Ma Lai Go Chinese Steamed Dim Sum Cake. This is a lovely moist steamed cake, fluffy as a feather and uses very regular ingredients. Easy recipe with step-by-step instructions.

Ma Lai Go Chinese Steamed Dim Sum Cake. This is a lovely moist steamed cake, fluffy as a feather and uses very regular ingredients. Easy recipe with step by step instructions.

Ma Lai Go Chinese Steamed Dim Sum Cake. What a delicious and tasty fluffy cake we have here!

Have you ever been for 'Yum Cha' in a Chinese restaurant? If so, you most likely will have experienced the mountains of little bamboo steamers spread purposefully on all the tables, each containing three to five little morsels of 'dim sum'. I am in the middle of writing up an entire section all about dim sum, but for now, I want to show you one of my favorite dim sum dishes.

It's called 'Ma Lai Go'. Ma lai is the Cantonese translation for Malay, and Go means cake. Despite its name, it really is Chinese and not Malaysian!

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There are many variations on the recipe for Ma Lai Go, however, for the purposes of keeping it in the Dim Sum 'family' and showing you what you would get if you had real Yum Cha, then this recipe is a pretty close match.

This ma lai go cake is all about air. Yes, incorporating as much of it as possible into your batter, and ending up with a texture which, when in your mouth will leave your brain thinking you're eating, yes, air! and perhaps unusual to what how you would normally make a cake, this ma lai go is a steamed cake and not a baked one. Again, you will get a light and fluffy cake by steaming it!

It really is a light, fluffy cake. Bouncy to touch, and with no fancy additions of nuts, fruits or colorings, it just tastes of pure cake!.

I hope you will try this recipe for ma lai go out. It really is simple, unlike many Dim Sum recipes which take years to master.

NOTE: You will need a bamboo steamer, measuring approximately 20 cm (8 inches) diameter. You can use a tin, but you won't get the flavor from the bamboo coming through and the base might be soggy. You could try a tin with holes in it, but if you would like to make more Chinese food, get yourself a bamboo steamer. It will be worth it, and they are not expensive.

Here's a bamboo steamer we can recommend for this recipe. It comes with 2 tiers, so you can use it for other things too, such as steaming fish in one tier and vegetables in another. For this recipe, you will only need to use one tier. Please do make sure, as with all bamboo steamers, you wash by hand and let dry completely before storing away!

Ingredients

1 1/2 Cups or 200 g Plain / All Purpose flour seived
4 Teaspoons baking powder
8 Teaspoons carbonated water
1 1/2 Tablespoons Custard powder or Jello vanilla pudding mix.
1 stick or 100 g melted butter
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1.2 cups or 240 g fine brown sugar
4 medium eggs lightly beaten
1/2 cup or 100 ml milk

If you want to use Bird's Custard Powder, you can buy it in the USA from Meijer's in their International Section.  This is what it looks like below

Instructions

1. Line your bamboo steamer with greaseproof / waxed paper and brush oil onto the paper (oil on the cake side)

2. Using an electric whisk (unless you have LOTS of muscles), beat the eggs for 3 minutes.

3. Add the sugar gradually, keep whisking for a further 8 minutes. See the photo on the right, notice the bubbles.

4. Add the custard powder and sieved flour, and using a metal spoon, fold in 30 times (don't loose count!) gently. Making sure the flour is combined, yet keeping as many bubbles as possible.

5. Add the milk and gently fold for 20 times.

6. Cover the mixture with cling film/plastic wrap, and leave for 2 hours.

7. Make a cup of tea (for yourself after all that folding and mixing)

Ma Lai Go Chinese Steamed Dim Sum Cake, cake batter

8. When the 2 hours is up, get your steamer to the boil. A tip if you have hard water, put a couple of teaspoons of vinegar into the water to stop your pan from getting calcified.

9. Add baking powder to the fizzy water (use a small glass) . Give it a stir, then add to the cake mixture.

10. Using your metal spoon, fold again, 6 times.

11. Add the Vanilla extract and melted butter, folding for a final 10 times.

12. Pour the mixture into your lined bamboo steamer, and place a tea towel under the lid to catch the condensation (otherwise you will have a soggy cake) See photo. *** PLEASE make sure your tea towel does not hang over the sides too much and catch fire.

