Disclosure: This recipe is proudly sponsored by Panasonic Singapore.
Steamed Kueh Lapis (Steamed Layer Cake / Jiu Ceng Gao): This delicious kueh never fails to put a smile on my face. After all, who can forget having these as a child, peeling off the layers one by one and slowly savouring each soft, springy layer of coconut-y goodness!
Steamed Kueh Lapis is known as 九层糕 (Jiu Ceng Gao) in Mandarin due to its distinctive 9 layers of vibrantly coloured kueh. The most common colours are a mixture of red, green and white, or rainbow colours (blue, green purple, white and red), with red being the top-most layer.
It’s also one dish that my 4-year old loves to make as much as he loves to eat. Whenever I announce that I’m making Jiu Ceng Gao, he will immediately volunteer, never mind that it takes me twice as long with his help. I like to make this along with Bai Tang Gao (Pak Tong Go) another favourite family snack which also uses similar ingredients.
My son’s favourite part of making kueh lapis is watching me steam the layers one by one, while he keeps time using the countdown timer on my phone! I’m pretty amazed at his patience, since each layer takes 4 minutes to steam, and I usually make 9 layers.
Although Kueh Lapis is not a difficult dish to make, but it is pretty time consuming and requires lots of patience as each layer needs to be individually steamed. The steaming alone can takes almost an hour to complete. Usually after about 4 layers, my son is done for the day and runs off to seek out loftier pursuits, leaving me to take over timekeeping duties.
Panasonic Cubie Oven Review
So when I was invited by Panasonic to try out their Cubie Convection Steam Oven, the first dish that came to mind was Steamed Kueh Lapis. I am really curious to put the Cubie Oven to the test to see if it will make the steaming process less onerous!
This Steamed Kueh Lapis recipe has been written with the Cubie Steam Oven in mind. But don’t worry if you don’t own a steam oven, you can still easily make this at home with some modifications. Please refer to the recipe notes section for the modifications if you are using the conventional steaming method.
Thank you Panasonic for providing us with this lovely convection steam oven!
Since this is my first time using a steam oven, it took me 2 tries before I was satisfied with the softness and consistency of the kueh lapis. I even did a ‘controlled experiment’ whereby I cooked the same Kueh Lapis batter side by side using the Cubie oven and the conventional steaming method. The results turned out pretty comparable so I was very happy with that! And yes, my fridge is full of Kueh Lapis right now, if anyone’s interested 🙂
I thought I would compile my thoughts on the Cubie Steam Oven so far:
- Very compact, sleek and minimalist, and takes up slightly less countertop space than a microwave because of its cube shape
- Hassle free steam function, which I LOVE(!) because I find it a hassle to boil water and set up the steaming equipment just to reheat 3 pieces of kueh lapis for tea time. Moreover, it frees up the wok and burner so we can cook other dishes concurrently. All you need to do is fill the water tank, which will last you 30 minutes. I like that tank is made of clear plastic so I could easily check the water level without disrupting the steaming process.
- Steams food faster than usual because the steam is more concentrated. So yes, the oven did achieve my goal of making this dish less time consuming, shaving off a precious 15 minutes of cooking time from 1 hour to 45 minutes (25% improvement, not too bad!).
- Inbuilt timer! 🙂 In case my little time-keeper assistant decides to potter off.
- Water heats up really quickly, you only need to set the oven to steam mode for 3 minutes to heat it up.
- Very little condensation. I was amazed that there were only a few droplets (sorry the photo is not very clear but its on the right of the photo) by the time I completed the 8th layer. I gave it a quick wipe before placing the 9th layer in for the final 10 minutes. In contrast, I would have had to wipe the condensation from the wok lid each time I open the lid.
- No ‘low-water’ warning I wish the oven had a warning beep or flashing indicator to let you know if you are running low on water. I only realised I was out of water when I noticed that amount of steam had suddenly reduced.
- Tinted window is a tad dark, making it a little hard to see if the layers of the Kueh Lapis were cooked without actually opening the oven to check.
- Compact size is a plus for smaller family meals and space-constrained kitchens, but does limit options if you have a larger meal to prepare. I’ll still need my large oven to do weekend roasts and larger baking batches. But I would definitely use the Cubie oven for steaming dishes though because its SO convenient!
