Chinese Steamed Buns with Almond Cream Filling

Experimentation is fun and educational. It is also exhilarating when great results are achieved. But when I tallied up my grocery bills last week and realized almost a quarter of my weekly food budget had gone into experimenting with different recipes for a sweet custard filling for the Chinese buns, I became a bit melancholic.

But hey, I had fun. And isn’t this what food blogs are for — other people test out recipes for you, so you won’t have to? Besides, what do you know, my 7th try turned out pretty well! It’s all good.

What I have learned so far

  • Regular pastry cream (egg yolks, sugar, milk, cornstarch) does not work. It goes in as pastry cream and comes out as sweet cream sauce.
  • Adding more flour or cornstarch into the pastry cream helps a bit. The problem is that you have to add quite a bit of flour to the pastry cream in order to keep the custard filling from going flat and runny after the buns have been steamed. But too much flour causes the filling to taste funny.
  • Speaking in “ratio” language, a “drier” which needs no further cooking (to solve the problem of raw, starchy taste) is needed to help the filling fluff up a little and hold its shape inside the buns. I have found almond meal to work beautifully.
  • I guess I could have done more experiments with a few more pastry cream and flour ratios, but I have come to like the flavor of almond. I have experimented with the more traditional cooked lotus seeds, but I like almond much better even though it’s somewhat unusual. It tastes almost like the almond cream which you find in frangipane-type desserts or inside Galette des Rois.So if you like the nutty, creamy, mildly-sweet almond cream filling, then you may want to give this a try. I’ve made two batches of this recipe: one with baking powder added and one without. Notice that the filling inside the bun in the top photograph (no baking powder) is more on the creamy/custardy side whereas the filling inside the bun in the middle photograph is a little more fluffy and cakey. Both taste good. Go with what you like.

Chinese Steamed Buns with Almond Cream Filling
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Appetizer, Bread
Serves: 12 buns
  • One recipe for plain Chinese steamed buns
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder (Optional: see comment above.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 2 large egg yolks
  1. Mix all dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Mix together egg yolks, milk, and vanilla and add the wet mixture into the dry mixture gradually while stirring with a wooden spoon. You may not need all of the wet mixture; you want to use just enough to allow your dry mixture to form a semi-stiff paste the consistency of which falls somewhere between play dough and the stuff your grout your tiles with.
  2. Cover and refrigerate the filling for an hour.
  3. Form the filling into 12 balls of equal size.
  4. After the dough has risen the first time, divide it into 12 equal pieces. Fill and steam the buns according to these instructions.
I added a few drops of yellow food coloring into the filling mixture to make the filled buns resemble Easter eggs. But you don’t have to.


15 Responses to Chinese Steamed Buns with Almond Cream Filling

  1. doggybloggy April 10, 2009 at 4:47 pm #

    I feel so tempted to try to make these…they look good, I bet they taste great!

  2. Anonymous April 11, 2009 at 1:29 am #

    A thing about ‘almond’ cream…

    All those cream that’s supposed to taste like almond, never actually taste like almond. Or at least to me, it doesn’t.

    I love almond and I know how almond tastes… and the ‘almond flavor’ ice cream or other creamie stuffs are nothing like the almond I’ve tasted…

  3. Anonymous April 11, 2009 at 2:05 am #


    Now it’s Mr. POMJUK showing off his culinary skill… and I’m suprised, he’s VERY GOOD. A good match for you.

    You should at least check his cooking blogs at TN.

    And post a cooking blog of yours to humble his ass!! (not that I have anything against Pomjuk, but I just want to interest you in returning to TN…)


  4. Leela April 11, 2009 at 3:01 am #

    Gosh, GG, looks like somebody just fired a comment machine gun on my blog! 🙂 I don’t think I’ll ever post on TN anymore, for several reasons none of which has to do with my friend GG. Drop by whenever you can, GG, and post a link back to your personal blog. I miss reading your stuff too. 🙂

  5. Laura April 11, 2009 at 3:11 am #

    I have never thought of an almond cream filling! These look delish! I will have to give this filling a try and by I, I really mean my mom who is the queen of cha siu bao!

  6. Tangled Noodle April 15, 2009 at 3:39 am #

    I’ve got your steamed bun recipe bookmarked but haven’t had a chance to make it yet. I’d better get moving before you create any more new fillings and I can’t keep up!

  7. Jenn April 16, 2009 at 3:46 am #

    Wow, those a pretty neat. I like steamed bun, have never had then in a dessert like concoction. Well done. This is going on my must try list.

  8. Justin Schwartz May 2, 2009 at 7:35 pm #

    ooh, i’m really impressed with these. i love ordering this kind of thing when I dine out, but I’d never try it at home. very cool.

  9. dessertobsessed May 14, 2009 at 1:28 am #

    i love these buns! i remember my sister and i would always have a field day when our mom made these… i think i’ll call her and ask her to make me some right now, hahaha!

  10. Anonymous March 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    Oh my gosh, these are great!! A bit too sweet for me, but besides that, awesome! I was searching everywhere for a vegetarian and creative filling, and this was just what I was looking for!

  11. Suresh April 4, 2011 at 5:44 am #

    How do you keep the custard from leaking out of the bun. I have tried a number of custard fillings by using the standard birds eye custard powder and modifying it with flavorings. I find that if I roll my buns thin, make a dough baggie and fill using an icing bag that I can get more filling in, but often they leak a bit while baking. If I don’t roll so thin, I can avoid leaks but don’t get enough filling in. Any idea on how to avoid leaks?

  12. Leela April 4, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

    Suresh – I know exactly what you mean. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any foolproof solutions. Assuming you’ve sealed the pre-steamed buns very, very well, my only guess is that the filling is too runny. Runny filling turns into bubbling lava when heated and that tends to break down its wall (which is at a vulnerable point as it is also being cooked).

    A filling that cooks into a firm paste along with the dough, i.e. this one, will hold up better than those that a filling that melts into creamy lava when heated.

    Or you may have better luck with thickening your custard filling a lot more (with dry milk powder and cornstarch?) or chilling it before filling the buns with it. Regardless, I’m pretty sure the issue is not so much the technique, but the composition of the filling. It’s probably too runny.

  13. Elsie Hui October 26, 2011 at 4:16 am #

    Oh I am obsessed with Sweet Cream buns! Thanks for the recipe! 🙂 Soo good. It’s the reason why I go for dim sum! hehehe

  14. Eliza November 11, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

    I felt like coconut this evening and so used unsweetened coconut in place of the almond meal (using food processor to make it fine). Very popular with my children, though at the end of a meal, they were extremely filling.

  15. Admin November 12, 2011 at 1:57 am #

    Eliza – That is brilliant! Thanks for sharing the idea.