Kuih lapis is one of many traditional Malaysian bite-sized desserts (kuih, pronounced as ‘kweh’) that can take many forms and tastes (from sweet to savoury to spicy). The word ‘lapis’ means ‘layer’ and the name comes from its construction — layers of alternating colour that result in a nice stripy pattern after cutting.

This version results in the soft and slightly sticky version. After having compared several versions of the recipe, apparently, you should increase the amount of tapioca flour (tepung ubi) if you wish a ‘springier’, firmer, and shinier version. Recipe adapted and translated from Sinar Kehidupanku’s blog.

Kuih Lapis (Layered Steamed Cake)


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rice flour flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar (*original recipe was 1 cup sugar)
  • 1 cup thick coconut milk (I used 1 small tetra pack of Kara coconut cream and added a bit of water to fill up 1 cup)
  • 3 cups water
  • pinch of salt
  • food colouring and flavouring of choice


  1. In a large bowl, mix the 3 types of flour, sugar, and salt. Add the coconut milk and water.
  2. Mix everything and pass through a sieve (optional). Divide into 3 parts and put inside separate bowls.
  3. Add a different colour into each bowl. You can add in flavouring, if you wish. Leave one bowl without any food colouring if you want a white layer.
  4. Heat up your steamer. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of your pan. (I used a round 6-inch pan.)
  5. Pour in 1 cup of one colour and steam for 5 minutes or until the layer firms up.
  6. Pour in 1 cup of the next colour and steam for another 5 minutes.
  7. Continue the layering and steaming until all the batter is finished. Steam the final layer for about 20 minutes.
  8. Once cooked, remove the pan from the steamer and leave to cool for an hour or so to allow the kuih lapis to firm up. Make sure the kuih lapis has completely cooled down before cutting into bite-sized pieces. Use a plastic knife, such as those ‘knives’ you get for free when buying a cake from the bakery.

Important notes:

  • When removing the cover of your pot/steamer in between layers, take care not to allow any of the water that has condensed under the cover to fall into the kuih lapis.
  • Make sure each layer is firm before adding on the next layer in order to achieve a nice and even stripy pattern (unlike my first attempt!).
  • If you want to make the top layer look flawless, burst any bubbles that form on the surface using a toothpick prior to final steaming.

Selamat mencuba! 🙂


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