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Ma Lai Gao - Dim Sum Steamed Sponge Cake

This classic Cantonese steamed sponge cake recipe is easy to follow and has a soft and fluffy texture. Serve it with Chinese tea for an easy dim sum party at home.
Ma Lai Gao - Dim Sum Steamed Sponge Cake

Ma Lai Gao - Dim Sum Steamed Sponge Cake

A visit to a dim sum restaurant is not complete without a proper dessert to close the meal. My favorite dim sum sweet treats are egg tarts, steamed sponge cake (a.k.a. Ma Lai Gao), or a mango pudding. When I visit a dim sum restaurant with my family, we usually order multiple sweet treats at the end of the meal since we can share the food.

Today’s recipe teaches you how to make Ma Lai Gao at home. It is a simple dessert using ingredients that are familiar to most bakers. It does require a steamer to make this cake, so please make sure you have one before starting.

Ma Lai Gao ingredients: eggs, brown sugar, evaporated milk, unsalted butter, vanilla, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Ma Lai Gao ingredients: eggs, brown sugar, evaporated milk, unsalted butter, vanilla, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

What is Ma Lai Gao?

Ma Lai Gao is a Cantonese steamed sponge cake served in dim sum restaurants or traditional Chinese tea houses.

The cake comes in two colors, yellow and brown, depending on the sugar. Regular sugar produces a yellow color cake, while brown sugar produces a brown color cake. I prefer brown color, but you can use regular sugar if you prefer a yellow cake.

If you order a Ma Lai Gao in a dim sum restaurant, you will get a small basket with a small cake cut into four quarters. Tea houses usually serve the cake by the slice. Using my recipe, you will get a cake that serves eight, perfect for hosting a Chinese tea party.

(1) Beat eggs and brown sugar until thick. (2) Add evaporated milk, melted butter, and vanilla. (3) Sift in all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold until smooth. (4) Pour the batter into a cake pan.

(1) Beat eggs and brown sugar until thick. (2) Add evaporated milk, melted butter, and vanilla. (3) Sift in all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold until smooth. (4) Pour the batter into a cake pan.

Ingredients for Ma Lai Gao (dim sum steamed sponge cake)

  • Eggs. I always use large size eggs. A large size egg weighs about 50 grams per egg without the shell.
  • Brown sugar. I use light brown sugar, but you can use dark brown sugar for a darker color cake.
  • Evaporated milk. You can also use whole milk or 2% milk, but the cake will not feel as rich.
  • Unsalted butter. If you are using salted butter, please omit the salt.
  • Vanilla. I am using a teaspoon of vanilla. Most ma lai gao in dim sum restaurants have a more pronounced egg flavor, and if you prefer this, feel free to reduce the amount of vanilla.
  • all-purpose flour
  • baking powder
  • Baking soda. You can skip baking soda, but the cake will feel less airy.
  • salt
Steam Ma Lai Gao in a steamer for 30 minutes over medium heat. Gently remove the cake from the pan before serving.

Steam Ma Lai Gao in a steamer for 30 minutes over medium heat. Gently remove the cake from the pan before serving.

How to prepare Ma Lai Gao

1. Prepping

Prepare a steamer pot with about 2 inches of water over medium heat. Lightly grease an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.

2. Mix the cake batter

Beat eggs and brown sugar in a mixing bowl on a medium speed for 5 minutes until thick.

Add evaporated milk, melted butter, and vanilla, and beat for another minute.

Sift in all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold with a spatula (or use the lowest speed of the electric mixer) until the flour is just mixed.

3. Steaming the cake

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and steam the cake for 30 minutes.

TIPS: If you are not using a bamboo steamer, you may want to wrap the steamer lid with a kitchen cloth. Steam that rise up to the lid may condense into water droplets that drip on to the cake surface and make the top wet and soggy.

4. Resting and serving the cake

Remove the cake from the steamer. After 5 minutes, gently loosen the cake from the pan and remove it from the pan to cool on a wire rack.

Cut the cake into eight slices and serve with a pot of hot tea.

My Ma Lai Gao recipe serves eight. The cake pairs well with a pot of Chinese tea.

My Ma Lai Gao recipe serves eight. The cake pairs well with a pot of Chinese tea.

Ma Lai Gao - Dim Sum Steamed Sponge Cake

5.0 from 14 reviews

Author: Anita Jacobson

Categories:

Cuisine:

Ingredients:

Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 30 mins

Total Time: 45 mins

Serves: 8

Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 175 gram (6.2 oz) brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 70 gram (2.5 oz) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 150 gram all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Prep: Prepare a steamer pot with about 2 inches of water over medium heat. Lightly grease an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.
  2. Batter: Beat eggs and brown sugar in a mixing bowl on a medium speed for 5 minutes until thick. Add evaporated milk, melted butter, and vanilla, and beat for another minute. Sift in all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold with a spatula (or use the lowest speed of the electric mixer) until the flour is just mixed.
  3. Steam: Pour the batter into the prepared pan and steam the cake for 30 minutes.
    TIPS: If you are not using a bamboo steamer, you may want to wrap the steamer lid with a kitchen cloth. Steam that rise up to the lid may condense into water droplets that drip on to the cake surface and make the top wet and soggy.
  4. Rest: Remove the cake from the steamer. After 5 minutes, gently loosen the cake from the pan and remove it from the pan to cool on a wire rack.
  5. Serve: Cut the cake into eight slices and serve with a pot of hot tea.
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Indonesian Kitchen

Comments

  • Kris Kris says:

    So easy & delicious! Will definitely make again. :)

  • Tayler Ross Tayler Ross says:

    I love trying new ethnic recipes, and this sponge cake is next on my list! I love that it is so light and airy!

  • Andrea Andrea says:

    Wow! I have had this at a restaurant before. Never thought I could make it at home. I will definitely be making this for my friends.

  • Sharon Sharon says:

    This was my first time making this dish and we really loved it! A nice, light cake to serve with tea. Thanks!

  • Chris Gipson Chris Gipson says:

    We actually tried something very similar to this at a dumpling house in Taipei. Super excited to have found a recipe. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Priscillia Kingen Priscillia Kingen says:

    So glad you're back! Nice recipe.

  • Andrea Andrea says:

    This sounds fantastic. Wonder why I've never seen or heard of it. I need to find these ingredients and make this ASAP!

  • Milky Milky says:

    Came out perfect. Because I cook at high altitude, I added 10 more minutes of steaming just in case and I was super happy with the result. I wish I knew this many good oven-less cake recipes decades ago!

  • Anjali Anjali says:

    This cake was so simple to make and turned out perfectly! It was a fun dessert for our family!

  • Amanda Wren-Grimwood Amanda Wren-Grimwood says:

    THis looks so light and fluffy - can't wait to give it a go as I've never steamed a cake like this before.

  • Devan Devan says:

    Couldn't believe how soft this was! Excellent recipe and perfect for our Dim Sum night we had the other night. Highly recommended and thanks for this great inspiration.

  • Ieva Ieva says:

    Yum, never before have I used evaporated milk in a cake, but it was delicious! So simple to make and such great texture. Loved it!

  • Kate Kate says:

    Oh wow - so soft and fluffy! Gorgeous steamed cake.

  • Sandhya S Sandhya S says:

    Love trying ethnic cakes from different countries. This looks so soft and fluffy. I would love to try it.

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