Indonesian Layer Cake a.k.a Traditional Lapis Cake

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An Indonesian all-time favourite, Indonesian Layer Cake or Kueh Lapis Batavia, is a very rich, moist, spice-flavoured butter cake which is baked layer by layer, flavoured with ground mixed spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, with subtle hints of brandy liquer.

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Happy New Year, everyone!  I’m starting 2015 on a sweet note with this recipe for an Indonesian Layer cake or kek lapis Batavia.  With the New Year, comes the next big festive event on the Chinese calendar, the Lunar New Year.  So I am starting early with an ambitious list of Chinese New Year goodies that I’d like to work on.

Indonesian layer cakes or kek lapis are must-have treats in my home when family and friends come calling or visiting. Indonesian layer cakes also offer interesting flavours and textures, when filled with dried or mixed fruit such as prunes, cranberries, or fruit puree such as durian (check out this oh-so-good recipe for a durian Indonesian layer cake), as well as, chocolate chips or cocoa, etc.

This cake, and many other delightful sweet treats and savoury offerings such as home-made pineapple tarts, bak kwa (barbecued pork slices), sugee cookies, kueh bangkit, almond biscuits, fried prawn crackers and so much more, all take centre-stage during the Lunar New Year feasting.

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This Indonesian layer cake or kek lapis recipe has an insane amount of egg yolks -17 yolks, to be precise, and oh, so much butter. Some traditional Indonesian recipes call for as many as 25 egg yolks!  You can definitely forget about counting your calories. However unhealthy, it is my humble opinion that this cake truly deserves to be regarded as one of the most unique butter cakes on this planet.  It has a rich, deep flavour tinged with the faintest hints of mixed spice, and is delightfully moist.

Kek lapis cake is quite easy to make, even for beginners, but you’ll need to be attentive. This is because, as the name suggests, you will need to bake a layer till it’s cooked and very importantly, browned nicely, before adding on the next layer to bake.  You continue with this process until all the batter is used up.

Don’t be tempted to add on until you achieve that golden brown, as it is this top browning that creates the distinctive layer pattern.  You could aim for more layers by using less batter per layer, thus creating thinner layers, but I usually aim for anywhere between 9 to 12 layers.  By all means, try your hand at creating as many layers as you can – it will be sure to impress your guests!

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Indonesian Layer Cake (Traditional Lapis Cake)

Indonesian Layer Cake (Traditional Lapis Cake)

Yield: 1 square cake (20-cm/8-inch)
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

This is an authentic recipe for the traditional Indonesian Kueh Lapis Batavia, or butter layered cake. A rich and super moist butter cake, flavoured with ground mixed spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, and with subtle hints of brandy liquer, making it one of the world's truly unique butter cakes.

Ingredients

  • 455 g butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 tsp mixed spice, ground
  • 115 g plain flour
  • 17 egg yolks
  • 5 egg whites
  • 255 g sugar
  • 2 tbsp brandy

Instructions

  1. Grease bottom and sides of an 8-inch square cake tin with butter. Cut a piece of greaseproof paper to fit the base of the tin exactly. Place paper in and grease with butter. Turn on the grill setting (top heat only) of your oven and pre-heat till moderately hot (about 170 deg C).
  2. Sift mixed spice and flour together.
  3. In a clean mixer bowl with the paddle attachment on your mixer, cream butter till light and fluffy (I use a speed level between 3 to 4 on my Kitchen Aid), about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Wash mixer bowl and wipe completely dry.
  4. In the cleaned mixer bowl with the whisk attachment on your mixer, beat egg yolks with 200 gm sugar till thick. Transfer to another bowl. Wash mixer bowl and whisk attachment and wipe completely dry.
  5. In the cleaned mixer bowl, still with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites with the remaining sugar till thick.
  6. Fold in alternately, the egg yolk mixture and the egg white mixture to the creamed butter, adding a little flour each time. Lastly, add the brandy and mix the batter well.
  7. Place greased tin under the grill for 1 minute. Remove and place in one ladle full of cake batter. Spread batter evenly and bake for 5 mins or till light brown. Remove tin from grill and using a fine sharp skewer or satay stick, prick top of cake to prevent air bubbles from forming.
  8. Add another ladle full of cake batter over the baked layer and spread it evenly, ensuring that batter covers all corners. Bake and repeat process as for the first layer, till the cake batter is used up. When baking the last 3 layers, place the tin on the lowest rack, about 3 cm from the bottom of the oven. Bake until light brown and cooked. The last 3 layers will take slightly longer to bake.
  9. When the last layer has browned nicely, remove cake from tin immediately. Turn it over, top side up, onto a cooling rack to cool for 30 minutes. You may trim off all around the sides, just enough to reveal the layered pattern.
  10. When ready to serve, slice a 1-cm or 1/2-inch thickness across the length of the cake. Cut this length into pieces of equal width.

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