Ma Lai Go Chinese Steamed Dim Sum Cake in the bamboo steamer

13. Steam for 30 minutes on high heat. Check if cooked by sticking a metal skewer into the center. if it comes out clean, it's ready!
This cake is best eaten when just steamed and hot.

Here is a cute little skewer we can recommend. I use one for all my cakes and it's easy to find when in the drawer because of the little cake at the end!

A cup of Jasmine tea and a slice of Ma Lai Go, and a pat on your back for a job well done!

Ma Lai Go Chinese Steamed Dim Sum Cake. This is a lovely moist steamed cake, fluffy as a feather and uses very regular ingredients. Easy recipe with step by step instructions.
Ma Lai Go Chinese Steamed Dim Sum Cake. This is a lovely moist steamed cake, fluffy as a feather and uses very regular ingredients. Easy recipe with step by step instructions.
Ma Lai Go Chinese Steamed Dim Sum Cake. This is a lovely moist steamed cake, fluffy as a feather and uses very regular ingredients. Easy recipe with step by step instructions.

Recipe Card

Ma Lai Go Chinese Steamed Dim Sum Cake. This is a lovely moist steamed cake, fluffy as a feather and uses very regular ingredients. Easy recipe with step by step instructions.

Ma Lai Go Chinese Steamed Dim Sum Cake

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
Ma Lai Go Chinese Steamed Dim Sum Cake. This is a lovely moist steamed cake, fluffy as a feather and uses very regular ingredients. Easy recipe with step by step instructions.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Cups or 200 g Plain / All Purpose flour seived
  • 4 Teaspoons baking powder
  • 8 Teaspoons carbonated water
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Custard powder or Jello vanilla pudding mix.
  • 1 g stick or 100 melted butter
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1.2 cups or 240 g fine brown sugar
  • 4 medium eggs lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup or 100 ml milk

Instructions

  1. Line your bamboo steamer with greaseproof / waxed paper and brush oil onto the paper (oil on the cake side)
  2. Using an electric whisk (unless you have LOTS of muscles), beat the eggs for 3 minutes.
  3. Add the sugar gradually, keep whisking for a further 8 minutes. See the photo on the right, notice the bubbles.
  4. Add the custard powder and sieved flour, and using a metal spoon, fold in 30 times (don't loose count!) gently. Making sure the flour is combined, yet keeping as many bubbles as possible.
  5. Add the milk and gently fold for 20 times.
  6. Cover the mixture with cling film / plastic wrap, and leave for 2 hours.
  7. Make a cup of tea (for yourself after all that folding and mixing)
  8. When the 2 hours is up, get your steamer to the boil. A tip if you have hard water, put a couple of teaspoons of vinegar into the water to stop your pan from getting calcified.
  9. Add baking powder to the fizzy water (use a small glass) . Give it a stir, then add to the cake mixture.
  10. Using your metal spoon, fold again, 6 times.
  11. Add the Vanilla extract and melted butter, folding for a final 10 times.
  12. Pour the mixture into your lined bamboo steamer, and place a tea towel under the lid to catch the condensation (otherwise you will have a soggy cake) See photo
  13. Steam for 30 minutes on high heat. Check if cooked by sticking a metal skewer into the centre. if it comes out clean, it's ready!
  14. This cake is best eaten when just steamed and hot.
  15. A cup of Jasmine tea and a slice of Ma Lai Go, and a pat on your back for a job well done!
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1540Total Fat: 147gSaturated Fat: 92gTrans Fat: 6gUnsaturated Fat: 45gCholesterol: 466mgSodium: 1455mgCarbohydrates: 54gFiber: 1gSugar: 32gProtein: 8g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate

Delicious Asian Style Desserts

Here's a selection of delicious Asian style desserts for you to enjoy

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38 thoughts shared

  1. Hi for the ma lai gao, at what temperature should i leave outside for 2 hrs? Do i leave it in fridge or room temperature abt 33 degree Celsius? And if overnight, is it in fridge? Tks

  2. I am so happy to have found your blog and I can’t wait to try. Is the baking powder here, the normal baking powder or is it double action baking powder? I have checked some other blogs who called for double action baking powder. Hope to hear from you soon.

