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easy vegetarian recipes

Ma Lai Gao - Steamed Brown Sugar Cake


Ma Lai Gao is a steamed cake that is a pretty popular item in Chinese dim sum. Whenever I go to have dim sum, I usually end up ordering egg tart instead of ma lai gao. Partly because I know that more skill is required to replicate a good egg tart at home compared to ma lai gao. But for daily tea, I actually prefer ma lai gao - steamed brown sugar cake compared to egg tart, so comforting.

Ma Lai Gao - Steamed Brown Sugar Cake

Ma Lai Gao - Steamed Brown Sugar Cake

Dried jujubes (or figs)

Most ma lai gao is plain, but when I make them at home, I usually add some chopped up dried fruits to make the cake feels extra special. To fit Chinese theme, you can use dried jujube, or dried fig, both should be quite easy to find in Chinese/Korean grocery stores. If you use dried jujube, make sure to remove the seeds first before chopping them finely. Of course you can always choose the more typical dried fruits, such as raisins, cranberries, or prunes. Or just leave the cake plain.

Ma Lai Gao - Steamed Brown Sugar Cake

Ma Lai Gao - Steamed Brown Sugar Cake

You do need a steamer

If you use an 8” round cake pan, your cake should ends up about 1” tall. If you use a 7” round cake pan, it will be taller (about 1.3” if my math is correct!). And if you use a 6” round cake pan, it will be even taller (about 1.8” tall!). But whichever cake pan you choose, you will need a steamer to cook the cake. If your rice cooker comes with a steamer basket, you may be able to just use your rice cooker to steam the cake. Mine comes with an 8” round steamer basket, which works out to be the perfect vessel for this cake.

Ma Lai Gao - Steamed Brown Sugar Cake

Ma Lai Gao - Steamed Brown Sugar Cake

Ma Lai Gao - Steamed Brown Sugar Cake

3.0 from 1 reviews



Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 30 mins

Total Time: 45 mins

Serves: 8


  • 3 eggs
  • 75 gram (6 tablespoon) dark brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 100 gram all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 45 gram (3 tablespoon) melted butter
  • 2 dried jujube (~ 12 gram), remove seeds and roughly chopped (optional)


  1. Prepare a steamer (I use my rice cooker), and line an 8" (or 7") round cake pan with a parchment paper (I use my 8" steamer basket that comes with the rice cooker).
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs and dark brown sugar on high speed until thick.
  3. Add salt, baking soda, and half of the all purpose flour. Beat with low speed just until mixed, then add the rest of the all purpose flour and mix again.
  4. Add in milk, vanilla extract, and melted butter. Stir with a spatula until mixed, then fold in the dried jujube until well mixed.
  5. Pour into the prepared cake pan (or steamer basket), and steam for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Remove cake from steamer, cut into serving slices, and serve while hot.


  • Tommy says:

    You listed butter as an ingredient but was not used in the instructions. Why?

    • Anita says:

      Ooops! I'm so glad you caught it and let me know, Tommy. The melted butter should go with the milk and vanilla (step 4). I have updated the recipe, and I hope you will give it a try.

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