Ma Lai Gao (Steamed Sponge Cake)

by - March 09, 2020

Ma Lai Gao (Steamed Sponge Cake)

Ma Lai Gao (Steamed Sponge Cake)

Ma Lai Gao (Steamed Sponge Cake)


Finally, I got the texture and taste that I like. Chewy, soft, fluffy and less kan sui taste (soda taste).  I have tried several Ma Lai Gao or Ma Lai Kou recipes these two weeks and they taste more like steamed egg cakes instead. This is the fourth Ma Lai Ko or Ma Lai Gao I made.

Even this recipe required an extra step, but it worth the extra effort.  

Ma Lai Kou or Ma Lai Goa is also called Malay Steamed Sponge Cake and is a very popular dessert in Guangdong and Hong Kong.  You can easily find it in the menu of Dim Sum Restaurants.  It supposed to be soft, fluffy, chewy and sweet.  

This recipe is adapted from The Informal Chef with some modifications.  The original recipe from Amy Beh.

TIPS FOR MAKING A SUCCESSFUL MA LAI GAO:

Flour:-
I used a mixture with some high protein flour to achieve a chewy cake texture. 

Custard Powder:-
Custard powder gives a soft and fine texture to the cake and also adds some aroma.  It can be substituted with corn starch with the addition of 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract.

Oil:-
Oil is needed to keep the cake moist. I used a mixture of butter and vegetable oil to provide a little moist unctuous richness.

Fermentation/Resting The Batter:
Resting will help to produce a soft, airy and spongy cake texture.  I tried to rest or ferment the batter for 2 hours, 3 hours, 4 hours and 5 hours.  The result was the same.

Pan and Bamboo Basket/Steamer:
It is better to use a bamboo basket or a pan with holes at the bottom.  The hot air will distribute better with the holes at the bottom of the pan and the cake will rise taller and have better fluffiness.    For a taller cake, please use a 7 inch round pan or bamboo basket for this recipe. A bamboo steaming basket would be the ideal as bamboo is able to absorb steam moisture. 

Steamer:
Use any steamer that works for you.  I used an electric steamer.  Please make sure to steam at a medium to high heat for a rapid rise and fluffy cake.  Always wrap the steamer cover with a clean cloth.   This will eliminate any risk of water droplets falling on the cake. 

Baking Powder and Baking Soda:-
These two raising agents work together to boost the cake rise for that additional airy and honey comb look that characterizes the texture of this cake and it cannot be achieved with yeast alone.


If you have any questions regarding this recipe or any other post, please leave me a comment in the “LEAVE A COMMENT” link and I will reply you as soon as possible.

Recipe - Ma Lai Gao / Ma Lai Kou (Starter Dough Method)


INGREDIENTS:

Starter Dough:
150g plain flour (all-purposed flour)
2 tbsp brown sugar
110g water (original recipe asked for 75g)
1 tsp instant yeast

Note:  I increased water amount so that the dough will be soft and easy to mix into the sponge dough later. 

Cake Batter:
5 eggs (L size)
90g brown sugar  (original recipe asked for 180g caster sugar)
20g dark sugar (original recipe no dark sugar)
35g custard powder
35g high protein flour (bread flour)
2 tbsp milk powder
1/4 tsp salt
70g vegetable oil (original recipe asked for 100g)
40g melted butter (original recipe asked for 50g)

Raising Agent:
1 1/2 tsp baking powder (I used double action baking powder)
1/2 tsp baking soda

Tools:
7 inch bamboo basket/steamer or 7 inch round removable loose pan 
You also use the 8 inch round pan or bamboo basket but the cake will be shorter.

METHOD:

Starter Dough:
  1. In a mixing bowl, stir in yeast and sugar in water and rest for 5 mins till bubble. Add in the plain flour and mix until incorporated. Place in the refrigerator overnight at least 12 hours. You can leave up to 24 hours. Half and hours before using, take out the the starter dough from refrigerator to return to room temperature.
Line the pan:
  1. Remove the base of the pan and line the the pan with parchment paper. (It is better to use bamboo steamer or pan with holes at the bottom.  Since I do not have both of them, I used removable loose pan.) The hot air will distribute better with the holes at the bottom of the pan and the cake will rise taller and fluffy.  
Sponge Dough:
  1. Sift custard powder and bread flour into a bowl.  Mix in salt and milk powder. Set aside.
  2. In a mixer bowl, whisk eggs and brown sugar until fluffy at medium high speed. Then add in the dark sugar and beat till incorporated. 
  3. At very low speed, gradually add in the flour mixture and mix until all well combined.
  4. Change to hook or paddle attachment. Add starter dough into the batter.  Mix until all well incorporated.
  5. Slowly add in vegetable oil and melted butter.  Mix until well combined.
  6. Sift the batter with a strainer to get a smooth batter.
  7. Cover and rest for 2 hours - 12 hours in room temperature.  I rest the batter for 2 hours.
  8. After 2 hours,  scoop out 4 tablespoons of batter in a small bowl and stir in baking powder and baking soda.  Pour back the mixture into the batter and mix until all well combined.
  9. Pour the batter into prepared pan.
  10. Prepare the steamer, wrap the steamer cover with a clean cloth.  This will eliminate any risk of water droplets falling on the cake.  I used electric steamer here.
  11. Steam for 40 - 45 minutes over the high medium heat. Less steaming time required, around 35 - 40 minutes for 8 inch bamboo steamer.
  12. Once it’s done, open the cover slightly to release the heat for few minutes. Transfer cake from steamer and remove the pan. Let it cool on wiring rack. 
  13. Re-steam for about 3 - 5 minutes for left over cake before serving.



