Ma lai cake


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Feeds


Appears in

Old Food

Old Food

By Jill Dupleix

Published 1998

  • About

Personally, I only go to yum cha for this feather-light sponge with its warm, treacly fragrance. Sadly, it comes right at the end of the meal, so I am forced to eat my way through steamed har gau dumplings, fluffy char sieu buns, and some lotus-wrapped sticky rice before I get to it. Every time. Serve it freshly steamed and eat with chopsticks, or give it a chic western touch with a sticky toffee sauce made of palm sugar.


  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 180 g ( oz) white sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 150 g ( oz) flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder


  • 150 g ( oz) dark brown palm sugar
  • ¾ cup thickened cream
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tbsp butter


Butter a round or square 15 cm (6 in) diameter cake tin, and line the bottom with enough doubled greaseproof paper to form ‘handles’ above the level of the tin. Make sure your cake tin fits within your steamer. Sift flour and baking powder together and set aside.

Place eggs, water, sugar and golden syrup in food processor and blend for 10 minutes at high speed, until mixture is thick and creamy. Remove to a bowl, then fold in sifted flour and baking powder. Pour batter into the cake tin, and set inside the steamer over boiling water. Cover and steam for 30 to 40 minutes, keeping an eye on the water to make sure it doesn’t boil dry, insert a thin skewer to test if cake is cooked. If skewer comes out dry, not wet, and cake is cratered with small air bubbles, gently lift the cake from the tin using the greaseproof paper, rest on a rack and peel off paper.

Cut pudding into squares or wedges and place each serving in the centre of a warm dinner plate. Serve as is, in the Chinese style, or combine palm sugar, cream, vanilla essence and butter in a saucepan, bring to the boil, stirring, and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour hot sauce over each square, and serve.