Corner Café

October 2, 2008

Kek Belacan / Serikaya Horlicks Cake

Filed under: Cakes & Cupcakes,Kuih-Muih — SeaDragon @ 12:00 pm
Tags: , ,

Connie77 and Leonine have both very kindly shared 2 different tried-&-tested versions this cake at Home Cooking Club.
Connie77’s Black Cake includes the use of baking soda, while Leonine’s Sarawak Serikaya Cake does not use sweetened condensed milk, check them out if you’re interested.



A modern steamed cake from Sarawak that uses browning to colour the cake dark brown. This is a very sweet cake, so only for sweet tooth only. Its Malay name of ‘belacan’ cake refers to its appearance which looks like a piece of belacan, the dried fermented shrimp paste.
The cake is soft but dense in texture like the modern Sarawak layered cake (Kek Lapis Sarawak), since it is an adaptation from the layered cake recipes. If you prefer a fluffier cake, you may add about 1/2 teaspoon baking powder to the following recipe, but then you may need to use a slightly larger tin to allow for more rise in the cake after steaming.

Makes one 15cm square cake

225g (8 oz) butter, softened
110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
5 eggs
200g (1/2 tin) sweetened condensed milk
200g serikaya (kaya)
100g Horlicks *
150g (1 cup) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
40ml (2 tablespoons) Parisian browning essence

* Horlicks may be replaced with Milo if desired, and turn it into ‘Serikaya Milo Cake’.


Parisian Browning Essence.
1. Grease a 15cm x 15cm x 7.5cm tall tin (or 15cm x 15cm x 10cm tall tin) and line base and sides with baking paper. Allow the baking paper to extend over the top by 2 to 3cm if using the shorter tin.
2. Beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
3. Beat in eggs, one by one, until well combined.
4. Beat in sweetened condensed milk and serikaya until well mixed.
5. Stir in Horlicks until well combined.
6. Fold in flour. Finally stir in vanilla and browning essence.
7. Pour batter into prepared tin (the batter will fill the tin to almost 90%, but the cake will not rise up too much, so don’t worry). Cover the top loosely with a piece of aluminium foil.
8. Steam over high heat for 30 minutes. Fill up with more hot water if the steamer is low on water after 30 minutes. Turn heat down to medium and steam for another 60 minutes, or until cooked (may steam for up to 4 hours in total if desired, this according to wisdom allows the cake to be kept for up to a month). Remember to replenish steamer with hot water whenever it is drying up.


Taste: Soft, sweet and dense cake with delicious horlicks aroma
Consume: In small slices as it is a very rich cake
Storage: May be kept under cake dome for at least a week
Recipe References: Adapted from various internet recipes


  1. Thanks for sharing this recipe! Can you buy this browning essence in the US?

    Comment by Claire — October 2, 2008 @ 1:28 pm | Reply

  2. I loved your blog….nice posts and full of new ideas and information..will keep passing by.

    Comment by anamika: the sugarcrafter — October 2, 2008 @ 5:09 pm | Reply

  3. Claire,
    Sorry, I don’t know if you can get this ‘browning essence’ in the US, as it is an Australian product. But I think it is available in the US and Canada under the name ‘Kitchen Bouquet Browning & Seasoning Sauce’ which I think could be the same thing, do let us know if you found it.

    Otherwise, see if you can get ‘gravy browning’, try Burgess or Watkin’s brands, I think they are English brands, which you can use instead of the browning essence.

    Comment by SeaDragon — October 2, 2008 @ 7:53 pm | Reply

  4. Wow, looks delicious. Do you have the recipe for kek batik? I love dat hehe 🙂 and I am sure the others will like it too! 😀

    Comment by chumpman — October 2, 2008 @ 11:13 pm | Reply

  5. SD,
    Can lessen the sugar or not? say to 1/4 cup?

    Comment by delia — October 3, 2008 @ 11:34 am | Reply

  6. sd

    i tried making this cake with no browning sauce. i added dark soya sauce but it was not dark enough. the cake tasted very rich but like ma lai koh cos it is not black enough.

    i must ask my friend from melbourne to get me a few bottles when he come for visit in march 09. tell me where did you buy your browning sauce. thanks

    Comment by lily ng — October 4, 2008 @ 3:54 am | Reply

  7. chumpman,
    Haha, atually Kek Batik is on my to-try list, will try it out in the near future.

