An excellent easy-to-bake recipe for durian layer cake (durian lapis cake), fit for your everyday tea treat, or the festive Lunar New Year.
Hello everyone! Finally, I’m making this Indonesian durian layer cake my first post in 2016. I’ve been away for quite a while and it’s all been a whirlwind without me realising it.
Travelling, feasting and merry making filled my December last year. I was away from home to visit family in Canada. Boy, was it a snowy and blistery Christmas!
While it was a wonderful reunion, I’m really happy to be back to my beautiful, warm and tropical Singapore.
I’ve been completely off my daily routine the past 2 months, and I have to say that I’m still not feeling all that settled. But day by day, I’m beginning to get back into the swing of things.
Some things never change, though, and I have to admit, folks, that I am completely useless when it comes to baking goodies and treats in advance for Lunar New Year.
Every year, I have an ambitious list of all the goodies I want to bake. And as it always turns out, life has a way of pulling you in a thousand directions at the same time in the weeks leading up to Chinese New Year.
Making it almost impossible for me to achieve my baking goals. But, not all is lost yet!
In spite of all the day-to-day hubbub, I’m doing whatever it takes to carve out time to make my must-have Chinese New Year favourites!
And the first of these are Indonesian layer cakes (kek lapis).
About this Indonesian durian layer cake
Indonesian durian layer cakes (durian lapis or kek lapis durian) are insanely rich, dense cakes. They are utterly buttery, spice-infused and fat-loaded festive cakes.
In spite of all this, these cakes are loved and highly sought after every Chinese New Year. Festive feasting just wouldn’t be the same without these traditional treats on our table.
This durian layer cake is a twist on a traditional favourite that will please all of us who are durian lovers. If you prefer traditional layer cakes, you can check out this recipe for Kueh Lapis Batavia.
Layer cakes are a labour of love
Now, I know that when many of us often think of baking a homemade layer cake, it’s not hard to see how daunted or discouraged we can feel.
Layer cakes are truly a labour of love. The process can be tedious and long. Consider this.
You’ll need about 30 minutes to prep your ingredients and make the cake batter. Then, there’s the average 8 to 10 minutes grilling time for each layer. If you’re ending up with an average of 12-layers, that’s almost 2 hours.
But there’s also the time in between the grilling. Before pouring the batter for the next layer, we need to prick, press, and spread.
So you can expect a good 3 hours, most of it spent hovering by the oven by the time it’s all good and done. Is it really worth it? In my opinion – one hundred percent, absolutely!
Useful tips when baking durian layer cake
Here are just a few things to note when making an Indonesian durian layer cake or any layer cake:
- To achieve distinct and beautifully mocha-coloured lines, brown the tops to a deep or dark golden brown. Note the emphasis on dark, but just don’t end up burning the tops.
- How many layers you can get depends on the amount of batter as well as the size of your cake pan. Though, it’s impressive if you can get many, many layers, and as thin as possible.
- It takes some skill and careful watching to get the layers very thin and browned, without over-baking or burning them under a grill. I’m not too ambitious, and am happy to aim for 10 to 12 layers.
- Use a fondant or lapis press to press down each baked layer onto the one below it. Doing this essentially seals the layers together, before you add batter for a new layer.
Don’t have a fondant or lapis press? No worries, I don’t either, and I ended up using a fairly heavy glass container (like the air-tight Lock&Lock ones) as a weight.
If you’re using glass weights, do be careful though – press lightly and just briefly for 2-3 seconds in any one particular area, wipe the base dry of steam or condensation with a clean paper towel (or else the browned top may end up sticking to your glass base, and we can’t have that happen, can we?), before pressing the weight onto the next area.
- Prick and press the layers to help eliminate air pockets appearing in between layers. This will give you a tight and beautiful cross-sectional pattern when sliced.
I get my supply of frozen durian puree from Ah Seng Durian located in Ghim Moh Temporary Market (you can check out their Facebook page here).
