Ma Lai Go – One Of The Popular Chinese Steamed Cakes

Take a look at these goodies; you most likely already know them from the dim sum restaurant.

This is a fluffy, brown sponge cake, and you will have the cakes in the dim sum restaurant. In a nutshell, it’s a Chinese sponge cake, and usually, it’s fluffy, tasty, and soft.

This is not your regular cake as it has no yeast, yet it will take you a shorter time to rest. Well, we are here to show you how it works.

Ma Lai Gao 1

Ma lai gao is a Chinese dim sum meal, you know, and one thing making it stand out the most is that you will use just a few common ingredients to make it. So, you want to bring your dim sum restaurant home? Try this one.

Notice too that you are not going to bake this one; you are steaming it, which makes it still stand out.

For your steamed cake, you will have to eat it while still being hot. If it cools down, then you need to warm it again before you eat it.

The steaming process of the cooking is nothing strange since most of the Chinese desserts and snacks are steamed. And I must say that you will like it for its tastes, texture, and color too.

If you want to do it the old-fashioned way, you will need to make it using the bamboo steamer.

Of course, that means you need a bamboo steamer, but even when you don’t have one, you can still make the cakes.

Ma Lai Gao 2

But why is it about the name ma lai gao

This is a Chinese dim sum sponge cake. Usually, the name translates to Malay, which could also mean Malaysian sponge cake.

Notice that this has nothing to do with Malaysia; instead, it has all to do with the Cantonese meals.

History indicates that the dessert was adapted from the British and taken from the colonial period. So, then the Chinese immigrant brought majorly to the southern side of China.

So, notice that some books say it’s from Hong Kong, but others say it’s from Guangdong. But well, let’s not dwell so much on the origin as we already have it here.

Ma Lai Gao 3

But why does the color differ at times?

Usually, it depends on the sugar they are using. Sometimes you will have it being lighter browner while other times its pale yellowish color.

So, then the sugar they use matters and makes it vary in color. If you like, though, you can also use coconut sugar to make it even richer in flavor.

The traditional style of making the ma lai gao

Notice then that you will make the ma lai gao using the steaming method, and this happens to be the easiest method to use.

In this recipe, though, we intend to make it the traditional way and all to make it with the perfect texture.

In the end, you are looking to make it fluffier, finer, softer, and even more perfect.

Ma Lai Gao 4

Besides, you are going to like the creamier, fuller flavors. The cakes, in this case, then are even springier.

The things you need

As earlier mentioned, you will need just a few of the common ingredients that you may already have in your pantry.

Check out then the ingredients we have here for an idea on how to make it.


  • 120 grams of brown sugar,
  • 20 grams of white sugar,
  • 350 grams of warm water,
  • 5 grams of high-sugar yeast,
  • 240 grams of all-purpose flour,
  • 180 grams of tapioca starch
  • 5 grams of aluminum-free baking powder,
  • 20 grams of corn oil


  1. Put brown sugar and white sugar into a basin, add warm water and stir until melted. Here we are using the manual whisk, but you can also use it in the process if you have the electric one.

Ma Lai Gao step1

  1. Add yeast and powder when the sugar water is filtered and brought to body temperature. Now start to combine it in the sugar water to have it mix in the right.

Ma Lai Gao step2

  1. Use egg extract to mix well and stir evenly to a very smooth paste. You should have the result we have below.

Ma Lai Gao step3

  1. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment to twice the size. The batter is ready when you can see bubbles on the surface of the batter. This will take a little time, so you should check to make sure it’s ready.

Ma Lai Gao step4

  1. Add baking powder to the batter.

Ma Lai Gao step5

  1. Add corn oil, and of course, this is going to aid in the texture perfection.

Ma Lai Gao step6

  1. Stir with egg extract again until it is even. Be sure to stir for a while to defoam fully. So basically, take the time it stirs it right.

Ma Lai Gao step7

  1. Brush a thin layer of oil on the inner wall of the mold, pour in the mixed batter, and gently shake it on the table a few times.

Ma Lai Gao step8

  1. Add enough water to the steamer to boil, put the mold in, and steam for 30 minutes on medium heat.

Ma Lai Gao step9

Notice that this is one of the methods to steam the cake, but there are other methods you could use if you want to.

I sometimes like even to use the traditional method of steaming, as I will show you below.


  • Different brands of flour have different water absorption rates. Please adjust the dosage according to the actual situation of the batter, such as ±10~20 grams;

Ma Lai Gao 5

  • When adding flour, the temperature of the sugar water should not be hot. Otherwise, the yeast will be burnt to inactivity.
  • After the first shot, use egg extract to stir evenly and defoam as much as possible so that the finished product will be fine and dense;
  • Remember to brush the mold with oil to prevent sticking, and then cut it after it is thoroughly cooled so that the cut surface is neat.