Untested so Far:
- Multi-function and Autocook modes including Healthy Fry, Ferment, Convection and Steam Convection
- Cool self-cleaning functions to remove oil and odours. I haven’t had the chance to try yet since the oven was very clean after steaming.
Note: So far my experience of the product is only limited to testing out the steam function of the oven, which is the function that first attracted me to this oven! When time permits, I will try out the other functions and update this as I go along.
The Cubie Oven retails for $399 and is available at all major departmental stores. You can check out the full product specs here.
The Hunt for the ‘Perfect’ Kueh Lapis Recipe (Does it even exist?)
My son and I have been on a quest for the softest Kueh Lapis that is still springy enough to be pulled apart layer by layer without breaking. We experimented with many Kueh Lapis recipes online, until I realised that most recipes are for the springy version of Kueh Lapis, whereas I prefer a softer texture (so my young kids won’t choke on it!).
Actually there is no right and wrong recipe, the perfect recipe really depends on individual taste and preferences. I like the texture of the Kueh Lapis sold at Bengawan Solo, but the layers are too thin and too soft to pull apart without breaking.
So I decided to experiment with the proportion of tapioca starch (more springy texture) and rice flour (softer texture), and the proportion of liquid (water and coconut milk) to flour to get my own perfect blend! Here are the notes that I made so you can also modify the proportions to get to your perfect recipe! Recipe proportions were adapted from Anncoo Journal and Poor Skinny Chef.
Tapioca Starch to Rice Flour Proportion
- 350g, 100g – Very springy, I prefer a softer texture
- 300g, 150g – Nice texture and easy to peel layers, would be nice if I can get it just a little softer
- 250g, 200g – Love the soft texture, and its still relatively easy for my 4 year old to peel off the layers intact. But the layers are more fragile and may break if handled too roughly. I liked this the best
Flour to liquids
- 450g, 1000ml (50% water 50% coconut cream) – Personally find this too dense and filling
- 450g, 1200ml (50% water 50% coconut cream) – Lighter and less ‘jelat’. If you like a richer coconut-y flavour you can try 65% coconut cream and 35% water, I’m pretty happy with the 50-50 combi.
Hope you enjoy this festive Kueh Lapis, and please leave me a comment below if you have any questions, suggestions or feedback on the recipe!
Suggested Modifications for Special Diets
- Child-Friendly: No modifications needed.
- Egg-Free: No modifications needed.
- Fish-Free: No modifications needed.
- Gluten-Free: No modifications needed.
- Nut-Free: No modifications needed.
- Shellfish-Free: No modifications needed.
- Vegan: No modifications needed.
- Vegetarian: No modifications needed
Kueh Lapis (Nine-Layer Cake / Jiu Ceng Gao)
This delicious kueh is distinctive for having 9 vibrantly-coloured layers, and never fails to put a smile on my face. After all, who can forget having these as a child, peeling off the layers one by one and slowly savouring each soft, springy layer of coconut-y goodness!
- 600 ml Water
- 400 g Castor Sugar
- 8-10 Pandan Leaves
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 250 g Tapioca Flour
- 200 g Rice Flour
- 600 ml Coconut Cream (Santan) Chilled
- 7" Non-stick Square Tin
- 1 tsp Oil To grease pan
- 4-6 Pandan Leaves (For garnishing)
Preparation Method (15 Min)
Wash the pandan leaves and drain dry. Then twist the leaves to break up the veins, and tie the pandan leaves into a bundle.
Add the water, sugar, pandan leaves and salt to a pot and bring to a boil. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup turns aromatic.
Transfer the syrup into a large heat-proof bowl through a sieve, then add the chilled coconut milk into the sugar syrup to help it cool down.
Add the tapioca flour and rice flour into a bowl and mix well.
Once the sugar syrup is cool, add the flour mixture into the syrup mixture a little at a time, and stir with a hand whisk.
Sieve the batter to remove any lumps, then divide the batter into 3 equal portions. Add red and green food colouring to two of the portions, leaving the last portion white.
Grease the bottom and sides of the non-stick square tin with the oil.
Cooking Method (45 Min using Cubie Steam Oven, 1 hour using Conventional Steaming method in recipe notes)
Fill the Panasonic Cubie Steam Oven water tank with water. Then place the square tin on the lower rack of the Panasonic Cubie Steam oven, and set the oven to 'Steam-High' for 3 minutes.
