entertainingfoodFood & Drinkin the kitchen withkristina gillrecipes

in the kitchen with: meg mateo ilasco’s puto

by Kristina Gill


I was really excited when Meg Mateo Ilasco, co-founder and creative director of Anthology magazine, said she’d share a Filipino recipe with us here on the column.  I try to get traditional non-American recipes from far and wide for the column that fit our “simple and seasonal” theme.  I realize that means we may miss out on some great dishes, but it means we get many other great ones, like this steamed cake called puto.  This is the first Filipino recipe which has ever fallen between my hands, and I am very curious to try it because it is sweet yet is sprinkled with cheddar cheese!  If you have a relatively simple and seasonal recipe, or a simple recipe that is not bound by seasons, like this puto, please reach out through our submissions address.  We’d love to hear your ideas!  –Kristina

About Meg

Meg Mateo Ilasco is a mother of two, freelance artist and writer, and a serial entrepreneur who started her first business in 1999. She is the author of several books, including Crafting a Meaningful Home and Mom, Inc. She is also the cofounder and creative director of the home and lifestyle magazine Anthology.  See Meg’s first recipe on In the Kitchen With, here in our archives.


See the recipe for this Filipino steamed cake (puto) after the jump!

Steamed Cake (Puto)
Yields about 8-12
Special equipment: Bamboo steamer, muffin tins or ramekins

Photos by Marvin Ilasco

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 egg white
  • ¼ cup evaporated milk
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • melted butter or vegetable oil
  • shredded cheddar cheese


1. In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk water, egg white, evaporated milk, and vanilla until smooth and then add dry ingredients. Whisk until combined. If necessary, strain batter through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps.
3. Lightly brush your muffin tins or ramekins with butter or vegetable oil. Fill each muffin tin or ramekin with batter until about ¾ full.
4.  Place the tins or ramekins in a bamboo steamer.
5. Steam the puto for 15 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center of the puto to check if it’s done. If you are using tins and ramekins in a variety of sizes (as shown in these images), completion times will vary. Larger or deeper containers will need more time.
6. Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top of each puto and place the cover back on the steamer for a few seconds to allow the cheese to melt.
7. Remove tins or ramekins from steamer and allow to cool for about 3 minutes before removing the cake.
8. You’ll repeat steps 3-6 until you’ve finished the batter. Be sure to check your steamer to make sure there’s ample water.

Why Meg loves this recipe:

A lot of my memories of cooking with my mom are tied to potlucks. (In Filipino culture, it’s customary as a guest to bring a dish to a party—so every party we went to was essentially a potluck.) One of the dishes in my mom’s potluck repertoire was a steamed cake called puto, a popular Filipino dessert. When I was a kid there was something magical and gratifying about cooking a cake with steam: just put batter in a tin, pop it in the steamer, and in about 15 minutes it’s done! It was better than an Easy-Bake Oven. I still make this dessert, this time with my kids. I love looking at their faces when we open the bamboo steamer and reveal the little steamed cakes.

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  • I always laugh at the name of this! As its a swear word in Spanish and the Philippines used to be a Spanish colony… Yet the word didn’t make it over… Instead It became a cake! Hehe I only recently pointed this out to my Filipino mum ;)

  • Lei, I know the translation in Spanish is unfortunate…or I wish this dessert had a different name.

    And Shelley, it’s kind of a cross between a sweet cake and a muffin. It’s more of a muffin when you add the cheese to the top.

  • Any suggestions for those of us without a bamboo steamer? Would a veggie steamer rack in a pot on the stove work, or would there be too much liquid?

  • Hey meg! Hehe it’s unfortunate in an endearing way, at least in my eyes, I hope most people also feel that way :) It is nice to see a beautifully presented post about these cakes.

  • I make my puyto using banana leaves as there cup. I’ll cut banana leaves then shape them in a silicone muffin cup then stack the cups so thebanana leaves keep their shape. Steam the cakes and then you’ve got yourself a disposable wrapper that looks pretty!
    I love seeing one of my favorite sides presented in an artistic say. Thanks!

  • Glad to see a Filipino dessert on Design Sponge (mainly because I’m Filipino living in the Philippines). Puto goes really well with coffee. :-) And just like a pancake into which you could mix in bananas, etc., you could also add purple yam, etc into the puto to make it yummier and colorful.

  • Julie M, in the Philippines, puto is actually traditionally made with rice flour. And it’s best with fresh, grated mature coconut (which you probably won’t find) or a blood stew called dinuguan (which you’ll probably find weird).

  • My grandma used to tell me stories about the vendors yelling “puto!” in the distance when she was a kid…kind of like the equivalent of hearing the ice cream man’s truck I guess, haha.

  • It’s usually made with rice flour and each region has its own version. And it’s often eaten with dinuguan (pork blood stew), as well as a snack or accompaniment to a meal rather than a dessert eaten after one. Yum!

  • Puto and Mamon are very good Filipino desserts that have, unfortunately,very bad Spanish translations. I get laughs from Hispanic co-workers when I bring some to work.

  • I don’t know much on the etymology of the name, but I find the re-inventing of Spanish words into something different and Filipino to be a form of rebellion.

    Also, I wouldn’t say puto has any resemblance to a muffin. Really, it’s a small and very sticky rice cake. Adding on to what Rogelio said, you also see it served with another kind of rice cake called cuchinta/kutsinta.

  • I could be hugely mistaken, but I didn’t think puto translated as a bad word in Spanish. However, if puto ended in letter a, then that would be a pretty bad word in Spanish! Also, puto is delicious! Excited to try this recipe.

  • I make puto and put small amount of siopao filling in them before steaming. So good and easier to make than traditional siopao.

  • wonderful and simple. I tried it out in our poached egg tins. They took approx. 28mins. I will definitely get my Puto cups off amazon, results & yield for enternaining a group is worth while. I will definetly try this with siopao fillings, and add some food coloring
    to make them festive. Very yummy.

  • I have used my ramekins for French Onion Soup in the past. I haven’t used them for awhile. My daughter has
    married a man from the Phillipines (?) and his mom has moved in with them. I am going to make these little cakes one day soon for them. Thanks a lot!!!!