    Yes, I think you can get away with reducing the sugar to 1/4 cup since this is a dense cake. Please let us know how it turn out, yeah?

    The browning essence is readily available in most supermarkets here. Either at the essence/extract/cake shelves or together with the gravy/soup stuff. But first see if you can get either ‘Kitchen Bouquet Browning & Seasoning Sauce’ or ‘Gravy Master Seasoning & Browning Sauce ‘ or ‘Savoie’s Flavoring & Browning Sauce’ at your local supermarket, I’m quite sure they are the equivalent of gravy browning sauce.

    Comment by SeaDragon — October 4, 2008 @ 2:41 pm | Reply

  8. sd

    thanks, will look out for what you suggest here and will let you know. is the browning sauce that black?

    Comment by lily ng — October 7, 2008 @ 3:12 am | Reply

  9. Lily,
    It’s deep dark brown in colour, basically the it’s just a ‘caramel food colouring’ with a little bit of flavouring. It does warn about staining very easily on the label of the bottle, so use carefully. When I added it to the batter, the batter was just a light brown colour, but the cake turned dark brown after steaming.

    Comment by SeaDragon — October 7, 2008 @ 9:06 pm | Reply

  10. SD, do you think it can make it through the custom as it is not indicated as food stuff?

    Comment by precious moments — October 7, 2008 @ 11:13 pm | Reply

  11. Dear SD
    Is this the famous Sarawak Serikaya Cake?
    Looks a like tho…
    Thank you for sharing this recipe.
    Will try out soon…

    Comment by Connie — October 8, 2008 @ 6:36 pm | Reply

  12. PM,
    Are you referring to the browning essence or the gravy browning? Not too sure, though since it is not fresh food, so shouldn’t be a problem going through custom I think…

    Yes, this is just my adaptation/translation of a basic version of the Malay recipes found on the net, since nobody is willing to share a proper English version of the recipe on the net.

    Comment by SeaDragon — October 8, 2008 @ 8:24 pm | Reply

  13. What would happen if i dont use the browning essence??

    Comment by Kimberley — October 8, 2008 @ 8:27 pm | Reply

  14. Kimberley,
    I think this browning thing is all just a gimmick (I’m from Sarawak, so I can say that without guilt, haha…). It is all related to the ‘Sarawak Layered Cakes’ which use a lot of colouring to design patterns etc, so this browning thing is just another variation of using brown colour. Nothing will happen if you don’t use the browning essence, the cake will be yellow, that’s all.

    Comment by SeaDragon — October 9, 2008 @ 7:08 am | Reply

  15. Hi SD,
    some recipe got bicarbonate soda added in the batter.
    And you are from sarawak too? wat a small world…
    I’m in MIRI. and you? which part of sarawak? let me guess, em….kuching?
    If I’m rite, then my six sense is working again….hahaha

    Comment by Connie — October 9, 2008 @ 12:02 pm | Reply

  16. Connie,
    Hmm,I haven’t come across any recipes using bicarb of soda. Do they still add browning in those recipes?

    Haha, your six sense has gone past my home town, I’m from Sibu but haven’t been back for some years now.

    Comment by SeaDragon — October 10, 2008 @ 6:57 am | Reply

  17. SD,

    Is this the same Sarawak Cake Sri kaya like Aunty Yochana and Florence make ???

