As many a culinary scientist will tell you, adding salt and spice into a sweet dessert adds extra flavour and depth. One of the most well-loved spice-laced cakes in Malaysia is the classic kek lapis, or layer cake.
In Indonesia it is known as “kek lapis legit” and was introduced in the colonial era by the Dutch, who used to call it “spekkoek” or lard cake – which was strange given the recipe does not involve lard at all. But perhaps butter was unavailable then?
This cake can be found in many varieties such as pandan, chocolate chip, coffee and more. While it is available throughout Malaysia, it is most popularly sold in Sarawak.
Kek lapis legit consists of many thin layers that require lots of eggs, butter, and patience due to the long baking time. So if you’re inclined to give this recipe a go, it is best to start baking in the morning!
- 12 egg whites
- 110g sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 600g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 240g sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla essence
- 180g cake flour
- 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice or all-spice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 24 egg yolks
- 180g sugar
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line and grease the sides and bottom of a 20cm square cake pan using parchment paper.
- Prepare batter A. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, followed by the sugar in three batches. Continue whisking until stiff peaks form.
- Now prepare batter B. In another mixing bowl, cream the butter, condensed milk and vanilla essence at medium speed until fluffy, about 8 minutes. Add the cake flour, mixed spice and salt. Mix again until well combined. Set aside.
- Next, make batter C. In another mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar at high speed until a thick mixture is formed.
- Combine the different batters together. First, add batter B into batter A and mix until well combined. Then, using a spatula, fold in one-third of batter C into the A/B combination until well mixed. Gradually fold in the rest of batter C, ensuring it is well mixed all the way.
- Spread a small amount of batter, about 3mm thick, on the prepared pan. Bake it at the top rack of the pre-heated oven until golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway so it browns evenly.
- Remove the pan from the oven and, using a toothpick, poke holes all over the cake. This helps prevent future layers onwards from bubbling.
- For the second layer onwards, spread the batter evenly at about 3mm thickness. Hit the pan against the countertop to remove air bubbles, then bake until golden brown.
- Once each layer is cooked, add another layer, and repeat the process until all the batter is finished. Remember to poke each baked layer with a toothpick before adding the next layer.
- Once the final cake is ready, allow it to cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then gently work a sharp knife around the edges. Gently turn the cake out onto a wiring rack and allow it to cool completely.
- Cut into slices, serve with kopi or teh tarik, and enjoy!
Tip: The cake is best eaten after three days as it will be even more flavourful then.
This article first appeared in butterkicap.com.
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