his wife, whom he could never forget, and sold it in the street. His cake became so popular that he was able to earn enough money to buy his wife back.[9]

There is another version where the man went searching for his wife after he earned enough money to buy her back. In his search, he had a cup of tea at a local teahouse, when he suddenly recognised the pastry they were serving with the tea. They were reunited at the teahouse.

Another story tells of a dimsum chef's wife creating a pastry with wintermelon paste influenced by a recipe from her mother's family. The new pastry was found to taste better than the dimsums that were being sold in teahouses and the chef proudly told everyone it was made by his wife, hence it was named "Wife Cake".[10]

See also


  1. ^ Chinese-sweetheart-cake
  2. ^ Phil (2009). "How to make Candied Winter Melon aka Tung Kua(冬瓜糖)". Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  3. ^ "Chinese Wife Cake Recipe". 2006. 
  4. ^ "Wife Biscuit/Sweetheart Cake". 2010. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  5. ^ "40 Hong Kong foods we can't live without". CNN International. 2010. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  6. ^ "Wife Biscuit/Sweetheart Cake". 2010. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  7. ^ "Cantonese Pastries: Husband and Wife Cake". 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  8. ^ "Cantonese Pastries: Husband and Wife Cake". 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  9. ^ "Cantonese Pastries: Husband and Wife Cake". 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  10. ^ Jacky Yu. "Food Story". Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
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