Cocktail Buns (Gai Mai Bao)

(Before I write this post, I want to say Happy Chinese New Year to everybody! It’s a great way to celebrate family and traditions in Asia. And even though it’s not widely celebrated in the U.S., our family tries to make it as authentic as possible. I remember that when I was in Kindergarten and 1st grade, my mom would ask to be a special guest around Chinese New Year so she could tell us the story behind it, about how the Nian came by a village, and they scared it off by wearing red and making lots of noise and such. Afterwards, she’d give each kid a 20 cent Hong Kong coin, and they’d all hold it like it was some sort of treasure. Now, we celebrate it by eating the traditional foods (even though we don’t go vegetarian for the day) and Skyping relatives and pouring tea. So to all, gung hay fat choy!)



So the poll in in. This morning as I was practicing for my scholarship audition, I mentioned to my dad that my mom was going to make some buns this weekend, since we just ran out of bagels and milk for cereal. He said okay. But just as I was going back to playing (Elgar’s cello concerto, anyone? Played supremely by Jacqueline du Pre?), he offhandedly mentioned that he preferred cocktail buns, or gai mai bao, to pineapple buns, or bo loh bao. He said pineapple buns were too hard to eat, with the topping so flaky and messy.


I suppose I am one to agree; the topping does come off on a whim. However he had never made these, so I’m sure he’s never experienced the shaping of the buns, or when we don’t seal the bottom tight enough, the filling will leak out. Thank God for parchment paper, because it’d be so difficult to clean the baking sheets every time we made these. Or my cat would lick the pans. He loves butter like no other.

After making about 120 of these and the pineapple buns over the weekend, we’ve figured out that it’s best to make a giant batch of filling/topping and freezing it, so you can take out a bit every time you make these buns, because you can’t resist them. They’re pillow-y soft and light, but nice and buttery at the same time.


The filling in this bun is sweet, more so than the pineapple buns. It’s made from coconut, butter, milk powder, and sugar. Simple? Oh yes. And it’s a million times easier to handle than the pineapple bun toppings.

Traditionally, there’s supposed to be two lines made of this sugary paste that runs across these buns (I promise it’s better than what I made it out to seem). We didn’t bother. Because we’re the only ones who eat it. Because we hoard them.


But sometimes, we’re feeling a little generous and send some my brother’s way. After all, those college students need to eat too. I guess.

x Audrey

Cocktail Buns (Gai Mei Bao)

(makes 12)


  • The same dough from the pineapple buns
  • 150 g butter, softened
  • 60 g milk powder
  • 60 g caster sugar
  • 40 g coconut
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • sesame seeds


  1. Make the dough according to the instructions, up until after the first rising of the dough.
  2. Meanwhile, to make the filling, combine butter, milk powder, sugar, and coconut in a bowl and refrigerate.
  3. Weigh out the dough into 12 equal portions, about 60 g each. Flatten each portion, then place a spoonful of the filling into each portion. Then roll up the dough, pinching the sides and securing the filling, making sure it won’t leak out.
  4. Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet, and let rise for 30 min.
  5. Preheat oven to 3500 F. Brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top. Bake for 12-15 min, then let cool and transfer onto a wire wrack.

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