Vietnamese Steamed Banana Cake (Banh Chuoi Hap) is delicious with a wonderful fragrance and sweetness from ripe bananas. The soft-chewy texture makes this cake seriously addictive.
What is Vietnamese Steamed Banana Cake
Vietnamese Steamed Banana Cake (Banh Chuoi Hap) is made by steaming a batter of tapioca flour, rice flour and ripe bananas. It is then served with a rich coconut sauce and toasted sesame seeds.
Each bite is full of fragrance and sweetness of bananas which pair well with the creamy coconut sauce and nutty sesame seeds. The cake is dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan.
Compared to Western cuisines, most desserts in Vietnamese cuisine are made on the stovetop such as sweet soups (chè) or steamed cakes. The lack of baked desserts in Vietnamese cuisine isn’t really a surprise since even today, not many home kitchens in Vietnam have an oven.
This delightful steamed cake is just one of many delicious Southern desserts that use bananas and coconuts which are abundant in the South of Vietnam. Other Vietnamese desserts with this flavor combination is this Che Chuoi (Banana Tapioca Pudding) and Grilled Banana Sticky Rice (Chuoi Nep Nuong).
To make Vietnamese Steamed Banana Cake (Banh Chuoi Hap), you will need ripe bananas (pisang awak variety for best result), tapioca starch, rice flour, and sugar. Use just ripe bananas and avoid using overripe bananas which can get too mushy after steaming.
The combination of tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) and rice flour creates an addictive soft-chewy texture for the cake. Both types of flour are gluten-free and you can find them at Asian grocery stores. Please make sure you select Vietnamese or Thai brands such as this Thai rice flour and tapioca starch. The flour should be very fine and lightweight, kinda like cornstarch.
I often see that people add yellow food coloring to achieve a yellow color for the cake. However, since I use light brown sugar, the banana cake already has a nice golden brown color so there’s no need to use food coloring.
Besides, I also add cinnamon powder to enhance the aroma and add a warm note to the cake. This is my own idea which turns out wonderful (and I’m actually quite proud of it 🙂 ). If you have tried my spiced chocolate banana bread, you probably know how much I love the combination of banana and cinnamon.
For the coconut sauce, you will need canned coconut milk, cornstarch and sugar. My current favorite brand for coconut milk is Aroy-D.
If you scroll to the Comments section, you will see some people having issues with this recipe. I honestly made this multiple times before sharing on the blog and each time someone commented with issues, I made it again. I just made it again on 5/19/2020 with a combination of regular bananas and baby bananas and everything was still steamed into a cake.
So I really don’t know why it didn’t work for some people since I didn’t have their information about what brands of flour, types of bananas and other kitchen details. Here are a few things I want to emphasize:
- Please make sure you use rice flour and tapioca flour from Viet or Thai brands. I often use Vinh Thuan brands. Some comments say the amount of water is not enough for the batter, but I never have that issue. I’m guessing they are not using the correct types of flour.
- Use pisang awak bananas for best results. I can still steam the cake with regular cavendish bananas but the bananas will be much softer with less taste. Besides, cavendish bananas will get brown fast and won’t look as pretty. If you really want to try the recipe with regular bananas, don’t slice them too thin (slice them thicker than the pisang awak banana slices in my photos). Otherwise, I suspect they will get mushy and release a lot of moisture into the batter mixture. Overripe cavendish bananas will absolutely not work for this recipe.
I’m always happy to help with troubleshooting, but in order to do so, I need as much detailed information as possible. I do make my recipes multiple times before sharing them.
How to Make Vietnamese Steamed Banana Cake
Not only does this cake require few ingredients, it is quick and easy to make as well. You will need to set up a steamer and find a mold (I use a loaf pan) which will fit inside the steamer.
The first step is to slice the bananas thinly and marinate them with light brown sugar for 20-30 minutes. After that, gently fold the banana slices into the batter.
Steam for 25-30 minutes until the cake is cooked through. The batter will turn translucent and the edges will start to pull away from the mold slightly. If you insert a toothpick, there should be no wet batter on the toothpick.
While steaming the cake, you can quickly prepare the coconut sauce. I like to serve both the cake and the sauce warm. You can store both of them in the refrigerator and then reheat both in your microwave when you want to eat it.
Detailed measurements and step-by-step instructions are in the recipe card below. I hope you will like this steamed Vietnamese banana cake as much as I do.
I’d love to hear what you think about this dish, so please feel free to leave a comment. New recipes are added every week so let’s connect on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates. You can find my collection of Vietnamese recipes here.
Vietnamese Steamed Banana Cake (Banh Chuoi Hap)
For the Banana Cake
- 5-6 peeled pisang awak bananas, about 10.5 oz or 300 grams
- 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 2.5 oz tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour)
- 1.5 oz rice flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons water
- 1 1/4 cup canned coconut milk
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water, divided
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- toasted sesame seeds
Making the Steamed Banana Cake
- Slice bananas thinly and add the banana slices to a mixing bowl. Add brown sugar and gently toss to coat the banana slices with sugar. Set aside to marinate for 10-20 minutes.
- In another mixing bowl, combine tapioca starch, rice flour, salt and cinnamon powder. Then add 1/4 cup water and 3 tablespoons of water, mix well to create a smooth batter.
- Reserve about 12-15 banana slices to decorate the top of the cake later, add the remaining banana slices to the batter. Gently fold the banana slices into the batter.
- Pour the batter into a mold or pan which will fit inside your steamer (I use a loaf pan). Ideally, use a 4''x8'' loaf pan so that the cake will have a height of slightly over 1 inch. Place the reserved banana slices on top for decoration.
- Set up a steamer and wrap a clean towel around the lid to prevent water condensation to drop on the cake (or wipe the lid clean every 10 minutes). Steam the cake over medium to medium-high heat until cooked through (about 25 minutes). The batter will turn translucent and the edges will start to pull away from the mold slightly. If you insert a toothpick, there should be no wet batter on the toothpick.
- Remove the mold/pan from the steamer and let it cool down enough to handle. Take the cake out of the mold/pan. Cut into slices and serve warm with coconut sauce and toasted sesame seeds.
Making the Coconut Sauce
- While steaming the cake, place a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add coconut milk and 1/4 cup of water and heat gently. Stir in salt and sugar.
- Combine cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Once you see a lot of steam from the coconut milk mixture and small bubbles around the edge, slowly add the cornstarch slurry while whisking to thicken the coconut sauce. Do not let the sauce boil. Add just enough cornstarch slurry to achieve desired thickness. Transfer the sauce to a clean bowl.