Rasmalai cake made in the instant pot is soft and spongy. Drizzle some rabri (a thick, sweet sauce) over it, top with nuts and powdered cardamom, and you have a decadent desi dessert ready to impress!
Making a cake is no big deal for most people but a soft, spongy cake soaked in a rich, creamy sauce and topped with chopped almonds and cardamom? Now, that's as delightful as it can get. This recipe is not called rasmalai cake for nothing. If you've ever had a rasmalai (ras - juice, malai - cream), you know it's one of the best, most loved Indian sweets ever. And this cake soaked in the same sweet sauce has to come close!
I use the pot-in-pot method to steam this cake and make the sauce separately in a saucepan on the stovetop. The instant pot is a handy appliance to make these kind of desserts as they are totally hands-free and you can safely walk away while the cake is steaming. The sauce does take a little effort to make though.
Two more desserts that you can make in your instant pot are this luscious caramel pudding and a cheesecake-like (but healthier) dessert called mishti doi. Both are super-delicious and really easy to make!
What is Rasmalai Cake made of?
Rasmalai cake is made of very commonly available, basic ingredients like flour, semolina (sooji), sugar, cooking oil, yogurt, cream and milk. Other ingredients are cardamom, vanilla essence, and nuts.
Ingredient notes and prep steps
Note: Exact amounts are given in the recipe card further down in the post.
- Use a neutral cooking oil like canola or sunflower in this recipe.
- To make the sauce, I also added a very tiny pinch (literally just a few grains) of yellow food color to the milk (not pictured). If you have an aversion to food color, you can use 8-10 strands of saffron. Mix the saffron in 2 tablespoons of warm milk and add it to the simmering milk.
- The cream used was half and half.
- To make the cardamom powder, I put fresh cardamom seeds in a mortar and pestle and ground them roughly. I'm all for convenience, and you can use pre-packaged powdered cardamom, but in my experience, it never tastes the same. It doesn't have the flavor and freshness of freshly ground cardamom, so in this recipe, go for freshly ground cardamom if you can.
- Prepping the nuts was easy. Soak a handful of almonds in water in a small bowl and leave for 4-5 hours on your kitchen countertop. After this long soaking, the almonds will plump up and the skins will slide off easily. Chop them roughly and keep aside.
- The almonds are not added to the sauce. Rather, they are sprinkled on the cake as a garnish. I just went with almonds, but pistachios and cashews also taste quite nice.
How to make rasmalai cake in the instant pot
Rasmalai cake is made in two broad steps: the cake is steamed in the instant pot, and the sauce is made in a saucepan on the stovetop while the cake is steaming. The first step is easy because once you've set the timer on the instant pot, there's nothing more to do there, but the second one does need your attention. The sauce is ready in about the same time as the cake takes to get steamed.
Making the Cake
- Put the yogurt and sugar in a bowl and using a hand whisk, mix until the yogurt is smooth.
- Add the cooking oil and all purpose flour and mix them in.
- Add the milk and semolina and mix them in.
- Add the baking powder, baking soda, and vanilla essence and use the whisk one last time to mix these in. Your batter for the cake is ready.
- Grease a sturdy pyrex bowl or cake tin that will fit in the steel insert of your instant pot and pour this batter into the bowl. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil.
- Pour one and a half cups water into the steel insert and place a trivet at the bottom. Lower the foil covered bowl of batter into the pot. Secure the lid and with the steam release handle on 'sealing', press the steam function (high). Set the timer to 45 minutes. After the timer beeps, wait for 10 minutes, then open the pot and remove the bowl.
- Let the cake cool down, release the sides with a blunt knife, then invert on to a plate. It should slide off easily if you had greased the bowl earlier. The cake is now ready for the sauce.
Making the Sauce
- While the cake is steaming, take the milk in a saucepan and let it come to a boil on the hob.
- Add the food color/saffron strands dissolved in milk, sugar, and half of the powdered cardamom. Lower the heat to medium and simmer the milk until the quantity has reduced a little. This should take 25-30 minutes. You will have to keep an eye on the milk and keep stirring it so that it doesn't boil over or stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
- Now, take out half the milk in a small jug or mug and keep it aside. This first, thin sauce will be used to pour over the cake first.
- Add the half and half cream to the remaining milk in the saucepan and continue cooking it on low to medium heat until the sauce thickens. The consistency should be like that of condensed milk. Once the milk thickens, the second sauce is ready. Keep it aside.
