Monday, October 24, 2011

Indonesian Kueh Lapis Legit~Kek Lapis~Spekkoek ~千层糕

这是我的处女作,还不错吧? 猜猜看有几层? :p

This cake or kueh/kuih has so many names, that I can't really decide what to put as the title of this post. This is officially a cake, because it has to be baked in the oven just like western cakes, but it also qualifies as a kueh/kuih, and its origins can be traced to colonial times in the Dutch East Indies. It is a special layered cake often baked during Hari Raya or Chinese New Year. It is known as Lapis Legit in Indonesia and Spekkoek or Spekuk in Netherlands. In Malaysia and Singapore, it is often known as Lapis Legit, Kuih Lapis, Kuih Lapis Batavia, Kek Lapis or simply Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake. In Sarawak, there is even a variation called Kek Lapis Sarawak which is a beautifully layered cake with intricate designs painstakingly crafted in the middle.

I personally prefer to call it Thousand Layer Cake (千层糕) or Kek Lapis (kek = cake in malay) instead of Kueh Lapis, in order not to be confused with the other Kueh Lapis (also known as 9 layer kueh or 九层糕) which is a steamed kueh that is made from tapioca flour, coconut milk, and flavoured with pandan and consists of multiple coloured layers which are individually steamed.

Anyway, when I was searching for a recipe to make this indonesian layered cake, I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a number of recipes in Dutch, and that was when I realised that this cake is in fact quite popular in Netherlands too, at least among the indonesian community who introduced the recipe to Netherlands. The name 'spekkoek' (spek=pork belly, koek=cake) seems to suggest that whoever invented the name, thought that the cake looked like layers of pork belly or bacon? You can find spekkoek in indonesian shops and Tokos, but not in dutch bakeries though. The spice used in dutch recipes is often speculaas spice which is slightly different than the usual lapis legit mixed spice.

Ok, to cut it short, in case you are already curious about the recipe, here is a 'healthy' recipe that uses ONLY 10 egg yolks and 4 egg whites and 150g sugar. Note that I stressed on the word ONLY because I have seen recipes which make use of 15, 20, 25 or even 30 egg yolks! Out of the 4 recipes I have shortlisted, I decided to use this recipe as it seemed to be lowest in egg yolks and cholestorol! Now a word of warning, this cake is not suitable for the health-conscious and those who are on a strict diet!!!

Thanks to this recipe from Florence, my maiden attempt was a success, so I can say that this recipe is indeed a fool-proof recipe, at least for me. There are some tips which I have read and followed and which I would like to share here:

1. Use the size of baking tin specified in the recipe in order to achieve the optimal height for the cake. This recipe called for a 7x7 inch (18x18 cm) square tin, but I used a 26x16cm rectangular tin. As a result the layers were a bit thinner and my cake was not as tall as expected. If you choose to use a round tin bcos you dun have a square one, just make sure it is 1 inch bigger than the square tin, for eg. an 8x8 inch round tin will have the same surface area as a 7x7 inch square pan, just do your mathematical calculation.

2. Use a baking paper to line ONLY the bottom of the baking tin and grease it generously. Make sure the lined paper fits the bottom exactly without the edges standing up by the sides. DO NOT line or grease the sides of the tin. In fact the layers do come off the sides easily during baking.

3. Be consistent and always use the same amount of batter for each layer by using the same spoon or ladle, and do not use too much batter per layer. Use the back of a metal spoon to spread and even out the batter across the baking tin. You can also tilt the baking tin from side to side to allow the batter to spread evenly across.

4. For the first layer, you need to warm up the empty baking tin by placing in the oven for few min. For subsequent layers, you need to use a toothpick or cake tester to prick holes all over the cake, deep down all the way to the bottom most layer, before pouring in the batter. It is normal for the batter to melt when it comes in contact with the previous layer which is still hot from the oven.

5. For an obvious layered effect, the cake has to be grilled quite brown but not burnt.

6. You need to know your oven pretty well. This cake has to be grilled at the top instead of baked with top and bottom heat. I have never used the grill function at 180 degree celsius and have never known that a grill function exists apart from the maximum grill temperature (220 deg) which was indicated on my oven. As I was using the top grill function at 180 deg, I realised that it took longer (8-10 min per layer) than stated in the recipe (5 min per layer). Then I used an oven thermometer to check and realised that my actual oven temperature was only 150-160 deg despite being on grill mode!!! I played around with the temperature, adjusted it to 200 deg and it cut the time per layer to 6 min or so. So in this case, only grill+fan mode at 200 deg worked for my Ariston oven. So my conclusion is you have to adjust the oven temperature and the time per layer according to your oven, do not follow blindly. It is best to use an oven with separate top and bottom heat, so that you can turn on the top heat (grill) without the bottom heat, otherwise the bottom of the cake will be burnt.

7. Be prepared to spend at least 2.5 hours from start to finish, this includes 2 hours sitting right next to your oven while the cake is being grilled layer by layer. I spent 30 min preparing the cake and my cake was in the oven for 1 hour 45 min. Besides taking the cake out every 5 min to spoon out the batter, you may also need to turn the cake clockwise or anticlockwise every now and then to make sure the batter is evenly grilled as every oven has its own cold and hot spots. I nearly burnt the first layer and one of the middle layers even though I was keeping a close eye all the time. You would notice in my fotos that one particular layer in the middle is browner than the rest. :)

8. If you do not have mixed spice, you can make 1 tsp of your own lapis legit spice with the following proportion of ingredients : 1 tsp ground cinnamon + 1 tsp ground nutmeg + 1 tsp ground anise or cardamom + 1/2 tsp ground cloves.

I am submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #12: Traditional Kueh (October 2011), hosted by SSB of Small Small Baker.


  1. Your Kek Lapis looks perfect. Very even layers. The recipe also seem less scary, less egg yolks. But still need a lot of courage to attempt this. Haha!

  2. Actually, I think this cake is dutch, not Indonesian. ;-)
    Well, invented by the dutch ex-pats (Indië-gangers) living in Indonesia who were craving for the typical Christmas/Sinterklaas Season treats like "gevulde speculaas". The spice mixture changed over the years, I think speculaas (and spekkoek) used to be much more fragrant and spiced.

    The good thing is, you can keep it for a few weeks in your fridge. It even gets better after a few days. Hm, I love spekkoek.

  3. Hi Robin,
    Yes, I read about its dutch origins,in the dutch wikipedia of spekkoek and I mentioned that it can be traced to the colonial period during the Dutch East Indies. However, most people in South East Asia think that it originates from Indonesia. I thought so too, until recently.

    Is it really very popular and well-known in Netherlands, even among the dutch people? I asked a few belgian friends but they have never heard of spekkoek, but of cos they are belgians, not dutch.

    Btw, is the speculaas biscuit dutch or belgian? :)

    1. it originates from Indonesia. It was made by Dutch living in indon..

  4. better use 10 full eggs,1 can of sweat milk

  5. Hi Bee,

    I have pinned this post to Most Popular Posts of Food Blogs at my pin borard: :)

  6. yes, this kueh made in lampung


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