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Rose Ginger Steamed Sponge Cake (Ma Lai Go)

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Rose Ginger Chinese Steamed Cake - A modern take on a traditional Chinese New Year Dessert. Recipe on

Are you ready for Chinese New Year? It’s in just a few weeks and I can’t wait to check out some of the local celebrations to see the colors, dancing, and – of course – eat the food! Traditional Chinese food has so much variety and so many complex and beautiful flavors, and the Godfather and I love to try new foods whenever we can. I’m actually learning a lot about Chinese New Year traditions from my friend and fabulously talented neighbor Melissa Lew, who inspired this Rose Ginger Steamed Sponge Cake. One day, we were chatting about her 2016 Chinese New Year jewelry line, and she challenged me to make a recipe to match! Naturally, I was on board! 

Rose Ginger Chinese Steamed Cake - A modern take on a traditional Chinese New Year Dessert. Recipe on

I wanted to create a Chinese New Year recipe that was modern and fun, easy to make, and with flavors that would have broad appeal. Melissa sent me a link to this recipe by The Zonghan, to which I made a few slight modifications. She told me how her family would make these cakes all the time when she was a child, and that they are a favorite of hers.

Rose Ginger Chinese Steamed Cake - A modern take on a traditional Chinese New Year Dessert. Recipe on

I chose to add the flavors of rose and ginger because the colors used in Melissa’s jewelry line remind me of the dry rosebuds I use when baking. And I happen to be partial to that combination. 😉 The rose flavor is very subtle, and the fresh ginger gives such a beautiful kick that takes this classic Chinese dessert up a notch.

Rose Ginger Chinese Steamed Cake - A modern take on a traditional Chinese New Year Dessert. Recipe on

There’s also something really cool about baking a cake without actually baking. This cake gets its light springy texture from steaming. I don’t have a steamer, so I used two large stock pots with aluminum foil “snakes” wound around the bottom of the pot as a makeshift insert to hold my 6″ bamboo steamer baskets above the water. This recipe makes 2 6″ cakes. They’re the perfect size for gifting, and since “doubles” are considered lucky in Chinese culture, it seems only fitting. Besides, what’s the point of baking a cake if you can’t share the joy?

Rose Ginger Chinese Steamed Cake - A modern take on a traditional Chinese New Year Dessert. Recipe on

If you’re looking to dress up your own rose ginger steamed cakes to gift this Chinese New Year, be sure to visit Melissa’s website and check out her work!

Rose Ginger Steamed Sponge Cake (Ma Lai Go)

Rose Ginger Steamed Sponge Cake (Ma Lai Go)

Yield: 2 6" cakes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 175 g
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour, 175 g
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 c + 3 tbsp granulated sugar, 185 g
  • 3/4 cup water, 170 g
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 ground food grade rosebud + additional for garnish if desired


  1. Prepare two steamers by either using pots with inserts or creating your own insert using aluminum foil (details in post) and add water to a level where it will not touch the bottom of the steamer baskets. Set over medium high heat so the water will boil by the time you are ready to steam the cakes.
  2. Line two 6" steamer baskets with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and sugar together on high for 10 minutes until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
  4. While the eggs and sugar are mixing, sift together the dry ingredients.
  5. Turn the mixer to low speed and pour in the water. Stir in the ginger and crumbled rosebud.
  6. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, and gently mix until just combined.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between the two steamer baskets, rap the baskets once on the counter to release any bubbles, then place one basket in each stock pot (carefully since the water is boiling by now). Be sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the basket.
  8. Cover the pots with tight fitting lids and steam the cakes for 40 minutes over medium high heat. Check about halfway through the cooking time (without lifting the lid if possible) to make sure that there is sufficient water in the pot. If there isn't, carefully add more, and add an additional 3 minutes to the steaming time.
  9. When time is up, carefully remove the baskets from the steamers. Press additional rosebuds into the top of the cake for decoration.
  10. Allow the cakes to cool fully on a wire rack before unwrapping and re-wrapping for gifting.
  11. The cakes are best enjoyed within a day or two of steaming.

Rose Ginger Chinese Steamed Cake - A modern take on a traditional Chinese New Year Dessert. Recipe on


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  • Reply
    Hillary Reeves
    February 2, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    I looove steamed cakes! So underrated. These look gorgeous.

  • Reply
    Paige @ Where Latin Meets Lagniappe
    January 31, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Such a lovely cake Mary – it just looks so delicate and delicious! And I too also love the flavor of rose – it’s wonderful and so unique 🙂

  • Reply
    Whitney @ That Square Plate
    January 31, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    I can’t believe this cake is steamed!! So cool!! Sounds and looks super tasty & light 🙂

  • Reply
    January 28, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    What a beautiful cake! I have never steamed a cake before, but I’ve heard about steamed cakes. So cool!

    • Reply
      The Godmother
      January 29, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      It’s got almost an angel food style texture, and it was really fun to watch the cake batter “grow” in the steamer!

  • Reply
    Brian Jones
    January 28, 2016 at 4:56 am

    How awesome, steamed sponges are not at all uncommon in the UK but this is nothing like those at all but it sounds awesome and something even a baking phobe like me can play with… I love the taste of rosewater, do you reckon that could be weaved in somewhere?

    • Reply
      The Godmother
      January 29, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      Yes, but cautiously. I experimented with a few versions of this cake, and the steaming process magnifies the rosewater. I chose to add the crushed rose petal and it was enough, but if you want a stronger flavor or don’t want/don’t have dried roses, 1/2-1 tsp rosewater can be added in addition/instead without becoming overpowering. 🙂

  • Reply
    January 19, 2016 at 9:45 am

    My husband would love this cake! I am going to save this recipe for a special occasion!

    • Reply
      The Godmother
      January 27, 2016 at 6:24 am

      Very cool! Just be sure you have time to make it the day of. They really are best the day they’re made.

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