Miserably. That’s how I failed at my first attempt at making the famous Malaysian desert — the kuih lapis or steamed layer cake. As a kid, I used to watch my mother as she made the perfect kuih lapis. Hers were pretty simple: not multicoloured, just four shades of pink: the lightest shade at the bottom and the darkest on top. I used to stand by her side and beg to pour the layers onto the tray but my mother never let me.
Now I know why. She knew I would have messed it up. As I did this time. My first mistake was using a battered aluminium steamer (Duck Brand) that had seen much better days. It was a little wobbly due to the numerous dents which made it sit unevenly on the stove. Because of this, the layers didn’t set evenly.
Next mistake: I didn’t divide portions equally. I kinda estimated and obviously not very well as the layers were not equal in thickness … it’s not a terrible mistake but …..
Aesthetics aside, as I’d never made kuih lapis before I wasn’t aware how much coconut milk you have to use. Soooooooo much. And quite a bit of sugar too. It’s completely unhealthy!! No wonder it tastes so good.
The recipe I followed called for 840 ml of coconut milk or 3.5 cups! And it required 280g castor sugar or 1.4 cups sugar.
I could reduce the sugar but how to I manipulate the recipe to reduce the amount of coconut milk because I could not fathom consuming so much coconut milk. I asked around and got a few suggestions: whole milk, soy milk, evaporated milk (as in: use 2 cups coconut milk and 1.5 cups milk or something like that). I decided to give plain old milk a go as evaporated milk is not that healthy either. turned out pretty good although it took almost twice as long to set. Small price to pay for a healthier option, I think.
The milk worked pretty well. And I reduced the sugar by a quarter (or slightly more) and so my kuih lapis wasn’t very sweet … but I liked it that way as I don’t crave sugar.
It still isn’t the perfect kuih lapis, but it’s pretty decent. Will I try it again? Surely, but maybe with even less coconut milk and perhaps brown sugar.