This multi-layer cake originated in Indonesia during the Dutch colonial era. It is actually based on a European spit-cake. The full Indonesian name of this cake is kue lapis legit. This loosely translates to "sweet layer(ed) cake". Kue, kué, or kueh (pronounced "kway" in English) is the Indonesian and Malay word for cake. The Dutch name of this cake is spekkoek, which has been adopted into the Indonesian language as spekkuk, spekuk, and spiku. The Dutch name translates to "bacon cake", and refers to the alternating light and dark layers - as in a slice of bacon. In Malaysia, it is typically called kek ( = cake) lapis.
The cake is made with one batter, that is divided in two. One half has spices in it (not unlike gingerbread spices), the other does not. The spiced batter turns dark brown when baked. A common variation is a cake with alternating green and dark brown layers. Here, juice from pandan leaves is added to the batter without spices. The juice is light green (bright, neon green cakes have been colored with food dye). By the way: pandan leaves (from the screw-pine/palm tree) are an excellent cockroach repellent!
Bottom line: it is a multi-layer spice cake. A good kue lapis has at least 15-20 layers. Each layer is baked separately. This is a very time consuming process, which explains the relatively high price of store-bought cakes.
Getting consistent layers is not all that simple. The cake is baked in the oven, under the top broiler. The bottom cake layer gets baked throughout the entire baking process, but is farthest from the broiler. Additional layers have progressively less total baking time, but are progressively closer to the broiler... You may have to discard the bottom layer.
- Preparation time: 1 hour
- Baking time: 3 hours
- Makes 1 cake of about 1.6 kilogram (3.5 lbs), about 60 servings
- Best when made a day ahead.
- Keeps for 4-6 weeks in a refrigerator (1-2 weeks unrefrigerated).
- 20 eggs (yes, 20)
- 300 grams (11 oz = 2 cups) "all-purpose & bread" flour (F: type 55, D: type 550)
- 300 grams (11 oz = 2½ sticks) butter, at room temperature
- 450 grams (1 lb) fine crystal sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground mace (NL: foelie, D: Muskatblüte, Mazis, F: macis) - this is ground nutmeg shell
- pinch of salt
EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES
- One very large bowl (3.5 liters, 3.5-4 quart)
- Two large bowls (2.5 liters, 2.4-3 quart)
- Two small bowls
- Kitchen scale (preferably electronic, with a "set weight to zero" function/button)
- Wire whisk
- Hand mixer
- Soft spatula (for cleaning out the bowls)
- Springform pan (F: moule à manqué), 24 cm (9½ inch) diameter
- If you use a smaller pan (for instance: 20 cm = 8 inch), then you will have enough batter left over for an additional small springform pan with a diameter of 10 cm (4 inch)
- Plastic kitchen film (cling wrap)
- Two 1/4-cup measuring cups or two small ladles
- Two desert spoons, for spreading the batter
PREPARATION / DIRECTIONS
- Weigh your (very) large bowls when empty, and write down the empty weights - this will make it easier to split the batter into two equal amounts.
- Pre-heat the oven to 150 °C (300 °F)
- Place the wire rack in the top half of the oven, such that the top of the springform pan will be about 10 cm (4 inch) below the top broiler
- Put the flour into a large bowl, and whisk to loosen it up and get all lumps out (if any).
- Using a whisk is a lot easier and faster than a sifter or a sieve.
- Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites - use one small bowl for each
- Sometimes you get a foul egg, or the yoke breaks when you crack the egg. You do not want to get any yoke in with the egg whites! Use a separate cup to crack the eggs - let the white drop into the cup and transfer the yolk (if good) to the bowl with yolks. One in a while, empty the cup with whites into the bowl with whites. This way, you will never ruin more than one egg white (or a couple).
- In the very large bowl, mix the egg yolks, sugar, and butter. Mix with the hand mixer until the batter is smooth (1-2 minutes)
- While stirring, mix in the flour. Beat for 1-2 minutes.
- Beat the egg whites until foamy and are beginning to stiffen (2-3 minutes),
- Make sure that the beaters of the mixer are clean (no batter with egg yolks!)
- Fold the egg white mass under the batter with a spatula, then use the hand mixer at low speed to fully mix
- Put half of the batter (1 kilogram = 2.2 lbs) into a separate large bowl
- If you want to be precise, weigh the very large bowl with all the batter in it, then subtract the weight that you measured when that bowl was empty, and divide the resulting number by two. That is the weight of the batter that must to be transferred to the second bowl. Put the second bowl on the scale, zero the indicated weight, then transfer batter until the indicated weight equals the amount to be transferred.
- Add the spices to one of the two bowl with batter, and mix
- Turn on the top broiler of the oven
- Grease the springform pan with some butter
- This is easiest when the bottom plate is not inserted into the pan
- Repeat the following steps until all the batter is used up, or the springform pan is nearly full (about 20 layers in total):
- With one of the 1/4-cup measuring cups (or one of the small ladles) scoop batter without spices into the springform pan, and completely spread around with one of the two medium size spoons (desert spoons). The required amount of batter should be 1/4 cup or 4-5 tablespoons. The resulting layer of batter should be 2-3 mm thick (about 1/10 inch)
- Bake in the oven for 3-4 minutes. The layer of batter should be almost dry. You will have to get a feel for this, as it depends on your oven, etc.
- Remove the pan from the oven.
- With the other measuring cup or ladle, scoop batter with spices into the pan, and completely spread with the second spoon.
- Bake in the oven for 3-4 minutes. The layer of batter should be almost dry.
- After a total of 8-10 layers (with and without spices), you may have to increase baking time to 5-6 minutes. again, this depends on your oven, etc.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 100 °C (210 °F) and bake for another 10 minutes
- Remove the pan from the oven and let cool.
- Remove the cake from the pan, and wrap in plastic kitchen film.
- If the bottom layer is dry and hard, turn the cake upside down and remove the layer with a breadknife
- You can also cut the cake up in 8 or 10 wedges, and then wrap them in plastic film.
Batter with, and batter without spices
My first "Spekkoek"
Spekkoek, with pandan added to the batter without spices
SERVING & GARNISH SUGGESTIONS
- As this cake is rather dense and rich, it is served in thin slices
- Obviously, making this cake takes a lot of work! The first time I made one, I used a 20 cm (8 inch) springform pan, and had batter left over. By that time, it was after 1 o'clock in the morning, and I did not feel like baking another 20 layers in one of my small (10 cm / 4 inch) springform pans. Instead, I put half of the batter without spices into the small pan. Then spooned the batter with spices in circles over the plain batter. I covered it with the rest of the plain batter. I then gently swirled a table knife throughout the batter, and baked the cake at 150 °C (300 °F) for about 40 minutes (I think...) - until a toothpick stuck into the center came out clean. The result was a nice marble-cake, that basically tasted the same as the layered cake!
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