    1. Hi Jackie, so glad you found us too!!
      The baking powder is exactly as it says, just the regular stuff. As you can see on the photos, there will be plenty of air in the batter, so no need to worry! Please enjoy and when you have a moment, please do take a look at all our other Chinese recipes, perhaps there are more things you will like to try too! You can find them here! https://lovefoodies.com/?s=chinese

      1. Thank you very much. I will let you know how it ‘ll turn out. I will certainly check out your other Chinese cooking. Cheers. :)

  3. Comment author image

    Julia Goosses

    says:

    Not like the thing I miss from China unfortunately. Very fluffy but not as yellow as the pictures seemed to promise and not the taste I was hoping for. I’ll keep looking. Method was good though as I can conclude from the fluffiness.

    1. Hi Julia,
      Thanks for your feedback. It has to be said so many places will vary with this cake, even from restaurant to restaurant. I know some places do add food colouring to get the yellow look, some will use a different type of sugar, which of course also changes the taste, but I hope you will some day find what you remembered in China. Unless you can return there and ask the cook for their secret recipe..but they really do keep them close to their chests!
      Thanks so much for trying the recipe and good luck with your search!

      1. Comment author image

        Julia Goosses

        says:

        Thanks for the fast reply and encouraging words. I used vanilla pudding powder so maybe I’ll buy some custard powder and try again. Not sure about the characteristics of it but I saw it at an African shop near my university. It’s strange because in Shenzhen it tasted same everywhere I tried it

      2. Aha! The custard powder does give it a yellower colour compared to the pudding powder. So that is one elimination!! Otherwise, the sugar sticks I use in the recipe (you can see the photo of them), those do have a characteristic sweetness unlike regular sugar (and add to the darker colour too). But good luck and please do pop back and let me know if you do find it!! (hopefully you will remember!)

  4. Hi, I wanted to try this, but I’m really new in baking. May I know what kind of carbonated water? Is it pepsi/coke?

    And can I use the normal steamer instead of bamboo steamer? any difference in the cake later?

    1. I forgot to mention about the steamer, yes, any steamer is fine. The only difference with using a bamboo one is the aroma and slight taste you get from the bamboo, but it doesn’t affect the cake at all. I have used an electric steamer as well as a bamboo one, and they both turned out good.

  5. Hi! I’m currently in the waiting process, and I was wondering, how come the number of turns are so important? Thanks for sharing btw!

    1. Hi Emma, the number of turns are not so important, but it is more of an easier way for me to give people an idea of how long to stir etc. Often if I say simply ‘fold in’ in a recipe, people don’t always fold in so everything is combined, but they end up stirring like crazy and loosing all the air, or the opposite and the mix isn’t combined well (which will end up in a lumpy tasting cake) . So long as you are gentle, when folding in so as not to loose the air and combined well, you will be fine!

    1. Hi Mart, Ideally, you would let the batter rest overnight, but in reality, not many have the time nor patience to do this (me included!) By allowing a rest time, it allows the batter to ferment, which will result in a very light and fluffy cake, with a lot of air. I have tried to make this with a short rest time of 30 minutes and the cake turned out dense and nothing like what you would get in the Dim Sum restaurants, so the 2 hours is what I would recommend to ensure the cake is nice and light. Once cooked, if you pushed on it with your finger, it really is so light, it bounces back!
      I hope this helps!

      1. wow thanks for the quick reply, now i understand. might try overnight for better result. :) another thing, will muscovado sugar be better or ordinary will be fine?

      2. Hi Mart, you can use muscavado, it is a darker colour and stronger brown sugar flavour than the light brown, so be aware the cake will be a little darker in colour. I doubt the flavour will be affected too much, just the colour. Let me know how everything turns out! Happy baking :)

  6. Hi , thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I’ve tried making this cake a dozen times but it always fail. The bottom of the cake always gets very dense. Your recipe is the only one out there which adds the flour before the other liquid. This technique is really crucial. If the melted butter n milk is added to the eggs before the flour, it’s almost impossible to incorporate the flour without over-mixing. Tks so much for this recipe n I can even half the ingredients n steam a smaller cake :)

    – Jasica

    1. Hi Jasica, thank you! You are right, if the technique isn’t correct, the cake is not so good! I have made this recipe using half also, in a smaller steamer and it was just the same, so you will be fine :) Please enjoy and don’t loose count of the stirs!!!
      Happy cooking!

