Kueh Lapis Nonya (Steamed Layer Cake)


Kueh Lapis Nonya

Kueh Lapis is a multi-colored layered steamed cake. That’s about how I summed up Kueh Lapis in a nutshell. But I wouldn’t do it justice by stopping here. It has a pleasant pandan (screwpine) fragrance, layers and layers of colors pleasing the eyes of the young and old, a chewy texture that greets you the moment you bite into it and that mildly sweet taste that can satisfy your sweet tooth.

First of all let me clarify that I am referring to the steamed Kueh Lapis, a Nonya delicacy. No one could mistook a Nonya’s Kueh Lapis for something else, it’s signature layers of colors of red, green and white are well-known in Singapore and Malaysia. However you can also find it in variety of other colors now to reflect a modern look.

There are even different manners to eat them. Most kids or those young-at-heart or those with dentures, will playfully peel layers and layers of the cake till they reach the last layer to savor them while others just bite into it. Even at my age, I sometimes prefer to peel them layer by layer gleefully when no one’s looking…hehe (but all my teeth are still intact, mind you).

This is a traditional cake and it reflects the era it was made. The Nonya’s Kueh Lapis is steamed layer by layer thus it takes time to finish making the whole cake. It requires passion without which this cake would not be possible and patience to complete it from the start to the end. Passion and patience which our elders were blessed with back then when life was slower and love is abundant. We have since advance so much, now we don’t seem to have enough time and passion, well passion, if we have the time for it.

I wish to continue to appreciate the traditional cakes which we grew up with in Asia and hope by sharing this recipe, will give it a fresh start to those who have yet to try this simple cake and preserving it for the future generations to come.

Ingredients you will need:

  • 300 grams granulated sugar
  • 10-25 pandan (screwpine) leaves
  • 750ml coconut milk
  • 150 grams rice flour
  • 150 grams cornflour or cornstarch or tapioca flour
  • 2-3 drops of green food coloring
  • 2-3 drops of red food coloring


Making Kueh Lapis

Clockwise from top-left: Making Kueh Lapis

  1. In a saucepan, combine sugar, pandan (screwpine) leaves and coconut milk. Bring it to a boil, remove the leaves and set aside.
  2. Sift the flours into a bowl and add the hot coconut milk slowly into the bowl and stir until the mixture become smooth. Strain the mixture and divide into three portions.
  3. Using the food coloring color each portion one green, one red and leave the other plain.
  4. Grease a baking pan with cooking oil and steam it for a couple of minutes.
  5. After 5 minutes, pour in a cup of the plain batter into the baking tray and steam for ten minutes. Once the layer of batter is cooked, pour another layer of batter of a different color and steam again for another 10 minutes. Repeat these steps until you have finished up the batter.


To check if the layer is cooked, you can touch the surface of the layer. It should not be wet but firm and just slightly sticky and it will not mix if you are to pour a new layer of batter on top of it.

I said to pour a cup of batter because my cup of batter will cover the layer of the cooked batter completely but if your baking tray is a different size (bigger) than you will have to adjust the amount of batter you pour just enough to make a layer but not too thin ya.


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