Stir the white batter, then use a ladle to pour in enough white batter to completely cover the bottom of the square tin. Then set the oven to 'Steam-High' for 4 minutes.
Check that the first layer of batter is completely set, then pour in just enough green batter to cover the first white layer, and set the oven to 'Steam-High' for 3 minutes. Repeat this process until you have 9 layers of alternating white, green and red layers.
For the final layer (red), set the oven to 'Steam-High' for 10-12 minutes (instead of 3 minutes) to allow the whole Kueh to set.
Remove the Kueh Lapis from heat and allow to completely cool down (4-6 hours).
Use a greased silicone spatula to loosen the sides of the Kueh Lapis from the square tin tray, then invert the tray over a piece of baking paper.
Flip the kueh over so the red colour is on top. Then use a sharp greased knife to slice the Kueh Lapis into 32 (8x4) or 24 (6x4) pieces.
Garnish the sliced Kueh Lapis with some cut pandan leaves and serve.
- Breaking up the veins of the pandan leaves help the aromatic fragrance to be extracted more easily. If you prefer, you can also cut the pandan leaves into small pieces instead. However we prefer to tie the leaves together so they can be easily removed.
- For the coconut cream you can use either Kara Brand UHT Coconut Cream (baking section) or Heng Guan Fresh Coconut Milk (chilled section). Although Heng Guan brand says Coconut Milk, it is actually santan (coconut cream).
- Kara Brand is sweeter and whiter in colour, whereas the Heng Guan Brand is more aromatic but slightly greyish in colour, so it may affect the colour of your white batter. Kara Brand has the advantage of being UHT so it has a much longer shelf life, and we usually keep this in stock for 'spur of the moment' cooking.
- Adding a little salt to the coconut milk will make the Kueh less 'jelak' ie a feeling of bloatedness and fullness.
- Always stir the batter before pouring in each layer to ensure a uniform consistency.
- Some trays have grooves at the bottom, so you may need to add more batter for the first white layer in order to completely cover the bottom of the tray. Hence the steaming time for the first layer also needs to be slightly longer.
- If your square tin slopes upwards, take the measurements based on the inside of the base of the tin to determine if yours is a 7"x7" tin. For upward sloping tins, be sure to leave give some allowance as the top few layers will need slightly more batter to completely cover the previous layer.
- This recipe provides for slightly more batter than is required (because there's nothing worse than not having enough batter to complete the 9 layers perfectly), so don't feel compelled to use up exactly one third of the batter each time. Instead, use just enough batter to completely cover the previous layer.
- Always check that the previous layer has completely set before adding the next layer.
- Just before steaming 7th or 8th layer, use a towel to wipe the top inner surface of the oven to prevent condensation from dripping into the kueh. Also be sure to top up the water tank if the water level is running low.
- If you are using the conventional steaming method in a wok over the stove:
- Fill the wok with sufficient water (water level should reach the top of the steaming rack) and bring to a boil
- Once boiling place the greased tray on the steam rack, ensuring it is level otherwise the Kueh Lapis will tilted to one side, and heat for 3 minutes
- Steam the 1st layer for 5 minutes, and 2nd to 8th layer for 4 minutes, and the last layer for 15 minutes.
- Wipe off any condensation from the wok / pot cover before steaming the next layer, to avoid water from dripping into the kueh and ruining it.
- Check the water level and keep a kettle of boiling water close by to top up the water in the wok as needed.
- Ensure that the Kueh Lapis is completely cool before attempting to remove it from the tray, otherwise it may stick to the pan and be very difficult to cut.
- If you simply can't wait 6 hours for the Kueh Lapis to cool, try placing it in an ice bath to speed up the cooling process!
- You can wrap any leftover Kueh Lapis in plastic to prevent them from sticking together, then store in the fridge. Ensure that you remove the plastic before steaming to re-heat the Kueh Lapis.
- If you prefer a more springy / chewy texture, increase the tapioca starch by 50 / 100g and reduce the rice flour by the corresponding amount. The flour mixture should still total up to 450g in all.
- Likewise, if you prefer a stronger coconut flavour, you can increase the amount of coconut cream by 100 - 200g and reduce the amount of water by the same amount. The liquid mixture should still total up to 1200 ml.