Jiu Ceng Gao (九层糕)| Kueh Lapis Sagu

In Recipes, Singaporean on November 7, 2010 at 11:03 am

1. There are foods that taste great.
2. There are foods that are so pretty that they taste great even before they touch the tongue.
3. There are foods that taste great simply because you grew up with them.

And there are foods that fit all 3 categories:

I’d peel them layer….by layer….by layer…4, 5, 6th…… 7, 8th…and with brief hesitation, I’d nibble through the 9th and final of the rainbow-coloured soft n chewy layers, mm by mm by mm… mmmmm 🙂 Happy food.

Of course, being a poor student with limited cash and limited space on the shelf, stocking up on all those colours is not economically nor logistically sensible.  Too bad that nyonya kueh doesn’t keep long (starch retrogrades and coconut milk goes rancid) and getting some from home on mama’s tab wouldn’t work. Surprise surprise, poorskinnychef makes her own, but with less colours in the equation:

The verdict: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Jiu Ceng Gao | Kueh Lapis Sagu Recipe modified from IndoLists


  • 200g tapioca / sago starch
  • 100g rice flour
  • 500ml coconut milk
  • 300ml water
  • 240g sugar
  • essence and colouring (I used pandan paste for green and rose paste for pink)

[use more tapioca starch for chewier texture, more coconut milk for stronger coconut flavour – this recipe yielded the same texture as the ones I have at home! soft yet springy!]


  1. Dissolve sugar in hot water to make a syrup and pour in coconut milk.
  2. Mix in starches with a hand whisk.
  3. Divide mixture into 3 portions (~350ml each)
  4. Grease a smooth-based tin (about 10” diameter or square tin would be even better for cutting later!) and heat in the steamer.
  5. Pour in 1/3 of white layer (~110-120ml) and steam for 3-4 min on high heat.
  6. Alternate with colours and steam each layer 3-4 min until 9 layers have been created!
  7. Cool, oil surfaces, unmould and cut into pieces with greased knife.
  8. Wrap pieces with greased plastic to prevent sticking!

  1. Hi there, can I know what oil do you use to grease the pan?

    • Dear crazycanoeist, apologies I have neglected my blog for a good number of months. I hope you’ve found a solution by now! I’ve made it several times with different kinds of oil that don’t contribute a strong flavour (i.e. no olive oil!). sunflower oil is usually in my pantry…

  2. did u use glutinous rice flour? or just plain rice flour?

    • hi Hapy, just plain rice flour. the tapioca flour contributes the chewy texture of the kueh, the rice flour contributes a softer texture. I personally like a balance of these two qualities, and i can imagine that using 100% tapioca flour / tapioca flour+ equally chewy glutinous rice flour would be a real exercise for the jaws 😉

  3. hi. how many pieces did u get out of that?

    • about 20+ pieces and lots of edges since I only had a round tin…. I’d guess that if you have a square tin, you should be able to make about 30 pieces of the size you get at hawker centres! 🙂

  4. i can’t wait to try these! i loved them as a kid!
    just discovered your blog, such and interesting mix of food on here!
    i have a similar one for poor and hungry student, let me know what you think!!

  5. Thanks for the recipe! I followed ur recipe and it turned out delicious and pretty!

  6. Hi,
    may i know the exact amt of tapioca n sago flour u use??? 100g tapioca flour and 100g sago flour ? I wish to have a chewy n QQ texture
    Can i use 9″ round tray or 8″ square tray?

  7. hi josephine, i used tapioca flour and sago flour can be used interchangeably — they both give the QQ texture (it is a characteristic of the starch from these sources). Sure you can use whatever sized tray you want, but if the tray is too big and you want to make 9 layers, then your layers will be very thin. And for smaller trays, layers will be thicker if you keep to 9 layers. I’d have used a square tray if I had it! 🙂 Hope this clarifies your doubts!

    • Hi,
      im glad to received yr reply. I appreciate.
      I made few times of kuih lapis but it turned out very hard. I also don know wat wrong w it coz i follow exactly wat the recipe book. Not like bengawan solo texture. Most of kuih lapis sell outside are very soft, chewy n QQ texture. Very nice. Till today, i have no courage to make this till i saw yr blog n the kuih u post. Its so nice the color n texture.

      • I saw some of the recipe used a combi of rice flour, tapioca flour, mung bean flour n sago flour. Do u know wat is the function of mung bean flour???

        Yr recipe stated 3-4mins high heat. Others recipe 7-8mins but didn’t state the wat heat. I was thinking if steam too long will it become hard??? Think steaming timing also play a part right?

  8. Different kind of flours give different textures, mung bean flour gives a tender texture (it’s a key ingredient in hoon kueh, and is also what cendol is made with), rice flour used alone is like chwee kueh (soft but not QQ), and tapioca flour alone will just become too chewy, like a piece of rubber! Hence the combination!
    I’ve made this recipe a few times, and the outcome is soft and QQ! Usually, by the time the layer steams through, you can pour the next layer. So if the layer is thin, 3-4 mins is sufficient at high heat, if you have a thicker layer, then maybe 5-7mins. If the water at the bottom of the steamer is not boiling vigorously, then probably it will also take a couple minutes longer to set. Also some starches will take longer to cook.
    I have never tried steaming it ‘too long’ because I normally try to save time 😉 I wouldn’t think that a couple of minutes longer would matter….

    • Hi racey ,
      Thank u very much for yr advice.
      i will try again using yr recipe.
      hope the outcome will b like yours. Hee…

      • Hi racey,
        i have tried yr recipe but it turn out hard too and not QQ n bouncing. Not the same like yr pic. What is wrong w my kuih? So sad!!!
        Btw, wat type of coconut milk u use? Freshly squeeze fr grated coconut or box coconut milk?? I used kara coconut milk. Do u think use box coconut milk will affect the outcome??
        I used 200g sago flour and 100g rice flour….

      • Hi josephine, sorry for the late reply as I had no internet access for the past few days. did you use Kara coconut cream, or coconut milk? I normally use coconut milk from the packet, it’s not the same as coconut cream… the water and fat content will affect the hardness and the QQ-texture… i.e. too much fat = not QQ and too little water = hard.

      • Hi racey,
        i used kara coconut milk in box.
        what do u mean by packet coconut milk???

      • After i mix all ingredients, my batter a lot of bubble… after steaming, a lot of small hole…

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