  7. Hello, thank you for sharing your recipe with us. I tried to make this cake tonight, unfortunately I failed. I think I made the mistake of pouring the cake mixture to the top of the bamboo steamer. So it overflow out of the lid. I have steamed for over 50 mins and still uncooked. Do you only fill the mixture half way to steamer. Thanks. Lily From UK

    1. Hi Lily, what a shame it didn’t turn out. I can think of a few points based on what you have told me :
      1. The bamboo steamer should be no more than 20 cm in diameter as the batter will not all fit.
      2. You should fill the steamer no higher than 2/3 full. if you have cake batter left over and you have a stack steamer, you could add any left over batter in a heat proof bowl and make a mini one!
      3. The sogginess will be down to too much batter in the steamer as you say it spilled over, and also did you use a tea towel UNDER the lid to catch the condensation? if you don’t use the tea towel, you will for certain have a soggy cake from all the stam drips falling on to the cake.
      4. it may also not have been able to cook properly if the lid has come away from the steamer due to it overflowing, and the steam escapes into the air as opposed to steaming the cake.
      Those are the main things I can think of, I hope this helps you, but be sure no more than 2/3rds full with batter, and tea towel under the lid like in the photo.
      Let me know how you get on if you make it again and I can guide you if need be. Also you can catch my attention on our lovefoodies page on Facebook which will be quicker than via a comment on here if it’s urgent help you need.
      Thanks Lily and good luck :) mary

  8. Comment author image

    Phyllis Jean Haws-Garard

    says:

    Thank you for getting back to me yes I live in the USA. You have really helped this sounds so good I love cakes that are airy and not super sweet and this sounds like this cake fits the bill. I had never heard of custard powder before so thanks very much for such a quick reponse

    1. Hi Phyllis, I’m very pleased I could help you! I am sure you will enjoy this cake if you like a light and not too sweet cake. I also have another delicious cake, which is a pandan chiffon cake, not too sweet, and FULL of air! I say it is like eating clouds!!! If you would like to take a look, here is the link, and you will also find it on our website, under the cakes & desserts section. If you don’t want to use pandan paste, just leave it out! However, it does have a unique flavour and is most delicious! Here is the link of you would like to see the recipe. Plus, come and say hello to me on Facebook on our Lovefoodies page. We have lots of good tips and tricks there every day! https://lovefoodies.com/pandan-chiffon-cake.html

  9. Comment author image

    Phyllis Jean Haws-Garard

    says:

    But where would you get custard powder if you don’t mind me asking? I have a steamer that I have never used as I haven’t had it that long. I used to have one that came with my wok but it got left behind in a move a long time ago and just got around to replacing it with a little larger set of 2

    1. Hi Phyllis, I’m not sure which country you live in, if it is the USA, I am aware you can buy Bird’s Eye Custard powder from Meijer’s in their International Section. You can also take a look on Amazon.com and type in Bird’s Eye Custard, and you can buy it there too. As another option, you could try using Jello Vanilla Pudding powder, as I understand this is a little similar to custard powder, although I have not tried using it myself.
      I hope this helps.
      mary

  10. Comment author image

    Kelly Wells {Adorned Well}

    says:

    Thank you for sharing on Foodie Friends Friday Linky Party. Your recipe sounds delicious! Please donโ€™t forget to vote for your favorite recipes today!

    Kelly {Adorned Well}
    co-host of Foodie Friends Friday

  11. So glad that you linked up to our party and came over to my page and introduced yourself. I think I will just come over for a piece then make it myself :)… It looks like more work then I want to do. Remember to come back and vote on Sunday and I hope you will join us next week.

    1. Hi Marlys, Thanks for your comments. The recipe does look like a lot of work, but don’t forget, once you’ve done the folding in, you can have a cup of tea for a couple of hours! If you’ve never tried steamed cake before, please do! It really is very light and truly delicious :) Let us know if you do decide to give it a go