Ma Lai Kou (Steamed Sponge Cake)

by - March 09, 2020

Ma Lai Kou (Steamed Sponge Cake)

Ma Lai Kou (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 Ko recipes these two weeks and they taste more like steamed egg cakes instead. This is the fourth Ma Lai Ko 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.

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.

Ma Lai Kou Recipe - Starter Dough Method


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. 

Sponge Dough:
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

8 inch bamboo steamer or 8 inch round removable loose pan
(I used 7 inch round removable loose pan as I do not have 8 inch bamboo steamer)


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 prevent steamer water dropping on the cake.  I used electric steamer here.
  11. Steam for 40 - 45 minutes over the 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.

You May Also Like


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

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

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

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

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

      Cheers and happy baking :)

  4. Hi can u skip custard powder?

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

    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 :)

  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?

    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 :)

  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.

    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 :)

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