Mildly sweet with a chewy and sticky texture, this scrumptious steamed layer cake is a popular sweet treat that can be found in almost every Vietnamese bakery and grocery store. The cake has such visual appeal with its vivid green and yellow layers and if you’ve ever wondered how this cake is made, wonder no more friends! This post takes you through the recipe step-by-step and it’s really easy. In addition, I share all the recipe tips and tricks so you can make this cake successfully every time. Before trying the recipe, please read the below and watch the video. Enjoy!
Notes on the Recipe, Tips and Tricks
The steaming technique is very important in this recipe. Unlike some recipes where you try to generate as much steam as possible, this recipe is just the opposite. The steam is gentle but constant. Start by filling the steamer basin just half-way with water. After bringing the water to a rapid boil, reduce the heat to Low for the duration of the steaming. Too much heat and steam will cause the cake to bubble and blister and become tough. If you see the bubbles in the cake, reduce the heat.
Removing the lid throughout the cooking process to release the steam is a trick for getting a nice, smooth texture.
Ideally have a cake pan that just fits your steamer. If the pan is really small in relation to the steamer and there is too much steam circulating, the cake may develop some bubbles. It’s not the end of the world. The cake will still taste delicious and most of the bubbles will go away once the cake cools.
Stir the batter before making each layer. The green layer has a tendency to settle so make sure to mix it really well.
This recipe accommodates a 9-inch x 1.5-inch high round cake pan. If you have a slightly larger cake pan, you can add more water or coconut milk to stretch the batters.
Check to see if a layer is done by lightly touching the cake with the back of a spoon. If no batter sticks to the spoon, the cake is done. If any batter sticks to the spoon, steam for another minute and then check again. Below are the approximate steam times for each layer:
- Layer 1 Green – 10 minutes
- Layer 2 Yellow – 10 minutes
- Layer 3 Green – 12 minutes
- Layer 4 Yellow – 14 minutes
- Layer 5 Green – 15 minutes
For the mini muffin pans, I make just 3 layers. Use 1 tsp of green batter and 1 1/2 tsp of yellow batter. The steam times are:
- Layer 1 Green – 2 minutes
- Layer 2 Yellow – 3 minutes
- Layer 3 Green – 5 minutes
Watch the video for instructions.
If you enjoy this recipe, you may like: Tapioca and Mung Bean Cake (Banh Xu Xe/Banh Phu The)
1 1/2 cups tapioca starch
1/4 cup rice flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups water
1/4 tsp Pandan paste
1/4 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup peeled split mung bean
1/8 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups water
3/4 cup tapioca starch
2 Tbsp rice flour
3/4 cup sugar
4 oz coconut milk
2 drops yellow food coloring
Wash the mung bean by rinsing with cool water 3 times. Cover the beans with hot water and let soak for 2 hours.
Rinse the beans with cool water again and drain well.
Transfer the beans into a saucepan along with the salt and 1 3/4 cups water. Bring to a boil over High heat. Stir and then reduce the heat to Low. Skim off the foam and discard. Cook the beans until the liquid is completely absorbed, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
For the yellow batter, add the cooked mung beans, tapioca starch, rice flour, sugar, coconut milk, and food coloring into the blender and mix on High for 30-45 seconds or until smooth. Measure out 18 oz of the yellow batter and set aside for now.
To make the green batter, combine tapioca starch, rice flour and sugar in a large measuring cup. Add the water and stir until the mixture is smooth. Add the pandan paste and mix well. This should yield 24 oz. (If less, add water until you have 24 oz of batter.)
Using a paper towel, coat the cake pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil.
Fill the steamer basin halfway with water and then bring to a boil over High heat. Reduce the heat to Low. Place the empty cake pan into the steamer and steam for 2 minutes.
Layer 1: Stir the green batter. Measure out 8 oz of batter and pour into the cake pan. Cover and steam for 5 minutes. Remove the lid to release the steam. Cover and steam for another 5 minutes.
Layer 2: Stir the yellow batter. Measure out 9 oz of batter and gently pour over the first layer. Cover and steam for 5 minutes. Remove the lid to release the steam. Cover and steam for another 5 minutes.
