Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Indonesian Steamed Tapioca Layer Cake: Kue Lapis Sagu

Kue Lapis Sagu

Here's another Indonesian snack/dessert. This one requires a lot more work and a steamer, but it's so worth it! It looks a bit like jello, but it's actually chewy and sticky so if you're not into mochi and the like you should probably skip this one.

Kue Lapis Sagu
After steaming.

1 1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup rice flour
3/4 cup cold water
1/2 - 3/4 cup sugar (adjust to taste)
1 cup + 1 tbl coconut milk
pandan extract, juice or paste (see notes)
food colouring

1) Add water and sugar to a pot and bring to a boil while stirring, turn off the heat once it starts to boil, stir in coconut milk and set aside. The sugar syrup isn't supposed to be thick, as long as the sugar is completely dissolved you're on the right track.
2) Combine tapioca starch and rice flour in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add the coconut-sugar-water mixture and mix to a smooth batter.
3) Divide the batter into three even parts and add food colouring - I made one part green, one red and left the other one white. Divide each of the three parts into three smaller parts, you should end up with 9 parts altogether, three of every colour. One part equals one layer.
4) Heat up your steamer. I use something like this (click), so I just have to put some water in the pot and bring it to a boil. I'm not sure if a rice cooker/steamer would work as well?
5) Grease a small cake pan and put it in your steamer. It can be a bit tricky to find the right size, but here is what you can do: pour the batter into the container before you devide it to see if it fits, pour it back to your bowl and proceed as normal. The container should be fairly deep or you'll end up with very thin layers, I used a heat resistant Tupperware container.
6) Pour one part into the container and steam for 5 minutes, repeat with the rest. I screwed up the colour order, but the plan was: white -> red -> green, white-> red-> green etc.
7) Let the cake cool down when you're done, I put mine on the kitchen counter for an hour and then put it in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
8) Oil a cutting board and loosen the cake out of the pan. Grease a sharp long knife to slice the cake into even pieces. Grease each slice with a bit of oil and wrap it in plastic wrap. Store in fridge. Done!

Kue Lapis Sagu

Tapioca Starch Can be found at Asian grocery shops, but I've seen it at 'normal' shops too, so ask around.
Rice Flour Same as tapioca starch, check the gluten free aisle.
Coconut Milk You could use any coconut milk, but I recommend the ones sold in tetra packs rather than tins (too thick and fatty).
Pandan We didn't have any at home so I omitted it, but my cake tasted pretty bland as a result, so don't do that. Pandan flavouring can be found canned as juice, in thick pastes or bottled in tiny bottles as extract. If using juice: reduce the amount of water to 1/2 cup and add 1/4 cup of pandan juice. Extract & pastes: You'll have to experiment with this, I don't like the extracts and I can't get the paste here so I don't have a whole lot of help to offer, but I'm guessing one tsp would be enough?!
Food Colouring Use as many different colours as you like, ideally you want 9 layers in your cake, so keep that in mind when you divide the batter.

Kue Lapis Sagu
The best? You can pull the layers apart! I loved doing this as a kid and I still do.


  1. I love this! So colorful and fun. Happy to discover your blog :)

  2. How have I missed this blog? This is an awesome blog. Happy MoFo!

  3. They look beautiful!! You're photos are fantastic. You are very talented!

  4. WOW. I am speechless. this is amazing. I don't know if I would even like it, but just because it is so pretty I want to make it. wonderful!

  5. I made this recipe yesterday, but it turnout wrong. The lapis had not a soft texture but was hard. Colors and tast was good. Where did it went wrong?
    Did I let de sugar/coconut cool enough (only for 30 min)? Should it be cold? And I used an electric steamer (that went well). I used the same container, but i think it was not against heat, this staid hot for 2 hours, did the cookingproces continued? Please help!
    Grtz, Priscilla

    1. I think you need to use "glutinous rice flour" not normal rice flour.

  6. Just made this for the first time! My inlaws are Indonesian and really didn't think anyone BUT Indonesians could contribute to their potlucks... boy am I about to prove them wrong!

  7. Hi! How long will this store? I have a family party Sunday and then the next Thursday... wondering if I should just make it twice or if it will be good on Thursday too