Nyonya Kuih Lapis (Steamed Layer Cake)

This fantastic tea time snack is a popular South East Asian delicacy. Though it is simple to make at home, it does take some patience. Normally it has 9 layers but is not essential. You may use food colourings of your choice. In this recipe, I have used natural food colourings.



Makes 1 eight-inch cake

For pink and green food colouring

1 medium beetroot (about 130g), peeled and coarsely chopped
2 bunches of Pandan leaves (about 100g), thoroughly rinsed and coarsely chopped

For the batter
1¾ cups/420g granulated white sugar
4 Pandan leaves, thoroughly rinsed
1 X 200ml pack coconut cream
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups/195g rice flour
3 cups/360g tapioca starch
¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
Vegetable oil for greasing

Make the food colouring:
For pink colouring: Place the beetroot and 1½ cups /375ml water in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Drain and reserve the liquid. You should have about 1 cup/250ml of the liquid. Let cool to room temperature. Use immediately, or refrigerate in an airtight jar for up to 1 week.

For green colouring: Using an electric blender, make a smooth paste of the Pandan leaves with 1 cup/250ml water. Pass the paste through a sieve and collect the filtrate, squeezing the residue with your hands over the sieve. You should have about 1 cup/250ml of the filtrate. Use immediately, or refrigerate in an airtight jar for up to 1 week.

Make the batter:
Place 2 cups/500ml water, sugar and Pandan leaves in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar dissolves completely. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Uncover, remove the pandan leaves and discard. Stir in the coconut cream and salt. Let cool completely to room temperature.

In a separate large bowl, mix the rice flour and tapioca starch. Gradually add the coconut cream mixture, whisking continuously to make a smooth batter. Pass the batter through a sieve to remove any lumps. You should have about 6 cups/1L500ml of the batter.

Divide the batter into 3 equal portions. Stir in 1/3 cup/85ml of the pink colouring into one portion, 1/3 cup/85ml of the green colouring into another portion, and 1/3 cup/85ml water plus ground turmeric into the remaining portion. Divide each colour portion further into 2 equal portions (to get 6 layers in the cake).

Steam the batter layer by layer:
Grease a round tray of about 8-inch diameter and 2-inch depth. Bring sufficient water to a boil in a steamer. Heat the prepared tray in the steamer for 5 minutes.

Pour the first layer of the batter into the tray. Cover the steamer and steam for 5-6 minutes or until the batter is set. Repeat with the next two colours.

Continue to steam the layers, alternating the colours, until all the batter is used up. After the final layer is set, steam for another 20 minutes for the cake to cook through. Remove from the steamer. Let cool completely before cutting into desired shapes. Serve immediately, or refrigerate in an air-tight container and use within 3 days.

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