Saturday, 9 August 2014

Kueh Lapis Legit

Sometimes life hits you with a sledgehammer. You emerge dazed, disorientated and demotivated while wondering what the hell just happened. It takes days, weeks and sometimes months to pick yourself up and out of it. Yet when you finally gain your equilibrium back, there still seems to be a lingering halo of instability following you around for a time before it finally disappears into thin air like it was never there before. 

I've been feeling like that recently. With numerous things going on at work and in life, I felt it was time to shake off the halo sooner rather than later. So I baked. A cake. 

Not a cake for the faint-hearted this one. Anyone will tell you that it takes a borderline OCD and sadistic sort to willingly sit in front of a hot oven on a day of scorching heat to bake precisely measured batter into layers of perfectly even cake. Sometimes that's just what you need. To immerse yourself in something positive to push out the negative. 

I've been wanting to try a Kueh Lapis Legit for a long time. So when I finally found time to do it, I went to town with it and made TWO in just one day. 

It is a cake with many names, variations and appearances. While I like calling it Kueh Lapis Legit, it's also known as Kek Lapis, Kek Lapis Legit, Kek Lapis RempahSpekkoek, Dutch Spiced Layer CakeThousand Layer Cake, Indonesian Layer Cake, etc. Call it what you want. 

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Everyone seemed to like one better than the other, so the recipe below (adapted from here) is for the one that truly knocked everyone's socks off. 


450g Salted Butter, cold and cubed
2 tablespoons Condensed Milk
100g Caster Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence
15 Egg Yolks

130g Plain Flour
5g Cornflour
1/2 teaspoon Mixed Spice
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg

5 Egg Whites
100g Caster Sugar

A little melted Butter

Preheat the oven at 120 Celsius with Top and Bottom heat. Lightly butter and line an 8 inch x 8 inch x 4 inch square cake tin with baking paper. Make sure the baking paper fits the bottom of the tin perfectly. Do not line the sides of the tin.

Other equipment needed - A thin Cake tester/Skewer/Pin; a Fondant Smoother/Kueh Lapis Press; a Ladle; a Brush for the melted Butter.

Mix and sift B together. Set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl - preferably a stand mixer - beat Butter until soft. Add in the Condensed Milk, Caster Sugar and Vanilla. Continue beating until pale and fluffy. Beat in the Egg Yolks one by one, beating well after each addition. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and gently fold in B by hand. 

In a separate bowl - you need a hand-held electric mixer for this - whisk Egg Whites until slightly frothy. Add in the Sugar little by little and keep beating until it reaches soft peak stage. 

Gently fold in C by hand into the A and B mixture until well combined. Take care not to knock the air out of the Egg Whites. Set aside. 

Heat the empty prepared tin a little in the oven for a minute. Be careful of the baking paper warping. Press it down firmly if it warps after the tin is warmed and removed from the oven.

Add about 3 measured ladles (level off the top) of batter into the tin. Spread it out with the back of a small spoon and bake at 160 Celsius Top and Bottom heat on the middle rack with the oven door slightly open until golden brown. 

Remove the tin from the oven, prick any air bubbles present and press down gently using the fondant smoother. Brush lightly with melted Butter.

Measure out the next 2 ladles of batter, pour into the tin and smooth with the back of a spoon. Turn the oven to 190 Celsius with Top heat only and bake the second layer of batter on a higher rack with the oven door slightly open until golden brown. 

Remove the tin from the oven. Prick, press, brush, layer and bake as with the first and second layers. Keep going until you use up all the batter. 

After you do the same for the last layer, turn the oven to 160 Celsius with Top and Bottom heat. Bake the whole cake for 5 - 10 minutes on the middle rack with the oven door closed to ensure the cake is cooked through properly. 

Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the tin on a wire rack. Once completely cool, turn the cake out of the tin and cut into slices. 

  • Ensure you have your day completely free when attempting this cake. It will take about 3 - 4 hours from start to finish if you do it right.
  • Ensure you have all the ingredients and equipment ready at hand before you start the mixing the cake. 
  • It is most convenient to have two electric mixers on hand when making this cake. If not, wash and dry the beaters of your electric mixer well in between mixing A and C. 
  • Make the first layer of the cake slightly thicker than the others as it will provide a firm base for the rest of the cake. 
  • Use only one ladle and measure the batter out carefully while baking to get even layers of cake.  
  • Take care to use Top and Bottom heat or Top heat only where necessary. I left the oven door slightly open when using Top heat only so as to prevent the oven from getting too hot and burning the cake. 
  • Do not walk away or leave the cake unattended at any time. It burns easily. 

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