Ma Lai Gao Recipe

Ma Lai Gao (马来糕) is a traditional steamed sponge cake that is soft, fluffy and brown in colour because of the use of brown sugar. It is a common dish found in many dim sum restaurants. That’s why Ma Lai Gao is also known as the Cantonese Sponge Cake. Besides dim sum places, you can probably find them at old school/neighbourhood bakeries too but those are the mass-produced kinds which aren’t fresh-tasting.

Ma Lai Gao Recipe

Homemade Ma Lai Gao can be made less sweet and healthier

I grew up eating Ma Lai Gao as my folks would often buy it as a prayer offering item. Good alternative to the ‘huat kueh’, which I think doesn’t taste as nice. The Ma Lai Gao that’s sold outside tends to be quite sweet and it can get sickly when you eat more of it. So I’m thinking of making a less sweet version of Ma Lai Gao at home, with an added touch of sultanas for that extra texture.

Specific products/brands that I’ve used for this recipe:

  • Prima Plain Flour
  • Bake King Baking Powder
  • SIS Brown Sugar
  • Flying Man Brand Tapioca Starch
  • RedMan Instant Dry Yeast
  • Borges Extra Light Olive Oil

This is an yeast cake

For this recipe, I’ve used instant dry yeast as the leavening agent. It’s a bit similar to my Mee Chiang Kueh recipe. With yeast, air bubbles will be created in the batter and hence producing a softer and more airy texture.

Ma Lai Gao Recipe

I used a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan to steam the cake. But you can also use a round or square tin, all entirely up to you.

Ma Lai Gao Recipe

Perfect with a cuppa

This Ma Lai Gao is exactly how I like it to be. Soft, airy, spongy and with a slight springy texture. It’s only mildly sweet so it’s definitely a ‘healthier’ version compared to others. However, for those of you who have a sweet tooth, you can add an extra 10g white sugar or simply throw in more sultanas, raisins or even red dates to boost the flavour.

Ma Lai Gao Recipe
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 230g water, at room temperature
  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g tapioca starch/flour
  • 4g instant dry yeast
  • 3g baking powder
  • 20g extra light olive oil + extra for brushing pan
  • handful of sultanas
Combine sugar and water in a bowl. Stir till sugar completely dissolves.
Put plain flour, tapioca flour and yeast in a mixing bowl. Stir to mix.
Pour in the sugar water from Step 1 and whisk the mixture thoroughly.
Cover the bowl with cling wrap and leave it aside till the mixture doubles in size (approximately 1.5-2 hours).
Brush the insides of a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with oil.
Add oil and baking powder to the mixture. Stir thoroughly to remove the air bubbles.
Pour the mixture into the oiled pan.
Sprinkle a handful of sultanas on top.
Transfer to the steamer and steam at high heat for 40 minutes.

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