Egg-free Ma Lai Go – Cantonese Steamed Sponge Cake with Red Dates

No-bake and vegan-friendly Chinese sponge cake that is easy to make and perfect for breakfast or snack

no-bake egg free ma lai go sponge cake

My family order this Cantonese sponge cake every time we head out to Yum Cha. It’s spongy, puffy and a little bit chewy.

The brown sugar gives the Ma Lai Go a beautiful golden color and a moderate sweetness. You won’t feel heavy after feasting on it. 

I have always thought Cantonese pastry is too much to handle, especially for a dim sum beginner like me. But this Ma Lai Go recipe turns out to be easier than I expected. It may take some trials and errors. But trust me, the results will worth all the efforts.

What is Ma Lai Go? 

The word Ma Lai may remind you of Malaysia. Some believe that the Ma Lai Go sponge cake was from Malaysia during the British colonial. Some say that it originated in Guangdong and then became a popular dim sum dish around the world. 

You can find Ma Lai Go (Cantonese) or Ma La Gao (Mandarin) in almost every Chinese bakery or dim sum restaurant. It was also listed as one of the best cakes around the world by CNN in 2017. 

Ma Lai Go (Cantonese sponge cake) served in restaurants

So why do so many people love Ma Lai Go? 

Unlike other cakes that need to bake, the Cantonese sponge cake is rather easy to make. All you need is a pot or a steamer, a cake pan or molds. I’ve seen people steam Ma Lai Go in porcelain bowls.

If you have basic baking ingredients, you can make use of what you have at hand and make your own Ma Lai Go.

How to make the Cantonese sponge cake – Ma Lai Go?

I’ll admit that making a no-bake sponge cake without eggs is not easy. And the Ma Lai Go is supposed to be spongy and springy. I’ve tried a couple of times before getting the texture and the sweetness right. And the myth is all about the portion of cake flour and tapioca flour. 

Too much tapioca flour and the sponge cake will lose that puffiness. Too little, and it won’t be spongy as expected. So here are the ingredients for the Ma Lai Go I’m most happy with so far. I’ll keep experimenting and give you an update!

Ingredients you’ll need

  • 80 grams of cake flour
  • 10 grams of tapioca flour
  • 25 grams of brown sugar
  • 10 grams of white sugar
  • 1 gram of yeast powder
  • 2 grams of baking powder
  • 1 tsp salad oil or unflavored vegetable oil
  • 2 red dates
  • 80 grams of boiled water

How to make the red date sponge cake

  1. In a bowl, melt brown and white sugar in 80 grams of boiled water. Mix and make sure there’s no granule. Set aside and wait for it to cool down.
  2. In a mixing bowl, sift tapioca flour, cake flour, and yeast powder. Mix evenly.
  3. When the melted sugar liquid cools down to lukewarm, pour it in the mixed powder and stir gently. Beat for 1 minute.
  1. Use a plastic spatula to fold the mixture until all the ingredients combined. Let it sit at room temperature for 45 minutes. 

My room temperature is about 82°F. If you are in colder places, try placing the mixture above warm water or extending it to an hour. 

  1. When the batter rises until it doubles in size, fold the mixture with a spatula. It should be stringy, and there will be small bubbles on the surface. Keep folding it until all bubbles disappear.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of salad oil and 2 grams of baking powder to the mixture. Mix evenly.
  3. In the meantime, wash the dates and half them. Remove the seeds. 
  4. Pour the mixture in the molds. I use small cupcake molds. You can also use a 6-inch cake pan. Put half a date on top. And your Chinese sponge cake is ready for steam.
  1. In a pot or a steamer, pour 5 cups of water. Place your Ma Lai Go in it (on a steaming tray if you are using a pot. Turn the heat to high.
  2. When the water starts to boil, turn down the heat to medium and steam for 25 minutes. 
  3. Turn off the heat and let the sponge cake simmer for another 5 minutes. Then transfer the cake to a plate. Remove the mold when the sponge cakes cool down. Enjoy!
Ma Lai Go - Chinese sponge cake

Have you tried this steamed sponge cake recipe?

If you do, let me know in the comment! Feel free to leave your thoughts or questions!

If you like dim sum dishes, you may also like this recipe. Check it out!

Cantonese dim sum-style steamed pork ribs with taro root

no-bake egg free ma lai go sponge cake

Ma Lai Go - Chinese sponge cake with red dates

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

No-bake and vegan-friendly Chinese sponge cake that is easy to make and perfect for breakfast or snack.

Ingredients

  • Cake flour, 80 grams
  • Tapioca flour, 10 grams
  • Brown sugar, 25 grams
  • White sugar, 10 grams
  • Yeast powder, 1 gram
  • Baking powder, 2 grams
  • Salad oil or unflavored vegetable oil, 1 tsp
  • 2 Red dates
  • Boiled water, 80 grams

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, melt brown and white sugar in 80 grams of boiled water. Mix and make sure there’s no granule. Set aside and wait for it to cool down.
  2. In a mixing bowl, sift tapioca flour, cake flour, and yeast powder. Mix evenly.
  3. When the melted sugar liquid cools down to lukewarm, pour it in the mixed powder and stir gently. Beat for 1 minute.
  4. Use a plastic spatula to fold the mixture until all the ingredients combined. Let it sit at room temperature for 45 minutes. 
  5. When the batter rises until it doubles in size, fold the mixture with a spatula. It should be stringy, and there will be small bubbles on the surface. Keep folding it until all bubbles disappear.
  6. Add 1 teaspoon of salad oil and 2 grams of baking powder to the mixture. Mix evenly.
  7. Wash the dates and half them. Remove the seeds. 
  8. Pour the mixture in the cupcake molds or a 6-inch cake pan. Put the dates on top.
  9. In a pot or a steamer, pour 5 cups of water. Place the mixture in it (on a steaming tray if you are using a pot. Turn the heat to high.
  10. When the water starts to boil, turn down the heat to medium and steam for 25 minutes. 
  11. Turn off the heat and let the sponge cake sit for another 5 minutes. Then transfer the cake to a plate. Remove the mold when the sponge cakes cool down. Enjoy!
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 186Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 56mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 1gSugar: 11gProtein: 2g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.

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