Assembling the Rasmalai Cake
- Poke the cake all over with a fork and pour the first sauce all over it. Give the liquid a few moments to get absorbed into the cake.
- Now pour the second sauce over the cake.
- Top with the chopped almonds and the reserved cardamom. Cut into slices and serve while still warm.
An easy alternative to the sauce
If you are in a rush and don't want to stand at the stovetop stirring the sauce, there is a way out! Instead of cooking down fresh milk for the sauce, warm about half a can of evaporated milk in a saucepan and add half a can (or more, if you like the sauce sweeter) of condensed milk to it. Then, add only the food color/saffron and cardamom powder to it. Do not add the sugar or cream. The sauce will be ready in a minute. Pour this sauce over the still warm cake and let it get absorbed. With these easy steps, your sauce is ready in a fraction of the time it takes to make it from scratch!
How to serve rasmalai cake
This malai cake can be had warm or cold, but in my opinion, it tastes better slightly warm. When it's cold, the sauce clumps together and becomes too sludgy. I usually serve it when it's fresh out of the instant pot, but if you've got left-over cake and sauce, you can keep both in the fridge and heat them in the microwave for a few seconds when you want to eat it again. The flavors really get a chance to come out when the cake and sauce both are just slightly warm.
Rasmalai Cake (Instant Pot Recipe)
- 5 tablespoon yogurt
- ½ cup powdered white sugar
- ⅓ cup cooking oil
- ½ cup all-purpose flour maida
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup semolina sooji
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 4 cups milk
- Pinch of yellow food color or 8-10 strands saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoon warm milk
- ½ cup white sugar
- ½ teaspoon powdered cardamom
- ½ cup half and half cream
- 15 raw almonds soaked, skinned and chopped
Making the cake
- Put the yogurt and sugar into a bowl and whisk until the yogurt is smooth.
- Add the cooking oil and all-purpose flour and mix them in, one after the other.
- Add the milk and semolina and mix them in, one after the other.
- Add the vanilla essence, baking powder and baking soda and use the whisk one last time to mix these in.
- Grease a cake tin or a sturdy pyrex bowl that will fit inside your instant pot and pour the cake batter in it. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil.
- Pour one and a half cups water in the steel insert of your instant pot and keep a trivet in it. Lower the foil-covered bowl of cake batter into the pot.
- Secure the lid and make sure the steam release handle is sealed. Press the 'steam' button on high. Set the timer to 45 minutes.
- After the timer beeps, wait for 10 minutes, then release the remaining steam and open the pot. Remove the bowl carefully and let it cool down on your countertop.
- Release the sides of the cake with a blunt knife and invert the bowl onto a plate. The cake should slide off easily if you had greased the bowl earlier. It is not ready for the sauce.
Making the sauce
- While the cake is steaming in the instant pot, pour the milk in a saucepan, and let it come to a boil on your stovetop.
- Add the food color or saffron strands if using, sugar, and half of the powdered cardamom. Lower the heat to medium and simmer until the quantity has reduced a little. Keep stirring the milk so that it doesn't boil over.
- Take out half the milk in a small jug and keep it aside. This first sauce will be used to pour over the cake first.
- Add the half and half cream to the rest of the milk and continue simmering it until the milk thickens. The consistency should be like that of condensed milk. This is the second sauce or rabri.
Assembling the rasmalai cake
- Poke the cake all over with a fork and pour the first sauce you prepared in step 3 all over it. Give it a few minutes to get absorbed into the cake.
- Now pour the second sauce over the cake as well.
- Top with the remaining powdered cardamom and almonds. Cut into slices and serve warm.
- You can use any neutral cooking oil like sunflower or canola in this recipe.
- To make the cardamom powder, put about a teaspoon of cardamom seeds in a mortar and pestle and grind to get a semi-rough powder.
- Soak the almonds in water for 4-5 hours. Slide off the skins and chop.
- If you like, you can add slivered pistachios and cashews as well.
- Alternative to making the sauce from scratch - warm ½ can evaporated milk in a saucepan and add ½ can condensed milk, food color/saffron, and powdered cardamom. Stir well and pour over the cake while it is still warm.
- It's best to serve the cake warm as the sauce tends to become too sludgy when cold.
- To store, keep in the refrigerator, covered, and simply reheat in the microwave for a few seconds to serve again.