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23 comments

  1. Replies
    1. Hi, 1 tsp instant yeast as mentioned in the above recipe. Thanks

      Delete
  2. Hi,
    May I know what you mean by dark sugar? tks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, unrefined cane sugar. Usually use in Malay Kuih. If you can't get it. Just use all brown sugar is fine. Cheers :)

      Delete
  3. Can I use self raising flour for plain flour?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, yes of course. If you use raising flour, please omit the baking powder.

      Cheers and happy baking :)

      Delete
  4. Hi can u skip custard powder?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi can I skip milk powder and custard powder? Or replace with other ingredients?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mei Ling,

      You can replace custard powder with corn flour, then add few drop of vanilla extract if you can. If you don't have milk powder, then omit it. or use milk instead of water in the starter dough.

      Cheers :)

      Delete
  6. Hi, can I prepare the sponge dough mix beforehand and leave it overnight in the fridge alongside the starter dough? Means preparing the starter dough and sponge mix on the same day, but leaving it to rest overnight in the fridge and mix them up the next day?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, I have not tried preparing sponge dough one night before. But, it sounds work as long as don't add in raising agent.

      Cheers :)

      Delete
  7. Thank you for the recipe. I am thinking of replacing the starter dough with SD starter but unsure about the quantity. Any suggestions for using SD starter would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Thanks for asking. Actually sourdough version is in my baking list but I do not have time to try yet. It is my draft recipe. Can you send me message via the CONTACT FORM on the top bar or facebook or Instagram. I will share with you first.

      I am not comfortable share here because this is just a draft recipe and I am not sure it is working.

      Cheers :)

      Delete
    2. Sorry I am not too good with social media stuff - I have sent you a message in Messenger

      Delete
  8. Hi, I love all of your bread recipes :)

    What is custard powder and what purpose does it serve in a recipe? Thanks

    Kris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kristine,

      Thank you for your kind feedback and glad that you love them.
      I just updated the above post with tips. You may read again on the above.

      Custard powder gives a soft and fine texture to the cake and also adds some aroma. It can be substituted with corn starch with the addition of 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract.

      Cheers :)

      Delete
  9. Hi! Thank you for sharing this recipe! I'm intending to try this over the next couple of days. :) I was wondering, when you left the batter out for 2 hours at room temperature to rest (Step 7), what was the room temperature roughly? I live in tropical Singapore (not sure where you are located), and am a bit unsure about leaving the batter out on the kitchen counter considering the batter has eggs in it. Do you think it would be okay to let it rest in the fridge, especially if it's going for be for several hours (since the recipe states up to 12 hours)?
    Thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, thanks for reading this recipe and your question. We have the same climate. I based in Malaysia. I left it out for 2 hours at 28 - 30C room temperature. If you are going to leave it longer then 2 hours please put in the fridge. But, I have not tried more than 2.
      hours.

      Cheers :)

      Delete
    2. Thanks for replying! I did try making it the next day, and yes I decided to keep it to only 2 hours on the countertop. :) The ma lai kou was good! Very fragrant. I increased the batter by 1.5x because my bamboo steamer is 10" wide. Unfortunately my steamer isn't very tall, so the cake was touching and even pushing up at the lid. The next time I make it, will increase by 1.2x instead. :) Thanks again!

      Delete
    3. You are most welcome. Thanks for trying and your kind feedback. Actually my cake touched the lid too, that's why there is a minor dent in the centre..

      Cheers and happy baking :)

      Delete
  10. Hi ya I've made this but it wasn't sweet at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, thanks for trying. Please use 180g sugar as original recipe asked if 90g is not sweet for you.

      Cheers :)

      Delete

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