A cake with centuries-old history is the pride of Yexie Town

Yexie Town's rich, square-shaped Yexie cake is made of rice and can be filled with dozens of different things, like sweetened red beans or jujube pastes.

It's sweet but not too much, and it's soft but not sticky. This snack has been officially included in Shanghai's cultural heritage list of products, recipes and folk arts.

It is now considered a must-eat snack in the springtime.

Yexie cake has been around since 1573, when the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) court was in power. Legend has it that the cake was the creation of a businessman named Shi Maolong. The recipe and method of preparation have been passed down through generations.

A cake with centuries-old history is the pride of Yexie Town

It is a laborious task. Each step, from kneading the dough to mixing the fillings to making it, is all done by hand. Orders have to be placed weeks ahead of time.

Business is always brisk. The cakes have become an important part of the town's festival celebrations, birthday parties, weddings and rituals.

The baking technique and recipes have changed little. The cake still uses 90 percent ordinary rice and just 10 percent glutinous rice.

Both kinds of rice are soaked in cold water for seven days to allow fermentation. The water has to be changed daily. The fermented rice is then ground into powder with a stone pestle and sifted three times to create a fine flour.

The flour is mixed with sugar, lard, oil and other fillings. It is then put on a bed of lotus leaves and put into a bamboo steamer.

In recent years, the bakers have been cutting down on the sugar quantity for health-conscious buyers.

In the summer, peppermint oil is added to the flour to give the cakes a refreshing flavor. The cakes can be stored for a long time. Even in the summer, they stay good at room temperature for a week.