Steamed Coconut Cake with Poppy Seed Milk

Steamed Coconut Cake with Poppy Seed Milk

This recipe is of Keralan origin, and has been adapted by Saraswathamma, the cook at Baale Mane. You will need a steamer for this recipe. 

Makes 5-7 cakes. 


for Cake

  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1½ cups (150g) coconut, grated
  • 2/3 cup (75g) peanuts
  • 5 tbsp white sesame seeds
  • ½ cup (110g) jaggery*, coarsely powdered
  • 2 cups (460ml) water
  • 2 cups (240g) rice flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • One large banana leaf*

for Poppy Seed Milk

  • 2 pods cardamom
  • 5 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 cup (100g) coconut, grated
  • 2-3 tbsp jaggery, coarsely powdered
  • 2 cups (460ml) coconut milk

*Jaggery is a raw, healthier alternative to sugar, found widely in India. If you can’t find any, replace with a brown sugar.

*If you don’t have banana leaves, you can use baking paper to wrap the cakes.


Put the cardamom pods in a mortar & pestle, crush to a powder & divide 5:2 as per the ingredient list. Set aside.

In a thick bottomed pan, dry roast the full 7tbsp of poppy seeds until they turn golden. Take out the 5 tbsp poppy seeds needed for the milk and set aside. In the same pan, add the peanuts and sesame seeds to the remaining poppy seeds and roast for a couple more minutes till they start releasing a nutty aroma, shaking the pan often. Place these seeds in a blender or a mortar & pestle and grind into a coarse powder.

For the poppy seed milk, mix 2 tbsp of cardamom powder, 5 tbsp of roasted poppy seeds & coconut flakes in a blender jar. Add a little water & blend into a smooth paste.


In a bowl, mix 5 tbsp of the cardamom, the peanut mixture, coconut flakes and jaggery mixture. This forms the filling of the cake.

In a deep pan, start boiling the water. Just when the first bubbles appear on the surface, turn down the heat and whisk in the rice flour and salt. Stir thoroughly on low heat to form a smooth dough. Take off the heat and keep stirring to ensure there are no lumps. Let it rest for a bit.

While the dough is still warm, divide it equally into 5-7 small balls. Using your fingers pat each ball into a thin even disc (approximately 10cm in diameter and ¼ cm thick). Lay down the discs on a sheet of baking paper.

Divide the sweet coconut mixture equally into the number of discs (about ¼ cup each). Place the mixture in the center of each disc and fold it over to create a half moon. Wet your fingers and pinch the edges of the half moon to ‘seal’ the cake.

Cut the banana leaf or baking paper into 15cm squares to wrap the half moon cakes individually.. Place a cake in the center of a banana leaf square and fold in half. ‘Stitch’ the leaf shut along the outer edge with little soft sticks. Or use toothpicks to pin your leaf or baking paper closed,

Fill the steamer with water and place on the stove. When the water starts boiling, place the individually wrapped cakes on the steamer tray, cover and steam for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the poppy seed milk. Gently heat the coconut milk in a saucepan. Add the cardamom, poppy seed and coconut paste. Also the jaggery. Stir and cook until all the ingredients have combined into a thick sauce.

Serve the cakes and sauce on the side while still warm. Take the cakes out of the wrappers and pour the sauce over right before eating..