If you buy the fruit fresh from the vendor, remove the flesh from the seeds and blend until you get a fairly smooth and thick puree.
How to store durian puree
I usually divide the puree into 150 to 200 gm portions. These are more or less the amounts that are called for in recipes using durian puree.
To prolong their freshness, I bag these in freezer bags. Frozen durian puree are good for up to 6 months, so you’ll have lots of time and opportunities to use them in your future bakes.
So, I really hope you’ll have a go at it. This is a really easy cake to bake. Have your kids or a good friend come over to help you. You’d be surprised how eager friends can be to see you torture yourself.
But, the real deal is that once you’ve turned out a really good lapis cake based on a tried and tested recipe like this one here, you’ll wonder why you didn’t make home-made lapis cakes sooner! So, let the feasting begin!
Indonesian Durian Layer Cake
- 150 g whole eggs, without shells
- 250 g egg yolks
- 250 g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp sponge gel/ovalette
- 100 g self-raising flour sifted
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 150 g durian puree at room temperature
- 250 g butter at room temperature
- 2 tbsp condensed milk
- Press durian puree through a sieve with the back of a metal spoon, scraping the underside of the sieve to obtain a fine puree.
- In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and condensed milk on medium speed (speed 3 on my Kitchen Aid mixer) until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
- Still using the electric mixer, now fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar and sponge gel (ovalette) in a cleaned mixer bowl on high speed (speed 4 to 5) until mixture is thick and fluffy, about 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.
- Combine sifted flour and mixed spice in a bowl. Add to the egg mixture and whisk at medium speed (speed 3) until well incorporated.
- Reduce mixer speed to low (speed 2), and add butter mixture in 3 batches, beating well after each addition until well combined. Add in durian puree and beat until well combined.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 deg C (390 deg F). Set the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven. Grease and line the base of an 8-inch square cake pan. When oven temperature reaches 200 deg C, place the cake pan in the oven and heat for 2 minutes.
- Set the oven to GRILL mode. Spread 4 – 5 tablespoons of batter evenly over the base of the pan, and to all corners of the pan. Use the back of a metal spoon to level the surface. Grill until the layer is cooked and browned to a deep golden brown colour (read Recipe Notes below).
- Remove cake pan from the oven. Using a metal fork, prick holes in the cooked layer, and press down lightly on the entire surface with a fondant or lapis press (read Recipe Notes below).
- Continue to spread 4 – 5 tablespoons of batter for the next layer, and level evenly with the back of a metal spoon. Grill until cooked and deeply browned, prick holes and press to ‘seal’ the layers as before. Repeat process until all the batter is used up. Caution: Baking time will shorten as the cake increases in height, as the layers get closer to the top heating element in grill mode.
- When the last layer has cooked, switch from grill mode to bake mode at 180 deg C (top and bottom heat), and bake the cake for another 10 minutes, before removing from the oven.
- Remove cake pan from oven, set it on a rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. If you wish to have deep, lined impressions on the top of the cake, place a grid-wired cooling rack (with the legs or feet pointing up) on the top of the cake pan, aligning the lines of the grid with the sides of the cake pan. Then holding the cake pan and rack tightly together, flip over the cake pan and rack, so that the bottom of the cake pan is now facing up. Remove the cake pan, and let the cake completely cool on the rack. Flip the cake over again when completely cooled, and slice as desired.
- To achieve distinct and beautifully mocha-coloured layer lines, you will need to brown the tops sufficiently to a deep or dark golden brown (note the emphasis on dark, folks), just don’t end up burning the tops. And when it comes to deciding how many layers, it all depends on the amount of batter and size of your cake pan.
- If you don’t have a fondant or lapis press, you can use a fairly heavy glass container (like the air-tight Lock&Lock ones) as a weight. When using glass weights, do be careful – press lightly and just briefly for 2-3 seconds in any one particular area, wipe the base dry of steam or condensation with a clean paper towel, to avoid the browned top sticking to the glass base, before pressing the weight onto the next area.