    Comment by Wai Fan — October 12, 2008 @ 8:26 pm | Reply

  18. Hi SD! It’s Sarah from KC. I was just looking (very closely) at the pic I posted of the bottle of browning and it actually says “Ingredient: Caramel”. Hm, so now I think the Sarawak browning might actually give a nice “caramel-ly” (haha made up word!) aroma to the cake as well as colour. Apparently it’s a thick and sticky mixture so I do wonder if its more similar to treacle than parisian essence. I still haven’t had the time to try this recipe yet though, but I will soon!

    Comment by Sarah! — October 12, 2008 @ 10:18 pm | Reply

  19. Hi SD,
    yes, they do add browning to the recipe.
    & back to the 6 sense, oops…blame to my sleepless nite recently…hahah

    Comment by Connie — October 13, 2008 @ 1:14 pm | Reply

  20. Wai Fan,
    Yes, but this is just one version of the same cake, this recipe is probably a bit different to Aunty Yochana’s version but I don’t have access to her recipe to compare.

    Haha, your eyesight is better than mine, I tried to squint out the words on the picture but giving me headache instead… So it is made from caramel, and that’s what ‘gula hitam’ must has been referred to? You know what, I was thinking the other day, you know Nestle now makes the ‘caramel’ condensed milk, I’m thinking next time, I’ll use that instead of the normal sweetened condensed milk, then you get the caramel flavour without adding more sweetness to the cake, and the browning essence can just give the colouring. That should make it closer to the flavour, don’t you think?

    Comment by SeaDragon — October 13, 2008 @ 7:47 pm | Reply

  21. SD,

    Yup yup, I enlarged and squinted hard to see it. Ha ha! That’s right I think that the gula hitam part is probably referring to it as caramelized sugar. Ohh maybe it’s a good idea to use the caramel flavoured condensed milk. I doubt we can find gula hitam here in Melb anyway.

    I actually got hold of another recipe (for once, with proportions!) the other day. Surprisingly, the quantities are almost like yours (considering it’s “made up” by pulling bits and pieces of the few vague recipes together!). Anyway, it uses Nestle cream instead of condensed milk, and uses 140g of gula hitam. But I can’t try it since I don’t have that. That’s why I was wondering if treacle can be a good substitute. I thought this recipe is appealing as well because without the use of condensed milk, maybe the taste of kaya and horlicks will shine through more?

    LOL, we’re a case of the blind leading the blind. If only someone would tell us once and for all what gula hitam actually is and how it tastes like. Haha, or better still, share the elusive recipe with us!

    Comment by Sarah! — October 13, 2008 @ 11:25 pm | Reply

  22. Whoever want to learn to make this infamous steam cake , according to Aunty Yochana , Anna Phua is still teaching this infamous Sarawak Sri kaya cake at her Culinary Centre !

    Comment by Sue — October 14, 2008 @ 5:23 pm | Reply

  23. Sarah!,
    Hahaha, as long as we don’t lead each other into a black hole. But I think we are getting close. Nestle cream is not sweet, right? I have never use that before, then adding treacle to it would work, I think. I did find that with this version of mine, the horlicks and condensed milk flavours are very strong, they virtually overwhelmed any other flavours there are. It is very hard to even tell that there’s kaya in it. So maybe using Nestle cream would change that.

    Thanks, Sue, for the info. Unfortunately many of us looking for the recipe do not live in M’sia or S’pore currently, so it would be impossible to attend the class.

    Comment by SeaDragon — October 14, 2008 @ 6:46 pm | Reply

  24. SD,

    I’ve not used Nestle cream before too but I think it should be an unsweetened sterilized cream. Probably similar to the carton UHT thickened cream which we can find at the coffee aisle.

    That’s what I thought about the condensed milk at first too – that the smell will probably overwhelm the aroma of the kaya. I think the combo of gula hitam (or treacle in our case) and cream might be a better idea. I think I might try the recipe I have. Soon!

    Comment by Sarah — October 15, 2008 @ 12:10 am | Reply

  25. Sarah,
    Looking forward to hear how it goes when you have time to test it out.

    Comment by SeaDragon — October 16, 2008 @ 7:34 am | Reply

  26. SD,
    Thanks for testing this out. Interesting recipe and would love to give it a try.


    Comment by Rei — October 21, 2008 @ 7:29 pm | Reply

  27. Hi sd,

    I made this cake yesterday and sadly it doesn’t look like Aunty Yochana’s Sarawak Seri kaya cake at all 😦

    The texture of my cake is like a dense huat kuih….


