Monday 22 September 2014

Old School Iced Gem Biscuits (as close as it gets to Khong Guan)

"Dad, try this! I think this is quite close to the Khong Guan type of biscuits!"

Dad took a plain biscuit and munched with a contemplative look.

"The taste is right but the texture is not quite like Khong Guan. This is the biscuit of the olden times. My neighbour (when dad was young) who owned a bakery used to give us biscuits like this."

You can't imagine how excited I was! I couldn't wait to ice the biscuits! The compliment that this tasted just like the biscuits of old is even better than it tasting like the mass-produced, supermarket version!! Presenting my old school iced gem biscuits! You can't find this recipe elsewhere on the internet.

Rainbow iced gems! I prefer pastel colours but I am doing a test for someone.

Although we are all familiar with iced gem biscuits, recipes that resemble what we had when we were kids are scarce. In my quest to find the recipe for the biscuit base, I have experienced a few failures. Some of them tasted good, like one which made a good homemade soda biscuit, but still not quite right. Butter based recipes, although fragrant, are obviously nowhere close in terms of taste like my first attempt earlier this year.

I went to check out the ingredient list on the packaging of iced gem biscuits at the supermarket and found it very basic and minimal. I managed to find a recipe that I could adapt from, which has ingredients that are similar to the one on the packaging. Although the recipe had butter, I thought it would be safe to substitute with shortening. The original recipe had no sugar at all but I decided to add a bit and a dash of vanilla extract as well to add to the flavor as butter is absent.

Plain biscuit (Adapted from Dreamersloft)
70g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
10g icing sugar
A tiny pinch of salt
24g shortening (you may replace with butter if you prefer buttery taste. I am looking for authentic flavor :p)
27g milk (add more as necessary if dough is too dry)
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

Royal icing*
15g Meringue powder
220g Icing sugar
3 tbs Water plus more as necessary
Gel food colouring

1. Sift flour,  baking powder, salt and icing sugar in a large bowl.  Set aside.

2. Add shortening to the flour mixture and rub in the shortening until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Take your time to get to really fine.

3. Add vanilla extract to milk and mix well. Add milk a little at a time and mix well with a spatula until a dough forms. Knead the dough into a smooth ball. The dough should not be sticky.  Add flour if it is too sticky,  more milk of it is too dry.

4. Roll the dough until it is about 3mm thick and use a round cutter to cut out circles. Take note that the resulting biscuit may be slightly smaller in diameter but will be taller than the stamped out circle. Press the cut-out dough a little in the center as it will puff up quite a bit.

5. Bake in preheated oven at 170°C (fan mode) 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Baking time depends on the size of your biscuits. Let it rest on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely.

Rustic looking....

Ice the biscuits only when they have cooled completely.

6. Prepare the royal icing. *(You may use the traditional method of using raw egg whites or royal icing premix. I usually use the latter but for this old school biscuits, I decided to prepare it the more conventional way of using meringue powder which is available at Phoon Huat. I am not comfortable feeding people raw egg whites.) Begin by sifting the icing sugar and mixing it thoroughly with the meringue powder. Add 3 tbs of warm water and use an electric mixer to beat for 5-6 minutes or until thick and glossy at medium speed. Add water a bit at a time if the icing is too thick. The icing should hold it's peak when you lift up the beater. If you are working with a small batch of icing, using a hand whisk may be easier although your arm will get a workout :p.

7. Divide the icing into small bowls and add gel food colouring. Someone is requesting for Christmas coloured iced gems for end of year so I am testing the bright colours out. You will end up with some extra icing so you may want to double the recipe for the dough.

8. To ice the biscuits in the traditional ruffle, hold a biscuit in one hand and piping bag fitted with a star tip in the other. Hold the tip above the biscuit and apply pressure to the bag. Let the icing spread at the base a bit then release pressure before lifting up the bag in a swift motion. You may leave them in the open overnight to dry completely but I prefer to speed things up by drying in the oven for 15 minutes at 70-80°C.

The biscuit and icing were both light, airy and crunchy! The low sugar content of the biscuit meant that overall the iced biscuits are not too sweet, unlike my first attempt. I personally prefer this old school plain biscuit to the richer buttery sweeter version. It compliments the sugary icing much better. This is a truly nostalgic bake made with love :).

We are so happy to enjoy these...

Do check out other exciting flavors and variations of this old-time favourite over here. Many of these are naturally flavored and coloured!

Update: checkout this post for totally naturally coloured and flavoured rainbow iced gems!

With lots of love,
Phay Shing


  1. Never knew this can be made so easily. Have already bookmarked this page! Thanks for the recipe!

  2. The biscuits taste like 'lao hong'. Is that how it's supposed to be?

    1. Did you oven dry the biscuits after icing them? I usually do a taste test to determine if the biscuits still need to dry some more after icing. Definitely not supposed to be 'lao hong'. But don't expect the texture to be exactly like commercial ones as we don't use chemical leavening agents and additives that factory produced ones use :)

  3. Can I check whether is it royal icing doesn't need to be bake ?
    Can I just use ur royal icing method for cake decoration?

    1. Hi Raeka,
      Royal icing should not be baked :). Although it can be used for parts of cake decoration, I wouldn't advise covering the whole cake with royal icing as the cake will be too sweet and the icing will absorb oils and moisture from the cake, making it look patchy. You may use royal icing to create more intricate cake decorations. I do that sometimes :)

    2. Oh thanks for ur quick information.. Really appreciated .. Might do a little deck for my son bday cake .

    3. Omg I type wrong should be Deco ..

    4. All the best for your bake! If you ever use royal icing for decorations, make sure they are thoroughly dry and hard before removing from baking paper or they will not be firm enough to be handled.