Kuih Lapis traditional Malaysian sweet dish

Kuih Lapis, a traditional Malay and Indonesian dessert, is a vibrant, multi-layered rice cake known for its striking appearance and delicate, chewy texture. This delightful treat is often enjoyed during festive seasons, celebrations, and as a beloved snack throughout Southeast Asia. In this article, we will explore the rich history of Kuih Lapis, its cultural significance, and provide a unique restaurant-style recipe that combines tradition with modern culinary techniques.

Historical Background

Origins and Cultural Significance

Kuih Lapis, which translates to “layered cake” in Malay, has a history deeply intertwined with the culinary traditions of Malaysia and Indonesia. The dessert is believed to have been influenced by Chinese, Peranakan, and Dutch culinary practices, reflecting the diverse cultural tapestry of the region.

In Malaysia, Kuih Lapis is often associated with the Peranakan (Straits Chinese) community, who have been instrumental in preserving and evolving the recipe over generations. The cake’s vibrant layers are not only a feast for the eyes but also symbolize the harmonious blend of different cultures.

Evolution Over Time

Over the years, Kuih Lapis has seen numerous variations, each adding a unique twist to the traditional recipe. While the classic version features alternating layers of pandan-flavored and plain white layers, contemporary versions may incorporate flavors like chocolate, coffee, or even fruit purees. This evolution showcases the dessert’s versatility and its ability to adapt to changing culinary trends.

Ingredients and Preparation

Essential Ingredients

The foundation of Kuih Lapis lies in its simple yet flavorful ingredients. The primary components include:

  • Rice Flour: Provides the chewy texture that is characteristic of Kuih Lapis.
  • Tapioca Flour: Adds elasticity and a slight firmness to the cake.
  • Coconut Milk: Imparts a rich, creamy flavor and moist texture.
  • Sugar: Sweetens the dessert, balancing the flavors of coconut and pandan.
  • Pandan Leaves: Infuse the batter with a fragrant aroma and natural green color.

Modern Twist: A Restaurant-Style Recipe

Our unique restaurant-style recipe for Kuih Lapis not only stays true to the traditional methods but also introduces innovative elements to enhance its appeal. This version incorporates natural fruit purees and artisanal presentation techniques, making it a standout dish in any dessert menu.


  1. Base Ingredients:
    • 250g rice flour
    • 50g tapioca flour
    • 400ml coconut milk
    • 200ml water
    • 200g granulated sugar
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 3 pandan leaves, knotted
  2. Flavor Layers:
    • 1 tsp pandan paste
    • 100g fresh mango puree
    • 100g fresh strawberry puree
    • Natural food coloring (optional)


  1. Prepare the Coconut Milk Mixture:
    • In a saucepan, combine coconut milk, water, sugar, and salt. Add the knotted pandan leaves.
    • Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let it cool. Discard the pandan leaves.
  2. Mix the Flours:
    • In a large mixing bowl, combine rice flour and tapioca flour. Gradually pour in the cooled coconut milk mixture, whisking continuously until smooth and lump-free.
  3. Divide and Color the Batter:
    • Divide the batter into three equal portions.
    • To the first portion, add pandan paste for the green layer.
    • Mix the second portion with mango puree for a vibrant yellow layer.
    • Stir the strawberry puree into the third portion for a pink layer. Add natural food coloring to intensify the colors if desired.
  4. Steam the Layers:
    • Prepare a steamer by bringing water to a boil. Grease a square or rectangular cake pan (approximately 7×7 inches) with oil.
    • Pour a thin layer (about 1/4 inch) of the green batter into the pan. Cover and steam for 5-7 minutes or until set.
    • Pour the yellow batter over the green layer and steam for another 5-7 minutes.
    • Repeat with the pink batter, continuing to layer and steam until all the batter is used, ensuring each layer is set before adding the next.
  5. Final Steam and Cool:
    • After the final layer is set, steam the entire cake for an additional 15 minutes to ensure all layers are fully cooked.
    • Remove the cake from the steamer and let it cool completely in the pan.
  6. Slice and Serve:
    • Once cooled, remove the Kuih Lapis from the pan. Use a sharp knife, lightly greased with oil, to slice the cake into small diamond or rectangular pieces.
    • Arrange the slices on a platter and serve at room temperature.

Presentation Tips for Restaurants

Artisanal Plating

To elevate the dining experience, consider presenting Kuih Lapis with artisanal touches. Here are a few ideas:

  • Garnishes: Decorate the plate with edible flowers, fresh fruit slices, or a drizzle of coconut caramel sauce.
  • Layer Variations: Experiment with additional layers using different fruit purees or flavors like matcha or lavender for a sophisticated twist.
  • Textural Contrasts: Serve with a side of crispy coconut tuiles or a dollop of whipped coconut cream to add contrasting textures.

Fusion Pairings

Pair Kuih Lapis with complementary flavors to create a memorable dessert course:

  • Tropical Sorbet: Serve alongside a scoop of tropical fruit sorbet, such as passion fruit or lychee, to enhance the fruity flavors of the cake.
  • Tea Infusions: Offer a selection of herbal teas, such as jasmine or lemongrass, to accompany the dessert, providing a refreshing counterbalance to its sweetness.


Kuih Lapis is more than just a dessert; it is a testament to the rich cultural heritage and culinary ingenuity of Southeast Asia. By incorporating modern twists and presentation techniques, this traditional treat can be transformed into a gourmet delight, perfect for contemporary restaurant menus. Whether enjoyed in its classic form or reimagined with innovative flavors, Kuih Lapis continues to captivate the senses and celebrate the art of layered perfection.


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