and now for something completely different: Malaysian steamed layer cake - kuih lapis

kuih lapis (Malaysian layer cake)
Malaysian cakes and desserts are often tooth-achingly sweet, but this one is so pretty that it is hard to resist. But this cake comes with a warning. Not only is it a right old faff to make, although I regard it as an afternoon of time well-spent, just so that I can tick it off my list of things I must learn to bake. (I bet they'd never have this on Great British Bake Off!).

Kuih lapis
(layer cake) is really rather sickly and frankly doesn't have an awful lot of flavour apart from that provided by the coconut milk. So here is my confession - the cake while very pretty was just too sweet for me and for my tasters; most of the cake ended up on the compost and I suspect the foxes got big toothy gobs full of it. (They seemed to be banging off the garden fence more than usual that night, and howling at the moon, as if in thrall to a massive sugar rush . . .  )

Yet I do have fond memories of seeing piles of little slices of this cake at parties, festivals and other celebrations. As children, we used to love taking the cake apart and eating each layer separately, much to my mother's displeasure. But everyone else was doing it so she was hardly in a position to complain about our appalling table manners, much to our delight! 

Traditionally this would be made with pandan (screwpine) leaves, which gives a sweet aromatic flavour and a pretty green colour. I have had to substitute green food colouring and a little vanilla extract.

But perhaps if you were throwing a Halloween party, then perhaps this would be the perfect cake (perhaps in layers of orange and red) for little monsters everywhere.

Skill level: Fiddly!

350g tapioca flour
100g rice flour
2 tbsp cornflour
350-400ml water
300g sugar
half tsp vanilla extract
1 can coconut milk (about 400ml)
a pinch of salt
food colouring (I used green and pink)
oil, for greasing


  1. Boil the water and sugar together, until the sugar has dissolved. Stir through the vanilla extract and coconut milk and set aside to cool.
  2. Mix all the flours together.
  3. Gradually whisk in the liquid until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve to remove any lumps.
  4. Divide the liquid into 3 equal portions. Add green food colouring to one lot, pink to another and leave the last portion white.
  5. Lightly oil a cake or loaf tin.
  6. Heat the tin in a steamer or wok, over boiling water and a high heat. (I have also successfully created this by using a baking tray of water in a hot oven).
  7. Pour about 120 millilitres of batter into the pan. Steam over a high heat for 3 to 4 minutes until cooked through. Add the next layer and continue until all the batter has been used up. Make sure you stir the batter well each time before pouring into the pan. I started with a green layer and ended with pink. The final pink layer had extra colouring to create a very dark pink colour. My favourite!
  8. Leave the steamed cake to cool completely (otherwise it will collapse), before cutting into slices.

1 comment:

Maggie said...

The layer cake looks stunning and the colours are beautiful - such a shame it was toothachingly sweet.