Layer 3: Stir the green batter. Measure out 8 oz of batter and gently pour over the back of a large spoon and into the cake pan. Cover and steam for 6 minutes. Remove the lid to release the steam. Cover and steam for another 6 minutes.
Layer 4: Stir the yellow batter. Pour the remaining batter into the pan. Cover and steam for 7 minutes. Remove the lid to release the steam. Cover and steam for another 7 minutes.
Layer 5: Stir the green batter. Gently pour the remaining batter over the back of a large spoon and into the cake pan. Cover and steam for 7 minutes. Remove the lid to release the steam. Cover and steam for another 8 minutes.
Remove from the steamer and let cool for at least 1 hour.
Oil a large knife or wavy knife with vegetable oil. Cut the cake into small pieces. Enjoy!
Store any leftover cake in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. It’s good for up to 1 week. Optionally, freeze the cake for up to 2 months. To reheat, microwave on Low for 20-30 seconds.
Yields: 8-10 servings
Tools I Love and Use in My Kitchen
For a fun Halloween treat, swap out the Pandan paste for orange food coloring and make the cakes using these cute pumpkin silicone molds. For each layer use 1 Tbsp of batter. Steam each layer until it’s no longer tacky. Approximate steam times are:
Layer 1 Orange – 3 minutes
Layer 2 Yellow – 3 minutes
Layer 3 Orange – 5 minutes
Layer 4 Yellow – 7 minutes
Layer 5 Orange – 8 minutes
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My first layer took over 30 mins. I used a 9 in round pan. But my steaming pot is a huge (pho) pot and I used a rack. Is that why it took longer?
I didn’t know that it matters on the level of heating and steaming method. I have no idea so I steam on extreme high heat. Yes my cake does have lots of bubbles and some parts of the layers does not stick to each other. Next time I will try to steam it in the low heating but wouldn’t low heating take a longer time to steam?
One thing I noticed is that if you let a drop of water from the steam into the cake then that part won’t stick to the bottom layer either.
Hi Trang, I’m a first generation Vietnamese American and I just want to say thank you so much for providing this recipe (plus the video!!) I was able to use your recipe to enjoy several hours of bonding time with my Vietnamese mother today while we cooked it together. My mom’s getting older and I try to find ways to spend time with her.
I’m going to select more recipes from your site/Youtube channel to cook with my mother on the weekends when I visit her. Thanks so much.
P.S. this recipe turned out perfect! The family is saying it’s quite yummy!
Aww! It warms my heart to read your comments! I love that you are spending precious time with mom through cooking and sharing home-cooked Vietnamese foods with your family. Food is love. Thank you for your kind words. I really appreciate it. <3
Hello Trang, your recipe for banh da lon is the best one I found that is clear and solidify on the time that you wrote. Thanks for sharing this recipe!
Love your website! I have a question about substitutes for pandan paste in this recipe…I could only find the canned pandan extract when I first tried making this, and I think it was far too watery as my green layer never fully set (I added more than 1/4 tsp because the pandan flavor was really lacking). Would it work if I boiled and reduced the extract down until it is more concentrated? Or is the best flavor/texture from using pandan paste?
Did you substitute the 2 cups water in the green layer with the canned pandan extract or add it in addition to the water?
I added it in addition…and now that you ask I realize I could try substituting for some or all of the water, right?
Yes Amber, that’s my suggestion. Give it another go. I look forward to hearing the results. Good Luck!
The result was MUCH better! The pandan flavor really came through, and the cake itself held together this time, so it also looked great.
I still found that it took a long time to get the 2nd and final green layers to set (I would estimate 20-30 min for each!!), but the yellow layers went according to the instructions…so could just be my makeshift steamer (i.e. a large dutch oven with a rack placed inside). Either way, I’m definitely going to make this recipe again, so perhaps it’s time to invest in a proper steamer 🙂 Thanks a lot for the tip!
I am so glad to hear you give the recipe another try and had much better results. Great job! The layers do take longer as more layers are added so it was good you adjusted the time. A good steamer is essential so I hope you get a good one for future recipes. Thanks for stopping back to share your results with me! 🙂