Other tips to remember.

  • Be gentle

When folding, you want to make sure you are gentle to attain a specific texture. Notice, though, that you should never slap the batter around.

So always remember you need to have the cake being light and airy. So, during the process of making, you have to be careful. The batter should be thick and smooth too.

  • Whisking of the eggs

Although we didn’t use the method here, you can whisk the eggs to the ribbon stage if you like. In some cases, this gives it a better texture. However, it’s much easier to make the eggs using an electric whisk. Well, if you are not using the electric whisk, then you can skip this step.

  • Using the bamboo steamers

If you are a traditionalist like I am, come on over to this section.

First things first, you want to buy the traditional steamer, and that’s what you will then use foot the steaming process. So go and buy the traditional bamboo steamer as there are great ones on amazon.

The great thing, though, is that you can use the bamboo steamers for the different meals of your choice. So whether it’s rice noodles veggies, I mean you name them, you can make them in this bamboo steamer. So if you didn’t find them on Amazon, you should go to the other different Asian stores to get them.

  • How to use a bamboo steamer

So then take your bamboo steamer, line it with the paper, and add the batter while you want to heat some water in the wok. Then set the steamer in the wok. Usually, we use the wok to transmit the heat faster, and the steam is what we need to help in the cooking.

But the best method is to place the steamer when the water is still cold. Let it then heat up quickly as the process begins.

Give it time to steam then as you check the water level frequently. You never want your bamboo steamer to scorch and burn, so you should always check it to see that it’s ready for that at all times.

Ma Lai Gao 6


Can you make the steamed cake without leavening?

Of course, we used leavening agents in this case, but you don’t always have to use them. You can still make them without leavening agents.

But only use the method if you know how to make it. If you haven’t ever used the method, you can use the leavening agents, and you will still attain the best-looking cakes. It’s almost the same as the ones we have here.

Can you store the ma lai gao?

I like to make just enough to eat and finish because it’s better off eating fresh, but if you have leftovers, don’t wait to throw them away because you can reheat them.

Just remember to keep them in a clean and air-tight container. Go on and set it in the fridge and then only use it within 2-3 days.

Before you then eat it, then you will need to reheat it for a couple of minutes. They are best eaten hot, not cold.

Ma Lai Gao 7

How long will it take to rest?

If you are using the yeasted version, you will rest for up to 12 hours to be ready. However, if you are not using the leavening agents, you should know you will have it ready in about an hour or two.

Can I make it a little faster?

Yes, you don’t have to wait for the 12 hours in an hour or two, mainly depending on the weather you will have it being ready to use. Even when you have about 30 minutes, you know you have enough time to cook the meal.

What do you think about the mixing process?

Notice that the mixing matters. If you are going to over stir it, then it will not work perfectly. This is why you need to add dark brown sugar to the liquid, and that will then have it all melt first before you go on to add the flour.

If you over stir it, though, you will form the gluten structure that is not needed here. If this happens, then you are going to cause the steamed cake to start shrinking. So you want to mix it until there’s no powder or flour and then set it ready to work.

Is it always going to be springy?

If you are going to make it right, you must have it springy and deliciously perfect. If you don’t want to make it through, you can always make it to the Hong Kong and Guangdong restaurants for the same.

Ma Lai Gao 8

Ma lai gao

When you are looking for one of the easiest styles of cakes to make, you have it here. This is a common choice of cake you will also find in dim sum restaurants. One thing you will like is that they deliver soft, springy, fluffy cakes.

Ma Lai Gao 2

Ma Lai Gao Recipe

5 from 1 vote
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 120 grams of brown sugar
  • 20 grams of white sugar
  • 350 grams of warm water
  • 5 grams of high-sugar yeast
  • 240 grams of all-purpose flour
  • 180 grams of tapioca starch
  • 5 grams of aluminum-free baking powder
  • 20 grams of corn oil


  • Add the brown sugar, white sugar, and water in a clean bowl, then stir it until it's melted.
  • Add the yeast and the powder to the mixture and then start to stir.
  • Go on to add the eggs to the mixture and then stir it with the whisker until it gets nice smooth.
  • Now take the plastic wrap and then cover the bowl. Let the mixture rest for as long as you would like. It can rest to 12 hours but even just 1 hour is enough, so it depends on how you want it.
  • Now add the baking powder to the mixture, then stir it. Also, you should add corn oil to the mixture to make it delicious.
  • Again, you are going to add the egg extract and then stir it to perfection.
  • Take your mold and then lightly oil it again. Finally, pour the batter into the mold.
  • Add some water to the steamer and allow it to heat up. Set the mold in the steamer and allow it to cook the cake. This will take about thirty minutes, and the ma lai gao is ready for you to use.
  • Serve hot with your favorite drink.
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