Don't be fooled by the name. It didn't originate from 马来 or Malaysia (Ma Lai Go basically means Malay cake in Chinese). This is not one traditional Malay kuih but a Chinese invention made popular in dim sum restaurants. I am not sure why it is called Ma Lai Gou or Malay cake, but hearsay, it is because of its colour that resembles the skin of the Malays which is brownish in nature.
There are generally two versions of Ma Lai Go - the easier non-yeasted version and the yeasted darkish version. I am sharing with you the yeasted version, which is also the dim sum restaurants' version.
What is the difference, one may ask? Well, this method is more complicated, needed a long time to make and involves many steps. This method not as forgiving as its other non-yeasted counterpart as it involves fermentation and therefore, is sensitive to its surrounding temperature. It easily takes more than 24 hours to get a soft and tasty Ma Lai Go. Like the non-yeasted version, this method uses baking powder as well but it also contains yeast that contributes to those lovely streaky holes you see on the cake not unlike that of a honeycomb cake. What intrigues me about this cake is that it would turn brown naturally without the use of any browning agents like brown sugar, palm sugar or dark soy sauce (yes, I chanced upon some recipes which use that). I am attracted to the meticulous fermenting process that is needed to give this sponge its unique taste. An lastly, I absolutely love, love, love the soft, fluffy but at the same time springy texture. And all these can only be achieved with the yeasted method. Of course there is no right or wrong but personally, I vouch for this instead of, in my opinion, another steamed egg sponge.
After two 'bogus' recipes, I am finally satisfied with this recipe by Amy Beh that is posted by Food Maestro. I almost shed tears of joy when that limp batter was transformed into a basket full of puffy springy sponge. As I did not have an 8 inch bamboo basket, I used my 7 inch bamboo basket instead, scooping out some of the batter into mini silicon cups. To my surprise, the batter in the mini silicon cups browned evenly whereas the one in the bamboo basket needed a much longer time. Towards the end, I opened the basket cover to let in more steam to encourage the colour transformation. So, if you are not particular about the shape of the sponge, I would advise you to put into something smaller. It saves a lot of time and gas. Remember to give the batter a lot of space to rise and for the steam to work its magic. My steamed cake was a bit cramped even with the extra taken out.
All in all, this recipe is a keeper!
Chinese Steamed Cake/Ma Lai Go 马来糕Adapted from Amy Beh, recipe from Food Maestro
Makes an 8 inch sponge
Dough Starter Ingredients
150 g low protein flour/pau flour
2 tbsp sugar
75 ml warm water
1 tsp instant yeast
180 g castor sugar
35 g custard powder
35 g high protein flour/bread flour
2 tbsp milk powder
100 ml corn oil
50 g butter (I used 30 g), melted
2 tsp alkaline water (I used 1 tsp)
2 tbsp water (I added on my own)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
|After 24 hours fermentation|
3. Gradually add in oil. Cover batter with clingwrap and let it rest for at least two hours. I left mine overnight in the fridge and further in room temperature for 2 hours.
3. When you are ready to steam the cake, add in alkaline water and mix until combined. Sift in raising agents and combine well. Pour batter into bamboo basket lined with baking paper.
4. Steam in boiling water in high heat for 30-40 minutes. Do not open your steamer for the first 30 minutes. Make sure you have enough water so that it wouldn't run dry. I steamed mine for thirty minutes but the sponge was only slightly browned. I lifted the cover and continue to steam until the sponge changed colour which took about 10 minutes. The cakes in the silicon cups were cooked and browned in 10 minutes.
Make sure you put plenty of water into the steamer. I burnt my wooden basket when the water dried out in my first attempt.