Soft Kueh Lapis – Recipe

Since it's custom to eat glutinous rice-based things during Chinese New Year, and my background is of a Chinese-Malay one, I thought I'd make a Malay dessert- also containing sticky rice and eaten during CNY- called kueh lapis (lit. 'layer cake').

kueh lapis

Isn't it pretty? I still have to tweak the final recipe a little more- you're supposed to be able to peel each layer apart when it's done and it's supposed to be slightly chewy, and this one came out more soft and custard-y: but it was still delicious and definitely had the taste of kuih lapis.

Traditionally a cake made from glutinous rice called 粘糕 nián gāo (lit. 'sticky cake') is eaten during Chinese New Year. The story goes that each year, just before the spring festival after the new year, the Kitchen God does a report on all families. In order to ensure a good report and so good fortune for the rest of the year, we have to feed him nián gāo- either because it's so sticky because it keeps his mouth shut, or because it's so sweet and tasty it works as a bribe (the outcome varying from story to story).

As with the bā bǎo fàn in my previous post, nián gāo has a double meaning: 粘 nián (sticky) sounds a lot like 年 niàn (year), making it even more significant to eat this cake on CNY. I did buy one from a Chinese bakery this year- I will be posting the pictures of my CNY feast later.

Now! Kueh lapis. This ALSO has a double-meaning linked to it. Kueh lapis is supposed to be made with nine layers, because jiǔ  (nine) sounds similar to久 jiǔ (long lasting)- another new reason to eat it on CNY. HOWEVER, I didn't make quite enough batter, and ended up having to settle for six layers instead.

I made it with a mixture of glutinous and normal rice flour- don't get confused between the two in other recipes, because they both result in different textures.


-120g rice flour
-30g glutinous rice flour
-600ml thick coconut milk
 -150ml water
-200g caster sugar
-pinch of salt
-Pandan paste (or green food colouring), pink food colouring and white food colouring (optional)
-1 pandan leaf


1) Line an 8" square cake tin with foil and grease well.

2) Make a fragrant syrup by dissolving the sugar into the water, and boiling with the pandan leaf for about five minutes: then leave to cool (don't add it into the next part before cooling or it'll pre-cook it!)

3) Gradually whisk your flours up with the coconut milk...

4) And then whisk in your cooled pandan syrup.

5) Divide equally into three different bowls.

6) Colour one green with pandan paste (or food colouring), one pink and the other with a couple of drops of white food colouring.

It's pink, honest- I just had some weird night-time lighting

7) Prepare your steamer: in my case I settle a large bamboo steamer on top of a big wok with boiling water in it, making sure the water doesn't touch the steamer.

8) Make a lid out of more foil for your cake tin to stop condensation from dripping into your kueh, and place the tin in the steamer to heat up for a couple of minutes.

9) Choose a colour, pour out half into the bottom of the steamer and steam for ten minutes- the surface will go all dull and matte-looking when each layer is cooked through (make sure each layer is cooked thoroughly, because once the next layer goes on, you've had it!) Continue cooking and layering until everything's used up, pouring GENTLY each time so you don't disturb the layers. Steam the last layer for half an hour for good measure.

10) Take out of the steamer, cool for three hours and then let it chill in the fridge overnight.

11) Once chilled through, remove it from the pan and admire your handiwork...

12) And cut into diamonds, squares or strips (for clean cuts, oil your knife and wipe it clean after each cut).

And you're done! I love all types kueh- I've already made kueh dadar and kueh ubi bingka on this blog, and I'll definitely be making more. However, since this recipe for kueh lapis hasn't yet been perfected (got to achieve the peel-apart layers!), I'll have another few goes at making this.

What do you think, Benny?


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