Kueh Lapis, or Steamed Layer Cake / Jiu Ceng Gao, never fails to put a smile on my face. After all, who can forget having these as a child, peeling off the layers individually and slowly savouring each soft, springy layer of coconut-y goodness!
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 water, sugar, pandan leaves and salt to a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 mins until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup smells 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 cool it down.
Add tapioca flour and rice flour into a seperate 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 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.
WHAT COCONUT MILK TO BUY?
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.
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.
Break up the veins of the pandan leaves to draw out the aromatic fragrance more easily.
You can cut the pandan leaves into small pieces instead. However we prefer to tie the leaves together so they can be easily removed.
Add a little salt to the coconut milk to 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.
Don't feel compelled to use up exactly one third of the batter each time. This recipe provides for slightly more batter than is required (because there's nothing worse than not having enough batter to complete 9 layers). 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.
CUBIE OVEN STEAMING TIPS
Use a towel to wipe the top inner surface of the oven just before steaming 7th or 8th layer to prevent condensation from dripping into the kueh.
Also be sure to top up the water tank if the water level is running low.
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.
Place the steamed batter in an ice bath to speed up the cooling process if you simply can't wait 6 hours for the Kueh Lapis to cool!
CONVENTIONAL STEAMING METHOD
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.
STORING AND ADJUSTMENTS
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.
Increase the tapioca starch by 50 / 100g and reduce the rice flour by the corresponding amount if you prefer a more springy / chewy texture. The flour mixture should still total up to 450g in all.
Increase the amount of coconut cream by 100 - 200g and reduce the amount of water by the same amount if you prefer a stronger coconut flavour. The liquid mixture should still total up to 1200 ml.
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.