Tuesday 17 March 2009


steamed cake (a.k.a. Mah Lai Goh), a dim-sum favourite

I have recently been enamoured by steamed cakes. I'm really falling in love with the fact that you can eat the quiveringly tender slices of cake without frosting. It so appeals to my sense of frugality and is a lot friendlier for my waistline.
The best thing of all about steaming your cakes instead of baking them is that you can re-steam leftover slices as you need them (about 3 minutes will do) and you have a wobbly-melt-in-your-mouth fresh cake again. I like to put a few slices on a heat-safe plate, place that on my steaming rack and by the time I have the milk in the glasses and on the table, my daughters have fresh cake again. I prefer steaming on the stove to the microwave; however I imagine you could simulate the same sort of thing in the microwave too for a few seconds. The thing about the microwave though is that after it cools down, you might have a dry slice of cake.

I'm assuming that this cake is called "Mah Lai Goh" because "Mah Lai" is Cantonese for Malaysian and "Goh" means cake. I have no idea if the cake originates in Malaysia but if you know, please do tell. All I know is that it is ubiquitous in Cantonese Dim Sum restaurants. Each restaurant has its own version. Chinese don't use fresh milk in any of their desserts. It's always evaporated milk. This recipe is pretty convenient because most of these items are readily found in the average pantry at any time. The ingredient list is short too.

This particular recipe has been fiddled by me to the point that it hardly resembles any of the recipes I've researched. Instead of using evaporated milk (which of course you can use), I use canned coconut milk. You have to use brown sugar because it gives it the rich caramelly flavour. The only problem I have encountered on occasion during my trials is that the flour may not get incorporated properly and you may have little pockets of unmixed flour. You must take care not to deflate the batter when mixing in the flour mixture. I sift the flour mixture over the batter and use a large balloon whisk and a gentle touch. You must work quickly yet be thorough in your folding.

I like to have my steamer all ready and heated up while I'm folding the batter and pouring it into the prepared pan. Though this cake is certainly yummy, I'm still partial to that Hot & Steamy Chocolate Cake I made before. My girls prefer it and I have to admit, chocolate rules my world (and of course theirs--it must be genetic). This Mah Lai Goh is a nice change of pace though...

CAKEBRAIN'S MAH LAI GOH (Malaysian Steamed Cake)

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 oz coconut milk (or evaporated milk)
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
    1. Spray an 8" round pan with Pam and line the bottom with a circle of parchment
    2. Beat 3 eggs and brown sugar in a mixer on med-high speed for 5 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile, prepare your steamer. [I used a wok with a steaming rack]. Preheat the steamer by bringing the water to a boil with the lid on.
    4. Add the coconut milk, vanilla and melted butter to the egg mixture and beat for 1 minute.
    5. Sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl. Resift the flour mixture over the prepared batter. Using a balloon whisk, gently but quickly fold in all the flour so that the batter does not deflate; yet all the flour is combined.
    6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Lightly cover the pan with foil [I slightly tent it] and place the pan on the steaming rack. Cover with the wok lid.
    7. Steam for 30 minutes over high heat. CHECK THE WATER LEVEL PERIODICALLY to ensure that you don't boil away all the water. Add sufficient hot water to maintain water level just below the bottom of the pan. The pan should never be submerged, of course!
    8. Remove pan and cool the cake; slice and serve.
    9. Leftovers can be wrapped in an airtight container. Re-steam leftover slices for 3 minutes on high before serving.


    Y said...

    Ok, I'm a bit of a chocoholic too, so I know which one I would prefer to make, but I'm with you on trying something different, as a "change of pace". I like to call it the palate cleanser, in preparation for the next chocolate course..hehe

    Snooky doodle said...

    this is really interesting :) i d like to try a steamed cake, I think I ll go for the chocolate one though :)This looks so soft ad yummy :)

    Sara said...

    This looks really good, steaming a cake is such a unique concept! I love coconut milk, so I definitely need to try this.

    Elyse said...

    This cake looks fabulous and moist. I've never steamed a cake before, but now I have to try. I love that you can re-steam the cake to make it moist and "fresh" again. Looks delicious!

    Ivy said...

    I have never made anything similar and would like to try this one day.

    Anonymous said...

    I've had steamed cakes a few times and love the texture. I've been meaning to try it myself and will have to do so soon (especially after seeing your chocolate steamed cake!).

    Screamin' Mama said...

    YUM!! This used to be one of my favourites when I was little. Thanks for the recipe! I'm definitely going to try this one!

    SteamyKitchen said...

    honey, i'm just gonna have to have u come over to my house and bake.

    do you notice I don't have baked goods on my site?

    cuz I don't bake!!!

    Kana said...

    Steamed cakes are popular in Malaysia and this looks pretty good! These cakes are often sold in pasar malam (night markets) and makes great snacks!

    Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

    Oh wow, I was so surprised to see this cake here! I haven't had this cake for years but remember having it when I was growing up. Ahh such memories, thanks for sharing the recipe!

    Jude said...

    Love the brown color.. Must be so good with coconut milk in it.

    Cakebrain said...

    Hey Jude,
    awww...I just wanted to say that. i'm sure you've heard that so many times before...The coconut milk is a fantastic addition instead of evaporated milk. I like it in the steamed chocolate cake too.

    Palidor said...

    Ahhhh, I love ma lai koh. I will have to try this recipe!

    PIE-314 said...

    I made this a few days ago and it was really homey and buttery. It was like a baked cake except no oven heat!! ...which is nice for summer. I'd never thought of using brown sugar for steamed cakes before.

    Cakebrain said...

    Glad you liked it! It feels healthier eating steamed cakes too for some reason! I love to resteam leftovers...mmm!

    lyven said...

    can i use a full cream milk instead of evaporated milk???

    Cakebrain said...

    No, you cannot substitute. The evaporated milk has a different fat and water content. It also lends it that distinctive flavour that screams Mah Lai Goh.

    lyven said...

    thanks for the reply.. going to get the evaporated milk..
    any brand you love to use specifically??
    And another things is, it come in a larger quantity compare to required amount. Haih... don't know what am i going to do with the balance.. hehehehe

    Cakebrain said...

    Freeze the leftovers in an ice cube tray.
    Any brand should do.


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