Colorful, jiggly, bouncy. If you didn’t know better, you would think I was describing something inedible, or maybe jello. Instead, it describes the infinitely delectable, oddly addicting Lady Wong Rainbow Lapis—lapis means layers in Indonesian and Malay, and you eat the traditional kuih “cake” layer-by-layer.
The brilliant Rainbow Cake was created by New York City’s Lady Wong bakery in honor of PRIDE month. For each slice sold, 25% percent of the sales during the month of June will be donated to the Hetrick-Martin Institute for LGBTQIA+ Youth.
The flavor is light and delicate, and reminiscent of sweet sticky rice. But, the vibrant colors and texture is what gives this snacky dessert it’s addictive quality. The chewy, gelatinous texture combined with the sweet mild flavors that are slightly floral with a whiff of coconut had me peeling and eating the entire slice at once. It’s the coolest dessert that I’ve tried in a long time.
This is a dessert for lovers of gummy candy and southeastern Asian flavors. It is a “traditional steamed cake flavored with coconut, palm sugar and Pandan (Indonesian vanilla), and a very popular childhood dessert in Southeast Asia,” says Seleste Tan, pastry chef and co-owner of the bakery with her husband Chef Mogan Anthony. The couple are originally from Malaysia and alums of some of the finest restaurants and hotels in the world.
Born out of the pandemic, Lady Wong was started by the couple in a very organic fashion. Since they couldn’t go home to Malaysia for Chinese New Year, and they were nostalgic for a taste of home, they made their own favorite kuih. As they tell it, since you can’t make a small amount, they started selling the extra kuih out of the back of their SUV and it took off.
In Malaysia, kuih is a core specialty with a rich history. It is a favorite childhood dessert that you eat the rest of your life for the nostalgia. The origin of the word kuih is Chinese, but the tastes are linked to Malaysia and Indonesia. Thick creamy coconut milk is blended with glutinous rice flour and flavored with palm sugar and Pandan for a fragrance and flavor similar to vanilla. The mixture is steamed into tender, bouncy jelly-like desserts. Today, it is a casual term for a category that includes pastries, cookies, dumplings, and cakes of many kinds.
In the winter of 2021, they opened LADY WONG, a Nanyang inspired pastry and kuih boutique bakery at 332 East 9thStreet in New York. They specialize in both kuih snacks as well as traditional desserts and pastries with a Southeast Asian flair. This month (through June 30) you can buy the very popular gluten-free, dairy-free Rainbow Lapis in their store for $3.25 a slice while supplies last.