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  • Writer's pictureMs Yeoh

Ma Lai Go

Ma lai go is a literal translation of Malay cake, and it's a steamed sponge cake. This cake is very popular in Guangdong and Hong Kong, and for most of us, we would have seen it on the dim sum carts when we go for yum cha.

Where did ma lai go originate from? That's a good question because no one really knows. After much research online, this one sounds the most legit to me; it is said that the ma lai go was inspired by the British version of baked cakes, but due to the lack of oven use in Asia back in the olden days, the creator of ma lai go adapted the cake to be steamed instead. And I am guessing because they adapted the ingredients with what was on hand in Malaysia and they created this cake in Malaysia, hence the name "ma lai go".

There are plenty of ma lai go recipes out there, but I have used this recipe from my auntie for over 20 years and it has never failed me.


4 eggs (room temperature)

1 cup brown sugar (200g)

2/3 cup evaporated milk (160g) + a little extra

120g butter, melted

1 1/2 cup self-raising flour (225g)

1 1/4 tsp bicarb soda

2 tbsp golden syrup


  1. Beat the eggs and sugar in an electric mixer on med-high speed for 5 minutes, or until thick.

  2. Scrape the bottom of the bowl, add in the evaporated milk and melted butter, mix on low speed for 1 minute.

  3. Gently fold in the sifted flour and bicarb soda, a third at a time into the mixture until everything is incorporated - make sure not to overwork the batter.

  4. Then, add in the golden syrup and gently fold it through.

  5. Line an 18cm bamboo steamer with baking paper, pour the mixture into the prepared bamboo steamer and let it sit for 5 minutes whilst you heat up your steamer of choice (I used a wok).

  6. Place the bamboo steamer on top of the steaming rack in the wok of boiling water and cover with the wok lid, steam it over high heat for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

This cake is best served piping hot from the bamboo steamer :)


  • Make sure you have enough water in the wok for at least 30 minutes of steaming.

  • A lot of recipes out there call for the mixture to rest for 30-60 minutes (some longer) but I have never done this, and it always turns out perfectly for me.

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