    Comment by Lily — October 24, 2008 @ 6:20 pm | Reply

  28. Lily,
    The cake is dense in texture but should be very soft. Can you describe the texture of Aunty Yochana’s version of the cake? Sarah and I have been trying to figure it out but nobody has given us a description, we only saw the picture so we have been stabbing in the dark to re-create the recipe.

    Comment by SeaDragon — October 25, 2008 @ 8:58 am | Reply

  29. Hi SD,

    Can we get double action baking powder anywhere in Melbourne?

    Comment by Sarah — October 26, 2008 @ 5:31 pm | Reply

  30. Or actually, are the common baking powders sold in the supermarkets already double acting?

    Comment by Sarah — October 27, 2008 @ 12:14 am | Reply

  31. Sarah,
    I think the baking powders sold in the supermarkets are all double-acting. At least I’m sure the Ward’s brand is double-acting because I checked their website 🙂

    Comment by SeaDragon — October 27, 2008 @ 8:22 pm | Reply

  32. SD, thanks!! I think I’ll join your forum when you reopen the registration so I won’t have to spam your comment box like that. Sorry! 😉

    Comment by Sarah — October 28, 2008 @ 11:36 am | Reply

  33. Sarah,
    No worries, I’ve re-opened registration 🙂

    Comment by SeaDragon — November 1, 2008 @ 9:40 am | Reply

  34. Hi there SD,

    Just found you again. Glad to hear that you are blogging again. I love this cake. Thanks for sharing the recipe with us. Do call me when your forum re-opens, pl?

    Comment by jadepearl — November 19, 2008 @ 3:25 pm | Reply

  35. Hi jadepearl,
    Long time no ‘see’. The forum is now re-opened.

    Comment by SeaDragon — November 20, 2008 @ 6:06 am | Reply

  36. the holick and flour need to beat wif machine?o just add in n mix well wif wood spatula?

    Comment by fish — September 1, 2009 @ 12:46 am | Reply

  37. thank you for the wonderful recipes. i m an amateur when it comes to baking. am going to try out some of your recipes. and if ever i find any good recipes, i’ll share with you too. =)

    Comment by Winnie — January 24, 2010 @ 6:31 pm | Reply

  38. Thanks for sharing this recipe. It’s one of my all-time favourites. However, one question: Is it possible for this cake to be baked in the oven instead?

    Comment by Hafizah — September 12, 2010 @ 10:31 pm | Reply

    • Not sure, but I think you can try as it is quite similar to Kek Lapis.

      Comment by SeaDragon — September 15, 2010 @ 7:43 pm | Reply

  39. hi…tqsvm for sharing the recipe…

    Comment by Ann — August 6, 2012 @ 4:16 pm | Reply

  40. I live in spore. Do you know where to get the browning.

    Comment by Mika — September 6, 2012 @ 11:32 am | Reply

    • Sorry, I haven’t a clue, try specialty shops that sell kitchen or baking supplies.

      Comment by SeaDragon — September 6, 2012 @ 9:14 pm | Reply

  41. Is there any recipes that doesn’t use Milo and chocolate bar?

    Comment by Ameliaa — July 25, 2014 @ 12:53 pm | Reply

    • I don’t have that recipe, you can always google for it.

      Comment by SeaDragon — July 25, 2014 @ 6:44 pm | Reply

  42. may i know what is browning essence? can i get it in the UK?

    Comment by Joyce — November 2, 2015 @ 7:19 am | Reply

    • You should be able to buy it in the UK, look for Gravy Browning in the gravy/roasting aisle in the supermarket, it is a food colouring.

      Comment by SeaDragon — November 2, 2015 @ 12:01 pm | Reply

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